The Best of Both Worlds

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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Mon May 28, 2012 9:52 pm

Tiberius wrote:
RK_Striker_JK_5 wrote:Hmm, I usually italicize transmissions, and I've seen it done before in other works. Just a suggestion for stuff like the Borg communications and such.


I've seen it done myself, but to me italics suggests more of an emphasis being placed on this words.

Okay, fair enough. :)
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Mon May 28, 2012 10:06 pm

Chapter Four

Captain’s log, supplemental. The Enterpriseremains concealed in the dust cloud. And, to my surprise, the Borg have maintained their position, waiting for us to come out of hiding. I have no explanation for their special interest in me or this ship. We continue to prepare our defenses for the inevitable confrontation. But, I must admit, on this night I contemplate the distinct possibility that no defense may be adequate against this enemy.

It was late, ship time. Picard had been sleeping on the couch in his ready room, but after five hours, he’d just wasn’t able to sleep any longer. He couldn’t retire to his quarters; he’d be too far from the bridge, and if there were an emergency, if he were needed, then any extra time could mean disaster for the Enterprise.

So, he took a stroll, walking the corridors of his ship. It was a rather grim ritual, really. He was constantly aware of the growing feeling inside him that this could be the last time he saw that bulkhead, the last time he walked through those doors. He sighed inwardly, and decided to go somewhere with more activity.

He found it in Engineering. Shelby, La Forge and the rest of the engineering team were hard at work. Picard had to admit to being impressed. La Forge had, after all, said that they would need almost a full day to ready the deflector weapon, but it had been less than eighteen hours and they were almost finished. For a moment, La Forge looked like he was about to come over to report on their progress, but Picard just nodded. I’m not here to check up on you. La Forge returned to work, listening as Wesley was making some comment. Data was nodding attentively.

Picard left them. Mentally, he chided himself for interrupting his crew. They needed to focus, and they couldn’t do that if Picard was lurking around. He thought of going up to Ten Forward, but then realised that it would be empty. But perhaps that was what he needed, some place where he could be alone with his thoughts, out of the way of his busy crew. He stepped into the nearest turbolift.

When he arrived in Ten Forward, it was deserted, just as he expected. No customers and no staff. The view outside the huge expanse of windows was fogged with the orange swirls of the nebula, and he could see particles of matter, clumps of rock, drifting slowly. He stood in front of them.

“Trouble sleeping?”

Picard turned. Guinan was sitting in the corner, next to the door. He must have walked straight past her when he came in.

“It’s something of a tradition, Guinan,” Picard said. “The captain touring the ship before a battle.”

“Before a hopeless battle, if I remember the tradition correctly.”

Picard walked over to her and sat down across the table. “Not necessarily,” he said. “Nelson toured the HMS Victory before Trafalgar.”

“Ah,” said Guinan knowingly, “but Nelson never returned from Trafalgar, did he?”

“No,” admitted Picard. “But the battle was won.”

Guinan fixed him with that enigmatic gaze of hers. “Do you expect this battle to be won?”

Picard was quiet for a thoughtful moment. “We may yet prevail,” he said, then smiled. “That’s a conceit, but it’s a healthy one.” He leaned back in his chair and looked out the windows. “I wonder if the Emperor Honorious watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill could truly realise that the Roman Empire was about to fall. This is just another page in history, isn’t it? Will this be the end of our civilisation?” He looked back at her and shrugged. “Turn the page.”

Guinan smiled, and her smile was a knowing one, confident. “It is not the end,” she said.

“You say that with remarkable assuredness,” Picard said.

Guinan corrected him. “With experience.” She leaned forward. “When the Borg destroyed my world, my people were scattered throughout the galaxy. But we survived. As will Humanity survive. As long as there’s a handful left to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail. Even if it takes a millennium.”

Picard met her eyes and smiled appreciatively. There was comfort in her expression, as though she knew what lay ahead, and despite the dark times facing them, Picard found that if Guinan promised him that it would be alright, then he would believe her, no matter what.

And then, from far outside the window, there was a bright flash, a blaze of light racing towards them which passed the Enterprise less than a kilometer distant. The shockwave washed over the ship, the deck swaying like a boat caught in another boat’s wake. And Guinan, who was the rock of the ship, turned a worried glance to the window. This alone was enough to plant a seed of dread in Picard’s heart.

“Captain Picard, report to the bridge.” Worf’s voice. A call to action.

“I’m on my way, Lieutenant.” As he rose, Picard looked back to Guinan. She looked up at him, but the confidence was gone.

Picard turned and left.

***

Picard entered the bridge just as another charge flew past the ship. The deck lurched to the right, and Picard had to put a hand out to brace himself against the wall to stop himself from falling. Flashes from the viewscreen etched harsh spots into his eyes.

Riker turned from his chair as he heard the turbolift doors. “They’re some kind of magnetometric guided charges,” he said. As they passed the ship, the shockwave from the vaporized nebula gasses was slamming into the Enterprise.

Picard swore to himself. The Borg had no idea where in the nebula the Enterprise was, and if they entered, then the Enterprise would be able to escape easily while the Borg’s sensors were clouded. But by sending these charged bolts into the nebula, the Borg could damage the Enterprise until she was forced to leave.

The ship lurched again, the hardest yet. Not quite a direct hit, but perilously close.

“Status of shields,” Picard barked.

Worf’s response came instantly. “Back to forty eight percent, captain.”

“Mister La Forge, I may have to take us out of the nebula. I’ll need all the power you can give me.”

“Engines are ready, captain.” The sound of La Forge’s voice over the intercom was almost drowned out by another near miss, closer than the previous one. “Recommend you adjust shield harmonics to favour the upper EM band when you proceed.”

“Acknowledged.” Picard felt as flash of pride at how well his crew was working together. A smooth, well-maintained machine, all parts functioning harmoniously.

The ship rocked again. A direct hit. They were out of time. Already stressed systems were pushed beyond tolerance. The power conduits supplying the consoles at the rear of the bridge overloaded and blew out. Sparks cast harsh shadows, and the people working the consoles screamed.

“Direct hit,” reported Worf. “Deck nine.”

“Damage report.” That was Riker.

“Structural latching system integrity breached,” Worf stated.

“Take us out of here, Number One,” Picard ordered.

Riker turned to the conn. “Fire up the engines,” he ordered. “Half impulse until we clear the nebula, then punch it up to warp nine.”

“Ready phasers, load aft torpedo bays,” Picard said.

“Engage.”

And with Riker’s command, the Enterprise moved forwards, the charges exploding in the nebula around her as she turned and rushed for the safety of normal space. And as the Enterprise cleared the nebula, her sensors detected the Cube…

As it turned to follow them.

The viewscreen was locked on the image of the Borg Cube, only seconds behind them. The Enterprise was moving at warp nine, and even still, the Cube was closing the distance. Almost leisurely, it seemed. Almost like a predator playing with an injured animal that it knows can’t escape. The viewscreen was clouded for a moment with a shimmering curtain of colour. Then again, and again.

“Borg tractor beam is attempting to lock on,” reported Worf.

“Fire at will, continue rotating shield frequency!”

The Enterprise lurched.

“Shields are failing!”

And then the deck dropped a full ten feet.

“Shields have failed! Tractor beam has locked on!”

Picard looked down at the readouts on his chair. The Enterprise’s speed was rapidly falling. “They’re holding us,” he heard Riker say.

And then, the instant that the warp field around the Enterprise had collapsed, there was a bright green glow and an explosive buzzing noise, and a Borg drone appeared directly behind Data at Ops. The android moved to get up, to attack, but he saw Worf raising his phaser and moved out of the way a spilt second before the Klingon’s phaser beam smashed into the drone’s exoplating. Set at heavy stun, the beam shorted out the drone’s circuitry, and the Borg collapsed. Worf was already rushing down the ramp to protect the captain when a second drone materialised, on the starboard side of the bridge, bare meters away from Riker.

This time, when Worf’s phaser fired, it had the high pitch whine of a phaser set to maximum. How had he changed the setting so fast? Riker wondered, but there was a burst of static and a deep ringing, like the pealing of an electronic bell, and a green forcefield enveloped the drone, protecting it. “They’ve adapted!” said Riker, even as he rushed forwards to tackle the drone.

But his attack was useless; the drone picked him up effortlessly and threw him to the rear of the bridge. Riker landed heavily at the top of the starboard ramp, his arm snapping from the impact. He cried out with the pain.

Worf was rushing forwards as well, and he barrelled into the drone with his full, considerable force, but the drone’s prosthetic arm raised in a split second, absorbed the impact and pushed him back. His sternum shattered, Worf lay insensate on the floor of the bridge.

Data rose from his station, lunging for the drone, and he grappled with the Borg’s heavy prosthesis. He actually managed to force the drone backwards a step, but then there was another buzzing noise, and a third drone materialised…

Directly behind Picard!

Data turned to face the new threat just in time to see it press something against Picard’s neck. Picard, halfway through turning to face the drone, slumped, his eyes rolling backwards into his skull.

And then, the two Borg drones vanished, disappearing in the green glow of the Borg transporter beam, and Captain Picard vanished with them.

***

Worf came back to consciousness and pushed himself up. Adrenaline coursing through his body, he didn’t even feel his shattered sternum. He ran to his station. “The Borg Cube is disengaging,” reported. “Leaving at warp speed.”

Riker, helped to his feet by one of the science officers at the aft stations, took a few unsteady steps down the ramp to the command chair, cradling his broken arm. “Maintain pursuit,” he said.

“Borg vessel has reached warp nine,” reported Data. “Nine point four. Nine point six.”

“Stay with them,” ordered Riker. “Riker to O’Brien. Can you get a fix on the captain?”

“Negative sir. There’s some kind of interference. I can’t lock in on a signal.”

Riker sighed. He needed his full staff. “Senior officers, report to the bridge.”

Worf looked up from his station. The expression on the Klingon’s face was the closest Riker had ever seen to dread. “Sir,” Worf said, “The coordinates they have set…” He took a breath. “They’re on a direct course for sector zero-zero-one.”

Riker’s blood, pumping hard and hot from the heat of action, instantly turned to ice.

The Borg were heading for Earth.

***

The drones had forced him to march through the endless winding corridors of the Cube, and Picard had long since lost any idea of which direction they were heading in. The regeneration alcoves along the walls were identical, blending together so that he couldn’t keep count of them in the heat. He’d glimpsed other things down some of the corridors that had branched off the seemingly random route he’d been lead along, strange pieces of machinery, moving, with hissing sounds and strange chemical tinged smells. But the drones leading him had not slowed, and, held firmly in their grasp, Picard had been pushed ahead.

After some length of time, they came to a larger chamber. Picard had lost track of how long he had been on the Cube, but his uniform was soaked with his sweat, and perspiration was dripping into his eyes. The chamber was darker than the rest of the Cube, and Picard couldn’t see how far it extended. He had a dim sense of there being irregular walls, but the mist that hung in the stale air prevented any clear view beyond a few meters.

Directly ahead of him, though, no more than five meters from him, was a body. A slim female figure, standing perfectly upright, covered completely in the same substance that formed the exoplating of the drones beside him. The body, however, lacked the multitude of implants that broke up the outer layer of the drones’ armour. The female body was quite smooth. But where the neck should be was just a gaping empty hole, as though whoever had once owned the body had been scooped out of it, leaving only a shell behind.

For a long moment, the drones just stood there, holding him in front of the hollow upright form. He was silent; he’d tried talking to the drones, demanding to speak to them when he’d first arrived on the Cube, but his words had gone unnoticed. But now it was different. The drones had obviously brought him to this place for some purpose, and he was about to speak again, to demand to be released, but a voice came from somewhere above him before he could form the words.

“Jean-Luc Picard,” it said.

A female voice, and not the apathetic voice of thousands speaking together, but the voice of a single individual, speaking with unmistakable emotion. It had a somewhat curious tone, but also a disinterested quality, as though the speaker knew that Picard was helpless.

“You lead the strongest ship of the Federation fleet.”

From above, in the shadows, Picard saw a movement, but it was not a person. It was more like snakes, writhing in the air, reaching into the darkness, their heads coming together where the shadows were deepest.

“You speak for your people.”

And now, Picard realised that the Borg must see him as some sort of leader of the Federation. And if that were the case, then this voice he was speaking to now must be a leader of the Borg. But why would they want to talk to me, like this? he thought. The answer came to him quickly. The Borg did not want to negotiate, to reach agreement. Every action they had made indicated that. They had taken him for his knowledge. Without a doubt, they were going to interrogate him for that knowledge, but how far would they go? Torture?

The movement above him was growing more pronounced, and Picard could see something larger moving in the shadows. It seemed that this larger object was at the center of the long writhing shapes, like a horribly tentacled creature. It was slowly descending.

His eyes fixed on it, Picard said, “I have nothing to say to you! And I will resist you with my last ounce of strength!”

The woman’s voice spoke again, and this time it carried a note of mild amusement. “Strength is irrelevant,” she said. “Resistance is futile.”

And now, Picard could see the object as it descended. It was a woman’s head and neck, the exact shape needed to fit into the hollow shell of the body that stood before him. It was descending on a multitude of conduits that twisted around it. The skull was elongated, and it had the look of not having been grown that way, but of having been stretched and elongated artificially, and implants and tubes inserted. The shockingly pale skin glistened wetly in the dim light. The face itself was almost Human looking; it was free of any implants, and it wore a slight smile. But the smile did not reach her eyes, and the eyes themselves were dark and evil. The lips were the only part of the face with any colour, a bright blood-scarlet red, but it did nothing to change the deathly pallor that the woman had. Underneath the pale skin snaked dark lines, and Picard realised that it was her blood vessels, as though the fluid within them was stagnant and coagulated.

The head finished its descent, and the gleaming metal spine that hung beneath the neck slid into the empty cavity in the female form standing in the center of the chamber. And then, hooks reached out from the edges of the biomechanics on the body, latching onto the skin, puncturing it and holding it tight. But the wounds did not bleed; they had the look of already having congealed with grey blood.

Complete now, the female form moved, the conduits that had carried her head and neck withdrawing back into the shadows. She stepped forwards, flexing her body as though it had not been used for a long time, enjoying the sensations of physicality. Then she looked up at Picard.

“I wish to improve myself,” she continued, and as she spoke, she gestured with her arms to indicate the drones, the chamber, the very ship around them. And then Picard realised that she meant everything around her was her. She was the drones, the ship. This one being in front of him was everything that the Borg were. She existed in each of them, in every drone, every vessel, everything that was controlled by the Borg.

She turned back to him and smiled coldly. “I will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to my own,” she said. “Your culture will adapt to service ours.” She spread her arms wide again, indicating the drones around her.

“Impossible,” countered Picard. “My culture is based on freedom and self-determination.”

The woman lowered her arms and gave him an almost pitiful look. “Freedom is irrelevant,” she said. “Self-determination is irrelevant.” Her voice became harder. “You must comply.”

Picard gathered himself, trying to keep his voice steady. “We would rather die.”

The woman gave him an almost dismissive look, then turned away. “Death is irrelevant,” she said, and apathy was in her voice. She began walking around his side. Picard turned his head to follow her, but the drones at his sides were still holding him tightly. “Your archaic cultures are authority driven,” she said as she vanished out of his view behind him. For a moment, she was silent. “To facilitate my introduction into your society, I’ve decided that a Human voice will speak for me in all my communications.” He felt her dank breath on the back of his neck, and fingers like cold steel stroked his ear.

She whispered, “I’ve chosen you to be that voice...”

Her words sent a jolt through his heart as though his blood had turned to ice water, then there was a sudden lashing noise of something moving fast towards him, a sting in his neck, and a cold pain spreading throughout his body. He contracted in agony, and he could feel swarming things creeping under his skin. And he knew, in a growing realisation, that they were going to make him into one of them, he would be used, raped, violated, and it wasn’t so he could speak for the Borg with his words, it was so he could speak as an example, this is what will happen to you, this is the hell that awaits you.

And as he realised all of this, and felt the pain of his skin being torn apart from the inside and sharp things clamping tightly onto his skull, he heard her voice again, whispering a word seductively in his mind.

Locutus...

***

The news wasn’t good.

The entire senior staff had assembled on the bridge. Beverly had repaired Riker’s arm and Worf’s sternum quickly, and thankfully no one else had suffered any injuries. But the mood was still a dark one. Worf had been glowering, as though blaming himself for letting the Borg take the captain. Ensign Rager at the conn was pushing the Enterprise as hard as she dared, but at warp nine point six, the Enterprise couldn’t hold out for much longer.

“They’re leading us into the heart of our own defenses,” Worf snarled quietly.

“So far they haven’t had much of a reason to worry about our defenses,” Geordi said darkly.

“Commander,” said Wesley, turning from the engineering station, “if the Borg stay at warp nine point six, we’ll be forced to discontinue pursuit and power down in less than three hours.”

“Two hours, forty minutes and three seconds,” Data supplied.

Riker turned to Geordi. “How soon before the deflector is ready?”

“We’re close,” Geordi said. “A few hours maybe.” He saw Riker start to say something. “I know,” Geordi continued, before Riker could speak. “I’ll get it done in two somehow. But Commander, I’m going to need some serious power from the warp engines to make this weapon work. So far we’re using everything we’ve got just to keep up with them.”

“We’ve got to get that ship down to impulse,” said Shelby. A task much easier said than it was done.

Riker felt almost like the mouse trying to bell the cat. It was easy to talk about, easy to say what needed to be done, but when the time came to actually put in the work, things suddenly looked a whole lot different. Sometimes, in Riker’s experience, you just had to dive in. Sink or swim, isn’t that what they said? He jumped. “I’m leading an away team over there to get the captain back. We’ll find a way to bring them out of warp. Ensign Crusher, continue to assist Mister La Forge. Commander Shelby, you will take the bridge and coordinate with Starfleet. Data, Worf, Doctor, you’re with me.” He turned and headed for the turbolift.

“Excuse me, sir, but with my knowledge of the Borg…”

Riker turned quickly, cutting Shelby off. “Those are my orders,” he said, a tone of finality to end the discussion. Shelby blinked, and took a half step back.

But then Deanna stepped forwards. “Commander Riker,” she said formally, choosing her words carefully, “it is inappropriate for you to lead the away team. Until the return of Captain Picard, you are in command of the Enterprise. We are in a state of war. Your place is on the bridge.”

Riker frowned at her, but he knew she was right. Every fiber of his being was screaming at him to take charge, lead the way onto the Cube, rescue Picard and then blast the Borg to damned hell, but he also knew what he’d be saying to Picard if the captain wanted to lead such a mission. No, Deanna was right. This is what it was to be in command. To think of the greater needs. To delegate the responsibility. It was the mark of a good commander. But it was as frustrating as hell.

Riker turned to face the viewscreen, his hands clasped behind his back. “Commander Shelby,” he said, quietly. “You will lead the away team.” He took a breath. “Make it so.”
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Wed May 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Chapter Five

First Officer’s Log, supplemental. Our pursuit of the Borg continues at high warp on a course that will take us to the very core of the Federation. The devastation they could bring is beyond imagination.

Worf had made the adjustments to the phasers himself, trusting none of his security personnel to make them. The cost of failure was too high. Despite wearing the uniform of Starfleet, Worf was at heart a Klingon warrior, and he lived according to that code. Duty. Honour. An oath sworn to protect his captain. An oath he had failed to fulfil. It gnawed at him, eating him from the inside, and he could not rest until he had made right. Until he had found his captain and returned him safely to the Enterprise.

And so, he had made the alterations to the phasers, changing them to fire at the same frequency to which the Borg were vulnerable. It hadn’t just been making sure that the job was done properly. He knew his team, trusted their skills. He’d placed his life in their hands countless times. But this was different. This was Worf’s obligation to Picard. It was because of him that Picard was lost, and thus it must be because of him that Picard was returned. Yes, Worf had lost people before. Tasha Yar, Marla Aster. But Picard was different. He was, in Worf’s opinion, was the most honourable man he had ever known, and Worf had sworn to himself long ago that the safety of the captain was ultimately his responsibility. Picard had earned that respect. He’d had stood beside Worf, his cha’DIch, before the Klingon High Council. He’d been the voice of reason in his mind, who had taught a rash young warrior more about fighting intelligently then he ever thought he could learn.

He could remember the first time he’d realised Picard was an excellent tactician. It had been during their very first mission, when threatened by Q. Picard ordered the ship to separate and assigned Worf command of the saucer section. Worf had, of course been shocked and tried to refuse. But thinking back on it, Worf had realised what Picard was doing. If Q was indeed after the Enterprise, then yes, he would get the stardrive section, yes, he would capture or kill the skeleton crew, but the vast majority of the people on board would live. Q would have failed to destroy them. And by assigning Worf to command the saucer, Picard had ensured that Worf would be the one to accomplish what Q wanted least, denying him of the prize he wanted.

So, from that moment, Worf studied Picard, learned all he could. And learn he did. He was now fully in awe of Picard’s ability and skill. When Picard defeated the Sheliak with their own weapon of endless bureaucracy, Worf had almost failed to contain his own laughter. Picard was the one who taught him that as powerful and dangerous as his own body was, his mind could be a far greater weapon.

And now, with Picard kidnapped by the Borg, Worf put this skill into practice. They’d discovered a vulnerability, and he intended to exploit it. He’d fight with his mind, and he’d fulfil his duty.

He passed out the modified phasers to the away team as soon as he entered the transporter room. “These phasers have been retuned,” he explained. “Each has a different frequency spanning the upper EM band.” And none of them had the same frequency as the deflector weapon. No point in giving the Borg a chance to begin adapting.

Shelby nodded appreciatively as she took the phaser. “Alright,” she said, “a reminder. We only get to use each of these once, maybe twice, before the Borg learn to adapt. Don’t fire until you have to.”

“What kind of resistance can we expect?” asked Beverly

Shelby looked at her. She’d been against the doctor’s presence on the away team; she had no tactical training, no experience in combat situations, and her skill with a phaser was below par. And she hadn’t been on the Enterprise when it been flung into system J-25 either. But, she was the best doctor on the Enterprise, and there was no telling what condition Picard would be in when they found him. Given the Borg’s ability to tie mechanical devices into biological tissue, it seemed likely that whatever method of torture the Borg were using on Picard would leave him in a critical condition. A doctor would be necessary. But still, Shelby disliked having her there. Once they found Picard, the away team would have to protect both the captain and Doctor Crusher. In her view, it made them too vulnerable. Still, Riker had been insistent. The doctor goes with you.

“At our last encounter, the Borg virtually ignored us when we beamed aboard their vessel,” said Data. “They clearly did not consider our being there a threat.”

“That may change, however, if we start interfering with their plans,” said Shelby. She led them up onto the transporter platform. “Shelby to bridge. Away team ready.”

Riker’s voice came over the com. “We’ve got fifty eight minutes before we have to power down and disengage.”

Shelby nodded, even though Riker couldn’t see her. “Understood.”

“Proceed,” said Riker. “And Commander, no unnecessary risks. If it becomes clear that you can’t succeed, I want you back here alive. I don’t want any dead heroes. Clear?”

“Very clear,” said Shelby. “Shelby out.” She looked at O’Brien.

“We’ve matched warp velocity for transport, Commander,” he said. There was a hint of tightness in his voice.

Shelby didn’t let it bother her. “Energise,” she said quickly.

O’Brien’s hands tapped the panel in front of him, and then the shimmering blue curtain of the transporter surrounded her.

***

The away team materialised into darkness. Instantly, Worf’s phaser was in his hand. Data lifted his tricorder. Around them were dim lights, blinking, moving. Harsh metallic sounds were muffled by distance, the whirring of machinery, the dull thud of drones walking on metal grates. The air smelled of chemicals, oily and scrubbed, with the thick heaviness of humidity and heat.

They stood there for a moment, but the drones merely stepped around them, ignoring them. Worf lowered his phaser and lifted his own tricorder. “Tricorder functions minimal,” he reported.

“Any signs of human life?”

Worf shook his head. “Inconclusive.” He felt the urge to crush the tricorder in his hand, but he pushed it back. Now was not the time to let his emotions control him. He tried to adjust the tricorder.

Beverly stepped forward from the away team, looking at the conduits that snaked across the walls and ceiling. “Look at this, this is extraordinary.”

Data stepped forwards. The conduits snaked into the base of a small pyramid shaped structure that sat on the wall. It was lit from within, the light flickering and wavering. “These appear to be some kind of power waveguide conduits,” he observed. “They may allow the Borg to work collectively as they perform ship functions.”

Shelby stepped forwards. This could be something they could exploit. A vital part of the Borg system, just sitting here on the wall? She checked her tricorder. No signs of a forcefield or any other protection. But then she realised that the small size meant that there were likely to be millions of them scattered throughout the Cube. And, looking along the corridor they were in, she could see at least a dozen more of them. “There’s no way to take out enough of these to slow them down,” she said.

Data nodded. “The decentralised power system makes it virtually impossible.”

Shelby sighed and led the away team away, but then Crusher spoke thoughtfully. “What about looking at it from the mosquito’s point of view?”

Shelby turned back.

“An interesting metaphor, Doctor,” Data said. “What is your idea?”

Beverly turned to him and smiled. “If we sting them in a tender spot, they might stop for a minute to scratch.”

Shelby looked at her, impressed. Not a bad plan.

They moved into the next corridor. Like the first, regeneration alcoves stretched away along the walls. But the conduits along the ceiling were denser here, collecting together and heading in the same direction. As they turned a corner, they saw an intersection, with a large number of glowing pyramids hanging from the ceiling. They looked similar to the power waveguide conduits, but these were larger and glowed more brightly. Shelby lifted her tricorder. Just like before, no forcefields.

“Distribution nodes,” said Data.

Shelby nodded. “If we take out a few of these, it just might make them scratch.”

She lifted her phaser and was about to fire at the node when Worf’s tricorder beeped. He’d managed to improve its function, and now, despite a still limited range, it had detected something. “The captain’s communicator!” Worf said. “It is still activated!”

Beverly tapped her combadge immediately. “Crusher to Picard, can you hear me?”

The away team waited in silence, but there was no response.

“Can you locate it, Worf?” asked Shelby.

Worf checked, turned. The single was slightly stronger off to his left. “This way.” He led them off into the Cube.

***

The away team had been over on the Cube for half an hour now, and Riker was getting restless. What was keeping them? They’d maintained the necessary contact, reported everything. But they’d detected Picard’s combadge more than five minutes ago, and they still hadn’t found it. What was keeping them? Damn! He should have gone. Maybe he couldn’t find the captain any faster, but at least he would be doing something. Better than sitting and waiting.

So engrossed in his own anxieties was Riker that he didn’t hear the soft tone of the incoming transmission the first time. When he did hear it, he leaped behind the desk and tapped the key on the terminal. Admiral Hanson appeared on the screen.

“Commander Riker, how are your weapon preparations?”

“Almost ready,” said Riker. “We’re not going to let the Borg get away.”

“Good to hear,” said Hanson. He took a deep breath. “Are the Borg still on course for Earth?”

Riker nodded.

“Understood. I’ve managed to get twenty three ships launched from the Earth drydocks and Utopia Planetia. They’ll be meeting with another group from the Third Fleet on maneuvers in the Vulcan system. They’ll rendezvous and make their way towards your position. I’ve also managed to scare up a half dozen more ships that will join them along the way.”

Riker stared for a moment. “That would leave Earth with no heavily armed vessels within at least two light years.”

Hanson nodded. “Whether at Earth or somewhere else, it’s not going to make any difference. And I doubt that the crews of those ships want to wait around in the Sol System for the Borg to come to them.”

“I strongly recommend redeploying all available defenses to protect sector zero-zero-one, Admiral…”

Hanson cut him off with a shake of his head. “We’re moving to intercept at Wolf three five nine. We’ll make our stand there.” The tone of his voice was final. The discussion was over, and Riker sighed inwardly. Damn Hanson could be stubborn! “How much longer can you maintain pursuit?”

“Twenty two minutes if they stay at their current speed,” Riker answered him. “If we can’t bring them out of warp, we’ll do as much damage as we can before we have to disengage.”

Hanson nodded, but the expression on his face was grim. “Picard?”

Riker lowered his eyes. “Nothing yet, sir.”

***

There was barely twenty minutes before they would have to return to the Enterprise. The heat of the Cube was beginning to show its effects. Beverly lifted her hand to wipe perspiration away from her eyes, but her palm was already slick with sweat. She wiped her hands on her uniform in an effort to dry them, but it didn’t work. The heat and humidity were just too much. She had a sticky, grimy feeling all over, like a mixture of her own sweat and industrial lubricant. And the intermittent strobing lights on the Cube were giving her a headache. She hoped the others were faring better. Data, of course, nothing would bother him. And even if it did, he’d compensate and ignore it. Worf would ignore it anyway. She’d once seen him in sickbay after he’d broken a leg on an away team and marched more than two kilometers on it back to the beam out point. And as for Shelby, well, her determination could lead her to ignore discomfort, but it could build up inside her before breaking out. Beverly hoped they found Picard soon.

Worf vanished around a corner, then came back. “In here,” he reported, then vanished again. The away team quickly followed him.

The chamber that they entered was almost like a morgue. There were a series of long hatches in the wall, all closed. Worf walked along them, holding his tricorder. Its beeping became louder and faster, until at one of the hatches it became a solid tone. He folded his tricorder and put it back into its holster, then dug his fingers into the maze of tubing on the hatch. He pulled, grunting with the effort, but the hatch refused to move. He stepped back, allowing Data to come forwards.

Data grabbed the hatch and pulled, and even though it looked like he was barely trying, the android was using a strength that could bend durasteel. The hatch slowly slid open.

The away team leaned in to look into the compartment that lay behind the hatch. It was fairly shallow, going back less than a meter, but wide enough for an adult Human to lie down inside. For a moment, Beverly expected to see the unconscious form of Jean-Luc Picard to be there, laying insensate on the cold metal slab, but the captain wasn’t there.

His uniform, however, was.

It was as though the uniform had been torn off him, the clothes were ripped, but the combadge still sat fastened securely to the breast. She was aware of Shelby speaking, telling the bridge what they had found. She could hear the shock and the despair in Riker’s voice as he answered Shelby.

And then Shelby was telling Riker that they were resuming the search for Picard, and Beverly wanted to laugh. Resume the search? They’d lost their only trail! How could they continue the search now? Where would they look? She realised that she would never see Jean-Luc Picard again.

She remembered that horrible day long ago, after the Stargazer had returned to Earth with Jack’s body, and Jean-Luc had gone with Beverly to identify his remains. She remembered the sterile hallways, the cold room with only a single biobed standing in the middle, the shape underneath the cover, and then how it had been Jack’s face, even though Jack wasn’t really there anymore, was he? She remembered how Picard had held her hand as she tried to keep her emotions in check, how he put his arm around her shoulders and supported her when she burst into tears, and how he had stroked her and kissed her hair as she screamed abuse at him for not saving her husband.

Was it easier this way, knowing for sure that your loved one was really gone, really dead?

Honestly, she didn’t know. For months afterwards, she’d had nightmares about Jack’s eyes, staring at her from under his closed eyelids, dreaming of the things that he saw as he was dying. What did his eyes see as his life left him?

But now they were going to return to the Enterprise weren’t they? They’d get the Borg ship to drop out of warp, and then they’d go, and they’d fire the deflector, and destroy this horrible place, but Picard would still be here, and what would he see? Would he see the walls of fire coming for him? Would he feel the blast of heat? Would he feel the shockwave hit him and tear him apart?

Yes, it was easier. Much better to know for sure, because no matter what horrors lay in store for Picard, whatever Beverly’s imagination could conjure was so much worse.

***

If Riker had known, he would have thought Shelby’s report would have filled him with dread, but it didn’t. Instead, it gave him a sense of finality. They’d lost Picard. Even if he was still alive somewhere over there, the away team would never be able to find him in time. They had barely a quarter of an hour before the Enterprise would be forced to drop out of warp, and the away team still had to get the Cube to impulse. If the captain was lost, then that was what they needed to do. And if the captain was not lost, if there was somehow a chance, they still wouldn’t be able to take it, because doing so would rob them of their chance to destroy the Cube. And saving the captain just wasn’t worth it.

There was the hiss of doors behind him, and Riker turned to see La Forge and Wesley hurrying down the ramp. “Stand by, Commander,” he said to Shelby over the com.

“We’re in business,” Wesley said to Riker.

La Forge nodded in agreement. “It’ll burn out the main deflector,” he said, “but it’ll be one hell of a bang.”

“Radiation danger?”

“We’ll need to evacuate the entire forward half of the secondary hull and the lower three decks of the saucer,” said Wesley.

“I’ll see to that,” Deanna said, and then she was hurrying back to the turbolift.

Riker lifted his head and spoke to the away team. “Commander Shelby, we only have seventeen minutes of warp power left. Do whatever you can to get them out of warp.”

***

Shelby listened to Riker’s order, reading the message under the surface. They’d given up on the idea of a rescue. Their need to attack the Borg was now overriding their need to find the captain. Shelby felt a moment of grief. They’d lost Picard.

Still, she had a job to do. No time now for grief. Time enough for that later. She took a deep breath, sucking in the chemical tinged air of the Cube. “Acknowledged,” she said. “Shelby out.”

She could feel the eyes of the rest of the away team on her. Data looking at her with an almost curious expression. Crusher in her disbelief. And Worf, furious. She wished she could give them the time they needed to deal with this. They had been so close, but their chance to rescue Picard had been snatched away, pulled from their hands just as they were about to take it for themselves. But, the mission wasn’t over, and they had another task to perform. Deal with the emotion later, concentrate on the job now. “Let’s take out some of these distribution nodes and see what happens.” She looked around at them, but they were still just looking at her. “Get ready,” she said, but she tried to keep the hardness out of her voice. “This may rile up our friends.”

She nodded to Data, who stepped forwards. There was a power waveguide conduit sitting on the wall. Data raised his phaser and fired.

The beam splashed against the outside of the conduit box, but there was no disruption in its activities. Data looked at Worf, and then they both fired together. For a brief moment, the distribution node withstood the twin beams, but then they broke through and the pyramid exploded from within.

There were sudden sounds, of capacitors charging, gears whirring, servos spinning. Dull heavy footsteps and mechanical clangs. The Borg were stirring, emerging from their regeneration alcoves.

And, one by one, they all turned and began converging on the away team.

Shelby’s hand slapped her combadge. “Enterprise, are they dropping to impulse?”

“Negative, Commander,” said Riker.

“Damn,” muttered Shelby.

The away team was forced back by the advancing drones. They couldn’t afford to start firing on the drones themselves, not yet. If they did before the Borg had dropped out of warp, then they could adapt and they’d never be able to destroy enough distribution nodes to force the Cube to impulse. As they retreated past a side corridor, Shelby noticed a pair of distribution nodes hanging from the ceiling. “There!” she said.

Data and Worf lifted their phasers again. And then a second time. And then, as the second distribution node erupted in sparks, the lights dimmed for a moment as power was lost throughout the entire section of the Cube.

***

Wesley noticed it first, the conn sounding a soft alarm designed to warn of a nearby vessel that was changing some aspect of its flight path. “Sir, they’ve done it!” he called. “The Borg ship is dropping out of warp!”

Riker leapt out of his chair. “Go to impulse,” he said. “Inform the away team.”

And even as Riker moved to the back of the bridge, La Forge was preparing their weapon. “Diverting warp energy to main deflector.”

“Move us to within forty thousand kilometers, match velocity,” Riker ordered. “Tactical, commence arming sequence. Increase deflector modulation to upper frequency band.”

***

The Borg advanced relentlessly, and the away team was forced backwards. Another corridor cut across this one at right angles, and looking down it, Shelby could see more drones approaching. And now from behind them too.

Surrounded. But now that the Cube had dropped to impulse, the away team could fire their weapons at the drones themselves. Shelby hoped they could hold them off for the few minutes it would take the Enterprise to get back into transporter range.

“Ready phasers,” said Shelby.

The Borg kept coming.

“Fire.”

The phaser beams lashed out in all four directions. And four drones fell, sparks erupting from them as cybernetic implants shorted out where the phaser beams hit them.

The drones behind them stepped over the bodies and kept coming.

Shelby’s hand hit her combadge. “Enterprise, encountering resistance! Prepare to beam us back on my signal!”

The lights suddenly dimmed again, then blinked out altogether. The only illumination was from the flickering of the destroyed distribution nodes.

Shelby fired. A hit.

Worf fired. Another hit.

Crusher fired, and a third drone fell.

Data fired, claiming a fourth.

More drones, directly behind them, clambering over the bodies of the fallen, advancing. They kept coming.

More shots fired. The phaser beams added to the heat of the Cube, and the sweat flowed freely down their faces.

The Borg fell.

More drones, they kept coming.

And now, when the phasers lashed out, the drones did not fall. There was the ringing of a deep bell, and a green glow surrounded each drone. The drones did not fall, and they kept coming.

“They’ve adapted,” said Shelby, her voice hollow, despairing. Their time was up. She was about to call for transport when she heard Doctor Crusher:

Jean-Luc!

And then Worf was calling for the captain, and Shelby turned to see him sprinting down the corridor, towards the advancing Borg. One of them raised its prosthesis, but Worf ducked and rolled underneath it, and kept running.

And then Shelby saw – at the far end of the corridor, a figure standing, silhouetted against the light. But even from this far away, she recognised that profile. It was Captain Picard!

But then, as though only now noticing Worf barrelling down the corridor towards him, Picard turned and stepped towards them. And as he moved into the light, Shelby saw the gleaming black metal of Borg implants covering his face, the ashen colour of his flesh, and the dark lines of blood vessels snaking under his skin.

Beverly was screaming, but Worf ignored her; he leapt for Picard, but a forcefield burst into life and threw him backwards, and he landed heavily, face first on the rough metal grating of the Cube’s floor.

Shelby slapped at her combadge. “Enterprise, get us out of here!”

She saw the nearest Borg reaching out to her with a mechanical hand covered in twitching sharp things, but then the transporter lifted her away, and she was gone.

***

Beverly was sobbing when they materialised on the transporter pad. She collapsed to the floor. Shelby put her arms around her, lifting her up and holding her. Beverly lifted her head, as if surprised that Shelby had such tenderness in her.

“I’m sorry,” Shelby whispered into Beverly's hair. “I’m so sorry.”

Beverly nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes. She saw Worf and Data standing there.

“I believe we should report to the bridge,” said Data.

Beverly nodded, and the four of them walked off the transporter pad, defeated.

***

Riker looked up as the away team walked out of the turbolift. They looked like hell; Shelby looking pale and still breathing hard, Worf glistening with sweat and violet blood dripping freely from the side of his face, Beverly streaked with grime and her eyes red – had she been crying? Only Data looked anywhere near to his normal self. But there was no time to dwell on their state. They were well enough to make it onto the bridge, and that would have to be enough for now. There were more important matters at hand. “The Captain?”

“We were unable to retrieve him,” reported Data. “The Captain has been altered by the Borg.”

It took a moment for it to sink in. “Altered?”

“He is a Borg!” Worf snarled.

Riker’s eyes grew wide with shock.

Shelby quickly stepped forwards. “We’ll go back,” she said rapidly. “I need more people and we need to retune the phasers.” Her eyes locked with Riker’s. “We can get him out of there.”

But then Geordi spoke from the engineering console next to them. “Commander, reading subspace field fluctuations from within the Borg ship. Looks like they’re regenerating, restoring power.” He looked at Riker, his eyes grim. “They could be capable of warp any minute.”

Damn! Riker needed time to think, and time was the one thing they didn’t have! They had seconds at most before the Borg would be able to escape, and there was no way the Enterprise would be able to follow. It would take them at least ten minutes to reroute power back to the warp nacelles, and by that time the Cube would be long gone. They had no time, they had no option. They had no other chances. If they didn’t use the deflector weapon now, they never would.

Riker turned to la Forge. “Is the deflector ready?”

Geordi’s eye met his. “Ready sir,” he said. His voice was little more than a whisper.

Beverly spoke now. “Will,” she pleaded. “He’s alive. If we get him back, I might be able to restore…” Her voice trailed off. Riker could hear in her voice that she was close to tears.

Riker shook his head. “This is our only chance to destroy them,” he said. “If they get back into warp, our weapon is useless.”

“We’ll go back,” said Shelby. “Sabotage them again if we have to!”

“We can’t maintain pursuit!” snapped Riker. He turned back to La Forge. “Prepare to fire.”

Shelby looked like she was about to scream. “At least consult with Starfleet!” She turned to Worf. “Get Admiral Hanson on subspace…”

“Belay that order, Lieutenant!” said Riker. “There’s no time!”

But he wished there was. Damn it! Why couldn’t they have more time? Goddammit, even just a few minutes! Enough time to send another away team, disable the Borg some more, disrupt their repair efforts, or hell, even talk to Admiral Hanson, and let him make the hard decisions! He’d told Deanna that he’d always thought he was ready for command, to face these moments, but now that it was happening in the here-and-now, he wasn’t so sure. He’d often imagined how difficult it would be to be in command of a starship and giving the orders that would send crew members to their deaths. He had been in the simulations. There had even been real life scenarios when he was a cadet, and even though Riker hadn’t known that they were exercises, hadn’t he had the suspicion that it wasn’t real? After all, who would put a cadet into a situation where they’d be forced to take command of other people?

But now, it was undeniably real. There were lives in the balance. In the next few minutes, people would live or die, depending on whether he made the right choice or not. If he ordered the crew to fire, then they would be killing Picard. If he didn’t give the order, then would the Borg leave, or would they attack the Enterprise first? And even if they did fire the deflector weapon, the Borg would still have a chance to fire back, wouldn’t they? How long would it take to destroy them? A few seconds? A minute? Longer? How long could the Enterprise keep up that kind of power output with the Cube assaulting them?

There was a soft tone. “Sir, we are being hailed by the Borg,” said Worf.

Riker looked at him. “On screen,” he said after a moment.

On the screen, Picard stood, but it was not Picard. It was what the Borg had turned Picard into, a twisted, nightmarish vision of a man who had been mentor, father-figure, friend. And then the Picard/Borg stepped forward, and it spoke:

“I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service us.”

Riker’s heart broke. He tried to tell himself that this person, this Borg, this thing before him wasn’t Picard, but he knew that it was. He tried to tell himself that Picard was already dead, that the Borg were just using his body as a macabre puppet, but he knew Picard was still alive inside this tortured automaton. And he knew that if he gave the order to fire their weapon, it would mean the death of one of his closest friends, the man who had guided him from the moment he had first come aboard the Enterprise, who had taught him everything he knew about being a leader of people. For a long moment, he could say nothing, and he forced himself to push his emotions down.

And finally, after the long moment had passed, Riker spoke, aware that every person on the bridge was turning to him, depending on him to guide them, give them their orders.

And his order was…

“Mister Worf… Fire.”
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Sonic Glitch » Thu May 31, 2012 8:12 pm

I must say, very well done! I especially enjoy the little introspective narrative moments that delve into the characters thoughts. It adds more dimension to the story and makes up for the fact that inner monologues are difficult to convey visually.

Just out of curiosity, do you intend to include the Battle of Wolf 359 from the Borg/Fleet perspective or only the aftermath when the E-D arrives?
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Captain Seafort » Thu May 31, 2012 9:18 pm

Excellent work Tib. :) Makes me want to either dust off my own fanfic or try one of these novelisations myself.

One thing I can't decide whether I like or not is the change to the Picard vs Borg confrontation on the cube - it's certainly well-written, and does a good job of integrating BoBW with First Contact, but it also directly contradicts what we saw in the episode. I assume you're taking the view that the episode is to be treated as an IU dramatisation, based on the Enterprise's logs and Picard's debriefing, but with false memories of the details of what happened.

If you decide to do more of these, to develop your writing further, I think it would be a good idea to insert more scenes between the ones we saw. In a way you've already gone this by reshaping Picard vs giant empty room into Picard vs Queen, but by doing inserts would allow you to take full advantage of the different medium, and to practice developing your plot writing skills as well as the characterisation you're expanding on so much.
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Thu May 31, 2012 9:45 pm

Sonic Glitch wrote:I must say, very well done! I especially enjoy the little introspective narrative moments that delve into the characters thoughts. It adds more dimension to the story and makes up for the fact that inner monologues are difficult to convey visually.

Just out of curiosity, do you intend to include the Battle of Wolf 359 from the Borg/Fleet perspective or only the aftermath when the E-D arrives?


I've actually finished the whole thing, and while I haven't gone to Wolf 359 to see the battle itself (I remained on board the Enterprise - adding the battle wouldn't further the story, and it would just be there to look cool, and as nice as that is, I don't think adding stuff just for the sake of coolness is justifiable), I have extended the scene where they get the message from Hanson to include messages from other vessels like we saw in FC.

Captain Seafort wrote:Excellent work Tib. :) Makes me want to either dust off my own fanfic or try one of these novelisations myself.


You should!

One thing I can't decide whether I like or not is the change to the Picard vs Borg confrontation on the cube - it's certainly well-written, and does a good job of integrating BoBW with First Contact, but it also directly contradicts what we saw in the episode. I assume you're taking the view that the episode is to be treated as an IU dramatisation, based on the Enterprise's logs and Picard's debriefing, but with false memories of the details of what happened.


The reason I made the change to Picard meeting the Queen is because we know she was there from First Contact, and I've always thought that if the creators knew about that, they would have included her in that scene. It was what I think they'd have done if they knew everything that was going to come later.

Actually, the Queen plays a big part in part 2, where I tie it in to Regeneration to answer a few niggling questions I've always had (such as why the Cube tried to kill Locutus when they rescued him in the shuttle but then the Cube just leaves without any further attempt.)

If you decide to do more of these, to develop your writing further, I think it would be a good idea to insert more scenes between the ones we saw. In a way you've already gone this by reshaping Picard vs giant empty room into Picard vs Queen, but by doing inserts would allow you to take full advantage of the different medium, and to practice developing your plot writing skills as well as the characterisation you're expanding on so much.


I know what you mean, but it's hard because all the scenes that are required to tell the story are included in the finished episode, so if I add more scenes, it can only really be to show character, and in an action packed episode like BOBW, this runs the risk of slowing things down. Anyway, while it would develop my plot skills, I did this to concentrate on my style skills without needing to think about plot at all (although writing the scene where Data connects himself to Picard and coming up with the "In Data's mind" part that would tie in believably to the stuff we saw in real life was incredibly difficult and I had to do it there.)
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Thu May 31, 2012 9:46 pm

Chapter Six

“Come in, come in, Number One,” Picard said.

Commander Riker stepped into the captain’s quarters. It was the first time he had been in here, and it felt rather odd. Until now, he’d only known the captain in the work environment. But now, the mood was changed. More intimate. Getting together as friends, almost. But not quite. Riker was quite aware of why the captain had asked him to join him for dinner. They’d been serving together for almost two months now, but Picard hadn’t had a chance to get to know Riker personally. The real William Thomas Riker. And so, when the computer had delivered the captain’s invitation, Riker had known the motivation behind the request.

“Synthehol?” asked the captain, half turning towards him from the replicator.

“Uh, yes please,” said Riker. He rubbed his hand over his cleanly shaven chin. He was a little concerned at drinking, but then he thought, what the hell. It was only the synthetic stuff, he wouldn’t really lose any inhibitions, would he? But then he heard the voice of Lieutenant Boylen calling him Ensign Babyface and telling him to loosen up.

Riker took the glass Picard was holding out. “Thank you, Captain,” he said.

Picard raised his glass, and Riker clinked his against it. “Salute,” Picard said. “You know, my brother makes the real stuff. Wine. It’s a shame I haven’t got any aboard ship.”

“He’s a vintner?” asked Riker. “Where does he grow his vines? Bordeaux? Burgundy?”

Picard shook his head. “La Barre,” he said. “My whole family, actually. My brother, father, grandfather. So it was quite a break in the family tradition when I enlisted in Starfleet, as you can imagine.” They sat on the lounge. “It was one of the hardest choices I’d ever had to make,” said Picard.

“You weren’t sure if Starfleet was the right path for you?”

“Oh, no, Number One,” said Picard. “Sorry, Will. No sense in standing on rank tonight. I always knew that Starfleet was the right path for me, but going against my father’s wishes and actually doing it, that was difficult.”

Riker nodded. “It seems that this life gives us more than our fair share of hard choices.”

“You’ve had a few of your own, haven’t you?”

“Yes sir,” said Riker. God, he needed to loosen up a bit more. He took another long sip of his drink. “I’m sure you know of my father.”

Picard nodded. “Yes, Kyle Riker. I know him by reputation, though we haven’t met.”

“Well, he and I don’t get on,” said Riker. “We haven’t spoken for almost fifteen years.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Picard, and Riker could see understanding in his eyes. A similar rift between the captain and a family member?

“It was the death of my mother that caused it,” said Riker. “After her death, my father became distant.” He took another sip. “Withdrawn. By the time I was fifteen, I was practically looking after myself. Apart from the fact that we shared an address, we didn’t really have much to do with each other. But in spite of it all, I still loved him. I dunno why.” Riker sighed. “Probably because he was my father, and I was young and it was just the expected thing to do. Family sticks together. But then, I realised I was faced with a choice. Stay or leave.” He took another mouthful of the synthehol.

“You chose to leave?”

Riker nodded and placed his glass back on the table. It was empty now. “Hardest decision of my life, up until that point at least.”

“But since?”

Riker leaned back and smiled. “Telling Captain DeSoto that I wasn’t going to let him beam down to Altair III, now that was difficult. He fixed me with that damned glare of his, the one that could bore through duranium, and demanded I explain myself. Of course, I stood up to him, held my ground. I don’t think he’d ever had that from a subordinate officer before. But, in the end, he agreed with my reasoning, even if he didn’t agree with my decision.” Riker flashed Picard a grin. “But he stayed on the ship.”

Picard laughed. Riker had to admit, it was a good laugh. A sincere laugh, and he was glad that his captain was able to laugh when he projected such a cool, almost icily serious demeanour on the bridge. “It is a part of the job, facing those hard decisions,” Picard said. “And I’m glad to see that it’s something that you are able to face.”

“Well, if I can’t, I shouldn’t be wearing the uniform,” said Riker.

“I’m curious,” said Picard. “You’ve demonstrated the ability to face these choices and make them. And yet you turned down your own command to come aboard the Enterprise.”

“The Drake, yes sir.” Riker sighed. “I decided that taking command of a small survey vessel wouldn’t present the same opportunities as a tour aboard the Enterprise.”

“But Will,” said Picard. “To hold the rank of captain, even aboard a minor vessel…”

“But that’s the thing,” said Riker. “If I’d taken that command, I’d be a captain, yes, but never out there doing the important things. I’d never be making the great discoveries, only going out to learn more about things that others before me had found. I didn’t join Starfleet to follow in the footsteps of others. I joined to make my own footsteps.” He smiled. “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” He leaned back in the lounge. “And that isn’t about rank. It’s about opportunity. And a position on the Enterprise would give me an opportunity that I’d never get on the Drake.”

“It couldn’t have been easy for you,” said Picard.

Riker shook his head. “It wasn’t,” he said, and smiled. “Another one of the difficult choices.”

“And now?”

Riker looked at Picard, not understanding. “Sir?”

“Your ability to make those tough choices,” Picard said. “To choose to leave home. To choose to disobey your captain’s orders. To choose opportunity over rank. I’m afraid that you haven’t faced the last of those difficult choices. How do you think you’ll cope with them?”

Riker sighed and leaned back in the lounge. “Well, it’s not going to get any easier,” he said. “After all, making those choices isn’t a matter of skill. It’s a matter of cost. And the difficult choices are difficult because whichever way you choose, the cost is going to be high. That’s not really something that you can be trained for.”

“Indeed,” said Picard.

Riker let his head fall back, and he sighed. He hoped that the difficult decisions would be few and far between.

***

The most difficult decision William Riker would ever make was the decision to kill his captain.

“Mister Worf… Fire.”

He wanted to turn away, close his eyes, shut out the next few minutes, but he couldn’t. Damn it, he’d done the hard part, he’d done his job! The others, they had it easy. They knew what was happening, they knew that Picard would be lost forever, but they weren’t doing this because they’d had to make the hard decision. They hadn’t weighed up everything and decided that the Cube would have to be destroyed, even if it meant the death of Picard. They were doing it for the simple reason that Riker had ordered them to. They never actually had to think about what they were doing.

He’d given them their order, and he didn’t want to see it carried out.

He’d given them their order, and he had done his part, and now all he could do was stand there and watch it happen, and as difficult as it had been to give that order, staying to watch it be obeyed was even harder. But he couldn’t look away, couldn’t leave. He was their leader now, and he had to lead.

The deck began vibrating. More and more power was pouring into the deflector, and the strain of the power transfer units was beginning to show.

Riker looked at the face on the viewscreen, the face that had once belonged to his friend, but now belonged to a tortured puppet named Locutus. He looked past the Borg implants, the biomechanical devices, and saw the face of his friend.

I’m sorry, Riker thought.

He became aware of La Forge’s voice from somewhere behind him. “Deflector power approaching maximum limits. Energy discharge in six seconds!” Worf switched the screen to show the Cube, and for that Riker was grateful. He didn’t think he’d be able to stand looking at Picard’s face, twisted by the Borg, in the last few seconds before he was lost forever.

The seconds passed with nightmare slowness. The rumbling beneath the deck grew stronger, like some beast from the depths awakening, a beast better left to slumber.

And then, the ship lurched backwards and the rumbling became a roar as the beast was released. The deflector dish erupted, spewing a burst of energy that blasted out and smashed into the side of the Cube. Riker winced at the sudden brightness that burnt his eyes, but he refused to look away. A forcefield appeared to absorb the blast, but they had planned for this, expected this. Shelby had told him that the Borg forcefield would only last for a few seconds before failing.

But how long had it been? He began counting in his head as the seconds passed. He had reached ten before Worf spoke.

“The Borg ship is undamaged.”

Riker’s heart leapt into his throat. The weapon wasn’t working? Riker felt a moment of fear, of shock. Their weapon was useless, they couldn’t defeat the Borg, and the Enterprise was utterly defenceless.

“Impossible.” Riker barely heard Shelby’s incredulous voice.

Alarms began sounding, becoming more desperate as the Enterprise continued pushing the deflector. “Warning. Warp core primary coolant failure.”

Riker ignored it. He couldn’t afford to give up the attack. Part of him believed that the Borg were simply just a little more resistant than they had expected, that any moment, their defenses would buckle and the Cube would be destroyed, but another part of him knew that they had failed. But his mind refused to accept this. He had to push the Enterprise as far as he could. He couldn’t afford to give up. There was too much at stake.

“I can’t maintain it much longer, Commander,” warned Geordi. And the computer issued another warning. “Exceeding reaction chamber thermal limit.”

Riker could have screamed with the injustice of it all. They’d done everything right, they’d accounted for every possibility! What could have gone wrong? What could have happened? Damn it! He lowered his eyes.

“Cease fire.”

They’d failed.

“Shutting down warp engines…” Geordi’s voice was shocked, quiet.

The burst of energy diminished to a trickle and then stopped entirely. The Borg’s forcefield blinked off. The Cube behind it was unscathed.

Riker shook his head. They couldn’t have adapted that quickly! They had no weapon that could defeat them, no way to stop them. The Borg had the power to withstand any attack, and – somehow – the knowledge to prepare for any assault.

There was a tone from the communications console, and the viewscreen flicked back to the interior of the Cube, back to the drone that had once been a Human called Picard. “The knowledge and experience of the Human – Picard – is part of us now,” it said. “It has prepared us for all possible courses of action.” The eyes met Riker’s, and he saw the hardness in them. “Your resistance is hopeless… Number One.”

And the frightening intimacy of those words, of this thing on the viewscreen addressing him as one of his dearest friends, left him in no doubt that what the Borg had said was true, that the Borg were not only using Picard’s body, but his mind, ripping his thoughts, feelings, memories, his very soul out and sifting through it.

He hoped that they’d be able to kill Picard soon.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:24 pm

More excellence, here. Damn, I got a plot bunny itch now... *Looks at old SW/ST crossovers and cracks knuckles*
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:59 am

Here's the next chapter. I've included a nice character scene between Riker and Deanna that was in the script but cut from the final episode. I have no idea if it was filmed or not, but I included it anyway.

Chapter Seven

First Officer’s Log, Stardate 44009.3. The Borg ship has resumed its course towards Earth. We are unable to pursue pending repairs to the Enterprise.

Deanna didn’t have to be an empath to feel the despair in the observation lounge. The mood was quiet, eyes were downcast, and voices were quiet and subdued. She’d need to make some appointments to see them over the next few days. Assuming they survived the next few days. She sighed and turned her attention back to the viewscreen. The senior staff was reporting to Admiral Hanson, who was already leading his fleet of starships to meet and attack the Borg Cube at Wolf 359. He was sitting in the Indefatigable’s ready room.

Riker finished his report on their failed attempt to destroy the Cube. “As we anticipated, the blast burned out the main navigational deflector. We also have damage to the shields and the reactor core.” Deanna’s empathic sense of Riker was of a subdued man, a man who was on the verge of giving up.

La Forge spoke. “We should be back up in eight to twelve hours, Admiral.”

Hanson frowned. “Well, we’ll miss you at the party,” he said.

“The Enterprise will be there, sir,” Riker said quickly. “Maybe a little late, but we’ll be there.”

Deanna frowned at him. She could sense Riker’s guilt, how he was blaming himself for their failure, and now his desperation to prove to Hanson that it wasn’t his fault. She’d have to talk to him.

It seemed that Hanson noticed the guilt Riker was heaping on himself because he said, “Your engagements have given us valuable time.” Show him that he had made a difference, even if they hadn’t accomplished their goals. “We’ve mobilised a fleet of forty starships at Wolf 359, and that’s just for starters. The Klingons are sending warships. Hell, we’ve even thought of opening communications with the Romulans.”

Shelby, oblivious to Hanson’s tact, spoke. “You realise, Admiral, that with the assistance of Picard, the Borg will be ready for your defences.”

Hanson glared at her, and Deanna sensed that Shelby realised that she’d made a mistake in speaking, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was. “Lieutenant Commander,” he said, “a few years ago I watched a freshman cadet pass four upperclassmen on the last hill of a forty kilometer run on Danula Two. Damndest thing I ever saw. The only freshman cadet to ever win the Academy marathon. I made it my business to get to know that young man, and I got to know him very very well. And I’ll tell you, I’ve never met anyone with more drive, determination or courage than Jean-Luc Picard. There is no way in hell that he would assist the Borg. I want that clear.”

There was a moment of silence, and Deanna could feel a rise in frustration from the staff. Of course Picard wouldn’t willingly help the Borg, but the Admiral was speaking like he thought Picard actually had a choice in the matter! Picard would certainly be doing everything he could to stop the Borg, but they would simply push him further until his defences broke, and Picard’s knowledge would lay bare, free for the taking.

But now was not the time to argue about such things. There were larger issues at stake.

“Of course, Admiral,” said Shelby.

Hanson spoke again, to further press his point. “He is a… casualty of war.”

Beverly looked around, then fixed Hanson with an incredulous look. “Then we’ve abandoned all hope of recovering him?”

Hanson returned her look, but his expression was softer. He pursed his lips, then nodded once, slowly. “In less than twenty four hours, this armada’s going to hit that Borg vessel with everything we can muster,” he said. “Either they survive or we do.” He lowered his eyes. “As for Picard…” His voice trailed off, and he lifted his eyes. But instead of grief, sadness, there was a fierce determination, a rock-solid conviction. “A great man has been lost. Your Captain. My friend.” He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly and wearily. “Commander Riker, I hereby promote you to the field commission of captain. The Enterprise is your ship now. Congratulations. I wish the circumstances were different.”

Riker acknowledged, but he felt no joy. “Good luck, Admiral.”

Hanson nodded. “To us all,” he said. “We’re going to need it.”

***

Picard had been trying to scream for the last five hours, but so far, he hadn’t succeeded. Or maybe he had; the constant non-stop chattering of a million voices filled his head like insects scuttling through his mind, and he couldn’t hear anything over it. Maybe he’d been screaming the whole time and he just couldn’t hear it. Still, he kept on trying. He needed to scream. He needed to let everything out, and make every fiber of his being, everything that he was, into one God-almighty scream, a scream that would burst him apart.

But he couldn’t. His body was broken, and he couldn’t control it. He couldn’t even make himself blink. Even his breathing was being controlled for him.

He’d felt them in his mind, felt them bringing up thoughts and memories, and then, an instant later (or an age later, he no longer had a concept of time) he’d hear voices rising above the cacophony to repeat thoughts, spread them throughout the Collective. He couldn’t control it. They’d brought up his memories (pushed by Robert into the mud when he’d been jealous of Picard’s marks at school), private recollections (the way Amanda had felt as she moved in his arms while they made love in her Academy dorm room), his innermost thoughts (the way his heart swelled with pride whenever he looked at Wesley), the most private places of his mind (the ache he felt whenever he looked at Beverly – in love with his best friend’s widow!), and there was nothing he could do. He’d tried to pull the thoughts back, but the Borg had taken them anyway. He’d tried thinking of something else, concentrating on something so hard that the thought the Borg were stealing would get lost, but he found he was unable even to do that. All there was left of Picard was the pathetic voice in his head that was crying, screaming, whimpering, shrieking, trying to do everything all at once and doing nothing, but seeing everything that the Borg were doing, hearing everything that they were saying, knowing everything that they were thinking.

And then he was moving, stepping out of the regeneration alcove that had been assigned to him, and he was walking down endless winding corridors. Into another chamber. In the middle there was a vertical slab of metal, and he stood against it. Picard resisted, oh dear God in Heaven, he resisted, but his body was bent to a will other than his own, and his own efforts were feeble and useless.

Futile.

And as he stepped onto the slab and turned around so his back was against it, he saw that she was there. Standing on the other side of the chamber, and then walking over to him. Her hand stretched out to touch his face.

“Locutus,” she whispered and she smiled. “Of all of your people, you deserved this.”

Inside, Picard was screaming at her, begging, cursing, pleading. But his body was not his, and it would not obey him. He hated her, loathed her, despised her for treating him like this, taking away his control but still not letting him die, for forcing him to be aware of what she was doing, what she was forcing him to do.

But his body stayed there, standing still against the metal slab.

She gave him a look, as though aware of what Picard was thinking inside his own head, and a flicker of emotion passed over her face, almost as though the thought of him suffering was exciting her. “Locutus,” she murmured, her eyes closed and an almost sexual pleasure in her voice.

Picard saw his eyes focus on her. He tried to make them look away, but their gaze was unwavering, as solid as a rock. He heard his own voice say, “I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile.”

She smiled and lifted a hand to stroke the flesh of his cheek, tracing a delicate line around the biomechanical implant that was clamped to his skin. “I hope you understand that, Jean-Luc,” she said. “Resistance is futile. Although I’d be disappointed in you if you weren’t trying...”

She turned away and walked out of the chamber, vanishing into the mist and haze. Picard felt his eyes returning to their previous position, looking directly ahead, and he could see a piece of machinery lower into position in front of him and then swing towards him. A sharp point emerged, and he saw it moving directly towards his own eye. Picard panicked, trying to move, to thrash, to break free before he was speared by this cruel device, but his body still refused to obey. And then he saw his vision distort; the point was pressing against his pupil, and then he felt his head explode in pain from within as it pierced his eyeball. And then another explosion as the point lanced into his retina and his optic nerve. His vision shattered into brightness. And then an even greater pain, as though something was being clamped to his optic nerve, and then the device was withdrawn. As it moved away from him, he felt a warm liquid dripping down his face from his punctured eyeball.

If he’d had control of his body, he’d be writhing on the floor in agony, but he didn’t have control, and he remained standing. And then he was tilting backwards, and for a moment Picard thought he had fallen, and he hoped that somehow he was about to die, but then he realised that the slab was rotating, and he was laying on his back.

His arm was extending out straight, and a drone appeared. It stood next to his arm, but Picard couldn’t see properly because he was being forced to stare at the twisting conduits above him, but there was a bright flash and he felt a fire of agony in his arm, as though it had been plunged into molten metal. And as the drone moved, Picard could smell his own blood, and he realised what they had done to him. They had cut his entire arm off.

And the drone was moving back now, and the burning pain grew worse, and Picard heard the sound of a high speed drill. They were drilling into the exposed bone of his arm. And then more pain as something was inserted into the holes, and clamped tight onto the raw nerve endings.

Picard wanted to cry, he wanted to beg for death, but the Borg wouldn’t let him do anything, they wouldn’t let him move, or cry, and now they were even denying him unconsciousness so he would be forced to experience everything that they did, every particular horror they would inflict on his body and mind.

And then something heavy pulled on his arm, and the arm was raised for a drone to make an adjustment, and Picard saw that they had put a biomechanical arm in place of his own. The stench of his own blood still hung in the air.

The drone finished whatever it was doing to the biomechanical arm, and it lowered again. But then there was a pressure in his neck, and he felt malicious things swarming into him, and the pain increased as they spread throughout his body.

Oh God, he wished he could scream.

***

No matter what, he’d never be able to see it as his chair.

The command chair, oh yes, that was his now, and it had been his before. Although, that wasn’t really Picard’s chair, was it? It was the seat of whoever was in command. And, since Riker had been in command of the Enterprise before, naturally it had been his chair at times.

But this chair, the one in the ready room, behind the desk, this was different. This was Picard’s retreat, his private sanctuary. Oh yes, others had been in here before, but that wasn’t the same as sitting in the command chair. If others had sat in the command chair, it was because of their entitlement, but the use of the ready room had always been by Picard’s leave. People earned the right to sit in the command chair, but they were granted permission to sit in here, behind Picard’s desk.

And Riker just couldn’t do it. Picard was still the captain, no matter what. It just seemed wrong for anyone else to hold that position. Captain William Riker of the Federation starship Enterprise. The words didn’t sit right in his mind. This was Picard’s ship, Picard’s ready room, Picard’s chair. The book on display was Picard’s Shakespeare. Livingston was Picard’s lionfish. And, try as he might, Riker just couldn’t see it any other way.

The door chimed, and Riker turned. “Come,” he said, but he knew who it would be. He smiled warmly as Deanna entered. No doubt, she’d felt his pain, and he was glad to see her.

“Hi,” he said. He smiled widely.

But Deanna stood with her hands behind her back, her expression sombre. “You wanted to see me?”

Riker took a step back. Deanna was right; their relationship was different now. As first officer, he’d worked closely with her, but now, as captain, he’d need to maintain a certain distance. One of the many prices of command.

Riker nodded briskly. “How’s the crew?”

“Throwing themselves into the work to be done,” Troi said. “The emotional impact hasn’t been fully realised yet.”

Riker nodded cheerlessly. “I guess training kicks in and takes over,” he said quietly.

“We know the risks,” said Deanna. There was a touch of warmth in her voice now. “We tell ourselves we’re prepared for the consequences, and yet, something like this cuts deeper than we can admit at first.” She took a step towards him, an unconscious act to be closer to him. “He was our captain. It’s like losing the leader of a nation, or the head of a family.”

Riker turned away. Her words brought his grief back, and he didn’t want her to see his eyes tearing up. Oh, she’d know, but he still didn’t want her to see. He looked out the window. “He was more of a father to me than my own. But when I saw him like that, mutilated…”

Deanna stepped up to him, putting her hands on his shoulders. “You did what you had to do,” she said quietly. “Nobody doubts your love for him.”

Riker turned to her. “But was there any part of him left, Deanna?” He looked at her, begging him to tell him that the man named Jean-Luc Picard had already died, but her expression told otherwise.

“Yes,” Deanna said after a long silence. “I could still sense his humanity.”

Riker’s eyes fell. “Then you must have sensed his pain.”

She was quiet. Riker looked back up at her, meeting her eyes. He saw the tears welling and falling down her face.

Riker put his arms around her and held her close. “I don’t envy your abilities,” he said.

He felt Deanna nod against his shoulder, and he stroked her hair. Yes, being captain would require a certain emotional distance from the crew, but that could do even more damage. Picard had always been the father figure. Riker had been more of an older brother, a friend, always there to speak to about anything. Could the crew cope with losing that as well?

He sighed, and held Deanna tight, and was glad that she was there to help him. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to subject the crew to more upheaval than they’d already faced. The crew would need him as they’d always needed him. Riker needed to be a captain, to lead the crew. But there was more than that. It still didn’t feel right for him to be the crew’s captain. He needed to be their friend, just as he’d always been. He lowered his arms, and Deanna took a step back.

“I’d better check on the progress of our repairs,” he said.

Deanna looked up at him, aware of the emotional conflict he’d been facing.

“There won’t be any changes,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s his ship, his crew. And everything we do, every battle we fight, it’s for him.”

Deanna nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes.

Riker smiled at her, a warm smile. There was an intimacy, but it wasn’t the same as it had been. Despite the comfort Riker found with Deanna, he needed her most as an advisor. “I’m glad you’re here to help me through this,” he said.

“Thank you, Captain,” she said. Deanna nodded and smiled, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. She’d know what he’d meant, and even though it hurt her, she’d understand. She took a step back, took a deep breath, composing herself. But Riker knew that she needed time to herself. ”Dismissed, Counsellor,” he said. Deanna nodded, then turned and left.

Riker felt an overwhelming weariness invade his body. He hadn’t slept since before the Borg had taken Picard. But his weariness was more than that. It was an emotional weariness, one that had taken him when Deanna had called him Captain. The weight of responsibility, the difficult choices. His legs were aching, and he wanted to rest, but he didn’t sit down.

Because it wasn’t his chair.

***

He’d returned to his quarters to rest. It would be another five hours before the Enterprise was ready to head after the Cube, and there was nothing he could do. Geordi’s crews were working hard to repair their damage. He could do nothing but get in the way. He showered and ate, then tried to get some sleep. It hadn’t been that long ago that he’d been telling Picard to get some rest before their confrontation with the Borg. So, he lay on his bed, still in uniform, trying to sleep. As a cadet, he’d been very good at snatching sleep here and there, between classes so he could study all night. Unfortunately, it was a skill he’d lost with lack of practice.

But sleep did not come, and his thoughts strayed to his earlier conversation with Deanna. He couldn’t lead the crew by himself. He needed a first officer. And as much as he knew that any one of the senior bridge staff could serve in that capacity, he couldn’t change them. It would be too great, such a change to the ship so soon after losing Picard. Which left only one person he could turn to. He was glad that she was also the best qualified to deal with the Borg.

He stood, smoothed out his uniform. Shelby would be down in Engineering. No sense in waiting to tell her. He walked out of his quarters and headed down the hall.

“Commander!”

Riker turned to see Worf walking briskly towards him.

“Lieutenant,” said Riker, waiting for him.

Worf handed him a padd. “Repair reports for the weapons systems,” said Worf. “Phasers and photon torpedos are now fully operational, and shields are at fifty three percent.”

Riker nodded. He didn’t look at the padd; it would just tell him the same thing, and if there was anything further, Worf would tell him. “Is your shift over, Lieutenant?”

Worf nodded reluctantly. He’d been pushing himself, spending far longer at his station than Riker would have liked. “Yes sir.”

“I know how you feel, Lieutenant,” Riker said. “But we’re going to need you at your best in the coming battle, rested and alert.”

Worf nodded. “Understood. Kahless himself said that a clear mind is the greatest ally a warrior has.” He fell into step besides Riker. “Before I left the bridge, I communicated with Engineering. Repairs to the deflector are not yet complete, but they are proceeding well and Commander La Forge anticipates that they will be complete soon. I’ve also started developing a way to improve the efficiency of our shields against the Borg’s tractor beam. Ensign Burkland is continuing the work.”

“Very good,” said Riker. “I’ve spoken with Shelby’s team. They’re making some progress in developing our weapons strategies. She’s proposed an antimatter spread…”

Worf shook his head. “I do not believe that antimatter will make an effective weapon against the Borg, Commander. Their shields will be able to protect their hull.”

“True,” said Riker, “but it will interfere with their sensors. That could make it harder for them to adapt to other weapons, and at the very least it will help give us the element of surprise.”

Worf nodded, and Riker saw that he understood the wisdom of this course of action. Not all weapons needed to inflict damage. Anything that gave them an advantage, no matter how slight, would be of use. The two of them stepped into a turbolift.

“And Mister Crusher has suggested a chip might be designed that will automatically retune phasers to a random setting after each discharge,” finished Riker.

“That would be a great advantage,” said Worf.

“Engineering,” said Riker, and the lift moved. “We should also see if there’s some way we can neutralise their forcefields, Worf. We’ve got to show them that we can adapt too. We’re not just fighting the Borg, we’re fighting the life experience they’ve stolen from Captain Picard. How the hell do we defeat an enemy that knows us better than we know ourselves?”

“The Borg have neither honour nor courage,” said Worf. “That is our greatest advantage.”

Riker looked at him curiously for a moment, then realised what Worf meant. The Borg were little more than automatons, mindless robots, almost zombies, and because of that, they were predictable. He nodded. “I hope it’s enough,” he said.

The turbolift slowed and stopped, the doors opening into Main Engineering. La Forge and Shelby were supervising the repairs as the engineering crew worked, Shelby on the upper level overseeing the repairs to the warp core and La Forge in his office. There was a stack of panels against the bulkhead, next to several opened conduit junctions. The warp core was still offline, sitting dull and lifeless but still dominating the chamber. An ensign handed La Forge a padd, and he turned to a readout.

“Engine controls processors are back up,” he called to Shelby.

On the upper level, Shelby nodded. “Accelerator coils are responding normally.”

La Forge called out the indications on his panel. “Forward shields at fifty eight percent.” Shelby nodded in agreement. “Aft shields…” La Forge looked at the panel. The read out was fluctuating wildly, despite the fact that he’d helped repair it less than two hours ago. “Sensors must be down…”

“Checking,” called Shelby. She lifted her tool and scanned the isolinear control junction. “Sensors are fine.” There was a harsh buzz from the tool. “No, aft shields have completely failed. Dammit! Auxiliary generators are out again!”

La Forge looked up as Riker and Worf entered. “Just the man I need,” he said. “We’re having problems with the aft shields. The generators are going on and offline. I could really use your help, Worf.”

Riker sighed. He wanted Worf to get some rest, but he couldn’t deny that he also needed the shields to be functioning, and Worf’s skill with the defensive systems would be invaluable. He nodded and Worf headed off. Maybe it would just be a small problem.

“How soon do we get underway, Geordi?” Riker asked

“Still a couple of hours,” said La Forge. “Commander Shelby can fill you in.” He hurried off after Worf.

Shelby came down from the upper level and walked over to him. This was the first time they’d been alone since their argument in the turbolift, and Riker saw, to his satisfaction, that Shelby was unsure of herself, of what Riker was going to say.

“The main navigational deflector is functional again,” she said. Riker had to suppress a smile. She was playing it safe, leaving it for Riker to bring up any other topics. Shelby continued her report. “Schobel and Barclay are running through the final testing sequence now.”

“The warp reactor core?”

“Reconstruction is proceeding normally,” Shelby said. “But it’s slow work. If we can nail down this shield generator problem, I agree with La Forge. We should be at operating capacity in two or three hours.”

“Good,” said Riker.

For a long moment, there was silence, and Shelby began to look uncomfortable. “Anything else sir?”

“Yes,” said Riker. He thought for a moment for the right words. He and Shelby had been at odds so much that it felt strange to talk to her like this, to praise her and give her good news. “You did a good job on the Borg ship.

Shelby shook her head. “I didn’t get Picard,” she said quickly.

Riker cut her off. The last thing he wanted was for her to start thinking of herself as a failure. “You stopped them,” he said firmly. “You gave us our shot.”

Shelby looked up at him, realising that Riker was, for the first time, being generous to her. Riker could see appreciation in her eyes, and noted with humour that she was blushing. “Sir…”

“Commander, we don’t have to like each other to work well together,” Riker told her. “In fact, I expect you to continue to keep me on my toes.”

Shelby flashed him a quick smile. “Some might define that as the role of a first officer,” she said.

Riker flashed the smile back. “Damn, you are ambitious, aren’t you, Shelby?”

“Yes,” Shelby said. Then the smile faded from her face, and her voice became more serious. “Captain Riker, based on our past relationship, there’s no reason I should expect to become your first officer. But you need me. I know how to get things done. And I have the expertise in the Borg.”

Riker fixed her with his best poker face. “You also have a lot to learn, Commander,” he said.

Shelby was silent for a moment, her eyes downcast. “Yes, sir,” she said quietly.

Riker’s poker face broke, and he grinned. “Almost as much as I had to learn when I came on board as Captain Picard’s first officer,” he said, taking pleasure in the way Shelby’s eyes lit up. Damn, it was good to know he could bluff her after all. “A fact the captain reminded me of when I commented on what a pain in the neck you are.”

Shelby grinned widely. “Yes, sir.”

“In fact,” began Riker, but the comline from the bridge interrupted him.

“Data to Riker. Message from Starfleet, Captain.”

“Go ahead, Data,” said Riker.

“Starfleet reports it has engaged the Borg at Wolf 359, sir.”

Riker’s heart leapt into his throat, the playful banter between him and Shelby suddenly forgotten. His eyes locked with Shelby. Her eyes were wide. And then he turned and hurried for the turbolift.

***

“Report,” said Riker, stepping out of the turbolift.

Data turned to him. “Starfleet has engaged the Borg,” he said. “Communications are open, but signal quality is fluctuating due to the energy discharges. We have audio only.”

“Put it on speaker,” ordered Riker.

There was a hiss, several loud booms and a loud burst of static. Vague voices could be heard underneath it, but what they were saying remained unintelligible.

“I’ll try to clean it up,” said Burkland. “But there’s a great deal of distortion.”

For a moment he worked, and then the voices came through. Still distorted, static threatening to swamp them, but clear. The terror and fear in the voices was clear.

“… has already been destroyed! No sign of lifeboats!”

“The Saratoga has received… warp core bre… inent! Wait! There are life… ing now!”

A loud boom. Several screams.

“Emergency! Achilles has sust… ect hit! Hull breach!”

Sarato… oded, warp cor… aken damage in the…”

“This is Ensign Beyl… board the Liber…bridge has been destr… pons are dead. I’m going to try…” The signal broke up amidst a shout and a loud bang.

Liberator, this is Tols… coming to aid. Try to withdraw…”

Screams. “Get down, get out of the… clear shot!” A hand phaser, a sound like the deep ring of a bell, more screams.

Endeavour has picked… cape pods from the Sara… Only three esc… Forty one survivors…”

“Contact lost with… aguchi.”

“…ingon cruis… moving to weapons range…”

Endeavour, this is Hans… make it to secondary attack…”

“Negative. Shields collapsed. Phase… pedoes are out… enceless.”

“Acknowledged. Once you have the surv… draw to safe dist… All oth… assemble at second… point and resume…”

“This is the Kyushu. Third wing, move into attack form…”

Yama… eaking forma… ving away…”

“No resp… ator, we’re going to try to… eam out any survi…”

Another bang, then the roar of rushing air.

Riker felt like he was falling. The battle was only minutes old, and yet how many ships had been lost? The Saratoga. The Yamaguchi. The Achilles severely damaged. And the Liberator. He wondered if the bridge crew had been able to get to the escape pods.

“Captain, we’re receiving a message from Admiral Hanson aboard the Indefatigable,” said Burkland.

“On screen,” said Riker.

Hanson’s image appeared onscreen. He was sitting in the captain’s chair of the Indefatigable. The ship’s captain must have been injured, or killed in the initial attack. The image jumped, lurched, a flicker of static washing over it and threatening to overwhelm it, but then the image stabilised for a moment.

“Admiral…”

The Indefatigable lurched again, Hanson holding on tight to the command chair. “The fight does not go well, Enterprise,” he called, shouting to be heard over the screaming of stressed metal, the wailing of alarms, the distant booms of explosions. “We’re attempting to withdraw and regroup. Rendezvous with fleet…”

The image lurched, there was another burst of static, then a deafening bang and a burst of bright orange light from the corner of the screen before the signal dropped out completely.
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby McAvoy » Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:30 am

Are you going to do a Wolf 359 battle? Or are you doing just what we saw in the episode?
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:08 am

lol, Sonic Glitch asked me the same thing. I don't do the actual battle, just what we saw in the episode.
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Sonic Glitch » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:11 am

I do like your inclusion of other messages like in First Contact. I must admit, I'm looking forward to your handling of the Riker/Guinan scene.
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:57 am

Well, since you asked so nice, here you go!

Chapter Eight

Captain’s log, Stardate 44000.3. Repairs are complete and the Enterprise is warping to rendezvous with Starfleet at Wolf 359. Subspace communications from the site of battle have been cut off, possibly due to Borg interference.

Possibly, my ass, thought Riker. Starfleet regulations were clear that speculation had no part in official log entries but there was no doubt in his mind that the Borg had survived the attack. And just as little doubt that when the Enterprise arrived at the battle site they would find only debris. Riker felt sick when he thought of the crews of the starships, fighting and dying.

He forced himself to push it out of his mind. It was done, for good or ill. What mattered now was what he was going to do. But first things first.

He looked around at the senior staff gathered with him in the observation lounge. He met Worf’s gaze. “Lieutenant Worf, everyone at this table shares my respect for your service to this ship. But right now, I need your experience at tactical.” He looked to Data. “Mister Data, I realise your very nature omits ambition. Nevertheless, I want you to know that I seriously considered you as first officer.”

Data nodded. “Thank you, sir,” he said quietly.

“But,” said Riker, taking a deep breath, “this is not the time for change. I need all of you where you are, where Captain Picard always relied on you.” He looked at Shelby. “I have been forced, reluctantly,” this last was said with a smile, “to conclude that Commander Shelby, our expert on the Borg, is the ideal choice at this time for first officer.”

Shelby smiled as the staff around her nodded congratulations.

But then the tone turned more serious. “Based on our last communication, we have to assume that the Borg survived the fleet’s attack,” said Riker. “Your thoughts on our next encounter?”

Shelby leaned forwards. “What about the heavy graviton beam we were talking about?”

La Forge shook his head. “I’ve gone over it four times. The local field distortion just wouldn’t be strong enough to incapacitate them.”

Data spoke. “Doctor Crusher and I have been working on an interesting premise.”

All eyes turned to the doctor. “Well, with our recent experience in nanotechnology,” she said, “we might be able to introduce a destructive breed of nanite to the Borg…”

Shelby gave her a confused look. “Nanites?”

“Robots,” clarified Data. “Small enough to enter living cells.”

“How much time would it take to implement this?” asked Riker.

Beverly sighed. “That’s the problem,” she said. “Two, maybe three weeks.”

Deanna sighed and leaned back in her chair. “In two or three weeks, nanites may be all that’s left of the Federation…”

For a moment there was silence. Riker groaned inwardly. They were out of ideas already?

“We have the new phaser adapters,” said Worf, but that was small comfort. Their phasers had proved to be almost useless against the Cube. It was just an attempt to show that not all of their efforts had been in vain, but if that was their greatest success, then it seemed that their work had been in vain after all.

“Perhaps in concert with the photon torpedoes we can slow them down,” said Geordi.

But the mood in the observation lounge was dour. Despite their efforts, they hadn’t made any advances. Even La Forge’s voice held no hope. They would find the Cube, confront it, and they would be defenceless. What could Riker do? Looking around, Riker saw all their eyes turn to him. This was a crew with no hope, and they needed him. Picard had always managed to find a way out of any situation, no matter how bad it was, but now that Riker was faced with that same situation, he had no idea what to do. Riker met their eyes. “I’m sure Captain Picard would have something meaningful and inspirational to say right now,” Riker told them. “And to tell you the truth, I wish he was here, because I’d like to hear it too.” The laughter he was hoping for was not forthcoming. “I know how difficult this transition is for all of you. I can take over from him, but I could never replace Captain Picard, nor would I ever try.” As he looked at their faces, he saw in their eyes fear and doubt, and in that moment, Riker was sure that he wasn’t ready for command. He’d lead his crew into a hopeless situation. He sighed heavily. “Whatever the outcome, I know our efforts in the coming battle will justify the faith he had in all of us.” He took in a deep breath, let it out tiredly. “Dismissed.”

***

They had been almost a full day at high warp and the Enterprise was finally approaching Wolf 359. He hated waiting. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had nothing weighing on his mind, but now, no matter what he did, his mind threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn’t rest, he could barely think straight. His thoughts, which had been of Picard, tortured by the Borg, were now of the fleet. Had they been able to damage the Cube in any way? Had any ships even survived? He needed to rest, to think, to prepare. But he couldn’t. He didn’t have anyone on the crew that he could turn to. Picard, if he’d been in this situation, would have unburdened his mind with Riker himself, but that was a relationship based on a closeness, a bond that had been forged over many years. He didn’t have that kind of relationship with Shelby, and so couldn’t confide in her. And he couldn’t even confide in Deanna. His promotion to captain had been too great a change, and their relationship had been altered, perhaps irreversibly. In so many ways, Riker was alone, even as he was surrounded by his crew.

He walked into the ready room, and when the door closed behind him, he just stood there, looking at Picard’s chair. “What would you do?” He half expected to hear a memory of Picard’s voice in his head, telling him, “Okay, Number One, first of all you’ve got to…”

But there was nothing.

The door chimed.

Riker sighed. He didn’t want to have to deal with anyone now. There was too much on his mind that he needed to work through. Better to just get it over with so he could go back to his own thoughts. “Come.”

There was the swish of a long flowing robe, and Guinan walked in and stood before him. “May I speak to you, Captain?”

Riker sighed. “Well, actually, Guinan, right now, I…”

Guinan ignored him and spoke. “Picard and I used to talk every now and then when one of us needed to,” she said, and she flashed him a smile. “I guess I’m just used to having the captain’s ear.”

And with that, she brushed past him, walked around to the other side of the desk and sat in Picard’s chair.

Riker started at her, wide-eyed.

Guinan gave him an innocent look. “I hope I’m not imposing,” she said.

Riker gave her a look of shock, disbelief, but Guinan ignored it completely and just looked up at him, innocent as you please. Fine, if that’s the way you want to play, Riker thought. Let’s just get this over with. “What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talking down in Ten Forward lately,” she said. “They expect to be dead in the next day or two.” She was stating it as a casual fact, and oh, did you know that the Blue Whale had a tongue the size of a shuttle craft? No? Interesting, isn’t it? “They like you, Riker,” Guinan continued, “but they don’t believe you can save them.”

Riker couldn’t say he was surprised. His command of the Enterprise had been one failure after another. They had failed to rescue Picard, they’d failed in their efforts to make a weapon against the Borg, they’d failed to make it to Wolf 359 in time… “I’m not sure anyone can,” he said.

“The way I see it,” said Guinan, casually leaning back in Picard’s chair, “if a man is convinced that he’s going to die tomorrow, he’ll probably find a way to make it happen.” She leaned forward again, fixing Riker with eyes as hard as granite. “The only one who can turn this around is you.”

Riker was trying hard not to order her to leave. He couldn’t believe her presumption, just coming in here and giving him a tutoring session like this. Granted, she may have had a deep mysterious relationship with the Captain, but that didn’t give her leave to come and go as she wished! “I’ll do the best I can,” Riker said, an edge to his voice as hard as stone.

“You’ll have to do something you won’t want to do,” Guinan said simply. “You’ll have to let go of Picard.”

“Maybe you didn’t hear,” Riker said, “but I tried to kill him yesterday!” He could feel his anger rising.

Guinan shook her head. “You tried to kill whatever that was on the Borg ship, not Picard,” she said, her voice becoming just as hard as Riker’s. “Picard is still here, still in this room, with us. Now, if he’d just died, it would be easier. But he didn’t. He’s been taken from us, a piece at a time.”

Underneath his anger, Riker felt the pain of Picard’s loss rising again. How the away team had found Picard’s communicator, but not Picard. And then they’d found him, but he wasn’t Picard anymore, and they couldn’t get him.

Guinan closed her eyes, and when she opened them, her expression was softer. “Did he ever tell you why we were so close?”

Riker shook his head.

“Ah,” said Guinan, leaning back into the chair. “Well, let me just say that it was beyond friendship, and beyond family. And I will let him go.” She fixed him with that hard gaze again. “And you must do the same.”

Guinan stood and walked around the desk to stand in front of him. “There can only be one captain.”

Riker shook his head. “It’s not that simple,” he said. “This was his crew, he wrote the book on this ship!”

Guinan spoke immediately. “If the Borg know everything he knew, then it’s time to throw that book away. You must let him go, Riker. It’s the only way to beat him. The only way to save him. And that,” she indicated the seat on the other side of the desk, “is now your chair, Captain.”

She turned, and with a swish of her robes, she was gone, and Riker was alone again. As unwelcome as her visit had been, Riker realised that Guinan was right. He’d been simply filling in, keeping the seat warm for Picard as it were. Not doing what he thought was best, but trying to do what he thought Picard would do. As long as he was simply filling in, he never would be the Captain of the Enterprise. This was his ship now, not Picard’s, and it was his chair. He walked around to the other side of the desk, pulled the chair out, then sat in it.

It was his chair.

His ship, his crew. They would follow him where he lead, but Riker still had no idea where to lead them. They couldn’t attack the Borg, because they had no weapons, and they had no weapons because they had no knowledge. They needed knowledge.

And the crew was still in mourning because they’d lost the Captain. Riker chided himself. No, Picard wasn’t the captain anymore. Riker was the captain. Still, he held out hope that Picard could be saved. It would be a much-needed victory for the crew if they could get him back. But how, when he was being held in the impregnable fortress of the Cube?

And then, both thoughts came together in Riker’s mind. Bring Picard back, and he might provide the knowledge they needed. Their lack of weapons against the Borg wouldn’t matter, because they wouldn’t be attacking them, they’d be stealing from them. Inflicting damage wouldn’t be the priority…

But then, before he could think further on it, the com opened, and he heard Wesley’s voice. “We’re approaching the Wolf system, Captain.”

Riker stood. “On my way,” he said.

The crew looked to him when he stepped onto the bridge. “Slow to impulse,” he said. “Take us to the battle coordinates, Ensign. Yellow alert.”

Action. Riker felt the cheerlessness leave the bridge, replaced by the eagerness for action. With tasks to occupy their minds, the crew had less chance to dwell on the bleakness of their situation. Finally they were doing something other than repairing the damage or failing to find new ways to defeat the Borg. He sat in the command chair, leaning forward.

“Sensors are picking up several vessels,” said Worf.

Riker turned to him. “The fleet?”

Data checked his console. “There are no active subspace fields,” he said. “Negligible power readings.”

Riker felt a sense of dread growing inside him. He hadn’t expected anything different, but now, to be faced with the harsh reality of the fleet’s defeat, he felt more than ever that the crew’s confidence in him was going to fail. “Are there any lifesigns?”

Data shook his head. “Negative, sir.”

“Visual contact!” said Worf.

Riker took a deep breath, preparing himself. “On screen.”

And then the screen changed from the innocent image of the stars, showing instead the shattered remains of starships; broken hulls and bent frames, rended metal and buckled keels. There was a ghostly flickering among the wrecks as electrical conduits arced, flashing coldly in the void. Brief flashes of fire flickered as broken plasma conduits met with venting oxygen. Surrounding the lifeless ships was a cloud of smaller objects: computer panels, tools, clothes, personal effects and corpses, all drifting lazily in space. The dim blood red glow from the star cast a grisly light. Here and there, amongst the wreckage, Riker could pick out objects. This used to be a painting, hanging in someone’s quarters. Here was somebody’s off duty fatigues. And just over there was part of somebody’s arm.

And amongst the large pieces of wreckage were parts of hulls, names partially obscured behind carbon scoring, registry numbers ripped in half by the explosions that tore apart hull plating. Riker strained to read them as the Enterprise moved slowly passed.

On the twisted hull of an Ambassador-class saucer, he saw IANT NCC-446. That would have been the Reliant.

Another piece of the debris bore the letters VELT above the numbers 73. The Roosevelt.

On what had been a Rigel-class warp nacelle, the numbers 62 were visible. The Tolstoy?

A New Orleans-class vessel, still with fires flickering inside the windows. As the Enterprise moved closer, Riker saw the name Kyushu on the side.

And then Riker’s breath caught in his throat as he saw an Excelsior-class ship, the saucer eaten away, the secondary hull battered and twisted, and the registry on the nacelle reading NCC-62043. The Melbourne. He felt his throat tighten. If he’d accepted Starfleet’s offer of command, he would have been on that ship. Would he have been able to make a difference? Would he have led the crew to their deaths? Would he have been vaporised? Or would his dead body be floating in the cold of space? He felt his stomach twisting at the thought of how close his death had been.

“You have the bridge,” he said hoarsely, and he rushed for the privacy of the ready room before he was sick. 
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:48 pm

Damn... two powerful posts, there. I like the addition of the scene with Deanna and Will, and sorta with Picard in the cube, although I was also wincing too.
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Re: The Best of Both Worlds

Postby Tiberius » Sun Jun 03, 2012 7:23 pm

RK_Striker_JK_5 wrote:Damn... two powerful posts, there. I like the addition of the scene with Deanna and Will, and sorta with Picard in the cube, although I was also wincing too.


Lol, glad you were wincing. It's not meant to be pleasant! I wanted to create the horror of what it is like to be assimilated, to be a Borg drone.

Anyway, here's the next chapter!

Chapter Nine

The Enterprise moved slowly through the cemetery of the dead ships for more than ten minutes, scanning for survivors, but they found none. They detected the tell-tale signatures of Federation engines leading away from the battle, and Riker hoped that this meant that some of the ships had managed to escape, but he noted with dismay that only one of the trails led towards the fall-back position. The other two moved in the other direction. He wondered what this could mean. Other than that, they had not detected any signs of engine emissions. The Cube had presumably started to head back towards Earth, but they hadn’t found any traces of its engine signature and so couldn’t determine its exact course. Riker decided to give five more minutes to find the Cube’s trail before he ordered the Enterprise to set a course for Earth.

“Sir,” Worf called from tactical, “sensors are picking up unusually strong eddy currents, bearing two zero zero, mark two one one.”

Riker turned to Data. “Your analysis?”

“It could indicate the course of the Borg ship,” he said. All moving objects created distortions in the fabric of subspace, much like the wake of a boat as it moves across the water. A starship was too small to create eddy currents that were noticeable, but larger objects created a measurable flux in subspace. It seemed that the Borg Cube was large enough to create such currents. Certainly nothing else in the system could have produced them. And they were heading in the expected course of the Cube.

Riker turned to the helm. “Ensign Crusher, set in a course that follows those currents.” He turned to Shelby. “Commander,” he said, “prepare to initiate your plan to separate the saucer section when we find the Borg.”

Shelby stood and walked to him, her expression concerned. “Sir, I must remind you that Captain Picard was briefed on that plan. The Borg will be prepared for it.”

Riker nodded. “I’m aware of that, Commander, he said, and the corner of his mouth twisted into a wry smile. “In fact, I’m counting on it.”

Shelby regarded him for a moment, as though trying to see into his mind. “Crusher, Cartaino, Gleason, report to the battle bridge,” she ordered. Her voice was clipped, authoritative. She didn’t know what Riker was planning, but there was something in his voice, some confidence that gave her hope for the first time in three days.

As the crew moved off and additional crew came in to take their stations, Riker gestured, calling Worf down from the tactical rail. “Mister Data, Mister Worf,” he said. “I’ve got a special mission for you.” And as Riker explained his strategy to them, Shelby listened, and smiled. It was a damned good plan.

***

In the depths of the Cube, Picard despaired.

He wished he could weep. Weep for those that had been lost, weep for himself. To have been violated, not just physically but mentally and emotionally, that was bad enough, but to be used to lead an attack on your comrades, to be forced to kill, to destroy, to ruin lives and cause so much pain and suffering… How could he live with what he’d been forced to do? Picard had struggled, fought to break free of the Borg’s control – her control – but his efforts had been in vain.

And then he heard her voice in his mind: Resistance is futile. A soft whisper, as though she found his efforts to break free amusing. And then his eyes turned and Picard saw that she was there. “Yes, my love,” she said. “I’ll always be here, even if you don’t see me.” She ran her hand over his scalp. “I’ll always be there with you, in your mind…” She grinned wickedly and pressed her lips to his. In the heat of the Cube, Picard felt the chill of her touch. “I know it wasn’t pleasant for you,” she said, “hurting your friends like that. But I didn’t just do it for me. It was for you too.”

In his mind, Picard screamed in fury at her.

“Oh, come now, Jean-Luc,” she said. “You’re holding onto your past life. You’re really being very stubborn. You need to realise that I am now in control.” Her hand fell from his head and she stepped back and sighed. “Just let it happen. It must be obvious that you can never win. Give yourself over to us.” She smiled. “I promise all the pain will go away if you do.”

Go to hell, Picard thought at her.

She shrugged. “Oh well,” she said. “No matter. You can’t hold out forever. To be honest, I’m quite pleased.” She grinned her wicked grin again. “I enjoy a challenge,” she said. “But, right now, there is something I want to show you.”

Before Picard, an image appeared. A starfield. The stars were rushing past and vanishing in the distance, and Picard realised that he was seeing what was behind the Cube. And the stars weren’t moving that fast. A rather leisurely warp five, or so he guessed.

“Yes, warp five, very good,” she said. “Look closer.”

And as Picard looked, the image seemed to obey his thoughts and it magnified. In the distance, he could see a bright speck of light, moving with the Cube, following. The Enterprise!

And then he felt something, something he couldn’t quite put into words, but it was a sudden knowledge that the Enterprise was hailing the Cube. And as soon as he thought about it, the image changed, displaying the inside of the bridge.

No, wait, that was the battle bridge.

Riker’s up to something.

Oh, I have no doubt of that, he heard her say in his mind. But he will fail.

Riker was speaking. “Locutus of Borg, this is Captain William T Riker of the USS Enterprise.”

For a moment, Picard felt a flash of amusement. Riker had worried for so long about whether he was experienced enough to become captain, and now here he was with four pips! Greatness thrust upon him.

“You may speak.” It was beginning to feel more distant now, as though the voice that he heard wasn’t his anymore. Picard felt a great sadness weigh upon him. He was losing himself.

“We wish to end the hostilities,” said Riker.

The response was direct. “Then you must unconditionally surrender.”

“We are prepared to meet to discuss your terms,” Riker said.

Picard heard the words come out of his mouth. “It is unlikely that you are prepared to discuss terms. It is more likely that this is an attempt at deception.”

Riker stood from the command chair and stepped forwards, holding his hands out open in front of him as though in a gesture of friendship. “Come now, Locutus,” he said amiably. “If Picard’s knowledge and experience is part of you, then you know I have never lied to him. In fact, you should also implicitly trust me, is that not so?”

Picard wondered what Riker was doing. No attack, just an attempt to talk? What he was planning? But then he felt the Borg preparing themselves, and he cursed himself. Had he just alerted the Borg to a subtle strategy of Riker’s? Oh God, he hoped not.

“Picard implicitly trusted you.” It really didn’t feel like his voice anymore…

“Then trust me now,” said Riker. “Meet with me to discuss terms.”

“Discussion is irrelevant. There are no terms. You will disarm all your weapons and escort us to sector zero-zero-one where we will begin the assimilation of your culture and technology.”

The image abruptly cut off, and he saw just the inside of the corridor again.

***

As soon as the communication from the Cube had been cut off, Riker turned to Lieutenant Gleason, sitting at the battle bridge Ops station. “Mister Gleason, can you pinpoint the source of the Borg’s transmission?”

Gleason smiled. “I can put you within thirty meters of it, sir.”

“Good,” said Riker. He lifted his head and spoke to the com. “Mister O’Brien, report.”

“The Borg have adapted their electromagnetic field to prevent main transporter function,” O’Brien said from the transporter room on the saucer. He’d been working for the last ten minutes to find a way to beam Worf and Data onto the Cube, but his efforts had met with no success, even with Data’s help. They’d have to take another method to get onto the Cube.

“Damn,” muttered Riker. “Mister Data, Mister Worf, you will proceed as we discussed.”

“Aye Captain,” said Data, and then the comline closed.

Riker turned to Burkland at the tactical station and nodded.

“Channel open, sir.”

Riker turned back to the screen. “We would like time to prepare our people for assimilation,” said Riker. Nothing fancy now, just stalling for time.

“Preparation is irrelevant. Your people will be assimilated as easily as Picard has been.”

Riker made a show of wincing. “Does it involve needles? Because I really don’t like needles…”

The bait was not taken. “Your attempt at a delay will not be successful, Number One. We will proceed to Earth, and if you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you.”

Riker gave the Borg his best poker face. “Then take your best shot, Locutus,” he said dangerously, “because we are about to intervene.”

Burkland cut off the channel, and Riker turned to him. “Reset communications to scrambler code Riker One.” Riker went back to the command chair.

“Aye sir, Riker one,” Burkland acknowledged.

“Riker to Shelby. Report.”

“Ready for separation,” Shelby said, her voice coming down over the com from the main bridge.

“Make it so,” said Riker.

He could sense distant thuds echo through the hull, soft booms that he could feel more than hear as the massive docking clamps pulled together and then withdrew into the upper surface of the Enterprise’s dorsal. Conduits and mechanisms retracted into the hull, and the Enterprise’s primary hull moved away, the massive saucer picking up speed and sweeping around in a great arc to put distance between it and the stardrive.

La Forge reported, “Docking latches clear. Separation complete.”

“Saucer velocity one hundred meters per second and increasing,” Ensign Crusher said from the battle bridge’s helm. “They’re in position.”

“Open fire,” Riker ordered. “All weapons.”

“Acknowledged,” said Shelby, her voice coming over the comline. “Fire.”

***

She wasn’t surprised. In fact, it was rather foolish. Picard had been aware of the plan to separate the saucer section, so what did they think it could accomplish? Did they think that the saucer would distract her from the heavily armed stardrive?

Which to attack first? The thought came to her that it was far better to punish Riker before killing him. Let him see the saucer destroyed. Let him see the majority of the crew die. And the civilians. Let Riker suffer that pain before he was robbed of his life. Let him see the folly of interfering with her. But then she decided not to. Leave the crew on the saucer to witness the destruction of the more heavily armed of the pair. Let them wallow in their fear for a few minutes before she finally killed them. As satisfying as it would be to give Riker a slow death, the greater fear from the crew on the saucer would excite her more.

She directed her attention to the stardrive and smiled. This was almost too easy.

***

Both halves of the separated Enterprise let fly with their weapons. The more heavily armed stardrive moved around the Cube as it attacked, firing bursts from all of its phaser banks and launching full spreads of torpedos. The weaker saucer had only two phaser banks, presenting less of a threat.

The Borg lashed out at the stardrive.

“Borg tractor beam is attempting to lock on, Captain,” said Wesley.

“Evasive maneuvers, pattern Riker Alpha.”

Wesley tapped the console, and the stardrive slewed off to the side, neatly dodging the Borg tractor beam. “Riker Alpha confirmed.”

Burkland spoke from tactical. “They’re ignoring the saucer completely.”

Riker let himself smile. “Just as you should, Captain,” he muttered. “Ensign Crusher, Riker Beta.”

Wesley entered the commands. “Riker Beta, confirmed.”

The stardrive spiralled away, then turned and attacked, moving in a chaotic zig zag pattern. The Borg couldn’t predict the stardrive’s course and were unable to seize the heavily armed vessel. The stardrive let loose with a barrage of phasers and torpedos.

Riker lifted his voice and spoke to the com. “Commander Shelby, proceed with the second phase.”

“Acknowledged,” came Shelby’s voice. “Launching antimatter spread.”

***

Space flared white, and for a moment, she couldn’t see. She turned her attention to the source of the blinding light, and saw the saucer section releasing thousands of exploding pellets of antimatter towards her Cube. Beyond it, she could sense nothing. The antimatter was screening her sensors.

What were they doing? They must have known that this would be an ineffective weapon. She reached into Picard’s mind, but he knew nothing, and she experienced a moment of doubt. They were doing something, and she didn’t know what. No sense in giving them an advantage, no matter what it might be, though. She turned her attention fully to the saucer.

***

Data and Worf sat in the shuttle Descartes. Data had positioned the shuttle just inside the saucer’s massive shuttlebay, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

Riker’s order came over the shuttle’s com system. “Data, launch the shuttle.”

“Shuttle launch sequence initialised,” Data acknowledged. He activated the shuttle’s engines, and the Descartes moved forwards. “Departing Enterprise in three seconds.” Ahead, the antimatter spread was creating a forest of pyrotechnics. The Descartes rushed into it, losing itself among the explosions, hiding from the Cube’s sensors. The tiny vessel was tossed and thrown in the flak.

***

“What are they doing?” she wondered. “Tell me, Picard.”

Picard watched, unable to see part the blanket of fire. Despite his intentions, his mind considered what was happening. The saucer of the Enterprise was almost completely hidden, but he could just make out something moving…

She smiled. “Yes, they’re hiding something...”

She reached towards the saucer to see what she could find.

***

Wesley looked up from his panel. “The Borg tractor beam has moved towards the antimatter spread,” he said.

“They could be picking up the engine ionization from the shuttle,” suggest Gleason.

“Data, cut your engines,” Riker said. “Take her in unpowered.”

***

Data shut down the Descartes’ impulse drive, letting the shuttle’s inertia carry it towards the Cube. He vented some of the craft’s oxygen supply, pushing the shuttle sideways, just avoiding the groping tractor beam.

A light flashed on the helm panel, and Data checked it. “Shuttle has penetrated the Borg electromagnetic field,” he said as he and Worf stood. They quickly moved into the aft compartment, and Data checked the escape transporter’s control. All the indications were green. “The shuttle escape transporter should provide enough power to beam us onto the Borg ship from here, sir,” he reported.

“And back?” Riker asked over the com.

“Yes sir. There should be enough energy for two transport cycles.”

“Proceed.”

Data tapped a control, and he and Worf disappeared.

***

They’re here.

Picard was aware as soon as Data and Worf materialised inside the Cube, less than twenty meters from where he stood. But what are they doing?

She was looking at him, looking into Picard’s mind. But she learnt nothing. Picard had no knowledge of Data and Worf’s intentions for her to steal.

No matter, she said in his mind. I’ll send them an escort.

Picard was aware of a dozen drones in the nearby corridor, moving out of their alcoves and converging on the away team.

And then she smiled, as though seized by a sudden idea. You too, Jean-Luc, she said. I think I’ll let you be the instrument of their deaths.

And, against his will, Picard’s body began to move.

***

Data and Worf moved quickly, firing only when necessary. The chips designed by Wesley were working well; the Borg had yet to adapt, but Worf didn’t assume that he had any more than another four shots before the Borg adapted.

He used two of them before he spotted Locutus, then used the final two to fell the drones advancing on either side of their target. He ran at Locutus, and the massive biomechanical arm rose to attack, but Worf ducked underneath it, tackling the Borg with his full weight.

Locutus remained standing, braced with a foot against the metal grates in the floor.

From the corner of his eye, Worf saw the arm rise up to attack, and so he reached up and held it away from him. But now, with only one hand available to fight Locutus with, he found himself being pushed backwards.

“Data!” he called through clenched teeth.

And then Data appeared next to him, having run forwards from where he had been covering Worf. There was a soft hiss as Data pressed a hypospray against one of the few bare patches of Locutus’ skin, and the Borg went limp, his muscles paralysed.

Data reached for the emergency transporter armband on his upper arm, checked that pattern enhancer field was surrounding all three of them, then tapped the control and they vanished.

***

They materialised back in the shuttle. Data was already reaching for the helm controls, and Worf let Locutus slump to the floor. He reached for the companel. “Mission accomplished,” he said. “We have him!”

“Firing shuttle thrusters,” said Data, and the Descartes rushed forwards, away from the Cube.

***

The shuttle burst through the Borg Cube’s electromagnetic field.

“They’re clear of the Borg field, sir!” called Burkland.

“Beam them out of there, O’Brien!”

***

She felt the anger rising inside her. They’d come onto her Cube, stolen her property, and she hadn’t even realised what they were doing!

But in their haste to escape, they’d given themselves away. The flare of the shuttle’s thrusters blazed brightly, and she attacked.

***

“Locked on,” said O’Brien. He activated the transporter…

***

Data, Worf and Locutus were caught up in the shimmering glow of the beam…

***

The cutting beam lanced out from the Cube, cutting through the shuttle and rupturing the fusion reactor.

The Descartes exploded…

***

… and Data, Worf and Locutus reformed on the transporter pad. They stepped off the pad, supporting the limp form of Locutus between them.

O’Brien tapped the companel. “Transport successful, sir,” he said. “We’ve got them.”

And on the battle bridge, Riker smiled. 
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
Tiberius
Lieutenant jg
Lieutenant jg
 
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Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:45 am

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