Ever since the day of her joining, she had been able to rely on the calming wisdom of her symbiont with its five lifetimes of experiences. She hadn’t always listened to what it was they were telling her, in fact, during the worst times in her life, she had almost made it a habit to ignore the vast sagacity she had access to in order to make her own--and oftentimes terrible--decisions.
But now, as Tazla Star stood there, at the center of the bridge, staring at the viewscreen that showed her the nightmarish views of three gray-green geometric shapes baring down on her and her crew, for one of the first times in her life as a joined Trill, her symbiont had no answers for her and it left her in a cold sweat.
Leva broke the eerie silence that had fallen over the bridge after their enemy had revealed itself. “Sensors are confirming three Borg vessels. They are comparable to our records of a Borg sphere and two probes. All three are on an intercept course and at their current speed they will reach us in ten minutes and twelve seconds.”
Tazla’s stupor didn’t last. Sure, none of Star’s former hosts, including herself, had ever encountered the Borg, but that just meant that she would have to rely solely on her own wit and training. And just like with any other task she had ever set herself, she was determined to prevail. She glanced at the tactical officer. “Can we outrun them?”
He shook his head. “We will not be able to match their speed.”
“They seem extremely eager to get to us,” said Deen from her station.
“Nothing new there then,” said Eli Katanga who seemed too anxious all of a sudden to remain in his chair. “We’ve been the curiosity of the week ever since we got here. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of us.”
“On any other day I’d be flattered by all the attention,” said Tazla, trying on some levity she didn’t truly feel.
“I really hope you’ve got a plan here, Dez,” he said, falling back on calling her by the nickname of Star’s former host and his life-long friend. “Previous Starfleet encounters with these guys didn’t go so well in our universe if I recall.”
She glanced back at her tactical officer. “Your analysis?”
The half-Romulan only had to consider the question for a second, clearly, his mind already preoccupied with that very matter. “We’ve encountered the Borg on one previous occasion,” he said and then continued when she responded with a quizzical look. “Before your time, Commander. It was a cube, multiple times larger than these ships, however, we had the assistance of a Romulan and Cardassian ship to defeat it.”
She nodded slowly when she recalled reading about the incident while studying Eagle’s logs after her arrival as first officer. The episode had occurred at the fringes of explored space while Eagle had been chasing after an ancient Hyterian artifact that apparently had been in such high demand, even the Borg had attempted to secure it for themselves.
“We learned a few things about their tactics when we fought them, and although we are outnumbered now, we do possess one advantage we didn’t have last time.”
“The transphasic shield,” Tazla said, nodding. “How long will we be able to last against a full assault?”
“Hard to say. And we don’t know if their weapons are comparable to what the Borg have access to in our universe. My conservative estimate would be thirty minutes at the most.”
“What about the Moebius Cluster?” said Katanga. “I dread the idea of returning into that hellscape of space but it did work for us last time.”
Ensign Aliris at the helm shook her head. “At maximum warp, we’ll need at least forty-five minutes to get back into the hazard zone, the Borg will catch up with us long before that.”
“And we cannot use the transphasic shield at warp,” added Alendra from where she now stood at Leva’s right-hand side, anticipating that she may be needed to assist him at tactical.
“Half an hour to beat three Borg ships,” Tazla said, mostly to herself, and then nodded. “We can do that,” she added with confidence she hoped would help inspire her crew, even if it was less than one-hundred percent genuine. “Red alert. Stand by to raise the transphasic shield. Get everybody to battle stations. I want civilians and non-essential personnel in secure and well-shielded areas. I need all available power to shields and weapons and everything else shut down. We’re going to make our stand right here, which means we won’t need warp engines and can use every last drop of plasma for defensive and offensive purposes.”
Deen shot her a skeptical look. “Which will also leave us without a viable escape strategy.”
Tazla took in the incoming threat on the screen again, as if she could somehow spot a weakness in those perfectly geometric shapes. “We’ve been in tougher scrapes. Yes, the Borg are scary but we know they can be defeated and I trust this ship and crew to do so again.” She turned to consider Eli who gave her a reassuring nod. She knew he wasn’t much for bravado, but all she really needed from him now was his confidence and he seemed happy to oblige. “You better get sickbay ready. I fear we may have to rely on your services there.”
“Let’s just hope it won’t have to come to that,” he said but then quickly turned and headed for the turbolift.
In the meantime, the rest of the bridge crew went to work, accompanied by the flashing red alert lights and klaxon to ready the ship for battle with the enemy.
Tazla gave her people five full minutes of focusing on their work without interfering, keeping one eye on the approaching Borg ships while listening to the choir of orders from Deen, Leva, and Alendra to the rest of the crew.
Anxiety ultimately got her out of her chair again and she turned to regard the two officers at the tactical board. “Talk to me. Are we ready for this?”
“How can you ever truly be ready for the Borg?” said Alendra and then, as if realizing that she should probably have internalized that thought, she looked up with a sheepish look.
Tazla decided to let it slide, considering that she felt much the same way.
“We are as ready as we can be,” said Leva. “The ship and crew are secure and all offensive and defensive systems are fully powered. Engineering reports all auxiliary power is on standby and ready to supplement weapons and shields at a moment’s notice.”
“Tactical suggestions?” she said. Tazla considered herself a fairly decent combat strategist and had scored well in her mandatory tactical courses at the Academy but she knew she wasn’t nearly as experienced or knowledgeable in the field as the Romulan.
However, it was Alendra who responded first. “I suggest we drop a few tri-cobalt devices in their flight path. Coupled with a warp flare and a sudden drop to sub-light may make it appear that we are having engine trouble and also blind their sensors long enough to miss them altogether.”
Leva shot the Bolian at his side an astounding look. “That’s actually pretty good.”
“Mines?” Star said.
“Worth a shot. As soon as we’re back to impulse, raise the transphasic shield and give me all available power to weapons,” she said as she took her seat again, feeling decidedly uncomfortable in the padded command chair but doing her level best to pretend otherwise. “Showtime, people.”
“Initiating warp flare,” said DeMara Deen.
“Tri-cobalt devices away,” said Leva.
The helmsman was next. “Dropping out of warp.”
“Transphasic shield is up,” said Alendra.
Their timing, it quickly appeared, had been spot on. The Borg with all their advanced technology lost their sensor lock on Eagle for just a second but long enough to miss the powerful weapons being deployed right into their path as well as the Starfleet ship pumping the brakes hard.
Their strategy was rewarded by a massive green fireball on the screen that made Tazla want to yelp with joy.
“Catastrophic damage to one of the Borg probes,” said Leva with noticeable appreciation in his voice.
“Well done, people.”
“Both remaining ships are now in weapon’s range,” said Deen.
“Open fire, Commander. Targeting is at your discretion,” Tazla said, fully intent to press their advantage as hard as possible.
The light show that followed was truly awesome as the tactical officer unleashed everything Eaglehad to offer, bright orange phaser beams, fired both as steady beams as well as in rapid-fire, staccato bursts; dozens of burning red photon torpedoes, interspersed with their more powerful, quantum cousins, shining like bright blue mini stars.
And most of it struck the Borg vessels dead on, ripping large chunks out of their dark hulls and causing red and green explosions where they made contact.
“The second probe has been disabled,” said Deen while her fingers danced over her console.
Tazla was monitoring things by referring to the armrest computer rather than keeping her eyes on the screen. “Let’s keep it up. Focus our fire on the sphere. Aliris, attack pattern kappa-three, full impulse, keep us moving.”
The Borg did not take things lying down, of course, and the sphere’s response came quicker than Aliris could move the ship out of harm’s way.
Tazla saw it coming and braced herself in her chair. The impact rattled the ship but their shields, once again, did their job and absorbed most of the damage.
“Shields holding at eighty-nine percent,” said Alendra.
Tazla nodded. Things were going fairly well so far.
“I am targeting the most heavily damaged sections of the sphere,” said Leva.
She could see that the tactical officer unleashed more quantum torpedoes at their target not sparing the high-powered missiles. Under any other circumstances, she would have been concerned about his liberal use of their limited supply, but she understood that a win here was far more significant than coming out of this with surplus torpedoes.
A veritable geyser of green steam and fire erupted where Leva had targeted the Borg ship.
But Tazla was looking toward Deen at operations, the blonde Tenarian appearing far more concerned than was called for considering how the battle had fared so far. “What is it, Dee?”
“I’m reading extraordinarily high activity on the ultralow EM spectrum.”
Tazla knew that this wasn’t a good omen but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it meant. “Source?”
“It’s definitely coming from the sphere. And it is targeting us.”
Xylion was out of his chair before she could glance his way, taking quick strides toward the science station where he smoothly took the chair and began to work the controls. “Confirmed. It is a sophisticated cyber-attack aimed at our main computer core. Primary systems are not at risk, however, at this rate, the Borg will gain access to our databanks in one minute and twelve seconds.”
“Can we stop it?”
“The transphasic shield is not designed to repel ultralow EM emissions,” said Xylion.
Tazla didn’t need long to realize the threat they were up against. The Borg weren’t looking to disable them, they were trying to download their database and learn everything they knew. She knew she couldn’t allow them to learn of the Ring. Fighting the Borg was a nightmare scenario in itself; thinking of the Borg gaining access to the quantum-verse was unimaginable.
“Shut down the main computer and switch to auxiliary cores.”
“That action will significantly reduce our battle efficiency,” Xylion said.
“I’m aware, Commander. But we can’t take the chance. Do it, do it now.”
“Main computer is powering down,” he said.
“Mister Leva, keep giving it all she’s got,” she said, as she had to hold on to her armrest as the Borg were clearly determined to punch through their overpowered shields, which, according to the readouts of her display were down to sixty-five percent.
The tactical officer let loose more phaser and quantum torpedoes that the Borg didn’t even attempt to dodge.
“Main computer is now shut down. Auxiliary cores are active,” said the Vulcan science officer.
“I think the Borg took notice,” said Alendra. “They’ve targeted us with a tractor beam.”
“A tractor beam?” she said, not sure she understood this tactic. “Can that penetrate our shields?”
Deen shook her head. “No, not really. The Borg are known to use tractor and cutting beams to damage starships’ hulls but this won’t work while our transphasic shield is still up.”
This move was throwing her for a loop. As it stood, their shields were still holding strong, invalidating any attempts to cut through their hull but she was well aware that the Borg rarely did anything without reason. “Keep firing. Try to disable the beam emitter.”
Leva didn’t sound encouraged. “The Borg vessel is moving too rapidly, the auxiliary computer is unable to adjust targeting quickly enough.”
She saw it on the screen. The Borg vessel seemed to spin and turn almost as if defying the laws of physics, keeping their tractor beam in place as if it were glued to their shields even while it continued to take damage from Leva’s ongoing barrage.
Tazla got out of her chair and headed for the helm. “Aliris, we need more speed. Try to shake’em off.”
The Risian ensign was clearly doing all she could, her fingers racing across her panel. Tazla could see and feel the ship zigzagging sharply through space but it was still not enough to get that Borg tractor beam to dislodge.
“Commander, I believe I have determined the Borg’s objective,” Xylion said, still working at the science station.
She turned to regard him all the way at the back of the bridge. “What is it?”
“The Borg are firing short bursts of omicron particles through the tractor beam. High concentrations of omicron radiation may cause local disruptions to the transphasic shields for a short period of time.”
“Enough to hurt us?” she said.
“Negative. The size of the area affected is less than one point four yoctometers in diameter, not enough to allow any significant damage to the hull by Borg weaponry.”
“Then what are they trying to accomplish?”
Deen seemed to have an idea. “The location of the tractor beam has remained consistent to the shield perimeter directly above the bridge.”
That forced Tazla to look up and at the skylight above her and for the first time seeing actual visual evidence of that green energy beam latched on to them just a few hundred meters above her head.
A tingling sensation deep down in her gut told her that her symbiont was having grave concerns about what all of this meant and she couldn’t help but feel like a fish caught on a hook.
“Commander,” Xylion said. “Theoretically, the disruption to the transphasic shield caused by the Borg assault is sufficient to gain a transporter lock.”
Her eyes opened wide when it finally dawned on her what the Borg were up to. Too late to realize that the feeling in her stomach had quickly spread to the rest of her body and had little to do with Star. She tried to shout urgent orders but by the time the words escaped her mouth, she had already started to disappear.