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As Tazla stepped onto the bridge, she was fairly sure the only reason Xylion didn’t immediately challenge her presence had a lot to do with Eli following her closely.

“What have you got?” she asked.

The Vulcan indicated toward Science I, the left-most console of the row of bridge aft computer stations lining the rear wall. Deen was already sitting there, working away.

She turned to look as Tazla, Xylion and Katanga approached. “Nothing so far on long-range sensors, but our current speed and orientation prevents us from getting a real good look at all the angles.”

“In order to carry out a full long-range scan, utilizing the navigational deflector, we would require to drop out of warp. However, considering the urgency of our mission, I would not recommend that approach,” said Xylion.

“If Doctor Katanga is right, the Borg implanted me with stealth nanoprobes that function as a homing beacon. And that means they may already know where we are. If they do, I’d like to know,” she said.

“Assuming the Borg are chasing us and we slow down, it is very possible that they may end up catching up to us before we reach our destination,” said Deen.

“Surely we have to stop at some point,” said Katanga. “We can’t run forever.”

“What else can we do to increase sensor effectiveness?” Tazla said and peered at the computer console over Deen’s shoulder.

“If we divert power to our lateral sensors, we may be able to increase effective sensor range. We’d have to slow down somewhat, to get the extra power,” she said.

“How much?”

“We would have to reduce to approximately warp factor eight point four six,” said the Vulcan, who had clearly already made the calculations in his head.

“I can live with that,” said Taz. “Do it.”

But Xylion didn’t respond straight away. Instead, he glanced at Katanga. “Doctor, have you cleared Commander Star for duty.”

Annoyed, Tazla pinned Xylion with a glare but quickly realized that the man was not going to be swayed by her mood, she focused on Elijah instead, giving him an insistent look. The last thing she needed now, was to be sidelined. Not with the possibility of the Borg bearing down on them yet again.

“Eli,” she said sharply.

He sighed and nodded slowly. “Fine. I do this against my better judgment. And also knowing that it’ll probably take a squad of security officers to keep you from getting involved. But I’m staying with you the whole way. First sign of any ill-effects, and I’m dragging you back to sickbay myself.”

“I was nearly assimilated by the Borg. There are bound to be some ill effects,” she protested.

“I’ll be here to judge if they’ll affect your decision-making.”

Xylion offered a brief nod and considered Tazla again. “The bridge is yours, Commander.”

“Reduce speed as required and transfer power to the lateral sensor array,” she ordered without delay.

The science officer quickly relayed her orders which were followed promptly. The ship slowed down imperceptibly, the streaking starfield on the bridge remained seemingly unchanged and the deck plates barely moved underneath her boots.

“Here we go,” said Deen, once she had confirmed she had the power she needed to tie in the additional sensors to increase the effectiveness of long-range probing. “I’m not detecting any other ships within half a light-year.” She continued to work her console. “I have Outlander vessels at one light-year. No sign of Borg activity. Nothing out of the ordinary at two point five light-years. Wait a minute.”

Tazla focused back in on her screen and quickly spotted what had caught the Tenarian’s interest. It was about two light-years behind them and it wasn’t a ship, exactly. She wasn’t sure what it was.

“Whatever it is,” said Deen. “It’s moving fast. Way faster than us.”

That bad feeling in the pit of her stomach was back.

“I calculate an eighty-six percent chance that this is a Borg transwarp signature. The sensor resolution at our current power utilization is not sufficient for a more accurate determination,” said Xylion who had never moved away from the science station either.

“It’s the Borg,” said Tazla. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“If it is,” said Deen, “considering the size of the disturbance, it’s a lot of them. And they’ll be on top of us in a matter of hours.”

There was a moment of silence on the bridge as this new information was starting to sink in. Although Eagle had survived a recent encounter with the Borg, mostly thanks to her upgraded transphasic shields, that had been a small contingent. The crew understood well that they wouldn’t fare nearly as well against an entire Borg armada.

“It’s Tyrantus. He is desperate to get his hands on a very specific object and he is convinced that we know where it is,” she said.

Deen turned in her chair. “Tyrantus?”

“It’s a long story. Trust me, the less you know about it, the better.”

Judging by her frown, she wasn’t entirely convinced but decided against pressing the issue.

Tazla regarded her de-facto first officer again. “Can we catch up to the captain before the Borg overtake us?”

“We have been able to determine with a high probability that the captain’s destination is the Piqus system. According to my calculations, his vessel would have arrived in that system approximately thirty-four minutes ago. If we increase our speed to maximum warp, we will arrive in two hours and twelve minutes, while the Borg will enter the system eight minutes after our arrival.”

“That’s cutting it awfully close,” said Katanga.

Deen worked the console again so that her screen refocused on a tactical overview of the Piqus system. Tazla could see why, as the monitor showed significant activity in the solar system. “There are a lot of Outlander ships waiting for us at Piqus.”

“Something tells me none of them are a match for the Borg,” said Eli and then shot Tazla a pinning stare. “We keep up this course, we practically doom that system and anybody in it.”

Tazla understood this, too. She turned to face the main screen even if the starscape there didn’t provide her with any insights at all. “Considering the stakes, I don’t think we have much of a choice. We need to go in hot, extract our away team and make our way back to Cygni-98. With any luck, the Borg will create enough chaos to allow us to slip away.”

“Chaos?” said Eli. “You mean destroying or assimilating anything that lives and breathes in that system. That’s one hell of a sacrifice.”

“It is the correct tactical decision considering all relevant variables,” said Xylion as he calmly crossed his arms behind his back.

“Spare me your cold, pragmatic Vulcan logic,” said Eli with obvious frustration. “We’re talking about millions of lives here.”

Tazla raised a hand to forestall any further conversation on the topic. In truth, she had no idea whether Xylion or Eli was right and for now she desperately didn’t want to spend too much time thinking about it either. All she knew for certain was that she had to get her people back and stop the quantum-verse from being wiped out. Any other considerations were simply secondary.

“Helm, increase our speed to maximum warp. Tactical, make sure the transphasic shields are ready when we need them,” she said as she headed for the command chair to take the center seat once more, no matter how uncomfortable it would feel for the next few hours.

Elijah followed her only reluctantly. “God help us all.”

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