Not of Clay

Not of Clay

by E. Kelly

 

email the author – ekelly1701@aol.com

 

Standard disclaimer – I own none of the Star Trek characters herein – they belong to Paramount.  This is for fun not profit.

 

 

 

Stardate 371486.8

2498 A.D.

United Federation of Planets territory – Delta Quadrant

 

The queen’s scream echoed through billions of minds, throughout the entire collective.  Again and again and again she found her way blocked, her plans derailed, her ultimate triumph denied.  For an instant her frustration froze the beings of the collective across the entire galaxy; then, the billions that served one will turned to hatching another plan.  In a thousandth of a second the strategy had been fully developed and the odds of success calculated.

 

She did not let the desperate nature of the scheme deter her.  She would never give

up until he and those in whose image he had been made were utterly destroyed, eradicated, obliterated from her galaxy.  She would triumph.

 

She was the Borg.

 

Stardate 6543.2

2271 A.D.

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

“Captain,” Lt. Uhura said sharply over the low hum of normal bridge activity, “I’ve picked up a distress call.”

 

Captain James Kirk had snapped around at the tone of her first word, “Let’s see it.”

 

She shook her head briefly, fingers flying over the board, as her eyes focused inward on the transmission, “I’m barely keeping the audio clear.”

 

A burst of static shot out through the speakers.

 

“…ority One distress… any Federa……. ip.  We are under attack ..…ease respond!”  The voice was steady but urgent.  “…again, ……is Research Station Explorer…Beta Draconi system issuing ……..One distress call…….can hear me, please respond!”

 

“Mr. Sulu, lay in a course for the Beta Draconi system, warp six,” Kirk said.  “Uhura, tell them we’re on our way.”

 

Uhura’s hands became more demanding of her board, as she opened her mouth to call, then she punched controls furiously.  “I’ve lost them, sir,” she said finally, without looking up from her efforts to regain the connection.

 

The ship had already jumped to warp speed and stars streaked past on the viewscreen.  Kirk turned his chair to face the science station.

“Spock, Research Station Explorer.”

 

His science officer was scanning screens of data before him, “I am not familiar with it, Captain, nor with any station in that area.  Searching library computer tapes now.”

 

Adrenaline had surged through every member of the bridge crew at the sound of that desperate call for help.  Now, everyone felt the terrible pressure that would find no quick relief, but must wait until they crossed the vast, empty expanse of space.

 

“Sulu, time to Beta Draconi,” Kirk said.

 

“Sixteen hours, fourteen minutes, sir.”

 

The captain hit the intercom on the arm of his chair, “Mr. Scott, I need warp seven or better.”

 

“Ye’ve got it, Captain.  We’ll sustain it as long as we can.”

 

“Push her to the limit, Mr. Sulu.”

 

“Aye, Captain.”

 

The subliminal hum that thrummed through every panel and every being on the ship escalated to a new pitch.

 

“Uhura.”

 

“Nothing, sir.  No answer to our response.  I don’t know if they’ve received.”

 

“Spock.”

 

“I can find no reference to the station with my security clearance,” the Vulcan replied.

 

Kirk entered his own security code into the computer.  Spock began searching the files again.

 

“Receiving a relay of the distress call, sir,” Uhura said.  “Starship Discovery also responding.  They’re two parsecs closer, Captain.  Four hours away from Beta Draconi.”

 

“Sulu, our new ETA.”

 

“Ten hours, forty-seven minutes present speed, Captain.”

 

“Uhura,” Kirk turned back to his communications officer, but she was already talking to the other ship.

 

“Research Station Explorer,” Spock said, and Kirk turned to face him, “top secret research base.”  He paused, absorbing the information flashing past at a speed difficult for a full human to comprehend.  “It houses several highly sensitive Starfleet research projects, from sensor and shielding technology to weapons research, as well as various other cutting edge projects.  Many of the scientists assigned there are officially known to be at other locations – obviously a security precaution.  Total personnel seven hundred eighty-three.”

U.S.S. Discovery

 

“Captain, our relay has been picked up by the Enterprise.  They have diverted to assist.”

 

Captain Anastasia Morgan nodded as she leaned over the shoulder of her science officer, both studying the sensor readings the station had broadcast – exactly twenty-seven seconds worth – not much.  “Good,” she said, “we’re going to need them.  Send them these readings.  Maybe they can decipher them.”  To her science officer, she said, “Look at these quantum phase resonance drop-offs.  They weren’t hit by photon torpedoes.”

 

“No,” Lt. Mullins said, bouncing on the balls of his feet, “but they’re related somehow.  The curves are out of phase, but look at how similar they are. And that ship just appeared – poof! – out of nowhere.  That station had state-of-the-art, beyond state-of-the-art sensors,” he spoke rapidly, almost breathlessly.  “Where’d they come from?  And how did they penetrate the shields?  Again, beyond state-of-the-art technology.  And we didn’t even know the research base was there, how did they know about it?”

 

Morgan gave him a sidelong look, saying dryly, “Well, now that we’ve had a summary of the questions, why don’t you get me some answers?”

 

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

The bridge grew more tense by the moment as the enigmatic data relayed from their sister ship refused to yield meaningful conclusions.  Nine hours since the call first came in, and though shift change had come up three hours before, no one left the bridge.  Below, Sickbay and Engineering personnel had the relief of fierce activity as they prepared their emergency teams for deployment the minute they reached the station.

 

“Captain,” Mr. Sulu said, “we have Station Explorer on long range sensors.”

 

Kirk’s eyes narrowed as he looked toward the screen, “Let’s see it.”

 

Behind him Uhura gave a small gasp.

 

The station, which they had all seen from the security files, had originally been a multi-leveled orbiting base, vaguely resembling a giant mushroom.  Now it reeled several degrees off its proper axis.  The power extraction struts which should have descended to delicately touch the energy-rich ionosphere of the planet below, were gone, blown off, and the rest of the station was dark, a black smudge silhouetted against the luminous gas giant.  A chunk of the mushroom cap had been disintegrated and ragged bulkheads jutted out around the hole.

 

“Where’s the Discovery, Mr. Sulu?” Kirk said, rising quickly to his feet.

 

“She’s not there, Captain.”

 

“Attempting to raise them on a shielded channel, sir,” Uhura said.  Everyone waited, a single question hanging in the air around them – had Discovery been destroyed too?

 

Enterprise, this Commander T’Khas of the Discovery aboard Station Explorer.  We are receiving.”

 

“Go ahead, Captain,” Uhura said, opening the channel.

 

“This is Captain Kirk.  Where is your ship, Commander?”

 

“We detected a warp trail leading out of the system.  Captain Morgan wanted to investigate before it dissipated.”

 

“What’s your situation?”

 

“The Discovery took on the most seriously wounded.  We require additional medical teams for the rest.  Engineering teams also are needed. Structural damage is extensive.”

 

Kirk would have smiled at the Vulcan tendency to state the obvious if the situation were not so dire.  “Our teams are standing by.”

 

“Hostages have been taken, Captain,” the woman’s voice was perfectly even, but the words seemed all the heavier for it.

 

“How many?”

 

“Eight.”

 

“How long before Discovery calls back in?”

 

“Thirty-two minutes.”

 

“We’ll be down in twenty.”

 

“Aye, sir.  T’Khas out.”

 

“Spock, I want extensive sensor sweeps of the entire system.” He rubbed his chin slowly as he stared at the devastated station on the screen.  “There’s got to be some clue as to who did this!”

 

 

Discovery returned a half hour after Enterprise reached the station, having lost the warp trail in a wash of unusual residual energy.  Her command crew beamed to the flagship for a conference.  In the Enterprise briefing room, everyone found their seats quickly.

 

“Let’s take another look at the sensor readings of the attack,” Kirk suggested and Spock called up the static-laced recording.  They all watched in silence as the strange ship appeared in the blink of an eye and loosed beams of devastating energy on the station.

 

“Go back to the first two seconds,” Kirk said.  “Freeze it.  Computer, grid twelve-B, magnify and enhance.”  A section of the image suddenly sprang into closer focus.

“Anyone care to venture a guess?”

 

On the screen was a slightly blurry rendering of a ship the likes of which none of them had ever seen.  A perfect sphere it was, no distinguishing marks, no distinctive or aesthetic lines, no individuality at all – except the gashes and rips that decorated the hull.  Whoever they were, they had seen some serious action recently.

 

“I suppose this means we’ve just discovered a brand new enemy,” Morgan said.

“Where did they come from?  And why haven’t they made any ransom demands for the hostages?”

 

“I have detected unusual temporal resonances in the vicinity,” Spock said.  “From the rate of change of time distribution in the immediate area I suspect that time travel has occurred backward to our time from a point in the future.”

 

“It would explain the sudden appearance of the ship,” Mullins agreed.  “And why their weapons so easily overcame the best technology in the Federation.”

 

Kirk expression was grave, “That implies the possibility that someone is attempting to alter the future of the Federation.”

 

Morgan nodded, “This would be a good way to do it, too, stealing some of our best minds.  Perhaps these eight people are going to invent important technologies.”

 

“Uhura, go over the list of missing personnel,” Kirk said.

 

“Dr. El’ander, propulsion specialist; Mfuwe, weapons research; Dr. Graves, cybernetics; Moore, encryption systems, and Dr. Serina Montez, the structural designer who developed the Constitution class starship.”

 

“That’s only five,” Kirk said.

 

“El’ander, Graves and Montez all had post-doctoral students who were also taken.”

 

“What about the battle damage on the attacking ship?” Sulu asked.

 

M’reowfashiss, helm officer of the Discovery, pushed her whiskers forward in the affirmative of her people.  “They were bleeding energy like a wounded fa’shall, and they knew we were behind them.  That’s why they washed out their warp trail.  But I don’t think they could get very far.”

 

“Let’s split up then,” Kirk said.  “Captain Morgan, have your helm officers coordinate with Sulu and Chekhov.  We’re not to be more than two hours apart at any time.  We’ll maintain constant radio contact.”

 

She nodded, “How is work progressing on Explorer?  I don’t want to take the wounded into battle.  If we could transfer them back to the station, I’d feel better.”

 

T’Khas reported, “Emergency power is operational in the station’s core.  It can be maintained at present levels for three solar days with batteries.”

 

“The Charles Drew is on its way.  ETA thirty-two hours,” Uhura put in.

 

Kirk gave Morgan a short nod.  “Two hours.”

 

“Aye, sir.”

 

The Sphere

 

 

He had been separated from the others as soon as they were transported to the creatures’ ship.  As he was led down the dark, hot corridor he looked back over his shoulder.  The monstrous-looking cyborgs closed in around the captured humans until he could no longer see any flesh not penetrated by cybernetic implants

 

He turned his attention to the ones around him.  True cyborgs – where had they come from?  And where were they taking him?  Humanoid.  They ignored his attempts to communicate, but they had spoken earlier so they did understand language.  The moist heat was beginning to get to him.  He pushed his hair back from his damp forehead.  The shirt was sticking to his chest and back.  They seemed to be going deeper into the ship, into the very bowels.  Never had that metaphor been so apt, with strange rumblings issuing down the steamy corridors and the bulging walls seeming to pulsate – as if the entire ship were alive.

 

A huge door slid open before them and he was led into a large open chamber.  The sentries fell back and he found himself alone.  Suddenly he felt cold, the sweat on his body turning clammy.

 

“Welcome,” the oily smooth feminine voice made the hair on the back of his neck rise.  He turned to see a more extraordinary sight than even he had ever imagined.  A head and shoulders descended from the ceiling on snaking cables, a metallic spinal cord entering a headless body that stood in a shadowed alcove.  With a click and a sigh the head and body connected and a rather small, lithe female cyborg approached him.

 

“Who are you?” he asked. “What are you?”

 

“I am the Borg.”

 

“Where did you come from?  Were you created or did you evolve?  How did you overcome the problem of nerve signal degradation from organic to synthetic…”

 

Her silver eyes blazed with cold anger, “Silence!”

 

Instinctive fear froze him where he stood.  He had never been a particularly brave man, but, in the way of some scientists, in his fascination with these strange creatures he had forgotten that he was in danger.  Now he could see that she was enraged at him.  Proceed carefully, a voice whispered in his mind.

 

She visibly calmed, but she had to turn away from him to do it.  When she faced him again, her voice was completely dispassionate.

 

“We evolved on the far side of the galaxy from humans,” she said as she slowly circled him.  He watched her warily, not moving.  “Like all creatures we sought to survive, to adapt and grow.  As our technology advanced we learned to integrate it into ourselves – greatly expanding out capabilities, allowing us to function as a single being.”

 

“You are a collective consciousness?” he asked cautiously, though he was unable to hide his intense curiosity.  “How many of you are there?”

 

Her voice was ice, “Once there were billions upon billions of Borg.  Now we are on the verge of extinction.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because of you.”

 

Shocked, he stuttered, “Y… you mean, all this is because of me?  But I’m nobody.  I haven’t done anything.”

 

“You will.”  She stopped directly in front of him.  Her expression and voice softened, becoming eerily seductive.  “You dream, don’t you?  You see the possibilities of technology and you do not fear it.  You see things no other human can conceive.  Tell me, of what do you dream?”

 

“You,” he said simply, “or a version of you, I suppose.  A merging of the best of organic and synthetic life.”

 

A chilly almost-smile touched her pale lips, “Is that what you intended?”

 

Suddenly, he shook his head, “Wait…wait.  I haven’t done anything …but I will?  How can you know about what I haven’t even done?  Where did you come from?”

 

“2498, in your time system.”

 

He blinked, then swallowed hard.  “Then … I’m really going to do it?  It’s going to actually work?  And it’s still functioning in 2498?”  He shook his head in disbelief.  Right now he was years, even decades away from his goal – but to this creature standing before him it was already real.

 

“It is functioning,” she said.  “It is killing us.”

 

“But I don’t understand, I don’t… it’s not going to be destructive.  That’s counter to my whole ideal.  Nothing I make could eradicate a race…” his voice trailed off.  Two hundred years – who could say what might happen in that amount of time?  Could he … could he be responsible for a race’s extinction that long after his own death?  Could his dream go that wrong?

 

The Borg Queen continued, pressing in on his thoughts, “This ship escaped from what is certain to be the final battle.  Barely escaped, with a single chance – to find you.”

 

“And what do you want from me?”

 

“Only that you do what you did before – continue your work, here, with us,” she said.  “We have much to offer.  With our help you can not only realize your dream,” she was approaching again and stopped when she was very close, almost touching him. “You can become it.”

 

His eyes moved to the metallic implants that seemed to grow from the back of her skull, the sharp claws sunk into the skin of her shoulders.

 

“You…” he tried to wet his dry lips, but his tongue was like sandpaper, “you mean…become like you?”

 

“The knowledge of a thousand minds connected instantaneously to yours, the power of those minds yours to command.  The best of organic and synthetic.”

 

Something in her quicksilver voice entranced him.  Earnest blue eyes, human eyes, stared at her.  She saw them quicken with excitement and fear.  Organic.  Weak.  She would prevail.

 

For an instant he saw what she was holding out to him – become his own creation.  All he wished for his progeny – his.  Strength, intelligence, invulnerability, virtual immortality…

 

 

“Work with us,” she urged softly, in her strange, bewitching voice.  “Together we can prevent a war that has raged for a hundred years.  Together we can save humanity and the Borg.”

 

He looked at her and in spite of her alienness saw her beauty, and her power – abilities and perceptions a human could never imagine.  All he had ever wanted was to push the boundaries of existence, make something totally new and truly unique, something never before seen in the history of the Universe.  And here was an opportunity to do that in a way he had never imagined.  He searched her enigmatic eyes, unable to answer.

 

“You are afraid,” she said.

 

He cleared his throat to speak, “Yes.”

 

“Consider my offer.”  She glanced over his shoulder and two drones approached from behind him.  “You may rejoin your companions.  Assure them that they are not in danger.  We will speak again.”

 

“May I investigate your people?” he asked, only a little hesitantly.  “There is so much I could learn.”

 

“You may ask them.  If any one wishes to let you examine them or their parts, they may.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

She inclined her head slightly, “You are welcome.”

 

* * * * *

U.S.S. Discovery

 

“Captain, I think I’ve got something,” Mullins said, his voice tight with nervous energy.  The search radius had already been widened – twice.  Everyone was wrung out with fatigue.  Without looking up from the sensor readings Mullins gestured quickly at Morgan to come see.

 

Morgan went to his side.  Her eyes scanned the data briefly.  “Smithson, call the Enterprise,” she snapped.  “Atiq, give me a slow approach on these coordinates.” A nod from Mullins told her he had already sent the numbers to the helm.  She moved quickly to the center seat.  “Arm the photons, phasers at the ready.  Mullins, let me know if those readings so much as twitch.”

 

“I have the Enterprise,” the ensign behind her said.

 

“On screen.” The nebula they were headed toward disappeared to be replaced by the bridge of the Enterprise.

 

“We’ve found something.  It looks like their energy signature, but dampened.  The readings are coming from the interior of a nebula,” she reported.

 

“We’re on our way.  One hour,” Kirk replied.

 

She nodded, “We’ll keep an eye on them until you get here.  Morgan out.”  The screen snapped back to the nebula.  “Relay all sensor readings to the Enterprise.”

 

“Aye, Captain,” Ensign Smithson said.

 

Captain Morgan stared at the luminous maelstrom of energy growing on the screen.  She tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair, “Give me something, Mullins.”

 

He shook his head in frustration, “We could be wrong about this.  There’s a lot of interference – but I’m not picking up any lifeform readings.”

 

“Could their shields be blocking us from reading the interior of the ship?”

 

“Maybe.  I’m getting something similar to the phase energy readings that showed up in Explorer’s sensor data.”

 

“Anything on their weapons?”

 

“Nothing worth reporting,” he glanced up for a moment, “but I think we can safely say if their weapons did that to Explorer… then we don’t really want to get into a firefight with that thing.”

 

Morgan gave a soft derisive snort, “Thanks for the recommendation.”  She took in a slow deep breath, “I want some options, people.  Something tells me diplomacy isn’t going to get us out of this one.”

 

The Sphere

 

In only a few hours he was brought back for a second audience with the queen.  The others who had been captured were frightened and angry and plotting escape.  No one knew how badly Explorer had been damaged in the attack – everything had happened so quickly.  He had tried to convince the others to wait, to let him try to negotiate their release – but they were terrified by the strangeness of their captors, and were beginning to become desperate.  And he was beginning to feel like the fulcrum of a great balance, being crushed by its weight.

 

“I have to know more about you before I can make a decision,” he said.

 

She did not answer, only looked at him with all the implacability of a machine.

 

“I’ve tried to question some of your crew, but they won’t stop and talk to me. ‘Conversation is irrelevant’ is all they will say.”

 

“We pride ourselves on our efficiency,” she said mildly.

 

“The others … your crew, they don’t seem to have any personality.”

 

“Personality is inefficient,” she said matter-of-factly.  Then, in a kind and knowing tone she went on, “You, like all humans, are trapped in a cage – your individuality.”

 

“Are you saying I would have to give that up?”

 

“Does that frighten you?” her voice was vaguely mocking.  “We are a collective consciousness.  Is that not one of the advantages of synthetic lifeforms?”

 

“Well,” he said slowly, “flexibility is an advantage – to be able to merge your individuality into collective consciousness when you wanted to  – to be able to be both.  But I don’t know if I want to give up my individuality completely.”

 

“You would not have to.  A neural implant would give you access to the resources of the collective – and allow you to maintain your individuality.”

 

“But that’s not how it is for the others, is it?  They don’t have any individuality at all.  It’s like the only will here is yours, and they just have to …obey.”

 

“I bring order to chaos.  Individuals are always in chaos.”

 

He shook his head, “But chaos is necessary.  It’s built into the very fabric of the Universe.  Chaos is where creativity comes from.”

 

She turned her gaze full battery on him.  It was disquieting.

 

“Explain to me this urge to create.”

 

This baffled him for a moment.  “I …can’t explain it.  I just have it.”  He frowned, searching for words.  Finally, he said, “Don’t you have the urge to create?”

 

She seemed to consider that, then said, “No.”

 

His brow furrowed deeply, “Then what is the purpose of your existence?”

 

“To achieve perfection.”

 

He laughed a little, nervously, “Well, what does that mean?”

 

“Evolution,” she replied.

 

“But doesn’t that involve creation?  To evolve you have to …to adapt, to change, become something new – that’s creation.  How can you change without creating something that didn’t exist before?”

 

“Why is it important to create something that did not exist before?”

 

Again, her question confounded him.  How could she not understand?  And she didn’t – she looked at him with …innocence?  No, innocence was fertile ground; this look was a void, a ravenous, hungry void.  Inwardly, he instinctively recoiled from that hunger.

 

“It simply is important.  It’s the most important thing there is,” he answered quietly.  After a pause, he said,  “Would you tell me about your contacts with other species?”

 

“What do you want to know?” she asked easily.

 

“I’ve seen several species among your crew.  All of them have been,” he drew a deep breath, “altered.”

 

She nodded, “Many species have become Borg.  That is how we – and they – come closer to perfection.”

 

A dawning comprehension came to him, “Then you really don’t create, you just …use.”

 

“If the price of creativity is the chaos humanity endures then we are better without it.”

 

“There’s something I don’t understand.” He carefully controlled his breathing and tried to calm his pounding heart.  “Humanity, being rather fond of chaos as we are, usually doesn’t have a problem coexisting with creatures different than ourselves.  But – do you?”

 

“We seek only to understand humanity,” she said.

 

“Humanity doesn’t even understand humanity,” he replied.  “How can you hope to?”

 

“Through assimilation we can understand even creatures who do not understand themselves.  It is the purest form of knowledge.”

 

“Assimilation?”

 

“Assimilation is when other species become Borg.”

 

Dark ice began to grow in the pit of his stomach.  When other species become Borg…he thought of the automatons that populated this ship.  Whatever gifts they had once had to offer, had been consumed, swallowed by the collective.  Looking into her metallic gaze he knew, with utter certainty, that she wanted to consume him.

 

No, it wasn’t him she was after – it was his ability to create.  The one thing she did not have at her disposal.  Every one of his senses heightened in an instant to a painful intensity.  He struggled to remain calm.

 

“I doubt humans of any time would want to be assimilated,” he said, barely able to keep his voice from shaking.  “We prize our individuality.”

 

“You worship a false idol out of ignorance.  You cannot imagine how tiny you are, limited and weak.  How foolish you seem to such as us, clinging so desperately to your own inferiority.”

 

“If we are so inferior then why’d you have to travel back in time to keep from being destroyed?”

 

She turned slowly to look at him, and in her eyes he saw his death.

 

Taking an involuntary step backwards, he whispered, “Why do you hate me so much?”

 

“That one human could create the thing that destroys us is intolerable.  It cannot be.  It will not be.”  Her face hardened and two drones suddenly appeared at his side.

 

“Foolish man,” she hissed.  “You and your creation will adapt to service us.”

 

The drones seized his arms and, following her will as if it were their own, dragged him to the side of the chamber where a viewscreen flashed on.

 

The Queen watched the approaching ship then looked at him with infinite security.  She could reach out and touch the strands of pulsing thought that calculated the exact intensity of weapons’ fire required to crush its hull. Soon the regeneration cycle would be complete and they would travel home to Unimatrix One to begin again.

 

She felt the Sphere healing, repairing itself around her.  A part of the multi-mind told her that in one hundred three point six eight nine years humanity would be eradicated.

 

A mere century.

 

Her will flashed out and the Sphere obeyed.

U.S.S. Discovery

 

“What was that?” Morgan said as the ship rocked under a blast from the Sphere.

 

“No damage, but our shields are down to forty-seven percent!” Mullins answered.

 

The captain slapped her intercom, “T’Khas!”

 

Perfectly dispassionate, her engineer’s voice came back, “The weapon causes our shield energy to feed back on itself.  Two generators have had their circuits fused.  We are substituting battery power.”

 

Another blast shook the ship.

 

“Shields maintaining at forty-seven percent,” Atiq reported.

 

“Fire photons,” the captain commanded.

 

Two bright balls of energy shot out and struck the sphere’s shields.

 

“Again!  All tubes!”

 

Four torpedoes flew across the expanse between the two ships and exploded.  The Sphere seemed to merely slip through the flashes of destructive energy.

 

The ship rocked.

 

“Shields at thirteen percent,” Mullins reported, deadly calm.

 

“Maximum warp,” Morgan barked.  “Heading 120 mark 95.  Fire aft phasers!”

 

The ship leapt forward, strained and then shuddered.

 

“They’ve got us in a tractor beam, Captain.”

 

“Fire at the source.”

 

“No effect.”

 

 

The Sphere

 

“You see how helpless they are against us,” she said softly.  “I can destroy them with a single thought.”

 

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, trying to keep the horror from showing on his face, and failing.

 

“You can save them.”

 

“How?”

 

“Continue your work.”

 

He shook his head.  “If you can travel through time then you must know that even if I did, what I created would not be the same.  In fact, I probably couldn’t do it at all under these circumstances.  It won’t work.”

 

“Then I shall destroy them.” On the screen a bolt of energy sizzled across the captive starship tearing a gaping hole in its hull.

 

“It won’t work!” he cried desperately.  “If I did do it in your history it had to be because of a thousand moments of inspiration that will never happen now!  You can’t understand, because you don’t know what it is to create!  You cannot command it.  You can’t force it.”

 

Her cold gaze snapped to him, “I know.  Why do you think I have not implanted my controls into your brain?  But if you will not create him for us, then you will not create him.”

 

“You would kill all those people, kill me  – just to stop my creation from being?”

 

“We are Borg.  We will not be stopped in our quest for perfection.”

 

“No matter who you have to destroy?”

 

She smiled, “It will be my pleasure to destroy you.”

 

Suddenly they were both thrown to the side as the Sphere spun out of control beneath them.

 

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

“Nice shooting, Mr. Sulu!” Kirk smiled grimly.  The Discovery’s readings had warned them of the ineffectiveness of conventional weapons against the Sphere.  But not much could withstand an anti-proton bomb, even a crude one, cobbled together by Scotty in half an hour.  A sizeable chunk of the Sphere was missing now, and energy crackled along the edges of the hole.

 

Discovery’s crew will complete evacuation  in two point six minutes,” Spock reported.   “Sensors have located seven humans aboard the Sphere.  Beaming them aboard now.”

 

“Where’s the other one?” Kirk asked tensely, praying silently that the last human had not been in the part of the ship he had just destroyed.

 

Spock shook his head, “The center of the ship has additional shielding.  Our sensors cannot penetrate.  Captain,” Kirk’s gaze snapped from the screen to his science officer, “energy readings on the Sphere are rising.  They are …regenerating.”

 

The Sphere

 

“No!” the Queen screamed and at the same instant marshaled the collectives’ forces for their next assault.  She looked to the screen to see the ship that had wrought this destruction on her – and the scream that followed deafened the terrified lone human lying frozen where he had fallen.

 

Across the dark gray disk of the ship she read the words – U.S.S. Enterprise.

 

She looked to the man and launched herself with a bloodcurdling cry.  His death would be her triumph.

 

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

The viewscreen crackled with static over the ruined bridge of the Discovery.

 

“We’ve yet to locate one hostage, and the ship appears to have the ability to regenerate.  They’re growing stronger every second we sit here,” Kirk said.

 

Morgan wiped a trickle of blood from her bruised brow, “Well, we’ve got maybe forty-five seconds before our confinement breaches.  I’ve got a collision course laid in.  Could be our only chance to destroy them.”

 

“Captain,” Spock said, “we must make every attempt to find the last hostage.  If he is in the shielded area, then he is the pivotal factor in the time scenario.  If I confine our sensors to a tight beam directed at the ship’s core there is ninety-one percent probability that we can transport him in the moments between shield failure and the ship’s destruction.”

 

Kirk hit the intercom, “Scotty, get to the transporter room.  Captain Morgan, approach from the undamaged side.”

 

She was already coaxing the helm controls to follow her instructions, “I’m not going to ram them.  She’ll blow…” she paused to calculate how far away she could get and still destroy the sphere, “at one hundred kilometers. That should give you an extra second.”

 

Kirk nodded, “Scotty, beam Captain Morgan to the Enterprise on her command, then prepare to lock on to the center of the Sphere.”

 

On the viewscreen, Discovery limped toward the Sphere while the Enterprise hovered at a safe distance.  The seconds crawled by.

 

The Sphere suddenly rotated on its axis, a thin beam shooting out and slicing cleanly through Discovery’s hull and sending the warp nacelles tumbling away into space.

 

Kirk shot from his seat.  He turned and slapped the intercom, “Scotty!  Get Captain Morgan out of there!”

 

The Sphere still turned, carving the helpless starship into pieces.

 

“Scotty!”

 

“Got her, Captain.”

 

“Raise shields!” The instant he said it, Discovery’s nacelles exploded.  Kirk seized the arm of the captain’s chair to keep from being thrown off his feet as the ship tilted in the wake of the blast.  The lights flickered for a moment, then came back and he looked at the screen to see the Sphere advancing on them.

 

“Damage report.”

 

The Enterprise was slammed with a blast that sizzled circuits across the bridge.

 

“Main power down to forty-two percent,” Spock shouted over hissing vents and crackling energy.  “Weapons off-line.”

 

“We’d better get creative real quick,” Kirk muttered to himself.  They still had propulsions and helm control for Sulu was twisting and turning the ship in intricate evasive maneuvers.  The deadly beams grazed what was left of their shields, sending great shudders through the hull.

 

“Do we have power to the tractors?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Spock said.

 

“Tractor the largest piece of Discovery we can manage.  Sulu, we need some centrifugal momentum once we’ve got a hold of it.  And we’ve got to get in close to the Sphere.”

 

The helm officer was sweating with his intense concentration.  “Not a problem, sir,” he said as he put the ship into a lateral roll.

 

“Captain?” Spock did not look up from the sensor readings, waiting, hands poised, to capture the Discovery’s secondary hull the instant Sulu could get them in range.

 

The Sphere

 

He scrambled back from her, throwing everything his hands fell on, broken pieces of conduit, metal plates shaken loose by the explosion.  She took the blows and kept coming, closing the distance between them.

 

She wasted none of her drones on him.  She did not need them.  They labored efficiently to repair and regenerate so they could eradicate the insignificant humans.

 

Her hand caught his leg and she dragged him back to her.  He seized the edge of a bent deckplate to stop his slide, and kicked violently at her face.

 

She pinned his legs with inhuman strength.  He cried out as the deckplate bit into his hands and suddenly went slick with blood.  Crawling up his body she planted her knees on his soft belly and ground down, driving the air from his fragile body.

 

She raised her clasped metallic fists high above her head.  Her silver eyes glittered with triumph.

 

“He will never be!” she hissed and brought her bludgeon down.

 

 

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

Kirk’s eyes were glued to the screen, his body tense as if he were about to physically attack the Sphere.  “We can’t overcome their technology,’ he held on as the ship rocked beneath them, “so I’m thinking something a little more low-tech.”

 

Spock’s hands came down.

 

“Scotty, prepare to beam out the last hostage.”

 

The Enterprise spun, pulling the Discovery in a wide arc to slam into the Sphere.  Titanium tore through the Sphere’s hull and the collision erupted into a tremendous explosion.

 

The Sphere

 

They were thrown, tumbling like lovers as the Sphere was engulfed by a rage of destructive energy.

 

He stared down at the metallic eyes as he felt the familiar tingle of a transporter beam seize his body.  As he dissolved from her grasp her defeated shriek followed him, as it would in nightmares to the end of his days.

 

U.S.S. Enterprise

 

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” Kirk said.

 

“One thing?” McCoy said, raising an eyebrow.

 

Kirk looked at the unbelievably young man they had rescued from the strange ship.  He had just finished telling them all he had been able to glean of the Borg.  Cybernetic body snatchers the Federation would have to face in centuries to come.  Kirk rubbed his forehead – he didn’t even know what he was going to report about this incident – or if it was safe to report it at all.  Just their knowledge could change everything.  Time travel gave him a headache.

 

“Something you will create, at some later point in your life, was on the verge of destroying these creatures two hundred years from now, so they came back to kill you to prevent that from happening? What is it you do?” Kirk asked.

 

“I’m doing my post-doc with Ira Graves.  Cybernetics,” he said helpfully.

 

“Your modesty is admirable, Doctor,” Spock said from beside him.  “Your doctoral thesis proposed ground-breaking theories in positronic information processing.  Add to that the fact that you completed your doctorate in an exchange program with the Vulcan Institute of Technology at age twenty and it is not surprising that your future work will have far-ranging applications.”

 

“I still can’t believe that it’s really going to happen.  I mean, I’ve always known what I hoped to create, but I have only the barest idea how to do it right now.”

 

“What is it, exactly, you want to make?” McCoy asked.

 

“A new Adam.”

 

That raised Spock’s eyebrow.

 

“I beg your pardon, Doctor?” Kirk said.

 

“A new Adam, a new human, with the potential to evolve over a thousand human lifetimes.  He’ll have capacities we can only dream of and the ability to reach farther than our weak organic bodies ever could.”

 

“Cybernetics?” McCoy said crossly.  “You’re talking about an android?”

 

The young man nodded.

 

McCoy snorted, “We’ve already got Vulcans, isn’t that bad enough?”

 

“It is the opinion of a number of evolutionary biologists that the next phase of development for sentient species will involve some form of artificial life,” Spock responded coolly.  “Many humans scientists are among them.  They are able to recognize the potential of beings governed by pure rationality.”

 

“Oh no,” their young guest protested, “I’m sorry, Mr. Spock, but what I want to create is a new life, conceived in the mind, with the ability to learn and evolve and create.  Pure rationality, sure – but pure artistry too.”

 

Harumphing, McCoy said, “You can’t program artistry into a machine.”

 

“Our souls are not made of the clay our bodies are, Dr. McCoy.   He will be humanity’s child, all our best distilled into one perfect form.”

 

“Perfect?” Kirk said mildly, with a small smile.  “That doesn’t sound very human to me, Dr. Soong.”

 

Noonian looked at him, with his head cocked a mere millimeter to the side.  “You’re right, Captain.”  He nodded, returning Kirk’s smile.  “Not perfect.  Just human.”

 

“Well, I’ll believe it when I see it,” McCoy said.

 

 

2498 A.D. Stardate 371486.8    United Federation of Planets territory – Delta Quadrant

 

The final battle was ending again.  The Sphere reappeared at the exact moment it had left, pulled back by the inexorable laws of temporal physics, so that there was not so much as a flicker in its presence.  All around her she could feel drones dying, ships flying apart faster than she could ever hope to regenerate them and there, over the comm system was that hated voice, so cool, so calm, speaking her defeat.

 

“This is Data, Captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise.  Surrender and prepare to be boarded.  Your invasion of Federation space has failed.  This is Data…”

 

 

The End

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