"These Borg are different than the ones in my history records. They seem...disconnected somehow. They're strange, but still quite dangerous.
"I've lost contact with the bridge, and Main Engineering is under assault. I am unable to contact Commander Davis for new instructions. I don't know how much longer we can hold the ship. You must send help immediately!"
"What do we do now?"
The question broke the uncomfortable silence that had fallen around the Master Systems Display in Engineering. The gathered officers looked around at each other, unsure and, for some, afraid.
As the remaining bridge and senior officers who weren't otherwise engaged in keeping the ship together trickled into Engineering, more information about the battle had come to light. The bridge had taken a brutal and concentrated attack; an empty, burnt out shell of the former command center was all that was left to be seen by the internal optical sensors. Other areas had been targeted around the ship - surgical strikes to try and take out the most important systems and centers of activity.
"It's as if they're intentionally targeting leadership."
Wirstowx nodded in agreement. "A sound tactic. Cut off the head and leave the body unable to defend itself or mount an effective counter attack. They must be after something that they could not stop to finish us off or assimilate us."
Jessica shuddered at the thought. "I think I'd rather be killed here."
"Indeed; I can see why Starfleet fought so hard against the Shay'd in Andromeda. The resemblance in method is uncanny."
Seurer stepped forward, interrupting the exchange. "All of the areas targeted would have been weak points on an original Akira. Thanks to the design changes implemented in the Rafale, the only truly critical area they hit was the bridge." She brought up a display of the damage reports that had started pouring into Engineering now that internal communications had been reestablished with the entire ship. "Shields took a beating, but we still have them; it's probably the only thing keeping them from beaming over or beaming us off."
"Small blessings." Nizeri shook her head. "Do we still have impulse? Can we get back to the planet, with the rest of the fleet?"
Seurer nodded. "It'd be safer than waiting out here for a cube to come pick us off." She walked to the main engineer's console in front of the pulsing main reactor. "Setting a course for Vega, three-quarters impulse."
The officers glanced around at each other. Uniforms were soiled with soot, hair was out of place, streaks of black stained their faces. They were all tired, now that the adrenaline of combat had worn off just enough for them to catch their breath.
Jessica glanced around at the chests of her companions. Lieutenants and Ensigns. She sighed, then turned and walked to Elaina, tapping her on the shoulder to get her to turn around. "You're the highest ranking officer, Commander."
Elaina shook her head, smirking. "I noticed, St. Peter." She scoffed. "Hell of a day."
"What do we do?"
"For now?" The dark-skinned Braidan turned around, sizing up the other officers. "Dammit, I don't know. Sensors? Shields?"
Wirstowx nodded. "And weapons?"
Elaina shook her head, surprising the other officers. "Not important; we're trying to stay alive, not jump back in the fight." She turned back to the console in front of her, frowning.
Jessica furrowed her brow in frustration, then leaned in closer and lowered her voice. "You don't know?!"
"Watch it, lieutenant. I'm under enough pressure to keep us in one piece; my first concern isn't rushing back into the fight."
"Neither is mine, but surely we can do something?"
"So go get the sensors back." She stood up straighter. "None of us asked for this, and heaven knows none of us are ready for this."
"You're in charge, and all you can say is 'I don't know what to do?'"
"St. Peter, get to that console with Nizeri and bring our sensors back." Elaina snapped back, glaring at the other woman. "Give me time to think."
"We don't have time to think, Commander!" Jessica hit the top of the console as she raised her voice to a shout. "The Borg are out there picking off other, more damaged ships! They're still attacking the colony! We have to help them!"
Seurer opened her mouth to scream back at Jessica, but she quickly held her tongue and walked to where Wirstowx was standing. "What?"
"Ship in distress."
Elaina rolled her eyes. "Of course there is." She stretched out her arms, motioning around her. "Look around, Ensign. We're in distress."
"It's a medical ship, with wounded from the other vessels."
Jessica perked up and walked over quickly. "Which one?"
Wirstowx hesitated before replying, quietly, "Merveille."
Jessica staggered backwards; Wirstowx reached out and grabbed her by the arm to keep her on her feet. Seurer shook her head. "How many people on board?"
"Crew of about 400..." Jessica murmured. "They can take an extra..." She trailed off, her eyes going wide.
"They are saying they have already taken extensive damage, and have transported approximately 500 extra souls from other critically damaged ships." Wirstowx read off the message. "Three cubes are headed towards them at this moment." He looked back at Elaina. "One is a tactical cube, breaking off and on an intercept course for the medical ship."
Elaina shook her head, taking in a ragged breath. She walked back to her console and put her hands on either side of it.
"Commander?" Sano asked cautiously. "What are your orders?"
"I have a visual."
The officers all turned towards the engineer who had called from behind them, bringing up a visual of the Merveille. Her spherical primary hull was scarred and blackened from multiple attacks and hull breaches, and her starboard nacelle was flashing unsteadily from damage, the occasional plume of plasma escaping from a destroyed injector. She limped forward as a large, dark, cube-shaped ship barreled towards her, extra hull-plating on the exterior distinguishing itself as a more powerful Tactical-type Borg cube.
Nizeri gasped, covering her mouth. "They won't stand a chance." She turned back to Seurer, who was also watching the screen in silent despair. "What do we do?"
Elaina shook her head. "I...I don't know."
Jessica glanced around the engine room. All eyes were either on the chief engineer or on the image of the Merveille - her friends - running for its life. Green torpedoes fired from the cube, and the small medical ship evaded successfully, but she knew it was only a matter of time...
Jessica hit the panel behind her with her open palm, causing everyone except Wirstowx to startle. "Weapons status?"
Wirstowx raised an eyebrow, then brought up the necessary information. "Eighty-two percent. We have forward cannons and torpedoes, and one dorsal phaser array, saucer section."
She turned to her fellow science officer. "Sano, status of the cube?"
Nizeri looked between Jessica and Seurer nervously. Not seeing any objection from the lieutenant commander, the Trill accessed the ship's sensors. "Sensors are spotty, but the cube's power grid is fluctuating wildly. The forward hull plating has been extensively diminished, and the cube isn't making any attempt to either repair the damage or rotate the forward face to a less damaged side."
Jessica hobbled across the room to Seurer, her injured leg protesting anew. "We need engines, Commander. And to transfer all weapons' power to the forward facing batteries." She turned away, then back as she remembered. "And shields. All available power to the forward shields."
Seurer blinked a few times, then nodded. "Aye." She went to work immediately, back in her comfort zone as an engineer.
"Weapons are ready, Lieutenant."
"I have coordinates for a weak spot, Wirst. Concentrate your fire there."
"Received. Targeting." He turned to Jessica for confirmation. "Sir?"
It took Jess a moment to realize he was addressing her. She nodded, and he turned back, confirming the target.
"All available power has been rerouted. We might blow a conduit or two, so keep away from the walls, but this should..."
"The cube is attacking again!"
Jessica whipped her head around to see the cube lash out with twin beams of disruptor fire. The Merveille dodged to port, evading one of the beams, but the maneuver had put her in the line of fire for the second, staggered beam. It drilled through the secondary hull, bursting out through the bottom with an eruption of orange fire. The ship continued listing to port, and the pinpoints of light that showed windows flickered along with her nacelles and deflector.
"Direct hit! Her shields are down!"
Jessica's breath caught in her throat. She grabbed Elaina's shoulder, screaming, "Now!"
The cube continued its merciless rampage toward the wounded Federation ship. It was an unfamiliar design, but adhered to many of the same specifications that most Federation ships were built with, making it easy to pick out high-interest targets. The main control facility, or "bridge" as their prey called it, was normally at the top of the forward section of the ship.
A quick sensor scan showed extra armor near the top of the ship, but not enough systems and power were tied to that point. The bridge was further down, with more protection. It was easy to pinpoint.
NEW CONTACT LOCATED. IDENTIFIED - "AKIRA" TYPE ESCORT. MAIN CONTROL FACILITY - DESTROYED. NO NOTICEABLE DAMAGE TO MAIN TARGETS.
CONCLUSION: MODIFIED "AKIRA" TYPE ESCORT. PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER INFORMATION: IRRELEVANT. BEGIN TARGETING PROTOCOLS - ENGINEERING.
WEAPONS FIRE DETECTED.
The cube opened fire, its plasma torpedoes speeding towards the Merveille to finish it - it would be one less target and obstacle to deal with, now that another ship had entered the fray.
Rafale appeared behind the damaged medical ship, quickly flying over the top and in front of her and taking the brunt of the torpedo attack with her forward shields. Then she returned fire, phaser cannons lashing out with bursts of orange and mixing with a spread of bright blue quantum torpedoes. She lifted her nose, the one remaining phaser strip on the underside of her saucer-section adding to the destruction.
The weapons fired again and again, each volley slamming into the same spot as the nimble escort continued forward at her top speed, not wavering from her course as she threatened to collide with the cube.
WARNING: HULL DAMAGE AT CRITICAL LEVELS. BEGIN ROTATION TO UNDAMAGED FACE.
RETURN FIRE: DESTROY.
The cube began to turn its damaged face away from the merciless Rafale, but the Federation ship followed, altering her own course to keep her weapons trained on the chink in the cube's armor. The Borg ship fired back, weapons targeting anything left of value on the smaller ship.
The cube lashed out with twin disruptor beams, hoping to catch the small escort in the same trap it had caught the Merveille with. The Akira dodged to starboard, then quickly back to avoid the second beam, but it was still too slow; the beam connected with her unshielded warp nacelle. The cube fired again on the wounded Starfleet ship, and succeeded in severing the damaged nacelle completely in an explosion of metal and plasma.
Rafale fired one more spread of torpedoes, then hung dead in space, waiting for the final blow.
Jessica coughed, picking herself up off the deck. Fire suppression systems were being activated all around her, and there was a light shower of fire suppression foam falling on her from an overhead sprinkler. She coughed again, then shouted. "Report!"
"Starboard nacelle's been cut clean off! Core containment was breached, I'm ejecting the core!"
"Shields and weapons are offline!"
"Sensors are down; I can't tell you what's going on!"
Jessica cursed, wiping her face and pushing her hair back behind her head. She staggered to the main console as Seurer finished inputting the commands to eject the core, and watched as it disappeared, thrown through a hole under the ship and tossed into space.
"Hold on to something!"
No sooner had the Braidan shouted the warning than the ship lifted up, tossed away as the warp core exploded under her. Everyone went flying around the engine room with screams, slamming into walls, railings, or consoles.
Then, an eerie silence fell on the room. Jessica picked her head back up, looking around. Fires burned around the engine room, and consoles that had been functional only seconds ago were now dark or shattered. The only light came from the fires around her.
What are you waiting for? She picked herself up, ignoring the protests of her wrist, and sat against the bulkhead she had hit. Finish us already. We did our job; you left the Merveille alone. What's the matter, can't take any more of us?
The overhead speakers crackled, and a faint voice could be heard, broken by static. Jessica shook her head; she had imagined it. Nothing on the Rafale was working. If the cube didn't finish them off, they'd all suffocate to death anyway.
But they're safe. We saved them. Bridget, Justine. They'll be ok. Jessica began laughing.
"Rafale, come in..."
"This is the U.S.S. Wolf 359. If there are any survivors, please, respond! Come in, Rafale!"
Impossible. I must be dead. "Shut up!" she called. "Just be quiet now."
"Rafale, we read you. The Merveille is coming around to transport any survivors; we're going to finish what you started." The female voice was pained and breathless. "You made good work of the ship. Who's in charge over there?"
Jessica coughed, shaking her head. If the hallucination wants to talk back, fine then. Better to die with company than alone. "I'm...Lieutenant St. Peter. Jessica...St. Peter."
"Good work, Lieutenant. I look forward to meeting you back at Earth. Wolf out."
"Rafale, this is the Merveille, we have a lock on your location. Prepare for emergency transport."
There was a shimmer of blue, and the sound of thousands of chimes, and then white. Jessica closed her eyes and smiled.