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It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the dark interior of the Borg sphere. In the meantime, it was the smell that got to her. It was as if the entire ship had been doused in ammonia and it made her want to gag.

She found herself in a narrow corridor lined with Borg drones in both directions and as far as she could see.

Her first instinct was to get hold of Eagle and she tapped the combadge on her chest only to hear the discouraging signal of a failed connection.

Two drones directly in front of her stepped out of their alcoves with slow and robotic movements and she knew she had to move.

She turned the other way only to find that direction now also blocked by two more drones.

Before she could even think of a way out of this, the Borg behind her had already grabbed hold of her and she could hear their cybernetic motors spinning up as they moved to inject her with nanoprobes to assimilate her into their collective.

She caught the glint of a small circular blade attached to the drone directly in front of her and watched in horror as it came down toward her chest, cutting through her uniform jacket like a hot knife through butter.

A primal fear she had never known took hold of her, overriding much of her rational thoughts. It was more than just her biological imperative to survive, she understood instinctively that when facing assimilation, survival was no longer the primary goal.

She threw herself backward with all the strength she could muster against the drones behind her.

The two Borg in front reached out to arrest her movement but only came away with the tatters of her jacket while she fell to the floor, and right on top of the bodies of the drones behind her.

The impact was hard and painful but adrenaline made it bearable and more importantly, it kept her moving.

As the drones in front of her reached down to take hold of her again, she leashed out violently. There was no thought-out strategy behind her attack other than to inflict as much damage as possible. She took hold of whatever she could, both flesh and machine at the same time, and tore and ripped with no regard for her own safety.

The irony that her one and only advantage was her own cybernetic arm escaped her at that moment as she used it indiscriminately, like a weapon. She had long since become accustomed to her artificial appendage, taking great care with it, particularly when she was unlucky enough to get into a brawl with another person. Not so now. The Borg were not people, not anymore, she told herself. This was a no holds barred fight to void a fate worse than death.

It felt like minutes but within just a few seconds her clenched fist had pried off gray flesh and black tubes that leaked sickly white fluid mixed with torn pieces of her own artificial skin.

She launched herself against the stumbling and damaged drones, driving one hard into the wall and an alcove containing a fellow Borg, then kicked the second one hard in the groin even if that did little more than cause it to lose its balance for a split second.

It was enough time to push it aside and then take off in a full sprint down the corridor, leaving the four drones behind.

Her only thought was to get off that ship. To reach a transporter room or a shuttle bay, anything that could facilitate her escape.

In her mad dash through the sphere, all she could see were endless corridors lined with one drone after the next. Every so often a drone would open its eyes or ocular implants and step out of its alcove while Tazla refused to slow down, dodging them like hurdles on an obstacle course.

When she spotted a drone just ahead, vaguely female and about her own height, step out of its alcove to block her path, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get around it in time. Instead of slowing down, Tazla lowered her shoulder and pumped her legs faster, barreling right into the drone.

Her shoulder made contact while the Borg was slightly off-balance and it gave Tazla all the advantage she needed. The drone was lifted off its feet by the impact and smashed hard into the bulkhead while Taz was briefly redirected, bumping her right shoulder against the other bulkhead but then quickly found her footing again to continue her sprint. She didn’t look back as she clenched her teeth in pain from the encounter, determined to keep her pace.

Not long after her lungs began to burn from exhaustion and her rational mind was slowly beginning to reassert itself with discouraging thoughts. Did the Borg even have shuttle bays or transporter rooms? And if not, if there was no way off this nightmare ship, did they have airlocks? She’d rather take her chances in the vacuum of space than surrender herself to being turned into a lifeless automaton, serving a collective hive mind for the rest of her existence.

As her breathing became more ragged and sweat was beginning to pour into her eyes, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to run forever, even if there was no end to this maze of corridors.

Tazla considered herself to be in peak physical condition, prided herself on it, in fact, she aimed to spend at least a couple of hours a day in the ship’s gym or join Nora Laas’ on her daily morning run around the saucer section, but she could already feel her sides beginning to ache and her legs sending signals back to her brain that this pace was not sustainable.

As she looked down at herself, she could see her right shirt sleeve ripped and a deep gash in her skin soaking the red material with her blood.

No doubt she had been injured during her collision with the drone but the pain had been masked by the sky-high levels of adrenaline coursing through her body. She knew that she desperately needed to find a way to stop the bleeding before she’d lose too much blood but that simply didn’t seem to be an option.

When she looked back up, she realized too late that the way ahead had been blocked off by a solid wall of four drones facing her. There was no chance that she could avoid them or attempt to force herself through the barricade.

She tried to slow down and change direction but she wasn’t quick enough and smashed into them at nearly full speed, taking all four of them down with her like a bowling ball striking a set of pins.

Her head exploded with pain and she struggled to catch her breath as she rolled onto the floor, fighting to keep conscious and knowing full well that if she blacked out now, by the time she’d come back around, Tazla Star would no longer exist. Her symbiont and all the memories and experiences of the six lifetimes it carried would be extinguished.

The thought made her physically ill.

Something grabbed her by the back of her neck with tremendous strength and lifted her from the floor.

She tried to resist but her strength had drained from her body and blood was now mixing with sweat, trickling from her face.

She was pushed hard into a smooth surface and before she realized what was happening, she felt restraints having taken hold around her wrist and ankles, pinning her in place.

The surface behind her moved so quickly she struggled to keep herself from vomiting as she transitioned from a vertical position to a horizontal one, even as the entire contraption began to speed away at a rapid pace, carrying her away and into the depths of the sphere.

It moved so fast she could make out nothing more than bright green lights she passed by at regular intervals that did nothing to help her orient herself.

She tested her restraints a few times but quickly realized that they were made of solid metal and did not budge even a bit, instead she felt them cut painfully into her wrist when she tried to pull herself free.

With few options available to her, she decided to close her eyes and find a way to control her breathing. Her only chance, she figured, was to regain some of her strength and then attempt for another escape as soon as an opportunity presented itself.

She refused to believe that she wouldn’t get another one. That assimilation was now the only possible outcome. She refused to give up.

Her journey through the sphere, strapped to the platform, lasted what felt like an eternity causing her to wonder if they were purposefully trying to lull her to sleep to lower her resistance.

She had only just formulated that thought in her head when she came to a stop as suddenly as the trip had started.

Lersus, Star’s third host, had in his childhood greatly enjoyed visiting the traveling carnival in the region where he had grown up and one of his favorite attractions had been an elaborately designed amusement ride where he was strapped to a chair and taken through a series of rooms designed to scare the visitors with grotesque scenery.

This felt very much like that attraction, only on steroids.

The platform pushed her back up into a vertical position and then swiveled on its own axis to show her a series of poorly lit compartments, all filled with what looked like bodies of failed drones, assimilations that hadn’t quite taken and instead created terribly disfigured bodies, rejecting their implants. Worse even, some of these creatures were still alive, going through the same motions over and over as if trapped in an endless and broken feedback loop. Some were attempting to push parts of their own body back into place over and over again, others were constantly moving their damaged limps or just trying to keep their heads from falling off their shoulders.

As she watched these scenes of horror, Tazla began to realize that there was a fate worse than assimilation after all.

The conveyor brought her into a large round room, the first she had seen on the sphere that was entirely devoid of drones. She was placed in the dead center, leaving her to stare at a curved wall.

“You are the commanding entity of the unidentified starship designated USS Eagle NCC dash 74329. Confirm.” The booming choir of voices coming from seemingly everywhere made her ears hurt she desperately wanted to cover them with her restrained hands.

“Scans of your position on your command bridge, and the insignia on your uniform postulate that you are the highest-ranking entity on the unidentified starship designated USS Eagle NCC dash 74329. Confirm.”

They didn’t know for certain, she realized. These Borg had never encountered a Starfleet vessel before and could only guess as to who or what they were. They had not been able to scan their computer core since she had ordered it shut down and their state of ignorance, she figured, was the only reason she was still herself.

Bright beams of light were blinding her now, forcing her to shut her eyes.

The platform moved again, spinning her around to face another direction but the lights stayed on her.

“Species 5614, known as Trill. Species 5614 is not known to possess the level of technology exhibited by the unidentified starship designated USS Eagle NCC dash 74329. State your explanation.”

It took her a moment to find enough strength to speak and even then she struggled to get the words over her lips. “You’re looking for answers. I get that. But in my present condition, I’m not particularly motivated to assist you,” she said and then spat out a wad of blood that had accumulated in her mouth onto the floor. “Tell you what, you get me out of this thing and back on my ship and we can have a conversation.”

“State your designation,” the voices boomed again.

“You can call me Tazla Star,” she said, feeling that perhaps she was getting somewhere now.

The platform moved again, spinning her around nearly ninety degrees and tilting her forward so that she would have fallen onto the floor had she not been restrained, and putting more pressure on her already sore wrists and ankles.

The bright lights lessened enough for her to open her eyes again.

“Tazla Star, you will comply with the Borg or you will be assimilated.” It was no longer the same booming collection of voices speaking to her. Instead, this was voice was softer and sounded almost as if she was being addressed by an individual. The voice was still distorted and mechanical but it also sounded eerily familiar in a way that caused her spine to tingle.

A new emerald-colored light emerged from somewhere in front of her in the darkest section of the room. It took her a moment to realize that the green beams of light were assembling a humanoid form. A Borg drone.

Once it had taken shape, it stepped closer so that she could see it more clearly and what she found caused her to gasp in surprise.

“I am Tyrantus of Borg. You will surrender all and any knowledge you possess of Particle 010. Resistance is futile,” said the Borg drone apparition now standing in front of her and wearing Michael Owens’ face.


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