Nora Laas had faced more enemies in her life than she cared to remember. She had fought the Cardassian occupiers of her homeworld, she had faced them again as a Starfleet Marine, she had taken on Klingons, Romulans, Talarians, Nausicaans, smugglers, and pirates, as well as the Jem’Hadar and the Breen.
She had, however, never fought the Borg and certainly had never entertained any ambition to fill that blank space in her resume.
None of this, of course, had stopped her from suggesting a daring rescue mission right into the heart of the Borg sphere the moment she had learned of Tazla Star’s abduction.
Xylion who had assumed command by default after their first officer had been taken, had been reluctant at first to sign off on what at the time had appeared like a rather rash and not well-thought-out away mission into an extremely hostile environment.
It hadn’t taken her long to convince the Vulcan that her plan was anything but rash.
Not long after the Special Missions Team, the Niners, had joined Eagle’s crew, Nora Laas had made it her priority to sit down with their leader Sensy and meticulously craft and train for dozens of potential scenarios that they may one day have to face, and as it so happened, infiltrating a Borg vessel had been scenario eight on their list.
And so, less than an hour after the Borg had abducted Star, Nora Laas found herself leading a small team of Niners onto the sphere, equipped with highly specialized hybrid phaser/projectile rifles designed to fight the Borg.
She quickly found that none of their training had quite prepared her for the real thing since no matter how realistic a holodeck program was, it just couldn’t quite do the real thing justice.
It had been the stillness inside the sphere that was most disconcerting. She was used to operating in enemy territory by sneaking her way passed soldiers and guards and eliminating her enemies using stealth tactics or, if necessary, overwhelming force to overcome whatever defenses she encountered.
But here, deep inside the Borg ship, while surrounded by what seemed like countless drones lining the walls as far as the eye could see, nothing and nobody even reacted to their presence.
It was unnerving to make her way through one corridor after the next, mostly in single-file, while she felt a thousand empty eyes watching her and patiently waiting to make their move.
It wasn’t until they had located the central chamber in which they believed Star was being kept that the Borg finally responded to their presence, dozens of them awaking from their alcoves and bearing down on her team.
The fireworks commenced in earnest when their strategically placed explosives ripped across the sphere, distracting the now suddenly active drones long enough to blow a large opening into the central chamber that apparently could not be accessed in any other obvious fashion.
They knew that they were on a tight timetable the moment the shooting had started and everyone understood their task by heart.
Grunt, the massive Nausicaan, promptly unstrapped the sensor-cloaked tri-cobalt bomb he had carried strapped to his shoulders and that was nearly as tall as his own impressive frame.
Sensy helped him set up the device near the curved bulkhead of the round chamber while Violet and Boom, the Andorian heavy weapon specialist, provided cover.
This left Laas free to make a beeline for the person they had come for.
Tazla Star looked awful. She was strapped to an upright table, most of her body was covered in sweat and her skin was rapidly losing color while two injectors were pumping nanoprobes into her bloodstream.
She was screaming in agonizing pain, giving Laas pause.
But she didn’t hesitate twice. She pulled those injectors free from her neck and used a laser cutter to free her from the restraints.
“Easy, Commander, I’ve got you,” she said once the other woman collapsed into her arms.
She needed Grunt's assistance to carry Star since there was no chance that the Trill could even stand on her own feet in her condition.
Getting out was far more challenging than getting in.
The central area of the sphere was too well shielded to allow for a direct beam-out, which meant the team had to make its way back to the periphery on foot, except that this time, seemingly a thousand Borg drones were determined to stop them from getting there.
A second set of carefully placed explosives did an adequate job of clearing a path for them, or at the very least, slowing down the Borg trying to cut off their escape route.
And still, Laas and the rest of the team found themselves firing their weapons nearly non-stop as they barreled their way through the narrow corridors with their high-value cargo.
Her rifle constantly alternated between high-powered and randomly modulated phaser beams and spitting out high-velocity, duranium-laced bullets, a combination that seemed somewhat successful against both Borg energy shields and armor.
And although Laas was not overly familiar with this type of specialized rifle, she’d always had a knack for quickly picking up and inherently understanding weaponry and before long she had gotten used to the thunderous clap of each bullet clearing the muzzle, the recoil that shook her hands, the spent casings flying out of the chamber, and anticipating the requirement to slam a new cartridge into the rifle when the old one had emptied.
By the time they had reached their beam-out point, she was down to her last magazine while the Boslic woman in the team had already discarded her weapon to begin slashing at drones with her katana-style sword, chopping off heads and limps with nearly every swing of her razor-sharp blade.
“Away team to Eagle. We have the package. Bring us home,” she shouted as soon as she felt the vibration of her combadge, letting her know that they had reached the less well-shielded area of the sphere.
She already knew that they were running behind their carefully planned schedule. Probably just a second or two, but even that could be enough to ensure all their deaths.
She heard the far-away explosion before she felt the deck rattle under her boots.
The transporter beam took hold of her not a moment later but not quickly enough for her to avoid a particularly tall drone, it looked like a former Jem’Hadar soldier, grab hold of her even as she dematerialized.
It may not have been physically possible but she was sure she could feel his cold grip all the way through the transporter cycle.
It was the change of the air, going from a stale and antiseptic smell of the Borg cube to the deceivingly fresh, recycled starship air of Eagle that gave her the first indication that they were back home.
She gave herself no time at all to react to her new surroundings, not with a massive Borg drone looming over her.
She jammed her rifle into his chest and held down the trigger, blasting five rounds into the drone at point-blank range. They turned out to be her last, the power clip feeding the phaser element had already given out and she had no time to replace it. The drone stumbled, but somehow the bullets shredding its armor had apparently missed all vital body parts and it quickly recovered by grabbing her throat.
From the corner of her eye, she could see it was trying to bring up its arm that had a spinning circular saw attached to it and aiming it straight for her face.
With little time to think or act, Laas used her own body as a weapon, throwing herself against the drone and catching it off-balance. She pumped her legs and drove it so hard into a bulkhead, destroying a built-in computer console as the Borg collided with it.
They toppled over together and fell to the deck.
The drone landed on top of her but she used their momentum to roll over and on top of the former Jem’Hadar while her right hand retrieved the laser cutter she had used earlier, activating it even as she brought it down hard against the Borg’s neck.
She felt it cutting through tissue and metal but wasn’t satisfied to leave it at that, and instead began to stab it multiple times until it leaked copious amounts of grayish ooze that at some point may have been blood.
Breathing hard she climbed off the lifeless body of the drone and with most of her strength having drained out of her, she simply sat down next to the thing, leaning against the bulkhead and surrounded by the remains of the wall console.
It was only then, slowly catching her breath again, that she allowed herself to look up to see that she had arrived in sickbay, the rest of the Niners looking at her with undeniable respect.
The medical staff on the other hand seemed mostly terrified by what they had just witnessed.
Sensy stepped up to where she sat and offered a hand. “Ever consider joining the Teams? You’d fit right in.”
She took the proffered hand and let him pull her up to her feet. “This gig is giving me all the excitement I need.”
The doors to sickbay swished open and Elijah Katanga came rushing in. The octogenarian doctor was moving impressively fast for his age.
His eyes took in the scene of Laas and the lifeless Borg drone in his sickbay for less than a second before finding Tazla Star, still being carried, seemingly effortlessly by the large Nausicaan. “Put her down here,” he said and pointed at the centrally positioned bio-bed. “And then get the hell out of my sickbay. Make sure to take that God-forsaken cyborg thing with you.”
Grunt did as he was told as he and the rest of the Niners picked up the dead drone and left the room.
The briefly unnerved nurses and med techs recovered from the unexpected fight in sickbay and under Katanga’s curt directions were back in their element as they tended to their patient.
Laas stuck around and watched as the team of medical professionals began to treat the first officer. “How’s she doing?”
He shook his head without stopping his efforts to inject her with various hyposprays and firing off instructions to his team. “She’s been injected with enough of those blasted nanoprobes to start the assimilation process. We’re up against a clock here.”
The Trill was still semi-conscious and reached out to grab Katanga’s hand. She lifted her head off the bed as her eyes stared back at him with total focus. “Save … Star.”
It took Laas a moment to realize what she was saying. She wasn’t pleading for her own life, she was trying to make sure that Katanga would save her symbiont instead, the worm-like creature inside her that had lived for hundreds of years in several host bodies.
Katanga clearly had no time for this and quickly freed himself. “The anesthezine is ineffective. Switch to neurozine, twenty ccs.”
Adams, Katanga’s head nurse, had the right hypo out in a flash and applied it to Star’s bare arm. The drug showed an almost immediate effect and the first officer collapsed back onto the bed.
Katanga was consulting her vitals on a nearby monitor. “The nanoprobes are spreading too fast and are moments away from taking over her central nervous system,” he said and Laas admired how the veteran physician’s voice remained entirely free of panic or distress. “We need to stop the spread now or we’ll lose her.”
“The alkysine treatment is not achieving the desired effect,” said Adams after she had administered another hypospray while a medtech was passing her yet another.
Katanga was shaking his head. “It won’t be. We’ll need something far more radical if we want any hope of stopping this poison coursing through her veins,” he said as he took a step back from her slowly transforming body.
Laas felt anxiety grip her when she realized that he was looking right at her. She wasn’t prone to experiencing such emotions. Not when going into battle, not even when facing the Borg, but now, she felt terribly helpless as the doctor with nearly three times her experience, seemed to be looking at her for answers she couldn’t give.
It took her a moment to realize that he wasn’t really looking at her. He was thinking. He turned back toward the computer console and began to type in some commands. “What we need is something formidable enough to fight nanoprobes. Something just as vicious,” he said.
“I can’t think of any medical compound that is as powerful,” said Leeta Adams.
That made him stop and look up again. “Right. So maybe we shouldn’t be looking for medication at all.”
She looked confused by that. “I’m not sure I follow.”
He was back working at the computer. “Prepare a compound of HTLV. “
“You cannot be serious.”
But Katanga didn’t even slow down. “What we need is evil to fight evil. We’ll inject her with a T-cell lymphotropic virus.”