Grid - Hunt - Immersion - Joyride - Kernel - Lovely
He came up to her, suddenly, with a bunch of beautiful roses in his hand.
"Will you marry me?" He asked, kneeling down. She was speechless. She had thought about this since the first time she saw his body. She often wondered whether it would be possible. Yet she had always rejected this thought as irrational. Now it seemed even too real. She looked into his eyes.
"I..." she whispered. "I don't know…"
"Look at me. Look at me now. The way I am here. Stop thinking 'ship, computer, space.' Think ME. Do you want me?"
"You know I do. I've always wanted you. But I can't stop thinking 'ship, computer, space.' This is what you are.
"No. I am what you are looking at, now. Think about it the other way round. I am a man capable of transferring himself into the computer network."
"Will I be able to do that, too?"
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I mean it's a huge part of your life. The whole experience that has made you what you are. If we're supposed to be together, I will never experience it. I will never be able to accompany you there, to know you for who you really are. It doesn't matter from which end I am looking at it, it's still the same. Part of you will always remain unavailable to me."
He looked at her sadly. He was still down on his knees and that expression in his brown eyes made him look even more vulnerable. She wanted to kneel beside him and hug him, kiss him and tell him she loved him. But he knew that. He could feel that. He could also feel the barrier between them. It might not be important to him but he realized how hard it was for her. Finally he stood up and came close to her. She could feel the warmth of his body. He was so real, so… desirable. She sighed and embraced him, feeling his arms around her.
"You can do it if you really want to," she heard him whisper right into her ear.
"What? How?" She exclaimed pushing him away in surprise.
"It has never been done before but it's possible. Your physical body may be stored in the transporter buffer and your personality extracted. Instead of transporting you physically, we may simply transfer your personality into the computer circuit. Into my circuit." He added, smiling at her. "Are you sure you'd want this? The process is reversible of course but for a while we'd be a truly one entity. Even Betazoid couples never experience such close a bond. Now that would be 'where no man has gone before.' The girl simply stared at him, so he continued.
"You'd know what I know, you'd feel what I feel. You'd experience the very essence of being a ship's computer with an instant access to all of the ship's functions and the crew's minds. You could see the void around us they way I see it. You could feel the transwarp coils working and would be able to stop them with a single thought. Would you like that?" She was in awe. There was the man of her life, the only one she'd ever wanted to share her life with, and offering her so much more.
"Is it safe?" She eventually managed to say. He smiled warmly, holding her close again. She felt like a little girl in his embrace; lost and safe at the same time.
"As I said, nobody has tried it before but the procedure is theoretically possible. Nothing really more dangerous than transport itself. Technically it is a bit complicated but ultimately it is nothing more than a Vulcan mind meld.
She felt she woke up. No, 'felt' wasn't a good word. As she started thinking she realized with horror that she actually felt nothing. *Are you there?* She thought and she didn't have time to panic because immediately she heard... no, felt... a voice in her head. *I'm here, honey, right here.* But there was no head in which she could hear the familiar voice of her lover. There was nothing, she simply didn't exist anymore. The closest she could come with describing how it felt like was hanging in the darkness in some place with no gravity. But then, she could at least feel her body, recognize relative directions... *What do I do?* She turned to the only help she had in this alien environment. *Relax, don't panic. Even though you have no body here, your mind is still capable of mimicking it for you. Try relaxing all your muscles and slowing down your breathing... that's a good girl.* She did what he told her and, strangely, it had some effect on her psyche: she actually felt more relaxed. *What now? I perceive nothing.* *That's because you're not used to your new senses. I'll teach you. Take a deep 'breath' and try reaching out with your thoughts. Imagine a beam coming out from your forehead and going straight ahead. You should feel something now. *Yes, yes I...* She became speechless as she experienced the strange sensation. It was as if she was touching some indefinitely cold substance. *What is it?* she whispered. *It's the space around us. Now, try and open your eyes. You have to look for them as they're no longer where you'd expect them...* She struggled for a while, as if trying to find her way in a dark, unknown room and then there it was - she could see the space around the ship. Not on screen or through the window but directly, almost touching it.
Step by step her computer lover led her through the maze of her new senses. She learned to see through the ship's sensor array, move around using impulse thrusters and control the warp drive. HER warp drive. It was amazing.
Finally, after this strangest tour of the ship in her life, he asked her to concentrate on her immediate surroundings. At first she saw/felt/sensed (there were no words in any language to describe this) nothing. Then, she knew her beloved was there. *How do I touch you?* She asked without words. *Just reach out for me,* came the soft reply. Somehow she knew it was soft although she never heard the voice. She did what he told her, she stretched her mind one more time: ahead and upwards... he was there, flowing through her like a warm summer breeze, touching the very core of her existence, caressing her bodiless entity. She let herself go and moved to join him in this unspoken space of their minds. They flew and danced together in perfect harmony, knowing each other better than any other two beings have since the beginning of the universe.
He didn't have to repeat his question. They were one now and nothing could change that in eons to come.
"Captain, I am detecting a ship." The officer at the sensor station looked surprised. They've been travelling for a long time already and didn't expect to meet anyone that far away from any known planet.
"Can you identify it?" The captain asked.
"No, captain," came the reply. "There is nothing similar in our data banks."
"Do we have a visual?"
"Yes, sir." The officer answered and promptly turned the main viewer on. All the people on the bridge looked curiously at a strangely designed, alien ship. It was black, even though what they were looking at was in fact a computer projection of the real world. It had a roughly oval shape with no pronounced warp nacelles. The blue glow of its engines was barely visible at the narrow end of the ship. They could also see no windows.
"How big is it?" The answer was quite a surprise.
"Sir, it's only about five metres long."
"It's either a shuttle or life pod," suggested the tactical officer. "Can you confirm any life forms aboard, lieutenant?" The man bent over his console and touched some icons.
"Affirmative," he said after a while. "One life form, very weak. M class environment, slightly smaller gravity compared to ours," he added, ahead of his commanding officers.
"Should we investigate?" That came from the first officer, a young woman who always seemed full of eagerness and curiosity. The captain smiled at her.
"Open a channel."
"Channel open, sir."
"We are from the United Federation of Planets, on a peaceful mission of exploration. We mean you no harm. Will you please identify yourself?" The captain signalled end of message and added: "Repeat it for a while so that he has time to decipher our language.
"Aye, sir," the communications officer said and got to work. The captain sat down in his chair and waited patiently. The ship on the main viewer remained silently on its course.
After what seemed an eternity for the people on the bridge, the comm station beeped to signal an incoming message.
"On screen," the captain said quickly.
"It's audio only," replied the officer and immediately channelled the message through the ship's speakers. The words, translated by the computer, were simple.
"You... will... never... get me!"
"Captain!" The tactical officer exclaimed. "I'm detecting a warp core breach on that ship!"
"Transport the pilot! Hurry!" The captain shouted and watched his people move frantically over their consoles to rescue the alien. In no time, the screen brightened with the light of the explosion. The destructed vessel was too small to pose any danger to the Federation ship, yet the view was spectacular.
"I'm sorry, captain," said the operations officer softly. "I was unable to penetrate his shields. He's gone." The crew remained silent for a long while.
Over the course of the next few days, the above scenario was repeated regularly. They met quite a few identical small vessels that came on an intercepting course, repeated a similar message when hailed and then apparently self destructed. No attempts proved useful to communicate with the aliens, detect their homeworld or rescue them on their seemingly suicidal missions.
The senior officers were gathered in the conference room, trying to come up with a solution to the problem. The tactical officer reported.
"We have been working on the aliens' shield configuration. Their ships have almost no weapons but possess extremely strong, regenerative shields, captain. We can attempt to destroy them but in that case we will also destroy the vessel itself. There is no way around that, I'm afraid. If we cut through the shields with the phaser beam, we either inflict no damage at all or destroy the ship altogether."
"Will we have time to recover the pilot?"
"Unknown, sir. The whole operation would have to be extremely well timed. And even so, there is no telling if we succeed. We might possibly have only a fraction of second to work within.
"We have to give it a try," said the first officer. "Otherwise we'll end up witnessing endless suicides on our way. We have to find a way to communicate with these aliens, to find out why they are doing this!"
"But it is possible that we'll destroy yet another one without achieving our goal, commander," answered the more cool minded tactical officer."
"We have no other option, lieutenant," the captain made up his mind. "Prepare the detailed outline of the procedure and make it ready by tomorrow 8.00 hours. Dismissed."
They didn't have to wait long to put their plan into action. The next morning there was another small ship on the sensors. It came closer and then the Federation ship unleashed a carefully measured phaser beam. It cut through the alien vessel's shields and in a matter of seconds destroyed the small ship. This time, however, they were lucky and sickbay reported receiving the rescued alien.
"May I speak to him?" Asked the captain somewhat impatiently as soon as he learned of the operation success.
"I...," the doctor hesitated. "I think not right now, captain. I had to give him a sedative and he's unconscious. I suppose you should come down here, nevertheless."
"I'm on my way," the captain said intrigued. "You have the bridge, commander."
"Where is our patient?" The captain asked as soon as the door to the sickbay swooshed open. He started looking around, not waiting for the doctor to guide him. On one of the biobeds he saw a small, dark figure of the alien, covered with sheets.
"Is that him?" He asked, already moving towards the biobed.
"Yes, sir," replied the doctor. "He's all right from what I can tell and should recover within the next twenty minutes. When he was beamed down here, though, he was completely incoherent. I don't suppose he could understand me, but he was definitely in the state of panic."
The captain was only partially listening to his medical officer. He was staring at the figure on the biobed. There was something strangely familiar about this alien. Finally, he moved closer just in time to see the alien regaining consciousness. The small, dark eyes opened and focused on the captain. He heard the silent words:
"Hunters... you will... never... get me... alive." The scanner over the biobed beeped suddenly as the alien closed his eyes again. The doctor rushed for his equipment ushering the captain away. He lifted the sheets that were covering the tiny body and began the struggle to save the alien. The captain gasped in total surprise.
The alien on the biobed was a twenty centimetres black cockroach.
Captain's log - supplemental
We have finally managed to catch one of these strange, suicidal creatures. The doctor gave him a sedative and prevented him from committing suicide. At last we were able to communicate with the alien. He told us his name was Kahrast...
"So, Kahrast, can you start with telling me why you came by the tens sneaking around us?" The captain tried his softest voice. The alien looked confused. He was still in the sickbay, now full of security officers. He had learned that he would not be allowed to die and probably saw no other choice for himself but to comply with what he was asked to do.
"We were searching for food," he said as if that was obvious. The captain looked at him surprised.
"Are you hungry?"
"No, of course I am not!"
Kahrast was trying to be patient as if he was talking to a child, explaining the most basic things.
"Because that's what we do. That's part of our culture. We go out and seek food in the vicinity of other races."
"Then why did you try to commit suicide?"
"To do what?" Kahrast apparently wasn't familiar with the concept.
"To take your own life," the captain explained.
"Because you saw me!"
"So?" The captain raised his eyebrow.
"I didn't want you to kill me," came the reply. Now the captain looked confused.
"What made you think we would try to kill you?" Kahrast looked offended. He felt that strange man was playing with him, making jokes. He didn't like it.
"Because you have weapons?" He tried. The captain thought for a while before answering.
"Yes, but that's a standard procedure for us," he finally said. "We never use our weapons except for self defence."
The expression on Karat's insectoid face was clearly one of shock and disgust.
"I must have misunderstood you. Perhaps this universal translator of yours is not working properly. Are you telling me that you use WEAPONS," he pronounced the word with absolute abhorrence, "the device designed to attack others, to defend yourselves?"
The captain simply nodded.
"Would you care to explain it to me, please?"
"Well, basically we use it only as the last resort. We never shoot first. If attacked, we try to find a peaceful solution for as long as possible. Only when everything else fails, we use it. And even so, we strive more to disable the enemy rather than kill them." The captain signalled to one of the security guards to approach and when the man came closer, he motioned him to show his phaser. Kahrast jumped on his bed in panic, trying to get as far away from the dreaded thing as he could.
"Relax," the captain tried to calm him down. "I'm not going to hurt you..."
"Take... it... away..." Kahras managed to whisper. The officer withdrew.
"I just wanted to show you this wasn't set to kill. If I was forced to use it, it would just stun you. Render you unconscious for a few hours. We wouldn't have killed you even if you attacked us."
"So why did you come here with these powerful weapons in the first place?" asked Kahrast incredulously, still far from calm but at least free from instant panic. The captain sighed. It was his turn to explain the obvious.
"We are explorers. We go out and seek out new lives and new civilisations."
"Because that's what we do. That's part of our culture. We sent you messages saying we meant no harm but you never listened." Kahras remained silent. Something in his black eyes told the captain he didn't really believe him. Suddenly, the captain realised something.
"Kahrast," he asked slowly. "If we had came to you unarmed, would you have talked to us?" Kahrast looked at the man with interest. Perhaps these people were worth something, after all.
"I guess so," he said. His features lightened softly, as if the insect was smiling. "I guess we would."
"Captain, we are picking up strange energy readings dead ahead!" The man at the sensors was working frantically to give his captain more information before she could ask for it.
"It's... there is a lot of gravimetric interference, but I suppose if we increase the sensor field bandwidth, patch in the lateral sensor arrays and boost the frequency, we might be able to get through."
"Do it," the captain said. "Can you at least recognise the configuration?"
"Not at this moment, sir. But I can sweep the area with a concentrated particle beam. If that's a ship, it's warp trail will register in the feedback." The captain only nodded.
"However, this will require modification of our main deflector dish. To do it I will need to reconfigure our primary multi-spectral emitter."
"Make it so," the captain replied. "I'll be in my ready-room, you have the bridge, commander," she smiled briefly to her first officer and left for the small office at the back of the bridge.
After all, she couldn't admit, in front of her own crew that she had practically no idea what they were talking about.
"Computer," she called, once safe in the seclusion of her room. "Access scientific database. Search for..." she tried to remember all those words her officers had used, but could only come up with the last exchange. "What exactly does the multi-spectral emitter do?"
"The multi-spectral emitters are a standard Starfleet issue equipment for long range scientific vessels. They have been designed..." The captain wasn't patient enough.
"Skip the history lesson, computer. Just give me the essentials.
"The multi-spectral emitter ejects a multi-spectral particle beam."
The captain sighed. This was getting her nowhere. Precisely at this moment, her commbadge chirped. "Captain to the bridge, please!" *Oh, great!* she thought.
"Report!" She snapped, re-entering the bridge.
"We are being hailed, captain. However, there is too much interference for us to be able to pick up anything beyond the carrier wave."
"Lieutenant?" The captain looked at her tactical officer for options.
"We... might reconfigure our tractor beam to emit a low frequency impulse and modulate it to send the message."
"OK.," the captain said, relieved.
After a while the officer announced:
"We have got through, sir. We are ready to receive the message now."
"On screen," the captain ordered.
"Co wy tam do diabła robicie?!" The words uttered by the humanoid on the main viewer were incomprehensible. "Te wasze technologiczne sztuczki za chwilę rozwalą wam statek!"
The captain signalled to mute the transmission and turned around to face her crew.
"Why doesn't the universal translator work?" She asked.
This resulted in several of the bridge crew tending to their respective consoles with even more eagerness. The answer, however, was definitely not to the captain's liking:
"It appears that our simultaneous translation matrix has been damaged, sir. Some of the circuits are out of alignment. It requires manual recalibrating."
"Send an engineering team to deal with it, lieutenant," the captain answered, turning back to the screen.
"I am sorry but we're experiencing some technical problems. Right now we can't understand what you're saying. We'll come back to you later," and she signalled to close the channel, even though the man on the other side clearly wanted to say something else. She was just meaning to go back to her ready-room to study the technological database more thoroughly, when her commbadge chirped again.
"Captain, this is the engineering!"
*Oh, crap!* thought the captain. *Now what?!"
"What is it, commander?" she asked.
"The temperature in the reaction chamber has increased by 39 per cent, sir! We are unable to slow down the reaction!"
"Try venting plasma!" That, at least, the captain knew to be the universal remedy for most of the problems with the warp core.
"Captain! Plasma conductors are not responding! We're gonna loose containment!"
The captain turned around to look at her first officer but he only shook his head. She understood.
"All hands," she began. "Proceed to abandon ship. I repeat, proceed to abandon ship. This is not a drill."
Before anybody had a chance to move, the warp core breached...
The captain looked around her to see the yellow grid of an empty holodeck. The flat computer voice announced:
"Simulation ended, you may leave."
*Great,* thought the captain - in reality only a 'captain-to-be', third year cadet. *Sounds like an invitation to leave the Academy altogether.*
Before she managed to scold herself even more, the holodeck door parted to reveal her Betazoid tutor. The cadet snapped to attention, only to be dismissed with a wave of hand.
"Not bad, cadet. Not bad at all," came the surprising words.
"About your performance. It was... acceptable."
"What are you saying?! I had no idea what was going on! I didn't understand half of what they were talking about and..." The cadet was prepared to drone on, but she was silenced by another dismissive gesture from her tutor.
"That's all right, cadet. You were at least smart enough to depend on your crew to do their jobs."
The cadet slowly exhaled.
"Are you telling me this was yet another no-win scenario of yours?"
The Betazoid commander smiled.
"No..." she answered slowly. "But at least half of what they were telling you was rubbish."
"You may have passed it if you relied more on your knowledge cadet. Why do you think you had no idea what the multi-spectral emitter was?"
The cadet was stunned.
"Because I wasn't paying enough attention during my engineering classes?" She tried.
"No. Because there is no such thing, cadet. And, venting plasma is not always an antidote for everything..."
He woke up with a headache. For a moment he looked around his quarters before he decided it was time to go... It took him a while to remember that he was supposed to report to the engineering.
He quickly put his uniform on and wandered off to the nearest turbolift.
"Good to see you, lieutenant," he heard a sarcastic welcome from his commanding officer. "Why don't you take a look at the lateral sensor array? Some conduits seem to be misaligned."
He accessed the panel and stared for a few minutes at the unknown markings before he realised it was Standard Federation language. *It's going to be a long day,* he thought, trying to find his way through the maze of colourful circuits.
The day was indeed long, even though his shift lasted only six hours. After completing the maintenance on the sensor array, he was given some twenty other jobs before he was relieved.
Finally, he was free to go. However, he had no idea what to do with his free time.
=^= Computer, what are the recreational facilities available aboard? =^=
There are five holodecks, three currently in use. There is arboretum on deck 15 and crew's lounge on deck twelve,
answered the flat computer's voice. Fortunately, the computer was not programmed to be surprised by anything. If it was, it might have been curious why any officer would ask such questions.
He chose to go visit the lounge. Not that he wanted to talk to anybody, he just wanted to sit down and observe.
No such luck.
"Where have you been?" He jumped in his seat at the voice coming from behind him. He turned around only to see an unfamiliar face of a young woman starring angrily at him. "You were supposed to meet me here over an hour ago!"
Not only did he not remember the date but he also had no idea whatsoever who this woman was. He tried concentrating harder on her face but he was too tired to succeed.
"I'm sorry..." he tried in vain. The woman would not have it.
"Don't you sorry me!" She raised her voice. "I know how you treat women. Well let me tell you this, Mr I-am-the-handsomest-guy-in-the-known-universe! I'm not one of them! You don't ever walk out on me. Never, you hear?!"
He began standing up to make his apology for whatever he had done to this woman, but she waved him off: "Don't bother!" And left, or rather rushed from the lounge in fury.
He sighed, sitting down again. *It's more complicated than I thought...*
The next morning, the lieutenant woke up with an even stronger headache. He quickly got up from the bed to put his uniform on... when suddenly he realised it was red. And it didn't have the lieutenant's pips on the collar. There were three solid pips... a commander.
*Tough,* he groaned, putting the uniform on. Then he went to the turbolift and sighed: "Bridge!"
After a short while the door parted, letting him out on the bridge.
"Report!" He demanded. The lieutenant on duty gave him a long, boring report which could have been summarised in one sentence: "Nothing happened." He took his seat and tried to look confident. The ship was headed... somewhere, but ETA was still three days, so there was nothing much to do for the first officer. He had some time to think before the captain arrived.
"Status, Number One?" He was startled by a strong, authoritative voice. Before he could gather his thoughts, the captain came up to him, claiming his chair. The commander stood up and offered hesitantly: "Uh... all systems operating, sir, nothing unusual." The captain eyed him questioningly but said nothing, only nodded and sat down. "Any progress on Dr Ramsing's experiment?" He asked, before the commander could sit down in his own chair.
"Sir?" He asked, having absolutely no idea what the captain was talking about. The captain looked at him. "Are you all right, Number One?"
"Yes, sir!" What else could he say?
"I thought you were interested in developing this new fertiliser. After all, you've always claimed to be keen on plants? And wasn't it you who insisted on assigning Dr Ramsing more lab time precisely for that very reason?"
"Yes, sir," he said again. Then, he added. "I had no time to check on him today."
"Well," the captain seemed confused. "Why don't you take a look now?"
The commander nodded in relief and left the bridge in a hurry.
Once in the turbolift, he had to ask:
=^= Computer, where is the laboratory? =^=
Please specify. There are two astrolabs, three medical, one hydroponics...
=^= Belay that! Where is... uhm... what's that name again? Dr Ramsing?=^=
Dr Ramsing is currently in the hydroponics laboratory. Deck four, section five.
When the door to the laboratory opened, all the commander saw was a jungle of exotic plants. It was impossible to find anyone there, so he called out:
"Dr Ramsing? Doctor, are you there?"
"Who the devil..." came a grumpy reply. Then a man in science uniform appeared only to scold the commander even more. "Oh, didn't I tell you to leave me alone in here for a while? Can't you just get off my back and let me work?"
"I'm sorry to bother you doctor. The captain wished to know..."
"That's ridiculous, commander! You were here only an hour ago and now you're back again? Do you really expect progress every couple of minutes?"
The commander said nothing. He looked at the doctor, bowed his head in a silent apology and left the room.
Once in the corridor, he leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, preparing himself for what more lay ahead of him that day.
Fortunately, the rest of his shift was uneventful.
He spent that evening in the lounge again, refusing any attempt to socialise, and went back to his quarters.
In the morning, the commander wasn't surprised by the headache anymore. There was something else... someone else in the room. In the bed. A man under the sheets, who appeared fast asleep. *What the...* the commander thought and quickly looked down under the sheets. Then he realised that he was no longer a "he" - now, it was a "she". And the uniform was blue...
=^= Captain, can I see you in sickbay, please? =^= The ship's doctor's voice sounded urgent.
=^= On my way, =^= the captain acknowledged and quickly left the bridge.
"What is it, doctor?" He asked once he was there.
The doctor led him to the biobed with an unconscious ensign on. The young woman was a computer programmer, assigned to the ship's main computer, only a few months out of the academy. There were no injuries visible, she looked like she was sleeping.
"What happened?" The captain asked.
"Captain," the doctor began. "She came down in here a few minutes ago, saying she can't remember her name. She said something about a large amount of data, an overload. Then she passed out." The captain looked surprised.
"Do you suspect it's something serious?"
"There's more. This morning, Lieutenant Jacobs and Commander Maxwell both complained about having slight memory loss. I gave them all a thorough check-up and found nothing unusual."
"Can you revive her?"
"Yes, sir, however, I'm not sure if she'll tell us anything coherent."
The captain nodded and waited for the doctor to administer a hypospray. The woman on the biobed opened her eyes and looked around groggily.
"Is he gone?" She asked.
"Who?" Both men asked in unison.
Before the woman was able to reply, a computer panel next to them came on.
=^= VERY INTERESTING, HOW VERY INTERESTING INDEED. =^= They heard the computer's voice, but slightly different. The woman whispered:
"Who are you?" asked the captain.
=^= I AM CURIOUS, =^= the computer voice replied. =^=YOU ARE A VERY PROMISING SPECIES. NO FURTHER CONTACT WILL BE MADE, THOUGH. =^=
"Explain," the captain demanded.
=^= YOUR MEMORY CAPACITY IS TOO LIMITED. I TRIED THREE UNITS IN VAIN. I WILL RETURN WHEN YOU LEARN MORE. NOW IT WOULD BE HARMFUL FOR YOU. =^=
The panel came off again. A very thorough investigation revealed no evidence of the alien presence aboard the ship. The captain was disappointed to have lost an opportunity to contact another unknown being. Lieutenant Jacobs, Commander Maxwell and Ensign Carra were not.
She woke up to the green light and a throbbing, nagging voice in her head: "Unit one of five, report to junction C-5 of the grid 7 for maintenance check."
There was no place in her thoughts to respond, much less to analyse the words. She stepped down from the regeneration alcove and went through the dark, cramped corridor in compliance with the order. Yet another day began. A day filled with purpose, her thoughts in perfect harmony with the collective, her emotions practically non-existent. If you asked here whether she was happy, her answer undoubtedly would be: "Happiness is irrelevant." What is even more frightening, is that she actually believed it. She was a drone. She was Borg and that was what mattered.
She had never bothered to think before. She had the collective to think and decide for her. On those rare occasions when the situation required inventive solutions, the drones would be ordered to provide an opinion. Such moments of freedom and independent thought, however, were extremely rare. Most of the time, the course of action would be decided upon immediately, with no hint of creative thought.
She woke up to the green light. She opened her eye and experienced... shock. For a split second there were no voices in her head, no orders to follow, no nothing. She felt trapped, lost, helpless. From the dim green haze in her mind, suddenly, a single, meaningless word emerged: "Mummy!"
"Unit one of five report to security central unit. Check for possible malfunction. She left her alcove and moved to comply. Something was still different, though. There were voices, the unwavering certainty of the hive mind was restored. But it didn't seem to fill her as completely as it was supposed to, leaving some very small space at the back of her mind. The strange word remained there. She was free to divert a small percentage of her attention to it throughout the whole day. She turned it over and over in her head, desperately trying to understand it. To derive any meaning from the sound of it. Mummy. Mum-my. Mu-mmy. She failed to understand. There wasn't such a sound in her linguistic data-base. She could of course, and, under normal circumstances, definitely would, re-route the question to the collective. Not this time. This time it was different. The problem hadn't come from the outside. It appeared within her. And, for the first time in her life as a drone, she felt reluctant to give up that shred of individuality.
At the end of her shift she went back to her regeneration alcove. Before connecting herself to the device, she spent three full seconds wondering about what was happening to her. Strangely enough, this long period of inactivity went unnoticed. She was left alone with her thoughts by the hive mind.
This amazing state of mind continued for the next few days. The drone allowed herself longer and longer periods of freedom from the collective. It seemed that after the initial order to check for malfunction, which was never found, the collective never noticed anything unusual.
"Mum. Mummy. Mum-my." She would go on and on. This odd fascination with an unfamiliar sound nearly overwhelmed her. Yet she remained careful enough not to attract attention from the other drones. For hours she would let this sound repeat in her mind like a distinct mantra, devoting the rest of her mind and body to the menial tasks of everyday life in the Borg collective.
Some time later, there appeared other sounds and even vague images. The drone wouldn't dare distract herself even more, so she could spend only so much time exploring the new sensations. One thing was obvious to her – these images didn't come from her life with the Borg. She was able to recall certain events from her past. From the times before she was assimilated. By the time this occurred to her, she must have been corrupted enough not to let this thought alarm her. Under any other circumstances, she would never let such thoughts linger for any length of time. She would immediately advise the collective of a possible sabotage and willingly undergo any necessary repairs. As it was now, she was happy to investigate the images privately without even once asking herself the question how it was possible at all.
A few days later, something even more unusual happened. While working on one of the conduits, a routine task for her, she caught a strange look on the face of her fellow drone. It was as if some link was established between the two of them, mutual understanding that something was going on. She let another couple of days pass, though, before she risked speaking to the other drone.
They were getting ready for their regeneration cycle. She turned around, and tried, cautiously: "Mummy?" She used this first word as a sort of password, hoping it would be recognized as a symbol of what apparently was happening to both of them. The reaction surprised her completely:
"Oh, my sweet, you do finally recognize me? I've been waiting for so long!" The older, female drone left her alcove and hugged her tightly. Finally, an alarm went off in her head and she was about to rejoin the collective when something else caught her attention. The other drone had a wet face. The moist apparently came from her eyes. "What is wrong?" She asked her companion instead. "Are you malfunctioning?" The other drone pulled away from her for a moment to look carefully at her face.
"Of course I am malfunctioning. You are, too. Haven't you noticed?" The drone had to agree, considering what had been happening to her over the last few days.
"Shouldn't we report this?" She asked, knowing full well that it was a stupid question. Normally, the drones wouldn't be talking about such things privately, they wouldn't even be allowed the time for this. They would immediately report any such incidents to the collective. The very fact that the were conversing like this was proof that something was very wrong.
"Listen," her fellow drone looked carefully around as if making sure no one was around. Another futile gesture. "We have been affected by a computer virus. We're only one of the first cubes infected, but once the virus is spread, we will all be free from the Borg." The thought caused the drone to shiver. She wasn't used to emotions, though, she couldn't tell whether it was fear or excitement.
"The humans are attempting this along with the Scythiaans."
"The Scythiaans?" She asked. She didn't have to ask about humans. She knew perfectly well they were species 5618. Suddenly it dawned on her – she herself used to be human!
"Species 8472. They are working together to make us all free."
"Fear. Excitement. Freedom," she kept on repeating the strange words long after their conversation was over. Somehow she was now able to retain her independence of thought even as the regeneration process was about to start. "Fear, excitement, freedom."
"Freedom, excitement." The long forbidden words became a mantra for many drones in the times to come. Eventually, many of them died, forced into combat by the collective, but thousands more lived to tell their tales.
"Ensign Angelica Lovely reporting for duty, sir."
Right after the yellow grid of a standard holodeck vanished, there appeared a transporter pad. A stunningly beautiful young woman stepped down from it in the air of perfection. The transporter chief never managed to answer, as he was just staring at the godly beauty in front of him. The ensign smiled and reached right in front of his nose to activate a communicator. He never quivered, still transfixed with the woman's appearance.
"Ensign Lovely to the bridge."
"Bridge, lieutenant Tuhura here," she heard a nice female voice.
"This is lieutenant Lovely," she repeated. "Should I report to the bridge?"
"Yes, please, ensign," the reply came after a pause. "The captain is awaiting you."
"On my way," she answered and headed to the door.
"It's been nice to meet you, chief," she smiled before she left, never expecting a reaction. She was used to men reacting to her like that.
Once the turbolift door opened, she found herself on the bridge. She headed directly to the captain's chair and wasn't at all surprised that he stood up to greet a mere ensign. That too was what she expected. She smiled graciously, introducing herself. Captain Stirk at least had the dignity to murmur a few words of welcome. He was handsome, too, she had to admit. However, her attention was immediately drawn to the first officer. He was a Vulcan and she always had a soft spot for Vulcans. Oh, making them lose that impeccable logic of theirs, watching them behave like puppies, eager to pet… Right now, however, the Vulcan officer was preoccupied with his duty.
"Captain, he reported, looking up from his scanning device. "We are being scanned."
The captain motioned for Angelica to take her post and turned back to his officer.
"Are we in visual range yet?"
"Negative, captain," the Vulcan replied immediately. "The scanning technique is totally unknown to us. Fascinating."
"Lieutenant, open hailing frequencies," captain Stirk gave his next order.
"Hailing frequencies open, sir."
"This is captain Jake Stirk of the Federation starship Venture. Please identify yourself."
All the routine bridge talk bored Angelica to death. She decided to switch the sensor array on her console and make an additional sweep. Soon, she had something to report.
"Captain?" She said in her soft, seductive voice. "I think I've got something on the long range sensors.
"What is it ensign?" Asked the captain, intrigued.
"Putting it on screen right now," she said before he managed to order her to do so.
What they all saw on the viewscreen was a gigantic, colourful cloud. It seemed to be emitting some sort of energy beam towards the ship.
"Analysis, Mister Shock?" Demanded the captain. Before the Vulcan was ready to answer, Angelica was ready with some preliminary data.
"It is an extremely dense stream of energy, type unknown. It's disrupting our instruments, sir."
The captain looked questioningly at his first officer.
"Quite correct," the Vulcan remarked. "I estimate it will block our sensors completely…" just about…" he paused to look into his instruments, "… now."
"I may be able to enhance the resolution…" replied Angelica, working furiously on her controls. "Captain! The energy beam has increased and it's targeting our warp drive, sir!"
"Evasive manoeuvres, mister Dulu!" ordered the captain, still in awe with the new ensign's abilities.
"It's no use captain," she reported. "We can't escape it. We need more power to the shields," she suggested.
"Engineering!" The captain hit the button but there was no response. "Mister Spotty!" He repeated. Still nothing.
Ensign Lovely got up from her chair and hurried to the turbolift. She never asked permission since there was no time but she was sure she could be of help.
She hurried down to the engineering section only to find everyone unconscious. The atmosphere was hardly breathable, apparently the alien energy was beginning to affect the life support systems. However right now, her priority was the shields, so she just took a deep breath and started working to increase the power. Once she succeeded on this, she reported to the bridge.
"I think we will be able to sustain this energy for a while now, captain. Please, send the medical team down to engineering," she added before the captain had a chance to respond. "And mister Shock? I could use your help with the translator. I think I've found a way to communicate with this alien."
The Vulcan appeared a few minutes later, just in time to help her finish some modifications she had just invented. She was fresh out of the Academy and, truth to tell, she lacked experience with computers just yet.
"What do you wish me to do?" Asked the Vulcan calmly. She looked up at him. He had such intriguing eyes…
"I thought you might reconfigure the matrix to add some of these equations? They're from my school thesis but the teachers approved of them." She handed him the mathematical formulas and watched with amusement as he raised his eyebrow.
"Interesting," he said finally, turning to her. "And it might actually work," he added with appreciation.
Angelica smiled at him. "Tell me, mister Shock," she began knowing that a little conversation wouldn't distract him from work. "Do you find human women attractive?"
The Vulcan stopped what he was doing to look at her.
"If you're referring to sexual attractiveness, I must say no. I very much prefer women of my own race."
Angelica saddened a little but never stopped working to bring the translator online.
"How about other kinds of attractiveness, mister Shock? Friendship? Professional relationships? Have you ever had any kind of rapport with an Earth woman?"
Shock stopped working at all and turned his full attention to her.
"Angelica," he began softly. "You're the first woman in my life who had such a powerful impact on me in such a short time. You're beautiful, both by human and Vulcan standards, you're smart and you're efficient." He reached with his hand and touched her arm lightly. "I believe we can get along together well."
Angelica was happy. In the Vulcan mouth such words were no less than a violent, passionate love declaration.
Once they were ready with the translator, the Vulcan reported to captain Stirk. After just a few minor adjustments, they heard the alien speaking:
"My children… help me…"
The captain managed to establish that the alien was in fact the cloud itself. Apparently its young got trapped in orbit around a nearby planet and it needed help. The scanners, modified by Angelica, revealed traces of the same energy as the "adult" cloud emitted. However, due to enormous gravitational field of the planet, it was impossible to manoeuvre the whole ship in the vicinity of the planet. The captain decided to send a shuttle instead. Angelica requested to be assigned to it the moment she realized Shock would be there. The captain granted her the permission and now she was sitting next to the Vulcan. Although he remained calm and relaxed as usual, she noticed the occasional looks he shot her when he thought she wasn't looking. He was obviously attracted to her by now.
"Commander, the alien being is dead ahead," she announced from her tactical console.
"Engaging tractor beam," stated the Vulcan calmly.
"No, wait! It's going to interfere with it's energy patterns!" Angelica exclaimed but it was too late. The tractor beam reached the energy cloud and a powerful feedback pulse reached the shuttle. Angelica threw herself over Shock's console to save him. The bolt that shot through her body was almost overwhelming.
"Angelica!" The Vulcan yelled, holding her in his arms. She felt she was dying. She managed to look at him one last time. What a pity they would never have time to get to know each other, to really fall in love… she thought. All she needed to know was there in his eyes, for once not covered with this unbearable Vulcan mask. There was love and warmth and sorrow, all at once.
"Angelica… why?" He repeated softly, still holding her close.
"I… would… love you," she whispered with her last breath.
"So, you want to be writing historical holonovels in the future?" The teacher asked as the scene vanished and they were back in the empty holodeck.
"Yes,' replied the excited young girl, about 13 years old. "And I already have an artistic pseudonym for myself: I'll be writing as miss Mary Sue!"
The teacher only shook her head.
|Last modified: 10.04.12|