Resistance

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From: Bernhard Rosenkraenzer
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: NEW: TNG Resistance PG
Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 02:30:24 +0200
Organization: Individual Network Trier/GER
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NNTP-Posting-Host: shodan.in-trier.de
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STAR TREK
THE NEXT GENERATION

“Resistance”

===============================================================
by Bernhard Rosenkraenzer (root@startrek.in-trier.de)
Any kind of feedback is greatly appreciated.
===============================================================

Chapter One

“Captain’s log, stardate 48039.5
We are proceeding to starbase 141 for repairs and refits, as well as some
minor changes in the crew. Since the plans to add a new weapon to Galaxy
class starships have been cancelled when we found out that the Borg are no
longer a threat, we are not expecting any major changes. The crew is
scheduled for shore leave in the starbase’s recreational areas. After our
recent strenuous missions, it will be a welcome change.”

Though he would never admit it to the crew, Picard was looking forward to
the leave, and hoped it wouldn’t be cancelled like their last promised off-
time. Granted, their mission to explore the anomaly in the Romulan Neutral
Zone had been important and urgent, but how many more urgent events could
wait for his ship and crew?

His old friend and Academy roommate in the first year, Admiral S’trel, was
in command of starbase 141. It would be good to see him again.

He stood up, and pulled his uniform jacket down. “I’ll be in my ready
room. Number One, you have the bridge.”

They were in the middle of Federation space. He would probably not be
needed on the bridge until they arrived at the starbase. It would give him
an opportunity to practice saying “SShSrsreowSrtSskr SsS KRkRst”, the
Setallian greeting – back in the Academy, S’trel had always bugged Picard
about not being able to give a proper welcome. The Setallian language,
like the languages of most other sentient cat-like beings, was extremely
hard to learn for humanoids. It had 42 different “s” sounds, and only two
vowels. With the genaral availability of universal translators, the need
to learn foreign languages had gone, but there were some things that could
be expressed in other languages better than in Federation standard, and
Picard had tried to know the basics of all important languages spoken in
the Federation.

While Picard practised, Data reviewed the results of the latest
cybernetics conferences. Commander Maddox still served on starbase 141,
and it would be a good opportunity to discuss android construction –
procreation, he thought – with another expert.

Riker sat in the captain’s chair without anything special to do – he knew
what he’d do on the starbase, and it didn’t require preparation. Starbase
141 had been equipped with the latest holodeck technology, and after the
Bynars had shown him what holodecks might be able to do, he didn’t pass up
an opportunity to check out improved holodecks.

“Estimated time of arrival, Ensign Seron?”, he asked.

The Vulcan navigator replied, without looking up from his console, “At the
current speed, without further delays, we will arrive at starbase 141 in
fifty-nine minutes.” Seron’s mentioning of fifty-nine minutes reminded
Riker of Data’s early days, and remembered his insistance on seconds
whenever mentioning a time. He wondered if the Vulcan was just more
inaccurate than an android, or whether he had just asked fifty-nine
minutes and zero seconds before they would arrive.

One more hour… Riker was tempted to let Data have the bridge, or to
order Seron to increase speed, but he couldn’t find a professional excuse.
The hour passed – extremely slowly, Riker thought – and the Enterprise
docked at the starbase. Riker had decided to dock manually. It was a good
training for the crew, and besides, it was less boring than just a routine
automatic docking. Picard, Troi and LaForge were the first personnel to
beam off the ship – before starting their time off, they had to co-
ordinate the changes in the ship and crew with the starbase personnel.
S’trel and two humanoids welcomed them.

“Admiral”, Picard greeted his old friend. With his crew members around, he
tried to be more formal than necessary.

“Good to see you again, Jean-Luc. Apparently, some things have changed
since we last met.” S’trel had never been a formal person – and he hadn’t
expected to be called “Admiral” by his old friend (who had never liked
being formal – back in the Academy). “These are my assistants, Lieutenant
Commander Tyro of the personnel department, and Commander Taiara from
Engineering. Jean-Luc, I don’t think your crew members will need you to
discuss the changes.” He pointed his tail to his office door – a Setallian
gesture to invite Picard in.

Picard followed S’trel into the office, and said, “Yes, S’trel, some
things have changed indeed… SShSrsreowSrtSskr SsS KRkRst.” His reference
to changes was supposed to mean he had managed to get his Setallian
greeting right, in all the years.

“Oh, yes, of course.” S’trel reacted. “Back in academy days, your ‘s’ was
better. Just how could I forget?”

Picard noticed the doors closing behind them, and just before they were
shut, he saw a grinning Geordi LaForge. He’d overheard their conversation.
Damn. Just why couldn’t he have waited a few seconds longer…

LaForge quickly regained control, and started discussing system upgrades
with Taiara.

***

Data beamed to the starbase shortly after. Though the android didn’t think
it was necessary, Worf kept a transporter lock on him. The Chief of
Security had insisted on taking some measures, just in case Maddox would
get the idea to disassemble the android for research purposes. Worf was
convinced that a person who had wanted to disassemble – to kill – one of
“his” crew members, no matter how long ago it had been, couldn’t be
trusted, though Data had forgiven Maddox. He thought that, over the time,
Maddox had got to know him good enough to know he was more than just a
fine piece of engineering and software programming, and he doubted Maddox
would risk a life for his research. He was a fanatic scientist, and he’d
dismantle a uniquely advanced computer for research purposes without
problems, but he wouldn’t kill.

“Come in.” he heard Maddox’ voice. The doors opened, and Data entered.
Maddox eyed his nearly-victim. “You look good.” he said.

“I am an android”, Data explained. “My appearance does not change unless I
see a need to make changes to it.”

Oh, well. Of course. “Just a greeting, Mr. Data.”

Data nodded understanding, and they spent the rest of their time
discussing android construction, and the problems of copying information
from positronic brains.

***
“Captain’s log, stardate 48049.4
Starbase 141’s engineers have finished repairing and refitting the ship.
Aside from a new program which enables sensors to detect cloaked Romulan
ships while they are travelling at sub-light speed, there have been no
major changes.

We will leave spacedock as soon as all crew members have returned to the
ship.”

Picard finished his log entry, and looked around on the bridge. Counselor
Troi and Ensign Seron had returned from the leave, but all other stations
on the bridge remained unmanned.

Aside from some time with S’trel, he’d been on the ship all the time. As
the ship’s Captain, it was his duty to check the repair crews’ progress
from time to time. Most others had beamed to the starbase, and just
returned to get some sleep. Except for…

“I’m a bit worried about Commander LaForge”, he told Troi. “The time at
starbase 141 was meant as a shore leave and a time of recreation for the
crew – but he was in engineering all the time. Commander Taiara said he
installed the new sensor programs himself, and he did all the fine-tuning
to the warp-engines. Not exactly what I would call relaxing, or a change
from normal duty.”

“What would you have wanted him to do?”, she asked.

“Take a leave, go to the starbase’s recreational areas, or maybe the
Enterprise’s holodecks. He hasn’t left the ship for quite some time.”
“Reminds me of someone else on this ship.” Troi replied.

He knew whom Troi was referring to, and immediately regretted having
started the topic. He was the Captain. He had a duty to fulfil. He didn’t
need, and couldn’t afford off-time. But how do you explain this to a
ship’s Counselor? To an empathic ship’s Counselor, who is aware of sensing
when you are stressed, worried, or concerned?

He came to the conclusion that no reply would be the best reply.
“Captain, Starfleet Command has granted us shore leave till stardate
48050.0. The crew won’t be back before that time, either way. Why don’t
you spend some time in the holodeck?”

Okay, the recent mission had been quite strenuous, after all…
He changed into some medieval (twentieth century) clothing, and went to
the holodeck. “Computer, generate a case in the fictional world of Dixon
Hill, where I will take Hill’s place.”

The computer didn’t take long to finish the program. Picard entered, and
found himself in the office of Dixon Hill, private investigator.

Whenever he entered the world of Dixon Hill, his first look was out of the
window. The sight of ancient streets, covered with automobiles, fascinated
him. He knew this was just a fictional world, but it was surely close to
historic reports about the twentieth century. A sound from an ancient
communicator, telephone, or whatever it was called, caught his attention.

“Dixon Hill here”, he said.

“A Mr. Ansley wants to speak with you. He says it’s urgent, but he refuses
to tell me what he wants to consult you about.” Picard recognized “his”
secretary’s voice from earlier programs. “Send him in.”

The door opened quickly, and hit the wall with a loud bang. A slender man
of thirty, maybe forty years entered, running rather than going, towards
the desk. “They’re trying to kill me.” he shouted out, obviously troubled.
“Take a seat.” Picard pointed to a chair near his desk. “Who is ‘they’,
and why are they trying to kill you?”

Ansley hastily sat down. “I need help! They’re killing me!” Picard told
him to calm down. He tried to relax, and started explaining, still with
some panic in his voice. “I don’t know who it is, or why, but someone is
trying to kill me. It started about a week ago. I tried to cross a street,
and was nearly hit by a car at a high speed.” Picard needed a bit of time
to remember people in the twentieth century had called automobiles cars.
Before he had first heard the expression, he had wondered how the people
in that era had got along with having extremely long and complicated words
for an everyday tool. Ansley continued telling him what had happened. “I
first thought it was just an accident, and a driver too nervous to stop
and say sorry, but on the way to work, someone shot at me. Didn’t see him,
though, just heard the shot. I ran away, somehow hoping the person had
just nearly hit a wrong target. But a day later, a car tried to push my
car off the street. Well, my car was faster. I managed to get away just in
time.”

“Why don’t you inform the police? They have more personnel, and are
probably better suited to protect you.” Picard asked. He realized this was
probably not Dixon Hill’s way – after all, the private investigator had
had to earn money (another obscurity of the twentieth century) by doing
police work, but it surely was his way.

“I’ve been to the cops. They just laughed at me. They said, look left and
right before you cross the street, don’t mistake every sound from a
starting engine as a shot, and some drivers just have a violent style of
overtaking. They said that, if I hadn’t exaggerated when telling them how
fast I had had to flee in my car, I should be glad they had not been
around, because it might have become rather expensive.”

“So you can’t be sure someone is actually trying to kill you?”

“They are trying to kill me. Definitely. I just…” He paused for a
moment, probably thinking about what he was about to say. “Don’t have a
proof for it. I’ve even returned to the place they tried to shoot me, but
I couldn’t find a bullet.”

“Then the police might have been right?”

“No way. I’m not the fool they think I am.”

“Okay, I’ll take that for granted. You say it started a week ago. Why
didn’t you come for help earlier?” Picard asked, getting interested in the
case.

“Well,” Ansley started. “I tried to believe in accidents as long as it was
somehow possible. Then, I had a hope for the cops. Then I didn’t know what
to do. I thought about consulting a private investigator, but at first I
thought I couldn’t afford it. I’m not very rich, you know. But then, I
came to the conclusion I’d rather sell my car and house than being
killed.”

“I understand.” Picard agreed. “I will take your case, and I promise I
won’t try to make much profit out of it.

Now, do you have any idea who is trying to kill you, or why?”
“I don’t know.” He stated. “It is entirely possible that -”
The man suddenly grabbed his hands around his throat, and fell off the
chair.

Picard jumped around the desk, and checked his vital signs. Nothing. He
tried to revive the man, using old First Aid method as well as ones
developed centuries after this story was set. No response.

He smelled. Bitter almonds. Potassium cyanide. Poison. The man had been
right.

Who had he been? Picard searched his pockets, and found nothing unusual
for a person of that time – a driving license, some money, cigarettes and
a few matches. Picard looked at the cigarettes in disgust. In earlier
holodeck simulations, he had tried smoking them (with the holodeck
safeties in place, it couldn’t do him any harm), but he had never liked
them. He had never understood why people in the twentieth and early twenty-
first century could have smoked them – they had found out that they were
hazardous, and they had to pay money for them, and besides, they didn’t
have a good taste, or any positive effect. Good thing it had been
forbidden in the twenty-first century – he surely wouldn’t like having
clouds of smoke on the bridge. He dismissed the thought, and looked at the
driving license instead.

The photo matched the dead body in his office. It was the first time
Picard got to see a driving license for automobiles, so he checked
everything carefully. Strange. It was a driving license for a “George L.
Staunton”. Hadn’t the man introduced himself as “Ansley”?
Picard thought about it for a moment. The next logical step would be to
find out his “friend”‘s true identity. He sat down at his desk. From the
prior simulations, he knew Dixon Hill had a friend in the police. Maybe he
could be of some help. He took the phone, and…

“We’re ready to leave. Captain Picard, report to the bridge!” Commander
Riker’s voice disturbed him.

He sighed. So much for the relaxing effects of a holodeck. The biggest
problem with non-duty occupations was that they were usually interrupted
when they were starting to get interesting..

“Computer, save program Hill-2. Exit.”

The program ended, and Picard left.

Chapter Two

“Captain’s log, stardate 48050.0
With repairs and refits finished, and the crew back aboard, we’re leaving
starbase 141. Our mission is to transport some dilithium crystals to Dr.
Rybo at the Warp Engine Research Institute on Talar IV.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting Dr. Rybo. His theories on dynamic warp
field geometry are most fascinating.” Seron said.

“Dynamic warp field geometry? For what purpose?” Riker asked.
Data started explaining. “Dr. Rybo is trying to alter warp fields, in
order to permit high warp speeds without polluting subspace. His computer
simulations are rather promising, and he is about to build the first
prototypes. Starfleet Command is planning to integrate the new
technologies in the new Intrepid- and Universe-Class starships. The basic
theory behind Dr. Rybo’s experiment is based on the theory of
dimensional…”

“Thank you, Mr. Data. I think I understand.” Riker interrupted him.

Data looked a bit puzzled. He had not explained much, yet Riker said he
understood. Maybe the first officer had just forgotten Dr. Rybo’s name,
and a short explanation had been enough to reactivate his old memories.
Data went on with his work without thinking further of it. The human brain
surely was a strange thing.

“Mr. Seron, set a course for Talar IV. Warp 5.” Picard ordered.

The Vulcan complied, and the ship got underway.

“I’ll be in my ready room. Number One, you have the bridge.” Picard said.
He wanted to read some reports on Dr. Rybo’s progress. He was not an
engineering specialist, but it would be good to understand the basics
behind the theories when arriving at the Warp Engine Research Institute.
He called up information on the warp drive, and the schematics of the new
warp fields. As far as he understood it, the engines would work, but they
might have different – maybe even more fatal – consequences for subspace.
Some more research would be necessary.

He concentrated on the modifications.

“Captain Picard, report to the bridge.”

He had nearly expected it – knowing about the warp theories wasn’t
required for performing his duties, after all. And being through the
basics, it all had just started to be interesting…

He sighed under his breath, shut down his computer access terminal, and
went to the bridge.

“Status report, Number One.”

“We are receiving a distress call from the Omicron Theta system, near the
Romulan Neutral Zone.” Riker explained. “It’s audio only.”

“On speakers.” Picard said.

The room filled with static noise. It was difficult to understand parts of
the message – impossible to understand all of it.

“…attack… …se respond.”

“What do you make of it?” Picard said. He thought he had understand enough
of the message to know what was happening, but he wanted to hear other
opinions. The voice seemed somehow familiar, but Picard couldn’t tell
where he had heard it before, or whether it was just a similarity caused
by static interference.

“It would appear someone is under attack, and requires assistance.” Data
said.

Good. He’d understood correctly.

“Open a channel.”

Picard waited for Worf to build up a connection, then he started talking.
“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise. We
have picked up parts of your distress call.”

They waited for some time. No response. Picard ordered to try again.
Whatever caused the interference might have disturbed their message, as
well.

It took about twenty seconds until they got a response. Picard ordered to
put it on the screen. There was some static interference, but the message
was understandable. Apparently, the sender had been repaired to some
degree.

“This is Hugh of Borg. We are under attack by…” A green light appeared
in the background, and Hugh threw a look at something out of the screen’s
range. If the Federation could interpret Borg mimics correctly, the
expression on Hugh’s face showed being terrified, maybe even frightened.
The viewscreen shifted, and displayed the stars. The message ended
abruptly.

“Try to re-establish contact.” Picard said. His voice was barely audible.
Worf pushed some buttons. Nothing. “We can’t establish contact. Maybe
their sender has been destroyed.”

Data checked the message’s end in the computer. “According to the sound we
have heard just before the message ended, something has most probably been
hit with an energy weapon.”

“Romulan disruptors?” Riker asked. The message originated near the Romulan
Neutral Zone. The possibility of Romulans violating the treaties couldn’t
be disregarded.

“I cannot tell for sure, Sir.” Data started. “But I do not think the
weapon was Romulan. According to the Romulan weapons I have heard before,
I would say there is a ninety-eight point seven four percent probability
that this was not a Romulan disruptor. It might be a new Romulan weapon,
but it is rather unlikely that they could construct a completely different
weapon without the Federation secret services getting to know anything
about it. It is, however, possible.”

“Are there any other Federation ships in range?” Picard asked.
Data checked his sensors. “Negative, Sir.”

“I think Dr. Rybo must wait. Ensign, set a course for the origin of the
distress call. Warp 9. Mr. Worf, notify Starfleet Command.”

Picard would have liked to discuss the situation with Starfleet Command,
or his crew, but if Hugh’s ship, or wherever he was, was damaged as badly
as it appeared, they couldn’t afford a delay.

“Mr. Data, estimated time of arrival?”

“Three hours, twelve minutes, four seconds.”

Good. Enough time for some preparation. Picard called all senior officers
to the Observation Lounge, and ordered an emergency crew to the bridge. It
was unlikely the command crew would be needed on the bridge before their
arrival, but they couldn’t afford leaving a post on the bridge unmanned.

Whatever this was, it could apparently outpower the Borg – and even though
the individual Borg ships were not nearly as dangerous as the Collective,
they were a close match to a Galaxy class starship.

Dr. Crusher was the last to arrive in the Observation Lounge. She had
finished treating a patient after Picard had called. She had always
considered her duty as a doctor more important than her duty as a bridge
officer.

The Captain waited for her to sit down, then he explained the situation to
LaForge and Dr. Crusher who hadn’t been on the bridge when they’d picked
up the distress call.

“Suggestions?”

“The Romulans.” Worf proposed. “They have been too calm recently. They
were planning something.”

“Entirely possible”, Riker threw in. “But why would they attack a Borg
ship in Federation space? They’d rather pick Federation targets.”
True enough. The Romulans hadn’t had contact with the Borg yet – or the
Tal’Shiar was better at keeping something secret than the Federation
thought. Data pointed it out.

“It is possible that the Borg shot first.” Picard suggested. “When they
assimilated me, they got to know everything I know – including the fact
that Romulans are dangerous and not really trustworthy. Maybe someone of
them remembers.”

“Then again, maybe it’s not the Romulans.” Troi suggested.

“There are other, possibly hostile, life forms on the far side of the
Romulan Empire, and the Romulans would be more than glad to grant them
save passage to Federation territory.” Worf offered, trying to give the
Romulans at least parts of the fault.

“Unlikely.” Riker said. “The Romulans know we try to establish peaceful
contact with everyone. Leading someone new to the Federation would be too
big a risk for them.”

“Unless the Romulans know the others wouldn’t want peace with the
Federation.” Worf insisted. “It would be a typically Romulan strategy to
send someone else to fight their wars, and then hide behind the treaties.”
“Possible.” Picard said. “However, I don’t think these speculations make
sense before we know more. Any suggestions?”

Worf suggested to run a level one diagnostic on the ship’s weapons, to
make sure they wouldn’t find a starbase engineer’s mistake when they least
needed it. Picard didn’t think it was necessary, but it couldn’t do any
harm, either. “Make it so. And, continue hailing the Borg. If they weren’t
destroyed, they might have repaired their sender, and they might be able
to tell us more.”

Picard looked around to see if there were any more comments or
suggestions. When he saw it wasn’t the case, he added, “Dismissed.”
The crew returned to their posts, and the emergency crew left the bridge
quickly. “We are receiving another message from the Borg.” Worf announced.
“It is a very weak signal, audio only.”

“On the speakers.” Picard ordered.

“Enterprise…they…recreate the co…link…similate…assistance.” The
message broke down completely.

“Any comments?” Picard asked, hoping someone else could make more sense of
the message than he could.

“All I can make out is they need assistance.” Riker said.

“Not necessarily.” Data remarked. “Their reference to the word
“assistance” might also indicate they tried to come to someone’s
assistance, and this is what caused their problems. Based on our recent
encounters with Borg in both the collective and individual form, as well
as the punctuation of the word, I estimate a 0.96 percent probability that
this is the case.”

“They addressed their message directly to the Enterprise. At least we know
they have received our call.” Riker stated.

Further speculation about the message wouldn’t do any good, Picard
realised. He tried to come up with something else. “Mr. Data, what do we
know about the Omicron Theta system?” Maybe something in the system’s
geography could explain the bad transmission quality.

“I am afraid we do not have much information on the Omicron Theta system.
It is one of the outermost systems in Federation space, directly at the
Romulan neutral zone. The only ships regularly in the sector are some old
patrol ships, without any sensors valid for space exploration.

Aside from the Talara anomaly, a gaseous anomaly which has never been
fully explored, there are no known anomalies. The Omicron Theta system has
twelve planets we never charted. According to the size and energy of the
sun, as well as the distance between the planets and the sun, two of them
might be Class M, capable of supporting life. No known life forms.”

Not much – but Picard hadn’t expected more information about the
Federation’s outermost systems. The Federation had charted only 18% of the
known galaxy, mostly the space around the Federation’s main planets. “Keep
hailing the Borg. Maybe they find a way to re-establish contact.”

Worf kept trying until they arrived in the Omicron Theta system. No
response.

“Captain’s log, supplemental. Following a distress call from Hugh of Borg,
we have entered the Omicron Theta system. So far, there are no indication
of the Borg’s, or anyone else’s, presence in the system, or the area near
it. We will remain in this area until we find out what has happened.”

Right after Picard had finished his log entry, Seron announced “An
unidentified ship is approaching from the direction of the Romulan Neutral
Zone.”

“Hugh’s ship.” Picard speculated. “Maybe they have detected us on their
sensors, and they want to contact us. Hail them.”

Worf pushed a few buttons on his console. “Not necessary. They are hailing
us. Putting them on screen.”

The image on the main viewer shifted from the exterior view to the
interior of a Borg ship. A somewhat metallic voice greeted them.

“We are Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

Chapter Three

This was not at all what Picard had expected. The viewscreen still
displayed the interior of the Borg ship, apparently they had not closed
the channel. Maybe they would listen to arguments. It would probably be
the best to talk to someone they knew. Picard requested to speak with
Hugh. The Borg replied immediately.

“Names are irrelevant. Individuality is irrelevant. We have studied the
defensive capabilities of your ship, and concluded they are insufficient
to withstand us. If you resist, we will destroy your ship.”
“We need some time to prepare for assimilation.” Picard tried, hoping to
gain some time to prepare for the Borg’s attack, maybe wait for some other
ships’ assistance.

“Preparation is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. You will be
assimilated.”

The Borg closed the channel.

“A trap.” Riker sighed.

“Red alert. Notify Starfleet Command.” Picard ordered, before commenting.

“Mr. Data, how long do we have until we get in the Borg ship’s weapons’
range?”

“Thirty-eight minutes, twelve seconds.”

Forty minutes… Not enough to call for assistance, or to improvise an
improved defence system. But enough time to discuss the best response.
Running away was not an option – first, the Borg were faster and would
have caught up, anyway. Second, there were only two places to run to –
cross the Neutral Zone, and fight the Romulans and the Borg at the same
time, or return to more important Federation systems, and supply the Borg
with more targets, more inhabitants who might be worth assimilation.
Picard would have liked to call everyone to the Observation Lounge for
further discussion, but with the Borg collective hanging around, it was
too dangerous to leave the bridge. It would be better to discuss
everything right here.

He called Commander LaForge and Dr. Crusher to the bridge.
“I’m not sure we’ve run into a trap.”, Picard finally commented. “Faking
distress calls to get ships over is not exactly typical Borg behavior.”
“You’re right, Captain.” Troi joined the discussion. “For some reason, the
Borg seem to be back to collective ways. They know Starfleet’s defenses
are no match for their weapons. Their approach to assimilating the
Federation would be to go straight to the heart of our territory, and
assimilate everything they see, rather than tricking our ships to come to
them. They didn’t make bad experiences with the old strategy, so there’s
no reason to try a new one. Machines don’t experiment with their
strategies.”

“Unless their goal is not to assimilate the entire Federation. Maybe
they’re after something else.” Picard suggested.

The turbolift doors opened, and LaForge and Crusher left. They quietly
went to their places, careful not to interrupt the discussion.

“Unlikely.” Troi explained. As a psychologist, she had learned about
typical behavior of most beings known to the Federation, and she’d read
some texts about the Borg. “They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I
think they’ve analyzed the Wolf 359 massacre enough to know what went
wrong. The Borg don’t stop analyzing a problem until it’s solved.

Besides, they don’t consider us a threat. Their messages have always been
straight to the point. If they were after a single person, or a part of
our technology, they would have said so.”

“You are forgetting the fact that they have made some experience with
individuality.” Data offered. “Maybe they have changed their behavior
accordingly.”

“I fail to understand this.” Seron admitted. “According to Starfleet
records, the Borg have assimilated members of at least eight species, all
individual beings. They should have known about individuality and its
effects before they became individuals, before one of them experienced
individuality.” Maybe this could be an explanation for the collective
behavior of the Borg. Hugh’s sense of individuality had just created a
temporary disruption. The Vulcan knew he was just an Ensign, and it was
not part of his job to discuss the ship’s operations with the senior
officers, but this meeting was on the bridge, and there was no logical
reason against offering suggestions. No one objected against Seron
speaking, so probably, the senior officers agreed with his logic.

Picard, however, disagreed with what the Vulcan had said. Though, of
course, he was no longer part of the collective, and the after-effects had
long gone, he remembered every bit about being a Borg, about assimilation.

“Assimilation is a step-by-step procedure, Ensign. They don’t just equip
an individual with machine parts, and connect the person. They alter your
DNA, add some controlling devices to your brain, and restrain the brain
centers responsible for feelings, individuality, emotions, and all that
might prove disturbing for the collective. After they’re through with the
changes, they can connect you to the collective consciousness without any
danger.

It was different with Hugh. They found him on the crash site, and didn’t
know anything had happened to him. They connected him, and his thoughts
became one with the collective. There must have been a moment of
collective individuality in the Borg collective. when Hugh returned with
his experience and knowledge.”

“The entire collective…” Riker speculated. “Maybe that’s what went
wrong. We don’t know much about the way the Borg are connected to each
other. Maybe the Hugh effect was localized, just one fleet of Borg ships,
just a group of Borg, just Hugh’s ship.”

“It is entirely possible”, Data agreed, “that the collective is built up
like our ship’s computers. Several independent computer cores, so when one
is destroyed, another one can take over. We might have infected only one
computer core with individuality.”

“If this is the case,” Riker continued, “maybe Hugh’s distress call was
sincere, and the Borg collective is chasing the individual Borg, trying to
re-integrate them into the collective. We should scan all systems in the
vicinity for signs of Hugh’s ship.”

“If this is the case,” Picard offered, “we are dealing with what is by
definition an internal Borg affair. According to the Prime Directive, we
may not interfere in the natural progress of a different civilization, or
join any side of a civil war. We must not interfere.”

“You can’t be serious.” Riker objected. “The individual Borg are
completely different from the Borg collective. We are no longer dealing
with one culture. The Romulans were Vulcans a long time ago. If the
Romulans tried to conquer or destroy Vulcan, would you say it’s a civil
war, and we mustn’t interfere?”

“It is hardly an analogy, Commander. The Romulans split up from the
Vulcans several centuries ago.” Picard said. “They’ve built up something
completely new on their planet.”

“So have the individual Borg.” Troi tried to convince the Captain. “The
Borg culture is based on interconnection, and assimilation of the unknown.
The individual Borg don’t use that technology anymore. I’d say they’ve
built up a completely new culture in less time.”

“But the Romulans and the Vulcans separated on the behalf of both sides.
In this case, the individuals split off from the Borg collective without
their approval or knowledge. This attack on the individual Borg is a
direct effect of their actions, which is, by definition, a civil war.”
“Actions caused by the Federation, by us.” Riker argued. “We rescued Hugh.
We fed him, and we blocked his connection to the collective with a
subspace dampening field. We told him about individuality, and explained
the advantages of not being assimilated. We returned him to the
collective, knowing and hoping his experience would cause a change.
We are already involved, and it’s too late to withdraw.”

“The Prime Directive could be interpreted in that way, Sir.” Data told the
Captain.

“You’re right, Numer One.” Picard finally agreed. “Mr. Worf, scan for
other ships, or ship debris, in adjacent systems. If the Borg have not yet
destroyed or re-integrated the individuals, they might be of help.”

“I also recommend we separate the ship.” Worf suggested. “The Borg have
noticed us, and I don’t think we can avoid a battle with them.”

“No. Separating the ship would increase the danger.” Picard said. “We are
dealing with the Borg. If they see a target incapable of defense, like our
saucer section, they assimilate the crew and recycle the ship.

Separating the ship would put the families and off-duty personnel in a
bigger danger. But…” Picard thought about his decision for a moment.

“Mr. Data, scan the planets in the system. Is there a Class M planet?”

“The fifth planet is Class M. Atmospheric composition: Seventy-One percent
Nitrogen, twelve percent Carbon Dioxide, sixteen percent Oxygen, one
percent other gases.”

Picard looked at Dr. Crusher. “Breathable”, she said. “But not optimal for
humanoids.”

“Life signs?” he asked.

“The life sign readings are inconclusive, probably disturbed by one of the
minor gases in the atmosphere.” Data said. “But given the planet’s age and
atmosphere, It is highly unlikely that the planet is inhabited by advanced
life forms.”

“It’s a risk we have to take. Mr. Data, calculate the best place on the
planet for an evacuation.” Picard ordered.

“The readings are not accurate enough to determine an optimal position for
evacuation. The planet appears to have two big continents and several
islands. I can make sure they do not land in the oceans, but I cannot
guarantee for anything else.”

“Make it so.” Picard ordered. It was highly probable that soon, any place
in the universe would be better than aboard the Enterprise. Under normal
circumstances, he would have asked Counselor Troi to prepare everyone to
evacuate the ship. One of the problems with having families aboard was
that they were not used to distress situations as much as well-trained
Starfleet officers. But, evacuating an entire Galaxy Class starship would
take about half an hour, and the Borg would be there only ten minutes
later. Picard made an announcement to the entire crew. “All hands, this is
the Captain. We are expecting contact with a Borg ship in half an hour.

All off-duty personnel, all families, abandon the ship.” He ended the
message by telling everyone which transporter room or shuttle bay was
closest.

Some departments of the ship would not be needed in a battle against the
Borg, he realized. It would be best to reduce the remaining crew to a
minimum. He thought about mentioning all non-necessary departments in
another announcement, but then, he realized it would be easier to name the
remaining ones. In a battle with the Borg, there was no need for a
skeleton crew in the astrophysics lab. He made another announcement. “The
bridge crew, security groups one, two and four, and engineering groups one
and three will stay aboard. All other crew members, report to the nearest
transporter room.”

He looked around on the bridge, and noticed Dr. Crusher was still sitting
next to Riker. He looked at her. “That includes you, Doctor.”

Dr. Crusher stared at the Captain in disbelief. “You are about to enter a
battle with the Borg. You may get wounded.”

“Doctor”, Picard explained calmly. “These people were in no way prepared
to abandon the ship. Some of them will be under shock. They need
treatment.

“There are other medical…” Crusher tried to object.

Picard was convinced it was necessary to save her, even if it was against
her will. “Doctor, I don’t know when, or if, we will return. You have some
knowledge of healing people without having technology at the hand. You
have gained some experience in healing effects of plants. And, you have
made a bridge crew test. You have a talent for organization. The people on
that planet need coordination, Beverly. I’m putting you in charge of the
away team.”

The doctor looked at Picard’s face, and determined from his expression he
wouldn’t listen to her arguments. There was no point in objecting any
further. She just stood up, and said “Aye, Sir.”, in a tone clearly
indicating she still disagreed.

Chapter Four

“Captain’s log, stardate 48052.7
In expectation of the coming battle against the Borg, I have evacuated the
ship, except for an emergency crew, to the fifth planet in the Omicron
Theta system. There are ten minutes remaining until we get into the Borg
ship’s weapons’ range – unless they have improved their offensive
capabilities.”

Picard looked at the remaining crew, hopeless. The Borg had defeated a
fleet of forty Federation ships before, and now, they were all alone
against them. “Any suggestions?”, he asked.

Worf had an idea. “We could try loading a shuttle with antimatter, and
putting it on a collision course with the Borg.”

“Make it so. Mr. Worf, Mr. LaForge, prepare everything.” He didn’t have
much hope it would help. A matter/antimatter explosion was exactly what
happened in a photon torpedo, and the Borg had got used to photon
torpedoes, and developed defences. But, a shuttle was bigger than a photon
torpedo, and would have a greater impact. A little effect would be better
than no effect at all.

“I have completed the long range sensor scan”, Data reported. “There are
no signs of any ships other than us and the Borg ship.”
Damn. The individual Borg had been destroyed, or re-integrated into the
collective. Maybe it had been wrong to send Hugh back without the
destructive program. It had seemed right at that time, and ethically, it
was surely better than killing all Borg, but now… Was it worth this all?
Picard wondered.

Part of him told him he had made the right choice, but another part feared
the Federation would be destroyed – assimilated – because of his actions.
He could not permit that.

“The Borg are hailing us.” Data said.

“On screen.” Picard doubted he could accomplish anything other than
hearing they would be assimilated soon, but it was worth the try.

“We are Borg. You will be assimilated. If you resist, we will destroy your
ship. If you do not drop your shields, we will destroy your ship.”

Not too promising. Picard thought about an appropriate reply for a few
seconds. The Borg would probably not be willing to negotiate, but… An
idea came to his mind. Hugh had identified him as Locutus two years after
the Wolf 359 incident. Maybe this was a mistake common to all Borg.

“This is Locutus of Borg.” Picard said. “We are already assimilating this
ship and crew. We do not require your help.”
***
Dr. Crusher looked around. They had landed in a desert-like environment.
They had taken some water canisters and some emergency food supplies, but
in the long term, this would not be the best place for survival.

The crew was not exactly in a good state. Some people were under shock,
others were running around, shouting or crying. Crusher assembled some
medical staff to care for the crew members who had been in sick bay when
they abandoned the ship, and the people under shock. She noticed
Lieutenant Satarra from security. “Lieutenant,” she said, indicating some
family members running around wildly with her head. “Please, take care of
these people.”

Satarra nodded. He had thought of calming the people down before, but he’d
considered it better to wait for an order from the commanding officer.

Crusher took care of some patients. The Starfleet officers had got used to
the situation good enough. They had been trained for emergency situations,
even for being among the sole survivors of a major catastrophe. The family
members were a bigger problem. Some people were still under shock, others
sat on the ground, crying because their husbands or wives were still
aboard the ship, and they saw no chance for their survival.

Some children were disturbing Dr. Crusher’s work by running around wildly,
chasing each other and playing hide-and-seek, trying to hide behind her
patients, equipment, or even behind her staff.

No serious injuries, though.

Doctor Crusher looked up from her patient. It had gotten a bit calmer. “I
think they won’t disturb your work any further, Doctor.” Satarra
explained. Everything was under control.

“Mr. Satarra, it’s possible we’ll have to stay here for some more time.
Pick some Starfleet officers, and assemble some teams to explore the
planet. We’ll need some place to stay, as well as water, and maybe eatable
plants.”

She looked at the family members. She would have liked to join one of the
teams, but she was a doctor, and there were other duties waiting. “I’ll
take care of the patients. Report back in an hour.”

She picked up a medikit and started treating a patient suffering Telosian
Flu.

Satarra tapped his communicator, and asked all available Starfleet
personnel to meet with him one hundred meters north of the landing site.
It would be good to talk to them a bit away from the disordered family
members.

He started assigning groups. “Smith, T’Rak, Schneider, Ensign,” he pointed
to an Ensign he didn’t know, “you will go this way.” He pointed to his
left. “Try to look for water, if you find plants, scan them to make sure
whether we can eat them or not.”

He assigned a few more groups. Some more people were left. “Lieutenant,
Ensign,” He had already assigned most people he knew. Though he was not in
charge of the away team, this was his first command situation, and he
thought it would be best to use mostly people he knew, and he could trust.
“You will take care of the family members. Make sure they don’t run away,
or disturb Dr. Crusher’s teams.”

He waited until they had left. “T’Prea, Nash, you’re with me. We’ll go in
the direction of the mountains, and look for a place to stay.”

He had left T’Prea and Nash for a specific reason. Ensign T’Prea was a
Vulcan, and Lieutenant Nash liked bugging Vulcans about their pointed
ears. In his opinion, Vulcan ears looked like donkey ears. Putting the two
of them together in a team would surely cause some fun. If Satarra
remembered right, T’Prea and Nash had not yet met, so it would be twice as
much fun. Vulcans could be most funny when someone tried to joke about
them while they weren’t prepared.

They started their way.
***
The Borg didn’t show a reaction for five seconds. Maybe they were
analyzing the new situation. In the moment of silence aboard the
Enterprise, everyone hoped the Borg would fall for Picard’s trick. They
started replying. “Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise,
Registration NCC-1701-D, we have studied the defensive capabilities of
your ship, and concluded they are insufficient to resist us. If you
resist, we will destroy your ship.”

The Borg closed the channel, and locked a tractor beam on the Enterprise.
Picard stood up from the command chair, and ran to Worf’s station. With
the Klingon working on the shuttle-weapon, and only an emergency crew
aboard, it was unmanned.

Picard looked at the readouts. Shields were still up to 98 percent. They
were still too far from the Borg ship to get any real damage. The Captain
tapped his communicator. “Picard to Worf. When will the shuttle be ready?”
Worf replied. “We have loaded the spare antimatter tanks to the shuttle.
Commander LaForge is working on a program that opens the antimatter tanks
when the shuttle collides with the Borg ship.”

LaForge’s voice came through. “I’m almost ready, Captain. Just one more
minute.”

Good. Their new weapon would be ready in time. Picard didn’t end the
communication. Maybe Worf or LaForge would have a suggestion for the
problem he was about to discuss. “We’ll need to prevent them from firing
on the shuttle. Any ideas?”

“Distract them.” Data suggested. “We could fire phasers and photon
torpedoes while the shuttle approaches from behind.”

“Wouldn’t work.” Worf objected. “They are Borg. They are connected
directly to their sensors. They’ll notice the shuttle. We’ll need to make
them think it’s not dangerous.”

Too bad the treaty of Algeron prevented the Federation from equipping
their ships with cloaking devices. Picard had an idea. “The Borg have
never attacked away teams we sent to their ships. Can we fake life signs
from the shuttle, so they’ll mistake it for an away team?”

“That would be difficult”, Worf said. “We’d need to reprogram the
shuttle’s computers to scan for Borg sensors, and send some false
information on the same frequency.”

“This would take hours!” LaForge objected.

“Transporter dummies.” Seron suggested.

“What about them, Ensign?” Commander Riker asked.

“Transporter dummies are used to test changes in transporter systems. In
order to check compatibility with life forms, they contain some organic
material arranged like simple life forms.”

“With other words, transporter dummies have life signs?”

“Yes, Sir. If we can shield the shuttle from their sensors enough to
prevent them from detecting they’re very simple life forms, it would have
to work.”

“Mr. LaForge, any ideas?”

“That’s not a big problem, Captain. We’ll just have to beam some NHFS gas
into the shuttle.”

“Make it so.” The chief engineer heard Picard’s voice through his
communicator.

He got to work.

Only a minute later, LaForge reported everything was ready. Picard ordered
him to start the shuttle immediately, and return to engineering. Worf
returned to the bridge, and put the shuttle’s remote control on his
station.

“Mr. Worf, fire two photon torpedoes at the source of their tractor beam.
Sending an away team to their ship without trying a conventional attack
first would probably warn them about something unusual happening.”
Worf fired. As they had predicted, the photon torpedoes did not have an
effect.

“Program the collision course. Set the shuttle to maximum warp.”

***

Satarra and his team arrived at the mountains. Aside from some jokes
regarding T’Prea’s ears from Nash, nothing unusual had happened on the
way. The planet seemed to be extraordinarily boring – very few vegetation,
little water, apparently no animal life. Basically, a big sand-covered
rock in space.

T’Prea activated her tricorder. “There seems to be a cave structure about
one hundred meters from here, bearing 87. The tricorder also indicates
water molecules in the air near the cave entrance. This might be a sign of
a river in the caves. Maybe a good place to stay.”

Satarra checked the time reading on his tricorder. Twenty minutes had
passed. If they wanted to keep their appointment with Dr. Crusher, they’d
have about twenty minutes to explore the cave. This should be enough.
“We’ll check it out.” He decided.

They went to the cave entrance. T’Prea was the first to arrive. “Take
care!” Nash shouted at her. She glared into the cave, then looked back at
him, and raised an eyebrow. There was nothing obvious to care about.
“Don’t hit your ears at the ceiling.” he explained.

T’Prea would have liked to inform Nash about the illogic and irrationality
in his behavior, but, after all, Nash was a senior officer, and it would
be illogical to get annoyed. “Maybe you should have Doctor Crusher check
your eyes, Sir. My ears are not quite that long.” She just said. Satarra
tried to suppress a laugh. It had surely been a good idea to take the two
of them with him.

Satarra took some tricorder readings. The cave was big enough to host
about forty humanoids. A small tunnel lead further into the mountain.
“Ensign T’Prea, you are assigned to the geosciences lab. Have you taken
the cave exploration courses in the academy?”

T’Prea nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

“You will check the space farther in the cave.” He would have liked to
explore the interior of the cave himself. Exploring the unknown, that was
why he had joined Starfleet. But, he was in charge, and it was, as T’Prea
would put it, more logical to send someone with more experience. And, he
had to admit to himself, someone who knew when to return. T’Prea was a
Vulcan, and as such, she would not take unnecessary risks. And, with what
he called the Vulcan internal chronometer, she’d return in time. He would
probably not have been able to resist exploring the cave, getting deeper
and deeper in until he noticed it was too late to reach the landing place
in time. “Nash, take some tricorder readings of the rocks. With the Borg
around, it will probably be good to know if the rocks can shield our life
signs from their sensors. I will inform Doctor Crusher about our results.”
T’Prea went into the tunnel, progressing slowly. There were always
unexpected dangers in caves, and hurrying through them could be very
dangerous. She heard Nash’s and Satarra’s voices discussing the rock
composition.

“I am detecting some signs of duranium.” Nash said. He double-checked his
tricorder. “From outside the cave.”

He turned around to the cave entrance and saw – – a Borg.

Chapter Five

T’Prea was puzzled. Nash had just said something rather unusual. They had
come from the outside, and they had not detected any signs of duranium, or
other artificial materials. And yet, neither Nash nor Satarra had said
anything since.

She waited another twenty seconds. No sound from them. This couldn’t be
normal. She drew her phaser, and tried to return to the cave entrance
without making any sounds. She hid at the beginning of the tunnel, and
dared a look outside. A Borg.

She’d heard the Borg had got used to phaser stuns, and developed a shield
against them. As much as she hated killing, she set her phaser to maximum,
and aimed it.

Satarra and Nash were still standing in the cave, unharmed. There was no
reason to fire at the Borg yet. It hadn’t taken an offensive action, and
it had probably not taken notice of her.

The Borg started speaking. “Thank you for coming to our help.” It said.
T’Prea didn’t understand. This didn’t sound at all like “You will be
assimilated”, and the Borg hadn’t referred to the fact that resistance was
futile. She thought about putting the phaser away, but then she realized
she hadn’t met a Borg before, and maybe they were just tricking, and the
old “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”-Only stereotype was
wrong.

She decided to watch in the background until she could draw some
conclusions.

T’Prea looked at Nash and Satarra. They seemed equally surprised, and
didn’t dare to say a word.

“Is Geordi with you?” the Borg asked.

Geordi? Was that… thing… referring to the chief engineer, Commander
Geordi LaForge? How could it know about the crew, and what did it want
from the engineer?

Satarra had drawn the same conclusion. “Commander LaForge is not with us.”
he explained to the Borg.

“Has anything happened to him?”

This was not a Borg question. What was up with this thing?

“He is aboard the ship.” Satarra explained, still wondering about this
Borg.

T’Prea thought about everything. The Borg had run after Captain Picard
once. Maybe they wanted to assimilate Commander LaForge, to get to know
something more about Federation engineering? The Commander would surely be
an optimal choice for assimilation, if they were after the Federation’s
latest technology.

“Besides, he is not ready for assimilation.” Satarra added, trying to find
out why the Borg was so interested in LaForge.

“Yes, I know.” The Borg said. “He told me he’d rather die than be
assimilated.”

The Borg remained silent for a moment, probably thinking about Satarra’s
comment.

“Did you think I represent the Borg collective?” it asked.

“Don’t you?” Satarra returned the question.

“No.” The Borg replied. “I am Hugh of Borg. We are individuals.”

Hugh… T’Prea had heard about that Borg before. She tried to get a
picture of Hugh from the Enterprise’s computer with her tricorder. A
flashing message “NO CONNECTION” caught her attention. Maybe the rock
above her was screening the tricorder’s transmission.

“Some of us didn’t like the individual ways. They…” The Borg continued
explaining. Satarra interrupted. “I think Captain Picard should hear this.
Please wait.”

Apparently, Satarra trusted the Borg. He tapped his communicator. “Satarra
to Enterprise.”

Satarra’s communicator beeped, but there was no response.

“Satarra to Captain Picard.”

No response.

“Satarra to Doctor Crusher.”

“Crusher here.” Her voice came through the communicator immediately.

“Have you contacted the ship recently?”

“No, Lieutenant. Why?”

“I’m afraid I have bad news.”

***

Dr. Crusher couldn’t believe what Satarra told her. The Enterprise…
destroyed? She grabbed a science tricorder, and set it to scan the area of
space near the planet. The tricorder detected one ship. One ship=81, and
some debris.

The Borg ship, she thought. Or maybe, Satarra’s communicator was
malfunctioning, or the cave he had reported about earlier was stopping his
transmissions. She tried it herself. “Crusher to Enterprise.”
No response.

“Crusher to Picard.”

Nothing.

“Crusher to Riker.”

No reply. A last try. Maybe they had separated the ship, and Picard and
Riker were in the saucer section for some reason. Engineering was in the
engine section, of course.

“Crusher to LaForge.”

Nothing. She gave up trying. Very bad news indeed.

She didn’t know what to do. Should she inform all the others? Or try to
hide the information until the Borg ship had left, and she knew they were
safe? She couldn’t decide. Maybe it would be best to talk to Hugh first,
and postpone the decision until then.

She heard a woman crying. She looked around, and saw a civilian standing
next to her. She had probably overheard her communique. Crusher took her
aside. “You’ve overheard this?”

“Yes”, she admitted, still crying. “You must understand, my husband is in
engineering group one.”

Crusher tried to calm her down. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the
Enterprise has been destroyed.” It’s just very probable, she thought.
“Maybe they are just out of communications range” and the tricorders are
malfunctioning, she added in her thoughts. “Or maybe the Borg have
destroyed their communications system, and they just don’t receive our
messages.” Normal family members didn’t know the communicators worked
independently of the ship’s communications system, and there was no need
to upset them until they were in safety. And, there was a slight chance
the Enterprise was still there… There had to be a chance…

Sattara and his group arrived with the Borg. “We know why the Borg
collective is around. I think you should hear this.” Satarra informed
Crusher.

“Hello, Hugh.” Crusher greeted the Borg. “Good to see you again.”

“Good to see you, too.” Hugh replied.

“Some of us didn’t like the individual ways. Admitted, the collective did
have some advantages, but for most of us, the advantages of individuality
outweighed them.

Back in the collective, we had access to every information we needed – we
just obtained it from someone in the collective. We could work 24 hours a
day. When one group required rest, we put ourselves in sleep mode, and
another group took over without problems, and with access to all the
information in our brains. We were convinced our way was the only right
one, and exploring the galaxy seemed so easy – assimilate all species, so
we knew all about them. When someone was killed, no problem. We just saved
all necessary information that was still in the person’s brain in someone
else’s, removed the implants for later use, and returned the corpse to the
replicator raw material. It was like copying information from one
isolinear chip to another, and throwing away the old one. Just a painless
routine procedure.

As individuals, we experienced problems for the first time. We didn’t have
some information ready, we couldn’t get an information by assimilating
someone who had it, we started missing deceased colleagues, and we had a
feeling of being alone. We learned about the advantages of individuality
and freedom, and started getting doubts about our old ways. We regretted
having assimilated and destroyed entire cultures.

Some of us couldn’t stand this all, and concluded the time back in the
collective was better. We still had all the technology, and all the
implants were still there, we had just deactivated the ones responsible
for interconnection. They decided to find a way between the collective and
the individual one. First, they permitted each other to access the other’s
memories and knowledge, without interconnecting their minds. For some
time, they were content, but they realized they still made mistakes, and
each individual could draw wrong conclusions, have faulty reasoning. They
decided to re-activate all implants back in to the old ways. They promised
us they’d keep in mind not everyone preferred the collective ways, and
they would not assimilate cultures anymore.

Some of us, including myself, didn’t trust them, though. We remembered the
collective good enough to know promises were irrelevant. If the collective
can have a gain breaking promises, and there’s not a big risk, they break
their promises. We completely removed our linking implants.”

Hugh paused for a moment, and pointed to a place in his head. An
experienced technician might have noticed an adapter without a device
plugged in, but Dr. Crusher couldn’t.

“Our precaution proved necessary shortly after.” Hugh went on explaining.
“At first, the collective seemed to work – they had all the advantages of
interconnection, yet they retained a bit of individuality. Apparently,
everyone had access to all information in the collective network, but
could make decisions on his own.

This state didn’t last for long. They withdrew more and more from the
individuals, and started losing their individuality. ‘One mind can make
mistakes. Lots of minds can’t.’ one of them told me shortly after.

They gave up their freedom deliberately, and for some time, it worked.

They completely withdrew from us, and proceeded on their way. Some of us
said, see, it was not necessary to disable your linking implants, they
keep their promises, and their way is surely a possible one. They re-
activated their implants, and re-joined the collective. More and more of
us left. I don’t think there are more than a hundred individual Borg left.

The result was, apparently, a collective consciousness convinced of the
fact that the collective way is better than any other way. They started
assimilating returning individual Borg to the collective. In the
beginning, they had some excuses to offer. They said they were just saving
us from ourselves, or they were just trying to improve quality of life for
all of us.

When the collective crew, their scruples left – they took control of all
Borg who still had their linking implants.”

Dr. Crusher wished Counselor Troi was here. Some basic psychology courses
were part of Starfleet Academy’s programs for doctors, and this surely
sounded like human psychology. Mass psychology differs from individual
psychology by far. In a mass, everyone wants to be on the side of the
winner. Compassion can’t even be thought of.

But Troi had stayed aboard the Enterprise. They hadn’t known for sure
whether or not the Borg had fully returned to their collective ways, and
Troi had insisted on being a great help if there was some individuality
left.

Hugh continued. “When they returned the individuals to the collective,
they got to know some of us had removed the linking implants. They started
hunting us, trying to return us to the collective at any cost. ‘Resistance
is futile’, you know.

They destroyed the settlement we had built up on this planet. Some of us
were killed, others were assimilated. Only few of us could hide
efficiently. They were just about to find the place where I hid with a few
others.

We tried to build up a subspace sender and send a general distress call.
The collective destroyed it. When we started repairing it, we picked up
your response to our distress call. I tried to tell you what was happening
when the collective appeared. They destroyed the subspace sender, and
fired at me several times.

I thought about surrendering, because returning to the collective would be
better than being killed, when they suddenly disappeared. I assume they
beamed back to their ship when they noticed the Enterprise arriving, and
they went after you.

In a way, you saved my life. Thank you.”

Hugh ended his explanation.

But at what price, Crusher thought. But it was good to know the
Enterprise’s destruction had had a purpose, after all. She tried to keep
her control, and not to think of the Enterprise’s fate. She still had a
hope that at least some crew members had been able to escape in the
emergency escape pods. If Picard had given the order to abandon the ship
early enough, they had a chance of survival. It was unlikely the Borg
would go after escape pods manned by only one person. This would be –
inefficient.

“Do you know a safe place? I think the Borg ship has destroyed the
Enterprise, and it’s probably just a matter of time when they’ll come
down, and look for the crew and the remaining Borg.” she asked. It would
be the best thing to get the remaining crew to safety.

“When they beamed up, the collective had just finished searching the caves
where I met your crew.” Hugh started. “I do not think they will look for
us there again.”

Crusher called for the security personell, and issued an order to get all
remaining Enterprise crew to the caves. She thought about leaving a notice
for possible Enterprise survivors, but concluded it was too dangerous. The
collective probably still had all information from Locutus, and they’d
understand any sign she would leave.

Chapter Six

The Enterprise approached the Romulan Neutral Zone at Warp 9.9. The
improvized shuttle-torpedo had shown some effect – it had managed to take
out the Borg tractor beam, and destroy enough of their ship to make them
focus on repairs instead of following the Enterprise wherever it went.
There was no chance to fight the Borg with conventional weapons, and a new
weapon would work only once or twice. Sending another shuttle would not
have much of an effect. They’d have to look for a way to penetrate the
Borg ship’s shields.

“If we had a cloaking device”, Worf had suggested, “we might be able to
take the ship close enough to the Borg to do some damage.”

The Borg had probably never seen a cloaking device – if they had, they
would most surely have assimilated the technology, and cloaked their own
ship. Worf had suggested to go to Klingon territory, and ask for Gawron’s
assistance, but it had been out of question. Even if they had chosen the
direct course to Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld, leading the Borg directly
through the heart of Federation space, they would have needed two weeks to
arrive. With their superior engines, the Borg would have caught up with
them after a few light years.

The suggestion to approach the Romulans for help had come from Riker. He
didn’t trust the Romulans, but he knew they listened to reason. Fighting a
common enemy as strong as the Borg would be a strong argument in a
discussion with the Romulans.

Picard had ordered to set the course, and thought about leaving the
abandoned crew members a message. Data had advised against it. The
atmosphere of the planet hid the crew’s life signs form the Borg, and if
the Enterprise sent a message to the planet, the Borg would conclude there
were some – probably unprotocted – Federation citizens on the planet,
waiting for assimilation.

Besides, Data had said, they might find out about the Enterprise’s goal
when they informed the crew members on the planet. The Borg would be able
to draw their conclusions. It would, however, be better for the Enterprise
if the Borg just thought they were running away, trying to escape.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice.” Picard had said. “Mr. Seron, set
a course for the Romulan Neutral Zone. Don’t try to contact the abandoned
crew.” He had paused for a moment. “Warp 9.9. Engage.”

And here they were.

Worf reported having noticed a cloaked Romulan Warbird right ahead on the
sensors.

“Hail them.” Picard ordered.

Instead of a reply, Picard saw the ship decloaking on the main viewer.

“Red alert!” he shouted, just before the Enterprise was hit by a
disruptor. Not a promising start.

“Do not return fire. Keep hailing them.”

The Romulans opened a channel.

“You are violating the Neutral Zone, Picard.” The face of Commander
Tomalok appeared on the screen. “I hope you have a good excuse.”

Tomalok. Not exactly someone they could trust, but at least someone they
knew. He’d listen to reason. Picard explained the situation.

“And now you need a Romulan cloaking device, because your inferior
technology is insufficient to deal with the Borg.” Tomalok concluded,
having heard about the Borg threat.

Picard couldn’t do anything but agree.

“You surely know that the Romulan Empire needs more efficient Warp
drives.” Tomalok said. “Doesn’t that sound like a fair exchange?”
Picard signaled Worf to mute the channel. “We cannot give the Romulans our
knowledge of Warp engines!” The Klingon exclaimed.

“Tomalok is bluffing.” Troi said, glad she had managed to convince Picard
of the fact that she had to stay aboard. “He wants our Warp technology,
but he is too frightened of the Borg to reject our request for help.”
Picard nodded at Worf. The chief of security re-activated the channel.
“If we can defeat this Borg ship with your cloaking device, it will
prevent the Borg from entering Romulan space.” Picard suggested. “Isn’t
that a fair payment for a cloaking device?”

Tomalok thought about a response. He couldn’t request too much, the Borg
were too big a threat. But if he found the right thing, he might get
something more from the Federation.

“You know, I tend to agree. But I need something to convince my superiors.
They wouldn’t like to hear about one of their most accomplished commanders
giving secret technology to the Federation.”

“Don’t you think they’ll trust their most accomplished commanders to make
an important decision, probably saving the Romulan Empire? I think Admiral
Yurik wouldn’t want to hear one of his commanders let the Borg assimilate
the Romulans in order to protect secret technology from Federation
access.” Dealing with Tomalok was like playing chess, Picard thought, and
hoped this would be the final move.

“You may be right.” Tomalok admitted. Damn. Dealing with Picard was like
playing chess, he thought. And Picard was a good player. “We will beam
some of our engineers over. They will see what they can do.”
Stalemate. They would get their cloaking device, but they would have to
let the Romulans see their engineering center. It would be acceptable,
after all.

Picard ordered Worf to send a small security team to Engineering. It
couldn’t be avoided that the Romulans saw the warp core, and they’d
probably take some readings pretending they were just checking the
cloaking device’s functionality, and adaption to Federation systems. But
there was no need to let them see everything.

Worf left his station. “Where are you going, Lieutenant?” Picard wanted to
know.

“I will care for our…” Worf thought about the right word for a moment,
then spit it out rather than saying it. “Guests.”

“I need you here.” Picard said. “The Borg might come after us every
moment.” And besides, he thought, we don’t want to be outright hostile
against the Romulans. We need their assistance. “Your people will be able
to deal with the Romulans on their own.”

Picard didn’t expect any difficulties with the Romulans. They knew the
Borg were a big threat to them as well as to the Federation, and they
wouldn’t risk destroying a potential ally in the battle to come.

***

Four Romulans materialized in Engineering. One of them held a huge device,
probably the cloaking device. The others had brought various tools. One of
them had an activated disruptor in his right hand.

An Ensign from security stepped towards the Romulan. “Drop that weapon!”
he shouted.

The Romulan smiled, and attached the disruptor to his belt. “Just a
precaution. You never know what’s waiting on an enemy ship.”

LaForge approached the man. “Don’t think of us as enemies, Centurion.”
Over the time, he had learned the meanings of Romulan uniforms from
observation. “There haven’t been serious problems recently, and we hope
everything will stay this way. Maybe we’ll come to signing a peace treaty,
at last.”

“We are here to help you fight the Borg, not to discuss our relationship
to the Federation. The Romulan Empire is glad to help you defeat the Borg,
but do not think you can use this as a start for making a peace treaty.”
“Your Federation is pretty much like those Borg, after all.” Another
Romulan threw in. “First, you tell planets about the Federation, then you
persuade them to join you, promising you will not interfere in their
natural progress, or the development of their culture. Then, they join
Starfleet, see all the other Federation worlds, and integrate themselves
into the whole. What they get is just another standard Federation planet.”

The Romulans laughed. They knew the Federation was not quite as bad, but
the expressions on the Starfleet personnel in Engineering were surely
worth a laugh.

LaForge thought about replying that it’s quite similar to the Romulans
conquering a planet, but then, he knew he needed the Romulans, and
upsetting them would cause more problems than it might solve. He wished
Data was there. It would surely be funny to see the Romulans’ expressions
when the android would take the accusation seriously, and explain the
concept of the Prime Directive to them in a calm and objective way. But,
he thought, if the Romulans wanted to laugh, he’d give them a reason.

“Did you get that information from the Tal’Shiar?”, he asked. “Well,
doesn’t matter. You will be assimilated, anyways.”

The Romulans continued laughing. Maybe showing them there were more
similarities between Federation and Romulan worlds would increase their
confidence in the Federation.

But, as the Romulans had stated correctly, this was not a diplomatic
mission, LaForge realized. “Let’s get to work.”, he said.

Installing the cloaking device was not as big a problem as he had
expected. The Romulans worked quickly, and didn’t seem to have any trouble
with interfacing their cloak to the Federation computers. LaForge wondered
if, or rather where, the Romulans had dealt with Federation technology
before, but he quickly dismissed the thought. Thinking about it, and
probably getting angry about the Romulans, would not get him anywhere.

“We are ready for a test run”, one of the Romulans said. “Inform your
Captain. If you activate the cloaking device, we’ll check the sensor
readings from our ship.”

LaForge informed Picard, and he issued an order to activate the cloaking
device. One of the Romulans cloaked the ship, and showed LaForge how to
handle the cloaking device. He contacted his ship.

“We are detecting some ionic emissions from the Enterprise. But, aside
from that, you’ve done a good job.” A voice came through the Romulan’s
communicator. LaForge didn’t recognize the voice. Probably their science
officer, he surmised.

LaForge checked the cloaking device’s readings. “This looks wrong”, he
said, and pointed to a chart displayed by the cloaking device. He made
some adjustments. One of the Romulans watched him. “For a Starfleet
officer, you have a pretty good understanding of Romulan technology.” He
commented. “I wonder where you got this.”

This was a time to counterargue. “Right where you learned about Federation
computers and energy supplies. You know, you interfaced the cloaking
device with our systems rather well.”

The Romulan didn’t have a reply handy, so he just contacted his ship. “Any
change?” he asked.

The Romulans reported they could not detect the Enterprise without their
sensors designed specifically to detect Romulan cloaking devices.

The Romulans prepared to beam back to their ship. “Mr. LaForge”, one of
them said before notifying his ship about the fact that they were ready.
“Before I forget to tell you, don’t try to disassemble the cloaking
device. We have…” He searched for the right word for a moment. “…taken
precautions.” he concluded, before dematerializing.

LaForge picked up a tricorder, and scanned the cloaking device. The
Romulans had programmed it to set free deadly amounts of radiation when
someone tried to open it and look inside. The tricorder could not
penetrate the cloaking device’s secondary hull. There was no way to get to
know anything about the way the device worked without dismantling it,
setting off the Romulan trap.

The engineer informed Picard of it, and told him the cloaking device was
installed and functional. “Very well.” The captain said. “Picard out.”
LaForge dismissed the security team. They would no longer be needed in
engineering.

***

“Mr. Worf, what’s the status of the Borg ship?” Picard wanted to know.

With the cloaking device in place, they might have a chance.

“They are just entering sensor range.” Worf said, double-checking the
readings. “They seem to have repaired most of their damage.”

“Intercept course. Ready phasers and photon torpedoes. Do not activate the
cloaking device. I want it to be a surprise for the Borg.” Picard ordered.

“Warp five.”

They would intercept the Borg ship soon enough. There would be no need to
violate the safety speed limit right now.

Chapter Seven

The crew had arrived at the caves, and Lieutenant Satarra had assigned
patrol teams to notify all the others as soon as a Borg came in sight.
With Hugh’s help, they had located some other individual Borg. If anyone
could help them fight the collective, they could.

“You know more about the Borg collective than any of us.” Dr. Crusher
explained to them. “Do you have any ideas on how to defeat them?”

“It would have to be something they don’t await from you.” Hugh said.
“They adapt to new technological innovations, or new tactics, quickly
after they’ve found out what they are.”

Nothing new. They’d known this. “Yes, we know.” Crusher said. “But we
don’t have something completely new. Any ideas?”

Hugh thought about it. “The collective is familiar with energy weapons as
well as matter-antimatter-based weapons. Does the Federation have access
to different weapon technologies?”

Dr. Crusher looked around in the cave. She recognized Lieutenant Barclay
from Engineering, and nodded to him to join the discussion.

“An engineer can probably be of more help than I can.” She explained to
the Borg.

“M… Me?” Barclay asked, looking at her in plain shock. “There are other
engineers around. Ensign Malden…”

“Call as many engineers as you need, Mr. Barclay.” Crusher ordered. “You
are a capable engineer. You will lead the team.” This would probably be
the best way to encourage the man.

Barclay stepped forward slowly. “We… We don’t have any other weapons,
no.” He had overheard the conversation. “And our hand phasers are not
nearly as efficient as the ship’s weapons.” On the way to the caves, Dr.
Crusher had informed some Starfleet staff about the situation.

“Maybe we’ll have to try something else.” Hugh suggested.

***

“Mr. Worf, scan their ship. Are they still using the electromagnetic
field?” Picard ordered. He got up and approached the main viewer, as if he
wanted to look at the Borg ship it displayed closely.

Worf checked the readings. “They have not changed their shield technology
since our last encounter. Their shields are in place in a radius of
exactly fifty thousand kilometers around the ship.”

“We’ll give it a try.” Picard decided. “When we’re sixty thousand
kilometers away from them, activate the cloaking device. While they cannot
detect us, we will get through their shields, and fire all phasers and
photon torpedoes.”

Data looked at the Captain. “I do not think that is advisable. We do not
have shields while we are cloaked. If our plan is successful, the
explosion on the Borg ship will cause severe damage to the Enterprise.”
Riker stared at the android. “Do we have any other choice?”

“None that I am aware of.” Data admitted. “We could try to fire photon
torpedoes at the Borg while we are cloaked, and far away from them. If we
proceed with this plan, however, I estimate a chance of five hundred and
sixty-two to one that the Borg will be able to build up their shields in
time. After the maneuver, they would be aware of the fact that we can
cloak our ship, and they would start working on an adaption to their
system.”

“We’ll have to try the original plan.” Picard decided after a moment of
thought. “Mr. Data, just in case it doesn’t work, I want you to think of
an alternative plan. Mr. Seron, intercept course. Full impulse.”
The Vulcan entered the course and speed, and started tracking the distance
between the Enterprise and the Borg ship.

“75,000 kilometers.” he announced.

Picard straightened his uniform and sat down in his command chair.
“74,000.” he heard the Vulcan’s voice.

Picard braced for impact. It wouldn’t be long until the Enterprise would
pass the shield, and be damaged by its own phasers.

“73,000.”

Riker ordered all people remaining aboard to prepare for damage, and move
away from the exterior hull.

“72,000.”

Picard nodded to Worf to prepare the cloaking device. They had to make
sure their plan would work at the first time, and they surely couldn’t
afford approaching the Borg ship with the cloaking device not in perfect
working order.

“71,000.” Seron announced, still with no signs of distress in his voice.

“The Borg have locked their tractor beam on us.” Worf said. “We cannot
proceed further.”

“Change course by 180 degrees!” Picard shouted. “Warp 9.9!”
If they couldn’t get off the Borg tractor beam, it wouldn’t be long until
the shields dropped, and the Borg would beam over to assimilate the crew.
LaForge’s voice came through the communicator. “Warp engines are working
at full power. We can increase to a maximum of warp 9.96 for a few
minutes.”

Picard tapped his communicator, and replied. “Make it so.”

Data checked the sensors. “The warp engines have no effect.” Data said,
trying to simulate sounding worried. He had observed his crewmates’
behavior in similar situations, and thought this would make him more
human. “We are still in a position exactly 70,983 kilometers off the Borg
ship.”

Picard ordered full power to the warp engines as long as they could give
it. He knew it would probably not have success, but it would give him a
bit more time to think about what to do next.

“Mr. Data”, he asked, “if we activated our cloaking device right now,
would the Borg think we have escaped?”

“Negative.” The android replied, back to his normal, calm voice. Noone had
taken notice of his attempt at being more human, so it was not necessary
to keep it up. “They would notice their tractor beam is still locked onto
something because our ship would still be in the way of it. I assume they
would check their sensors for mistakes, conclude this was not the cause,
and check for other reasons. They would become aware of our cloaking
device within few seconds.”

“Shields are down to 30 percent!” Worf announced.

“Any ideas?” Picard asked, realizing he didn’t have any more ideas.

“We might try activating the cloking device, anyways.” Data said. “There
is a twelve percent chance the Borg will be confused about our sudden
disappearance, enough to deactivate their tractor beam for a few
milliseconds. It might be enough time to leave at warp. The Borg would,
however, know about our advantage.”

“An advantage they know is no advantage.” Riker objected. “Our cloaking
device, and their incapacity to deal with it, is our only chance in a
battle against the Borg. This could postpone our destruction, but not end
it.”

“You’re right, Number One.” Picard agreed, disturbed by Worf’s
announcement that the shields were down to 20 percent. “But if we can’t
think of something better until the shields fail, we’ll have to try it.”
Riker nodded. He, too, wanted to enjoy being an individual for as long as
possible, even if assimilation by the Borg was unavoidable.

“15 percent.” Worf announced.

“Fire ten photon torpedoes at the origin of the tractor beam.” Picard
ordered. “Mr. LaForge” he added, tapping his communicator, “we will fire
at the tractor beam. If it is disrupted for the smallest part of a
millisecond, I need full warp power.”

Picard nodded at Worf. “Fire.”

The Klingon complied. If it wasn’t a chance to survive, and avoid
assimilation, it was at least a chance to die in duty, in battle, in
honor. A Klingon’s ultimate goal.

Ten photon torpedoes – enough to do severe damage to a Federation or
Romulan ship – weren’t enough to weaken the Borg tractor beam for a part
of a millisecond.

“The torpedoes have no effect at all.” Worf said, checking sensors. “Our
shields are down to twelve percent.”

“Mr. Worf, prepare to activate the cloaking device.” Picard resigned.

“Eleven percent.”

“Mr. Worf,” Picard started ordering to cloak, but he was interrupted by
Data’s voice. “The Borg have deactivated their tractor beam.”

“Get us out of here! Warp six!” Picard responded. He knew they’d have to
return, but it was probably the best to get out of the tractor beam’s
range until they knew what had happened.

“We are being hailed.” Worf announced surprisedly. He didn’t wait for
Picard’s order to put it on the screen. He was too curious to find out
what was happening, and he most surely knew what Picard would have ordered
a few seconds later.

Tomalok’s face appeared on the screen. “So much for the Federation
defending the Romulan Empire against the Borg. You can’t defend yourselves
without our help.”

Worf hated to admit it, but he was glad the Romulans had violated the
Neutral Zone, and not even he thought of mentioning the fact that it could
be interpreted as an act of war against the Federation.

“The Borg tractor beam had a slightly larger range than we had expected
from our recent encounters.” Picard admitted. “We were trying to confuse
them with our cloaking device, but we hesitated a bit too long.”

“I’m glad you have found a way to use our” – he stressed the last word –
“cloaking device.” Tomalok commented ironically. “I hope you won’t make
the same mistake twice.”

Tomalok hesitated for a moment. Could he trust Picard enough to explain
what the Romulan Empire was about to do against the Borg? He came to the
decision that the Federation could not possibly be quite as bad as the
Borg. “We are planning to…” He was interrupted by something not visible
on the Enterprise viewscreen. Something was falling of the ceiling. “The
Borg have detected us!” he shouted. The image faded from the Enterprise’s
viewscreen, then disappeared fully. The screen displayed an exterior view
of the Borg ship locking a tractor beam on the Romulans.

“We cannot permit that.” Riker uttered.

Chapter Eight

“Mr. Data”, Picard asked, “Can you make out if the Borg have detected the
cloaked ship, or if they have just fired on the source of their subspace
transmission?”

Riker raised an eyebrow at the Captain. He hadn’t thought of that
possibility.

“There is no way to find that out.” Data said. “The Borg have scanned the
area intensely, but I can not tell whether they have found a trace of the
cloaked ship or just the origin of a subspace message.”

“We’ll give it a try.” Picard decided. “Activate the cloaking device, and
get us as close to the Borg ship as you can.”

Seron typed some commands into his console, and the ship got underway.

“Full impulse, Sir.”

“There are no signs of the Borg detecting us.” Data said. “Distance
between us and the Borg ship: 70,000 kilometers.”

Good. They had approached closer than last time, and the Borg had not yet
locked a tractor beam on them.

“65,000 kilometers.” Seron announced, checking the navigational sensors.
Another 15,000 kilometers… Not much more time for the Borg to react.
“Photon torpedoes ready.” Worf declared.

“The Romulans are moving away from the Borg ship.” Seron said, double-
checking the navigational sensors, and unable to hide the bit of surprise
in his voice. The Romulans had admitted having inferior engines, and yet
they had managed to get out of the Borg tractor beam.

“The Borg have deactivated the tractor beam.” Worf added, not even trying
to hide his surprise, “Checking.”

Data ran a full sensor scan. “The Romulans have fired at the Borg ship
before.” The android claimed, after completing the scan. “It would appear
they have been able to do enough damage to the Borg ship in order to
cancel their tractor beam.”

“Any ideas?”

Noone could reply to Picard’s question in time. A Romulan materialized on
the bridge.

Worf drew a phaser and pointed it at her, but Riker noticed the chief of
security’s action early enough to signalize him to put the weapon away.

“I am Subcommander Tiral.” The Romulan introduced herself. “Commander
Tomalok thought it was better to send me over than to open a channel, and
risk being detected by the Borg again.”

Picard couldn’t think of anything better to say than “Welcome aboard.” He
didn’t want to be offensive, asking the Romulan how they had located the
Enterprise.

“You have been in contact with the Borg before.” Tiral started. “We think
you may have an answer for us. We have seen the Borg ship withstanding ten
of your photon torpedoes, yet they obtained severe damage from a simple
disrupter shot, not even on maximum level.”

“The Borg need to get used of a way to attack them.” Data speculated. “It
is entirely possible that your disruptors are different enough from
weapons the Borg have encountered to be able to do enough damage.”

Tiral thought about it for a moment, and came to the conclusion it seemed
logical. She decided to believe the android’s words. “Then we need to
act.” Tiral said, and dematerialized without a further word. Apparently,
Tomalok’s crew had listened to every word spoken on the bridge.

“Wait!” Picard shouted, though he knew the Romulans could no longer hear
him. He lowered his voice. “They don’t know how fast the Borg can adapt to
new technologies. We must stop them. Running after the Borg is suicide.”
Picard thought about it for a moment, giving everyone a chance to make a
suggestion. “Open a channel.”

Worf objected. “If we open a channel, the Borg will be able to detect us!”
“If we don’t warn them, they will be destroyed, or assimilated.” Riker
said. “We could separate the ship, and evacuate the saucer section, and
send the message from there.”

“No, Sir.” Data argued. “We are equipped with only one cloaking device. As
soon as we separate the ship, only the saucer section will be cloaked.
And, without the engines section, we are helpless.”

“We have to risk being detected by the Borg. Get us out of their tractor
beam’s range, and decloak.” Picard decided.

Seron carried ot the order. Worf tried to open a channel to the Romulans.
They didn’t reply.

“Probably they don’t want the Borg to notice their replies. They will,
however, listen.” Riker assumed.

“Tomalok,” Picard started. “The Borg adapt to new technogies in a matter
of minutes, maybe seconds. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.”

They got no reply. “They have received our message.” Picard commented.
“It’s up to them whether or not to respect our warning. Close channel.”
Picard issued an order to reactivate the cloaking device, return to the
Borg ship, and keep track of everything. Maybe they would have to come to
the Romulans’ help. As he knew Tomalok, he thought the Commander would be
willing to take every risk.

“Detecting dusruptor fire.” Worf said. Everyone on the bridge got tense.
Could the Romulans still damage the Borg? “The Borg are locking a tractor
beam on the Romulans.” Worf finished. “They are firing.”

Picard ordered Worf to put everything on the screen. It was not a pleasing
sight. A Borg ship, lightly damaged, with a tractor beam locked onto a
helpless Romulan ship. They could see disruptor fire from the Romulans,
but it had no effect.

The Borg fired at the Romulans. The Enterprise crew could see the Romulan
warp engine dropping its power. A part of the starboard warp nacelle was
breaking off.

“We’ll have to save them. Mr. Worf, we’ll come back to the old plan.
Approach them, and fire all weapons as soon as we have penetrated their
shields.”

Seron entered the new course. The distance between the Enterprise and the
Borg ship shrunk continuously. 80,000 kilometers… 70,000… 60,000…
50,000… “Mr. Worf, fire!”

The Enterprise decloaked and fired all phasers and several photon
torpedoes. The inertial dampers failed, and the remaining crew were thrown
out of their chairs by the impact.

Worf was the first to stand up and return to his station. He quickly re-
activated the cloaking device, and waited for Ensign Seron to get the ship
off their old position. The Vulcan managed it just in time. Worf noticed a
Borg tractor beam trying to lock on to their old position. He informed the
Captain, and checked the internal sensors.

“Our shields are down! Minor damage to primary hull on decks 2 through 9.
Starboard thrusters are inoperational.” He switched to external sensors.
“The Borg ship has been lightly damaged. Their tractor beam is no longer
locked on the Romulan ship.”

He paused for a moment, checking the sensors.

“Correction. They have activated a new tractor beam, and they are still
keeping the Romulan ship in place.”

“Mr. Data, if we set a course leading through the tractor beam, and go to
full impulse, would we be able to interrupt the tractor beam long enough
for the Romulans to escape?”

The android considered it for a moment, then he replied. “It is entirely
possible. The Romulans have probably noticed our first attempt to come to
their help, and they will be prepared for a second one. However, the Borg
might be able to refocus their tractor beam fast enough to keep us in
place.”

Data paused for a moment, thinking about the advantages and disadvantages
of such an action. “Considering the present state of the Romulan ship, I
do not think it is advisable.”

“We could use a shuttlecraft instead of the Enterprise.” Riker suggested.

“The disadvantage would be, however, that the Borg would notice the
shuttle starting, and calculate our position. If we do not get away fast
enough, the Borg will have both us and the Romulan ship.” Data commented.
“According to sensors, the Borg have not changed the status of their
shields. We are still too close for them to be effective. We might try
firing at the second tractor beam.”

Picard thoguht about it. It might be worth a try, but with the Enterprise
shields inoperative, and the Borg adapting to cloaking devices, it would
be a risk. Picard nearly expected the Borg to reduce their response time,
and lock their tractor beam on to the Enterprise as soon as it decloaked.
“Make it so.” He finally ordered.

Seron typed a few commands into the navigations console. The Enterprise
started on a course towards the Borg ship.

“Don’t do this.” A voice came through Picard’s communicator. Tomalok’s
voice. So the Romulans had found a way to listen to the internal
communication on a Federation ship. Great.

He continued. “Your maneuver is risky, and it doesn’t pay off. We have
abandoned our ship, and are returning home in some cloaked shuttles.”
Cloaked shuttles. Picard had never heard of them. The Romulans had better
ships than the Federation had assumed. While Picard thought about sending
a report to Starfleet Command, the Romulan continued speaking. “Try to
save your ship while the Borg are busy dealing with our wreckage. We will
try…”

Before Tomalok could finish his sentence, several tractor beams shot out
of the Borg ship.

“It would appear that the Borg have entered the Romulan ship, and
assimilated the cloaking technology.” Data concluded. “They have
established several tractor beam locks on Romulan shuttles, but they have
not yet locked a tractor beam on the Enterprise.”

Picard realized there was no real chance to rescue the Romulans. “Mr.
Seron, get us into a safe position. Get us into synchronous orbit above
the magnetic pole of the class M planet. Full impulse.” He ordered,
resigningly.

Whatever it was that had prevented the Borg from detecting the cloaked
Enterprise, they would probably adapt to the difference in a matter of
mere minutes. It would be better to cause some additional trouble to their
sensors.

Seron reported they had entered stationary orbit. Picard asked for
suggestions, but noone spoke up.

An idea started to form in Picard’s mind. It might work… Picard thought
he needed some silence to think about it.

“I will be in my ready room. Number One, you have the bridge.” He said,
got up, pulled his uniform jacket down, and left the room. The others
stared at him in disbelief.

***

“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” he ordered his replicator. He took the cup of tea,
and sat down behind his table. He started sipping the tea, and thought
about the plan. He found more and more arguments for his plan, but the
price of freedom would be high. Very high.

Chapter Nine

Lt. Barclay and the Borg reported the results of their discussion about
developing a defense against the Borg collective to Dr. Crusher.

“We have concluded that the Borg collective can adapt to technological
changes too fast for us. The Borg offensive and defensive systems are far
superior to our own capabilities in that sector.” Hugh explained. “Coming
up with something even close to their system would take years, and they
could adapt in a matter of seconds.”

He threw a look at Barclay, waiting for him to continue. Their plan had
been his idea, after all.

“I… I think if we want to… defeat the Borg collective, we must try a
different approach. The individual Borg still have all their implants. We
could try to re-activate the linking parts of one of them to a certain
degree, placing orders in their command queue. If the collective Borg
haven’t changed their transmission protocols or access codes since the
individuals left, it might work.”

One of the Borg, apparently an engineering specialist, added,
“Technically, it would not be a problem, but we risk losing the Borg to
the collective, and the collective getting to know where we are, and what
we are about to do.”

“Can’t we establish a one-way connection? I mean, permit him to send data
to the collective, but not to receive?” Crusher asked.

“No.” Hugh explained. “I have thought of that, but it wouldn’t work. The
Borg collective is too secure. To prevent exactly this, whenever you put
an order into the central command queue, they check the origin of the
command for subconscious activity, making sure only someone who is part of
the collective can place orders.”

“Subconscious activity like what?” she insisted. “Maybe we can simulate
the activity with a tricorder.”

“It wouldn’t work. A tricorder, or even your ship’s computer, couldn’t
simulate the complex activity they are looking for.”

Dr. Crusher thought about it for a moment. There seemed to be no way aside
from putting one Borg in the danger of being assimilated.

“Do we have any other choice?” she wanted to know.

“I don’t think we do.” Hugh said, when he noticed Barclay didn’t dare to
answer.

Crusher thought about it for a while. “Are there any individuals who see
advantages in the collective ways left?”

“Yes, some of us think both ways are acceptable. Why do you ask?”

“I’m trying to make my decision. If we’ll be losing one of you to the
collective, I think it should be someone willing to accept the risk,
someone who doesn’t think losing individuality is too big a loss.” Crusher
explained. In some ways, this was like chosing a crew member to go on an
extremely dangerous mission, but there were differences. The individual
Borg weren’t her crew, and the worst fate was not death, but assimilation.
If there was someone who didn’t care particularily for individuality…

“I have to disagree.” Hugh said. “If we connect someone who likes the
collective ways, the person might change sides. I’d rather send someone
who is convinced of the individual ways. I may be an optimal choice.”
“You are willing to undergo the procedure deliberately?” Dr. Crusher tried
to reassure herself.

“The risk is smaller.” Hugh maintained. “I am the logical choice.”

Crusher noticed Hugh sounded pretty much like a Vulcan, or an android. Not
at all what she had expected from him after their recent encounters with
the individual Borg.

Brain implants, she speculated. They had never deactivated them, and they
were probably using them in some situations. She hoped they wouldn’t take
over when they connected Hugh. She thought about it for a while. “No.” she
decided.

“May I know why?” Hugh demanded.

“You know too much. If the Borg manage to get you back, they become aware
of everything we discussed. We might tell some other Borg that we are
planning something completely different, and give him false information
about the location of the Starfleet people. We’ll have to minimize the
risks.”

Hugh admitted not having thought of it. “I will talk to the others, and
we’ll make a choice.”

Dr. Crusher heard the sound of a Federation transporter. Had someone
survived, and was beaming down from an emergency escape pod, she wondered.
She turned around and saw some engineers materialize.

“Are there other survivors?” she asked the Ensign materializing closest to
her.

“Survivors of what?” he wanted to know, a bit confused.

Had they been wrong about the Enterprise being destroyed? “We couldn’t
contact the ship”, she explained, “and we had assumed the Enterprise has
been destroyed.”

“We have left the sector to get some assistance from the Romulans.” The
Ensign explained. “We have returned, and we’ve been able to do minor
damage to the Borg ship. We are now in a stationary orbit around the
northern magnetic pole of the planet, and cloaked. We hope the Borg will
not detect us until we’re ready.”

“Cloaked?” Dr. Crusher asked. Starfleet had never used cloaking devices,
and according to the treaty of Algeron, they were not allowed to develop
cloaking technology.

“Yes, with a Romulan cloaking device.” The Ensign explained. “The Romulans
have agreed the Borg are a common enemy, and they are assisting us. Their
ship is – – Watch out!” he shouted, reaching for his phaser.

Dr. Crusher turned around, and saw Hugh approaching them. She noticed the
Ensign’s mistake. “This is an individual Borg.” She explained. “The
Collective has not succeeded in returning all individuals.” This would be
enough for the Ensign to know at the moment. “Why are you beaming down?”
“Captain Picard has decided to evacuate the entire ship, except for
himself, Commander LaForge and Commander Data.” The Ensign explained. “I
don’t know about his plans, though.”

Crusher tapped her communicator, trying to contact Picard. “Crusher to”
she started. Then she remembered the Enterprise was cloaked, and whatever
the Captain was up to, it would be important to go unnoticed by the Borg.
The danger of using a communicator, something the Borg knew, would be too
big. She tapped the communicator again, deactivating it.

Some more crew members beamed down. This would be the last group
materializing on the planet. Commander Riker, Counselor Troi, Worf and
Ensign Seron were with them.

She went to Riker, and they discussed the plans to defeat the Borg they
had come up with.

***

LaForge was busy backing up all information from the ship’s main computers
to the secondary computer core, and encoding it, while Data fed the
computer with some false information about Federation planets, technology
and all paradoxons he could think of.

He entered the geometric paraodxon LaForge had developed when they
considered destroying the Borg with Hugh’s help as a map of Federation
space, an information they would most surely access.

“Captain’s log, stardate 48054.1, supplemental.
This will be my last entry as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise,
NCC-1701-D. We have realized that, even with the help of the Romulans and
one of their cloaking device, we can not stand a chance against the Borg
collective. I have decided to abandon the ship, setting of the entire crew
and their families on the planet Omicron Theta V. The entire crew, except
for Commander Data, Lieutenant Commander LaForge, and myself. As a last
resort, I am leaving the ship to the Borg for assimilation. We have
removed all information from the ship’s data banks, and filled them with
false information as well as paradoxons, attempting to confuse the Borg. I
am confident our plan will distract the Borg long enough to be able to
fight, and possibly stop them.

I do not think the remaining three crew members are in danger. The Borg
consider Commander Data a primitive artificial life form, not worthy of
assimilation, and they do not assimilate few individuals.”

Picard thought about his last entry. Had he forgotten something Starfleet
needed to know?

Yes…

“I have to mention that both the crew and the ship performed better than
it could be expected from any ship and crew. I am taking the sole
responsibility for the loss of the ship.”

This would be all. He ejected the log buoy, a Starfleet mechanism designed
specifically for situations like this. The log would go to Starfleet
Command or the nearest Starfleet ship or starbase it encountered, giving
them all information they would need to know what happened, and to
possibly defeat the Borg.

“Mr. Data, are you ready?” He asked.

The android confirmed. “All information not required for the ship to
operate has been removed from the primary computer core. Everything else
has been overwritten with paradoxons and false information.”

“Very well.” Picard approved. He went to the tactical station, and
decloaked the ship. Data took the navigation station, and left the
stationary orbit.

The Captain opened a channel to the Borg ship, to make sure they didn’t go
undetected. “This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship
Enterprise. You will leave Federation space immediately.”

The reply was exactly what he had expected from the Borg – “You will be
assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

Two Borg materialized on the Enterprise bridge. They turned their heads,
presumably looking for the crew. They did not show a sign of confusion
about the nearly unmanned ship. One of the Borg went up to the science
station, the other took the Ops station.

As Picard had expected, they were not taking any notice of the crew.
The Borg at the science station started interfacing with the ship’s
computers.

It (or he or she – Picard couldn’t tell) turned to the Captain. It started
turning around its mechanical hand, then stopped without making any more
moves. The other Borg froze simultaneously.

“It seems to work.” Picard commented. He went up to the tactical station,
and targeted all weapons at the Borg ship. While they were working on
assimilating all the paradox information, they couldn’t care for their
ship… Hopefully not.

Picard fired five photon torpedoes. He checked the readings on the
tactical displays. The photon torpedoes had taken out the Borg tractor
beams. Picard looked at the main viewer, and saw the Romulan shuttles
leaving the range of the Borg ship. They were headed for the Neutral Zone.
The Borg on the Enterprise bridge started moving again. “Illogical.” One
of them stated. Another one looked at Picard. “The information from your
ship is incorrect, and irrelevant. Resistance is futile. Your inferior
species will be assimilated.”

With these last words, it left the Enterprise, taking the other Borg with
it.

So much for their plan. Picard ordered Data and LaForge to return the
computers’ databanks to normal. The Borg wouldn’t access the computer
again.

He tapped his communicator, and informed Riker of the bad news.

Chapter Ten

“We have another option.” The first officer replied, and reported about
the individual Borg and the plan they had developed. “Hugh has chosen an
individual Borg to undergo the procedure. We have re-installed the linking
parts, and are ready for a first try.”

“Very well.” Picard commented. “Proceed.”

***

Riker threw a questioning look at the Borg engineers. “From the
technological side, we are ready.” They claimed.

The Commander approached the Borg they had chosen – a Borg called Ele.
Riker had asked Hugh where the name had come from, and he had been told it
was a derivation from Ele’s old identification, eleventh of twenty-six.
Hugh had reassured him, though, that the Borg did not believe in the
collective ways.

“Are you aware of the risks?” he asked.

“Yes.” Ele said. “I am willing to take the risk. If I don’t, we will all
be assimilated anyway. If the plan fails, it is just a question of time.”
“Start.” Riker said. A Borg engineer controlled a few mechanic parts of
Ele.

“I do not have access to the Borg collective.” Ele remarked.

“Have they changed their access protocols, or access codes?” Riker wanted
to know.

“No. I just don’t have access. It is as if they were not here.”

Riker informed the Captain. Data scanned the Borg ship and the planet.

“I am detecting severe atmospheric distortions.” Riker heard the android’s
voice. “It is possible they are preventing the linking implant from
working.”

“We’ll have to beam aboard.” he decided.

“Make it so, Number One. Take a skeleton crew with you. Just in case the
plan goes wrong, I want some security personnel, and some scientists to
look for the reasons.”

Riker chose the people to take. “Worf, Seron, Satarra, Goodwin, Moore,
you’re with me.” He paused for a moment. If something went wrong, it would
be good to have a doctor and an empath aboard. “Deanna, Beverly, we may
need you, as well.” He finally decided.

He tapped his communicator again. “Enterprise, twelve to beam up.”

Riker materialized with the other Starfleet officers, Ele, Hugh, and two
Borg engineers. They knew more about the Borg linking implants than anyone
in the Federation, so it had been logical to take them, as well.

He looked around in the transporter room. Picard had handled the
transporter console. An unusual sight.

“Welcome aboard. It’s good to have you all back.” Picard greeted, and
immediately left the room. There was no time to waste.

The Captain had decided to conduct the experiment in sick bay. In case
something went wrong, and they had to separate Ele without his knowledge
or approval, it would be the best place for the Borg.

“Are you ready?” Picard asked.

“Yes.” was Ele’s simple response. Hugh handled his implants.

Ele’s arm started moving towards Picard. The mechanic implants started
turning around wildly. “Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the U.S.S. Enterprise,
NCC-1701-D. Terran. Your culture will be assimilated.”

“Cut the link.” Picard ordered.

“Don’t.” Troi suggested. “It is possible that this is just an initial
reaction to all the incoming data. We think we have limited their access
to Ele’s mind, and I’m still sensing some individuality from him.”
Ele turned to face Troi.

“Commander Deanna Troi. Counselor. Half-Terran, Half-Betazoid. You, too,
will be assimilated.”

Hugh approached Ele to check whether the changes they had made to the
linking implant were still intact. This sounded like a completely normal
Borg – within the collective.

A force field kept him off. Ele looked at him, saying “Third of Five. You
have attained severe damage, but you are still operational. We will repair
you.”

“It is you who needs repairs, Ele.” Hugh offered. Maybe mentioning the
name they had given the individual would return some of his memories of
individuality.

Eleventh of twenty-six didn’t react. He continued turning around and
checking the people, representatives of some civilizations maybe worth
assimilation.

“Seron. Vulcan. Logic-based being. You will make a fine addition to the
collective.”

The Borg faced Data.

“Data. Primitive, non-sentient artificial life form. You will be obsolete
in the new order, but maybe your materials can be recycled.”

Picard looked at Troi. He was getting sick of waiting for the Borg to help
them, and even more sick of hearing how they all would be assimilated in
the close future. He got downright angry when he heard the Borg
considering to recycle Data.

“The signs of individual existence are fading.” Troi gave up. “The
collective is too strong.”

“I request permission to mind-meld with the Borg.” Seron threw in. “I
might be able to direct his thoughts in the right direction.”

“You are aware of the risks, Ensign?” Picard asked. He knew the effects of
mind-melds from his own experience. He had had to bear Ambassador Sarek’s
emotions, the thoughts of a single person, and he had completely lost his
control. He doubted the Vulcan could deal with the thoughts of an entire
collective.

“I am fully aware of the risks.” Seron stated. “I am not connected to the
collective directly. If they should be able to take control of my mind,
which I do not believe, you can separate me by simply pulling me off the
Borg. If I understand our situation correctly, this is our only logical
choice.”

“Make it so.” Picard agreed. He would never have ordered the Vulcan to
undergo the mind-meld, but if the Ensign wanted to save the Federation, he
didn’t want to stop him. He was fully aware of the risks, and ready to
take them. Picard made a mental note to request an official commendation
or a promotion for Seron if he survived it.

The Vulcan approached the Borg, and extended his arms. He started
concentrating on the procedures required for a mind-meld. He had been
taught the principles of telepathy back on Vulcan, and he had given it
some tries, but in his time in the academy and aboard the Enterprise, he
hadn’t used the technique. He had a good memory, though, and mind-melds
were not something you could forget easily.

The Vulcan extended his fingers, and suddenly touched a force field. It
ached in his fingers, but pain was a feeling he could not afford. He
suppressed it as good as he could. As a Vulcan, he was used to repress all
of his emotions and personal feelings, but this pain was intense. He
forced himself hard to push harder, but he realized he could not penetrate
the force field. He finally drew back his fingers, and took a step away
from the Borg. He noticed a bit of the pain had showed on his face, and
quickly got it under control.

Picard ordered to cut the link.

Worf approached Ele, trying to remove or destroy the linking implant they
had connected to his head. He was stopped and thrown back by a force field
the Borg had built up.

“Worf.” Ele continued speaking. “Klingon. A race of warriors. You will be
assimilated.”

The Klingon drew his phaser and fired at the implant. Data verified the
readings on his tricorder. “The force field is getting weaker.” he
reported. “I assume the Borg is running out of energy.”

While Data spoke, the Borg dematerialized. The collective had beamed him
away in order to get him out of the dangerous phaser shot, and to refill
his depleted energy reserves.

“Captain, I think I have got an idea.” Seron announced.

Chapter Eleven

The crew members assembled in the observation lounge. Picard looked at
Seron in anxiety. He had considered the problem for a long time, and
hadn’t been able to come up with any more ideas. He was nearly convinced
this was a no-win situation, but Seron was a Vulcan. A Vulcan wouldn’t
tell the Captain of an idea that would prove impossible to realize. There
had to be something he had missed, he concluded.

“I have analyzed the outcome of our experiment with Ele.” The Vulcan
started to explain, after everyone had taken their seats. “It didn’t work
because even though we tried to limit the collective’s access to certain
parts of his brain, the collective’s influence on him was too strong. The
logical conclusion is that we must connect something more reliable to the
Borg collective. We are in possession of the individual Borg’s linking
implants. I recommend interfacing them with the ship’s computer, and
trying to have it connected to the Borg collective.”

“It won’t work.” Hugh stated, drawing some curious looks at him. “The
linking implants transmit brain waves, not any data a computer could
generate.”

“Then I see only one logical option.” Seron continued. “We have to connect
someone who can control the Borg influence. Vulcans are used to suppress
all emotions all the time, and we are used to controlling other people’s
thoughts in mind-melds.”

He paused for a moment.

“As the only Vulcan aboard the ship who has been in contact with the
Borg,” he continued, remembering his time with the individual Borg on the
planet as well as the short time with the Borg collective back in sick
bay, “I would be the logical choice.”

“I cannot permit that.” Picard murmured. “It’s too risky.”

Seron didn’t dare to object, though he was convinced it was the only
choice they had. The Vulcan knew Picard was open to suggestions most of
the time, but he would not accept an Ensign doubting his decisions.
Logically, he would keep his opinion for himself.

“My positronic brain output resembles your brain waves.” Data suggested.
“And I have not been programmed for collective existance. I believe I am
immune to the Borg influence, but my brain output can be adapted to serve
as a connection to the collective.”

“What about the subconscious activity?” Dr. Crusher remembered what Hugh
had told her about the Borg security measures.

“My mind, like yours, operates on a conscious and a subconscious level. I
have been designed to process information like a human. I do not think the
Borg can tell the difference between my output and the output a strange
humanoid life form might produce.”

Picard looked at his chief engineer. “Geordi, do you think you can alter
Data’s positronic brain output enough to be accepted as brainwaves by the
Borg?”

LaForge thought about it. Data was right, his positronic brain had been
designed to process information like a human brain, and to be as similar
to a human brain as it was possible for a machine. And, of course, the
Borg had assimilated several different life forms, probably with slightly
different types of brainwaves. They would tolerate slight glitches.

“I believe it is possible.” he finally stated.

“Very well. Make it so.” Picard ordered. He looked around, and noticed
noone else wanted to make a suggestion or a comment. “Dismissed.” He
added.

***

LaForge arrived in engineering with Data, Dr. Crusher and a few individual
Borg.

He opened Data’s head to connect him to a diagnostic panel. He knew what
Data was, how Data operated, probably better than anyone else, but
whenever he had to open the Commander’s head, he was a bit uneasy about
it.

It was even worse for Dr. Crusher. She was used to dealing with human
patients, and it disturbed her to be reminded of the fact that one of her
comrades, her friends, looked like a tricorder rather than a life form in
the interior. She remembered Picard’s words when Maddox had tried to prove
Data was not sentient. “Keep in mind that we, too, are machines. We are
just machines made up of different materials.” Or something like that. She
knew the Captain was right, but she still felt a bit uneasy looking at the
circuitry in Data’s head.

She forced herself to forget about it, and looked at the diagnostic
display. LaForge had adjusted it to display Data’s brain output. The
android had been right. It surely resembled brainwaves.

“Can you increase the amplitude, and lower the frequency a bit?” she
asked.

LaForge looked at Data. He could construct an adapter, but if the android
could control the output with his positronic brain, it would be a better
way, and one that wouldn’t require more time. The Borg could decide to
assimilate or destroy – recycle, how they would put it – the Enterprise
every minute.

“I cannot.” Data replied. “But it should be easy to build an adapter we
can connect between my brain’s output channels and the Borg implants.”
The engineers got to work.

***

The inertia dampers failed. The impact of the Borg weapon nearly threw
Picard out of his command chair.

“Shields have failed.” Worf reported, getting up from the floor. He
checked the sensors. “The Borg have cut a cylindric part out of the ship.
Decks two through eight, sections twenty-four and twenty-five.”

So they were starting to examine the ship, trying to determine which parts
could be recycled. They wouldn’t have much more time.

“The protection force fields are in place. There should be no danger for
the crew.” The Klingon added. He considered it needless to say there were
no casualties. Picard knew there were only few people aboard, and noone
would be in the area he had mentioned.

“Can you get the shields back up?” Picard asked.

“Yes. If we concentrate all remaining shield power to the direction of the
Borg ship, we can restore shields to eight percent. If the Borg don’t use
other weapons than their tractor beam, it they will hold for about fifty
minutes.”

“Make it so.” Picard ordered, hoping the Borg would not waste their energy
on penetrating the shields earlier. The Borg had, as they had said,
studied the defensive capabilities of the ship, and concluded they were in
no position to offer resistance. Their logical brain implants would
dictate not to waste energy on defeating an inferior ship. Or at least,
that was what Picard hoped.

“Resistance is futile. If you resist, we will destroy your ship.” A
metallic voice announced through the ship’s speakers.

“Have you put them on the speakers?” The Captain asked Worf.

“Negative. They must have found a way to access our ship’s systems.”

“Probably they learned something about our computer systems while they
tried to assimilate the data we prepared for them.” Riker surmised. “They
must have realized we were trying to trick them, and so, they have
concentrated on the technology they could analyze directly.”

“Possible.” Picard said. He thought about ways to use it against the Borg,
but he couldn’t find any.

“Data to Picard.” The android’s voice interrupted the Captain’s thoughts.
He acknowledged the call. “Picard here.”

Data informed the Captain that they had finished constructing an adapter
for Data’s brain output, and they had been able to interface it with the
Borg implants. “We are ready for a try.” He added. “We will make a test
run in sick bay, where Doctor Crusher can verify the brainwave readings.”

“Make it so.” Picard ordered. They could not afford losing more time.

“Keep the communicator channel open. We want to hear what’s happening.”

Picard restrained the wish to get down to sick bay and see everything
himself. If the Borg attacked the ship, he would be needed on the bridge.
“Establishing link.” Data reported. “No significant access yet. Geordi,
increase the output frequency by 0.04 percent.”

Picard heard a few beeps, probably diagnostic sounds LaForge had
programmed into the adapter.

“Trying… Stand by.” The android’s voice came through the communicator.
“Still no significant access.”

Picard heard the sound of a medical tricorder. Doctor Crusher had to be
taking brainwave readings from the Borg to check for differences, he
speculated.

Few seconds later, he heard her voice. “The amplitude is significantly
higher. Try increasing power to the adapter.” – “Factor 1.87” he heard
Data’s voice add.

“Trying.”

“Captain, I’m detecting an unauthorized access to our computers’ central
databanks.” Worf reported.

Chapter Twelve

Worf analyzed the data on the security station further. “The access seems
to originate in Engineering.”

“The Borg.” Picard speculated. “They must have realized we were trying to
trick them, and they have realized we have had to return the normal
information to the systems in order to run the ship efficiently.”

“Negative.” Worf replied. “We are not detecting any Borg in the section.
Whatever it is, it is accessing all data about the warp drive, and sending
it on a subspace channel.”

“The warp drive?” Picard asked, purely rhetorical.

“Tomalok.” Riker spoke the Captain’s thought out loud. “They must have
added a spying device in their cloaking device.”

“And we can’t dismantle it without killing our engineers.” Worf added.
“Still no significant access. The Borg seem to be waiting for a very
specific type of brainwaves. I assume adapting others to their brainwaves
is part of the early steps in assimilation I cannot undergo. Try to reduce
the frequency by 0.01 percent, and decrease the amplitude by 0.2. It seems
to be the best match to the mostly used frequencies and amplitudes in
Hugh’s brain.”

“Mr. Data, wait.” Picard ordered. “We have a problem in engineering.”

He had spent some time considering it. Defeating the Borg seemed to have
the highest priority, and the Romulans’ attempt to get all information
about the warp drive seemed so small, so irrelevant compared to the Borg
threat. But then, he had considered the possibility that the Romulans were
after more than just the information about the warp drive. Once they would
have finished downloading the information, their sender would access
other, more dangerous information. If they survived the battle against the
Borg, the least they needed would be a Romulan Empire knowing all about
Federation technology, Federation secret plans, and the Federation’s ships
and their locations.

He explained everything to the android. Data was the only crew member
resistant to the deadly radiation the cloaking device would set free.

Apparently, the Romulans had not been aware of that, or they just hadn’t
thought about it when they saw the unique opportunity to get access to
Federation technology.

“I will take care of it.” Data announced.

***

The android entered engineering, and headed straight for the cloaking
device. He would try to disassemble it, and deactivate the sender. If the
Romulans had tried to get information about the Federation’s warp drive,
he considered it right to get information about their cloaking device in
turn. If it didn’t work, he would still have the opportunity to destroy
the device.

He took a sonic driver from LaForge’s collection of tools, and attempted
to take the top of the device off.

Smoke filled engineering. Something inside the cloaking device had
exploded. Data coughed. He had concentrated on becoming more human on so
many occasions that part of the program had moved to his subconscious
level.

“Data to Picard.” he tapped his communicator. He waited for the Captain’s
acknowledgement, and reported parts of the cloaking device had exploded,
but he would be able to salvage most of it.

“Very well.” He heard the Captain’s voice. “See to it later. Just
deactivate the sender, and return to sick bay.”

The Captain’s order was entirely logical, Data concluded, and complied.
Before leaving engineering, he activated the decontaminators. His sensors
had indicated deadly amounts of gamma radiation, as well as some poisonous
gases. The ship’s cleaning systems would take care of everything now.

***

“I have returned to sick bay, and I have been reconnected to the adapter
and the Borg linking implant.” Data reported through the communicator.
Picard hoped this attempt would work. He didn’t have Data’s sense of
constant time, but he didn’t think they had more than twenty minutes left.
He knew Vulcans had a good sense of time, and asked Seron.

“We have thirteen minutes and forty-six seconds left.” The navigator
replied.

Less than a quarter hour… Even worse than he had thought. He nervously
shifted his position in the command chair, and tried to straighten his
uniform jacked.

“I have obtained some access.” Data reported. “Intriguing. Accessing…
Accessing… The Borg have changed some of their access codes, but others
are the same Hugh gave me.” He reported. “We do not have access to their
weapons, recreational, and self-destruction levels.”

Picard thought he was in no position to tell Data what he should enter
into the command queue. He had never had significant access to the
collective, and the android was more familiar with their present state
than he was. “Enter the commands you think to be the most appropriate.” he
ordered.

***

“Accessing. Accessing… Entering…” Data’s head emitted some sparks.

LaForge threw him a worried look. He grabbed a tricorder and ran a check.

“Your systems are overloading, Data.” he said. He didn’t consider to
separate the android from the collective yet. It was neccessary to warn
him, but there was no serious damage yet.

“Do not remove the linking implants.” Data ordered. “I am required to
plant some more orders in their command queue. It is more important than
my personal well-being. Accessing… Accessing…”

The amount of sparks increased. There was an increase in temperature.
LaForge knew the reason, but he didn’t dare say it out loud. Data’s head
was emitting positrons, which were reacting with the electrons in the air,
setting free radiation and warmth.

“Accessing…”

***

Picard looked at the viewer, and noticed the Borg ship had started moving.

Their tractor beam got weaker, and finally, faded out of existence.

“The Borg ship is increasing speed.” Worf reported, checking the tactical
station. “They are now at warp one.”

Were they trying to get out of Data’s range? Picard wondered.
“Warp two.” The Klingon announced.

“Warp three… four… Warp six. Warp seven.”

The Borg engines were quite effective, Picard realized. They accelerated
faster than anything he had ever encountered.

“Warp eight.” Worf reported. “Warp nine.”

“Congratulations, Mr. Data.” Picard said. “You did it.”

Instead of the expected reply from the android, LaForge’s voice came
through the communicator. “You’d better come down here.”

Chapter Thirteen

The sound in LaForge’s voice had not been good, Picard realized. He’d
better get to sick bay immediately.

“Number One, you have the bridge.” He uttered, and got up. His uniform
jacket had probably moved up once again, but he didn’t take the time to
pull it down. He hurried to the turbolift.

“Sick bay.” He said, in a nervous and worried voice.

Picard knew the turbolift was operating at the normal speed, but he almost
couldn’t believe it. It seemed to be slower than usual. The trip to sick
bay seemed to take forever.

After seconds that seemed like minutes, or even hours, the doors opened.
Picard hurried to the sick bay doors. They opened and admitted him in.
Data was lying on a diagnostic table, with all diagnostic functions
activated. LaForge and another engineer were scanning him with a
tricorder, Dr. Crusher was working on him with a medical tricorder.

Picard looked at the android, and didn’t see the usual breathing-like
movements. A bad sign. His eyes flew across the readings on the diagnostic
table. He knew what had happened before Dr. Crusher said it out loud.

“He’s dead.”

LaForge tried once more to turn on the android, but nothing happened.
After a moment of silence, he explained. “The Borg must have realized our
intrusion, and developed a defense. They have managed to overload his
positronic brain, probably causing a reaction between the positrons and
the electrons in Data’s body.”

“Positrons are electrons in anti-matter.” He explained. “There would be
nothing remaining.”

“Can you repair the damage?” The Captain asked, with the last bit of hope
in his voice.

“No.” Geordi said resignedly. “We could build new arms for Data, new legs,
even new sensors. But we have never understood the functionality of his
brain.”

Epilogue

“Captain’s log, stardate 48054.7”
With the Borg gone, the Enterprise had managed to pick up and re-install
the ejected log-buoy.

“Commander Data has managed to enter a command into the Borg collective,
which made them leave Federation space. Without the android, we can only
speculate what it might have been.
We have cancelled our mission to Talar IV, and are returning to Earth,
where we will hand the remains of Data to the Daystrom Institute. We hope
that some day, they will be able to revive the android.”

Picard looked at Data’s former post, and saw Worf handling the console. He
would have to mention it in the log.

“Aboard the ship, everything is returning to normal. The crew and
families, as well as some individual Borg, have been beamed back aboard.
Lieutenant Worf has taken over the Enterprise Ops station and sciences
department, and on his recommendation, we have made Lieutenant Satarra
temporary chief of security.”

He had mentioned everything Starfleet Command would care about, he
realized, but Data deserved being mentioned once more in the Captain’s
log.

“Though both of them are performing well in their new posts, Commander
Data’s dead is leaving a big gap on the Enterprise. His fate is a severe
loss for the ship and crew. I want to mention that, in his entire time
aboard the Enterprise, he performed beyond anyone’s expectations, both in
service, and as a crewmate, a friend.”

Picard thought about adding something more, but he thought this was
enough.

“Mr. Seron, warp five. Engage.”

The Enterprise got underway. “Number One, you have the bridge.” Picard
ordered, got up and headed for his ready room. He noticed the sound of an
opening turbolift door, but he didn’t turn around to see who had entered
the bridge, until he heard a familiar voice.

“Request permission to re-take my post.”

“Data!” He exclaimed, and looked at the turbolift doors. He had recognized
the voice, but he wanted to make absolutely sure he was not just hearing
what he wanted to hear.

The android stood there, and said nothing.

“We thought you were dead.” Picard mentioned, trying to find out what had
happened to the android.

“Your observation was, basically, correct.” he explained. “The Borg have
detected my intrusion into their command pathways, and they have developed
a defense. They sent me information at an incredible speed, overloading my
positronic brain as well as the receptors.”

He paused for a moment, as if he had just remembered something else.

“Did we succeed?” he asked.

Picard just nodded, and gestured Data to go on.

“I noticed they were trying to overload my brain, but it was too early to
cut the link. I had not yet succeeded planting orders into their central
command queue. I continued communicating with them.

When I had entered all commands I had thought of, I realized I would not
be able to survive further exposition to their data, not even long enough
for Commander LaForge to remove the connection. I deactivated myself.
Since I considered the possibility that the Borg are able to re-activate
and destroy me, I have had to alter my programming to ignore the on-
switch. I handed its control to my internal timer, telling it to turn me
on after half an hour.”

The android stopped, convinced he had mentioned everything he had been
asked for.

“How did you convince the Borg to leave?” Picard wanted to know.

“I have realized that I could not obtain direct access to their weapons,
their recreational program we used in our last encounter with the
collective, or their self-destruction mechanism, so I had to think of
another way to get rid of them permanently.

I thought of just accessing their navigations program, and sending them to
a different galaxy, but I did not want to endanger life forms in the
regions. The Federation has not yet charted galaxies other than our own,
but there is a high probability for the existance of other life forms in
other galaxies.

Then I noticed they had not protected their basic behavior codes. I
thought about adding a sentence saying that individuality has advantages,
and individual life forms may, under no circumstances, be assimilated into
the Borg collective without their explicit wish, but then I realized it
would, in all probability, not work. These Borg had make negative
experiences with individuality, and they would reconsider the command as
soon as they would need it.

So, I added a command to their central databanks, saying that individual
life is inferior, not worthy of assimilation.

I, basically, invented a prime directive for them, saying they may
assimilate other species into the Borg collective only after they have
formed a collective for themselves, and I implied that the Borg might get
to know something new about linking persons together by assimilating other
collective instead of individuals.”

“Very well.” Picard commented. “This should prevent them from assimilating
individuals ever again.”

“I do not think so.” Data threw in.

The others looked at him curiously.

“The entire Borg culture is based on assimilation. Whenever someone in the
collective died, they used to replace the person by assimilating someone
new if there was no Borg child available.” He started. “Over the time,
their numbers will, in all probability, decrease, and they will have to
keep up the collective. They will, eventually, come to the conclusion that
they need to assimilate others in order to survive.”

He paused for a moment.

“Given the current number of Borg in the collective, as well as their
number of procreations per Borg per year, I estimate they will not
assimilate other species in the next one hundred and twenty-eight years.

Until then, we will be prepared.”

“That should be enough, Mr. Data. Very well done.” Picard commented. “And,
Mr. Data,”

he waited until the android looked at him.

“Permission granted.”

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