|10 years ago the Federation was attacked by their most fearsome enemy, the Borg - but how far are they willing to go to protect themselves now?|
"Corinthian!" She asked scornfully. "The Corinthian is still the ship that brought down the galaxy; I don't care what you say."
"She's my ship." Haldo snapped defensively, thumping his fist down hard on the metallic console. "Now leave me alone to record my log. We don't have much longer to go."
"You had better be quick." She told him with a note of satisfaction. "You're right. We're almost there. Weapons are fully charged and soon your old ship and crew are going to be dead. I'm just pleased I'll be there to see it."
"I can't believe it's come to this." Haldo frowned thoughtfully; losing himself momentarily in the thoughts that churned around his mind. "Blake must have a plan with a good chance of success. He wouldn't just destroy the ship for no reason."
"Wouldn't he?" She sneered. "We're talking about the man who destroyed the galaxy…"
"Don't be ridiculous." Haldo shook his head and scowled back at her. "You're all just angry and looking for someone to blame. None of this was Blake's fault. He didn't know…" He looked back out into space wistfully. The stars were almost invisible, muted by the swirling clouds of burning gas that had stained the black canvas of the galaxy like the blood of the innocent who had died in the fires. "None of us did…" He whispered to himself. "How could we?"
"Record your log." She told him with a humourless chuckle at the foolishness of doing so. "In a few hours there'll be nobody left alive anywhere to read it anywhere in the galaxy."
"That's not the point." Haldo grumbled, leaning back to the controls to resume the recording. "Stardate unknown." He continued with a shrug. "It all started when the Necrodians hit us with a weapon. We didn't know what was happening at first, we assumed it was what had hurt us so badly."
He closed his eyes as the memory pricked at his senses before he continued with his recording.
The light subsided away around the ship, energy lashed over her hull, permeating her systems and stealing her strength as the Corinthian listed helplessly in space.
The instruments around the bridge flashed intermittently as smashed power conduits arced angrily, sparking and spitting fire through damaged panels. Acrid smoke coiled from the consoles filling the control room with a burning odour that replaced the sterile feel of the normally fresh recycled air.
"Report!" Blake barked to the crew, his head already pounding with simulated pain from the damage to his ship.
"My console is dead." Haldo cried back over the noise of the self-repair equipment as it patched up the damage and struggled to prevent further failures.
"External sensors are off-line." Goruss Clogg shook his head in frustration. "Most systems are. I can't tell what's happening."
"What the hell did they hit us with?" Blake said rhetorically and turned to the viewer that danced with a flickering wall of static.
"I've never seen a weapon like it." Jones agreed. "The power was simply off the scale, I can't even begin to guess what it was."
"My console is coming back." Haldo hit it again with his balled fist as it flickered listlessly to life. "Main power if off-line. Shields, weapons, Warp, Impulse, cloak and main computer are simply not functional right now."
"What is working?" Blake turned to him angrily.
"There are sporadic power spikes from the laundry stores!" Haldo shrugged. "We could throw wet towels at them?"
"Helpful." Blake muttered in frustrated annoyance through angrily gritted teeth.
"Something's happening." Clogg looked up in surprise. "Some radiation surges from somewhere aboard the ship. I can't locate sources without the internal sensors."
Haldo stood up and snapped open his Tricorder before waving it about. "He's right." He agreed nervously. "Very odd readings. Sub-space field energy, cohesive photons… I don't like this!"
"Transporters of some kind?" Katherine guessed.
"Whatever it is, it's heading this way." Jones shuddered as the symbols on his Tricorder told him things he really didn't want to know.
"Arm yourselves." Blake ordered as he took his personal Phaser that was secured to the arm of the command chair. Clogg did not require a second telling; the others similarly drew weapons and glanced around awkwardly waiting for something to happen.
"Did I ever mention I'm a pacifist?" Haldo frowned, glancing down to the Phaser in his shaking hand while his heart thumped nervously in his chest. "I've only fired a Phaser once before and that was at a holographic games arcade."
"Three metres and closing." Clogg warned, raising his weapon towards the approaching signals.
"I wasn't very good at it." Haldo continued awkwardly. "I shot Winston in the foot twice and myself in the arm."
"How the hell did you manage to shoot yourself in the arm?" Clogg frowned curiously.
"Did I mention I'm not very good?" Haldo smiled without humour.
"Have you ever wondered what a Necrodian looks like?" Jones breathed out heavily, his eyes wide in fear.
"I think you're about to find out…" Blake told him firmly as his Tricorder flashed up an emergency proximity signal.
Two glowing green objects suddenly appeared on the bridge. The stepped through the bulkhead wall, their outlines glimmering as they glided effortlessly though the metal wall. They glowed a dull green from their bodies as they stopped to glare emotionlessly around the damaged bridge. Their skeleton seemed to permeate dully through their pulsating skin and their eyes flashed and danced with an inner fire. One raised his arm and a bolt of energy lashed out around the bridge.
The attack was met with a barrage of Phaser blasts most of which hit their targets, except Haldo's which caused still more damage to the bulkhead wall behind the alien creatures.
The arc of energy lashed out to Blake, catching him on the chest and throwing him backwards while his personal shields crackled brightly beneath the beam, his weapon dropping to the ground to clatter softly over the unfinished floor plates. The crew focused their beams on the alien that had fired and it slowly turned to glance around at the crew without concern for their weapons as if it knew they could do it no harm.
Haldo shook his head scornfully and discarded his weapon to the floor, mumbling about how he knew that being armed was a waste of time. The aliens both reached out and placed their outstretched palms onto a control panel. The consoles began to flicker and dim as the aliens glowered about at the helpless crew.
Haldo leapt up from beneath the engineering console with a flexible power conduit in his hand. He slammed it into the open panel before him that fed information to the displays. The raw energy crackled through the touch-sensors and shimmered over the aliens. They turned to face Haldo but already they were beginning to fade as the blue arcs of energy raced through their bodies.
"What the hell was that?" Haldo cried out as the creatures vanished. "Don't tell me they were Necrodians?"
"They certainly weren't what I was expecting." Blake agreed as he hoisted himself up from the raised platform around the viewer where the alien weapon had thrown him. His uniform smouldered and a black scorch-mark was burnt into his left side. Katherine grabbed his arm and gently helped him to his feet. "I've been shot a number of times, nothing has hurt like that through my shields before."
"They weren't aiming at us." Katherine added, slightly confused. "They acted like they were looking for something."
"The computer is back online!" Haldo shouted. "Something is happening to it."
"What now?" Blake sighed wearily, the pain in his head had dulled to be replaced by a more angry pain in his chest. His heart fluttered under his ribs as he breathed and his body felt weak and powerless.
"A new stream of information is invading our key systems." Clogg guessed from the erratic readings on his security display. "There's been an invasion into our processor core."
"It's a program." Doctor Jones growled angrily as he struggled to lock out the virus. "It's rewriting out key functions. I can't stop it."
"Try." Blake said with a note of urgency.
"Too late." Jones shook his head. "Whatever those things were they must have implanted something."
Captain Blake Girling closed his eyes grimly, waiting to see how things could get any worse.
"Shields are back!" Clogg said in surprise.
"They're not shields…" Haldo frowned at his console. "They're a totally different frequency and pulsating at a range I've never seen before."
"Whatever they are they're being emitted through our shield channels." Clogg told him.
"What the hell is going on?" Blake glanced around the bridge. All around him the self-repair equipment was sealing the damage so fast he could see it with his naked eyes. In his mind he could feel the strength returning to the ship as conduits snaked out setting replicator webs to create replacement parts.
"I have main power…" Haldo said in confusion. "The Warp core is fully active. Plasma is back to the nacelles, propulsion is coming back online."
"I've never seen the Corinthian repair herself so quickly." Doctor Jones looked up with a haphazard smile fluttering over his lips. "Sensors are coming back online now and exceeding their normal ranges."
"Scan for the Necrodian ship!" Blake ordered, turning quickly to the viewscreen as the static wall began to melt away.
"Oh dear…" Haldo frowned darkly as his expression went far beyond concern.
"What?" Blake turned back, suddenly alarmed by Haldo's dire tone.
"Blake… the Necrodians aren't out there." Haldo said softly as he struggled to get the screen working properly.
"Oh my god…" Jones gasped at the readings.
"I'm detecting a fleet of ships bearing down on us." Haldo swallowed fearfully.
Blake turned back to the massive holographic viewer as the image swam into view. Before them were countless Starships that seemed to stretch on as far as could be seen into the distance. There were Federation and alien all standing side by side, holding position around the Corinthian with weapons bearing down on her aggressively.
"I'm detecting 8,567 ships." Haldo said, shaking his head in exasperation. "About half are Federation, some are shuttles, some are alien ships that aren't on any of our recognition tables."
"I'm reading 7,941 weapons locks." Clogg told the Captain with an irritating note of calmness to his voice. "Shall I raise shields fully and lock weapons?"
Blake scowled at his tactical officer and shook his head in frustration. "Hail them."
"They're hailing us." Katherine told him. "Nearly all of them. I can't isolate any single frequency through this much com-traffic."
"What the hell is going on?" Blake stared at the massive fleet as he frowned at himself, lost in contemplation at what might be happening.
"We're not where we were." Haldo told them. "I can't identify this region on any star-charts, this place doesn't officially exist according to Starfleet maps."
"The communication has stopped." Katherine sat up suddenly in surprise. "We're receiving instructions."
"On screen…" Blake told her. Suddenly the image flashed up before them. A plain, featureless room with a plain holoraphic representation of a man appeared on the screen before them.
"Welcome." It said with a smile. "Please under no circumstances attempt to lower your shields…"
"With eight thousand weapons pointing at us?" Haldo quipped nervously. "Dropping our shields would be about as smart as pulling up your trouser zip without looking first!"
Suddenly a beam of light exploded onto the bridge and slowly melted away into the form of a human standing at the front, glaring menacingly around. The man was dressed in a dark uniform, worn at the edges, faded and well used. He was human with eastern features and glowered with menace at Blake.
"I am Captain Anok." He told him. "So you are Captain Girling?"
"That's right." He nodded, noting the angry expression of the intruder. "Who are you? What the hell is going on here?"
"Good question." The Captain stepped forward and peered aggressively through narrowing eyes while the holographic instructions continued behind them, now largely ignored. "Where do I even start to answer something like that?"
"Who are you?" Clogg suggested. "What is this fleet?"
"This fleet is your legacy." The Captain smiled cruelly back at him. "You helped to create this."
"We did?" Blake shrugged curiously. "How? Why?"
"This is the resistance." The Captain continued, gesturing to the myriad vessels in the viewer. "This fleet is all that stands between individuality and slavery."
"Slavery from who?" Haldo asked. "The Federation? The Necrodians?"
"Necrodians?" The Captain smirked with an odd expression of amusement. "Hardly…"
"Then who?" Blake frowned.
"Borg…" He sneered at Girling angrily. "Slavery from your old friend, Borg."
"The Borg?" Haldo shrugged. "We've defeated their attacks twice. They're not even in the Alpha quadrant."
"There is no Alpha quadrant." The Captain told him bluntly, shaking his head sadly. "There's no Federation either any more. There's no Earth, there's no Starfleet and in a few days time there'll be no Humans either."
"What are you talking about?" Blake scowled in growing annoyance.
"We brought you here from your time." The Captain sighed. "You've come forward around two centuries to see what you've done."
"You've said that before!" Girling shook his head in disbelief. "How have we done anything to contribute to something like what you're describing?"
"You existed!" Captain Anok told him scornfully. "That was all you had to do. You drifted around in this abomination causing untold damage to history until you finally caused this!"
"This can't be right!" Haldo stood up from his console. "You brought us here, that must have changed the future history."
"No!" The Captain told his firmly. "We removed you at precisely the moment you disappeared from history. You were believed destroyed by the ship you were attacking. We didn't change anything by bringing you here."
"We haven't done anything!" Blake insisted. "We followed Starfleet principals and laws at all times. We had no involvement with the Borg whatsoever. We couldn't have caused this."
The Captain smirked with a certain satisfaction at the crew's obvious discomfort. "And now you see a measure of the horror of your actions." He began softly. "We have fought for our very existence in the shadow of the Corinthian. You are recorded as the greatest enemy the galaxy has ever known."
"If you could bring us through time, why didn't you just destroy us earlier, before the events that caused this could happen?" Clogg ventured.
"That's a good question!" The Captain replied. "And it deserves an answer!"
The crew glanced at one another as the intruder watched their expressions carefully. "I'm beaming back to my vessel! I'm sending a crewman over to watch you. You'll follow us precisely or be destroyed."
"I'm sure that's true." Captain Girling looked at the fleet beyond the viewer.
"Where are we going?" Katherine asked.
"We have to meet someone." He told her evasively with a cruel grin. "You'll find out."
The fleet began to break up. Across the seemingly endless mass of ancient machinery Impulse and Warp drives flashed to life and the ships departed on their courses with the Corinthian led away by a battered Starfleet vessel and flanked by two other ships who kept their weapons trained on her at all times.
"I am Commander Baker." She said, her hands clasped firmly behind her back as she spoke with some assumed authority to the Corinthian crew. "I am here to watch you and to make sure you don't violate any of our rules, most of which are here for your protection!"
"Our protection from you?" Girling hissed angrily at her. She was a slim woman with greying hair and severe features with piercing eyes that flashed around nervously, betraying her confident facade.
"We downloaded a virus to your systems." She ignored his comment and continued speaking as if the bridge were hers. "It has reconfigured your systems to allow this ship to survive here. It has rotated your shields to a modulation that not only offers us some protection from Borg but keeps us hidden from their sensors for the most part."
"For the most part?" Clogg asked almost before she'd finished speaking.
"Borg is everywhere." She replied coldly with an acrid glance at the Captain. "It controls most of the galaxy now but there are minor pockets of space where we can hide or travel without attracting too much attention."
"You're very vague!" Haldo noted grimly. "Not a lot of hope here?"
"None!" She frowned. "Borg don't make too much effort to track us because it doesn't have to. It will find us all eventually and assimilate us to become part of it."
"You didn't need to send those things!" Blake told her coldly. "They could have killed us."
"Those things?" She shook her head with a smirk on her face. "Those things were Borg projections. Our virus set your shields to stop them from beaming their subspace holograms on board."
"That makes sense!" Haldo told Blake softly with a raised eyebrow.
"Subspace holograms?" Clogg asked with interest.
"Borg is not what it was in your time." She told the security chief. "They're not some race of drones with unconscious desires to return to individuality. Here there is only Borg. One mind, one body, one consciousness and one over-riding will to absorb all things that remain."
"So there's a base of operations?" Clogg rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"There is Borg." She shrugged as if finding their lack of comprehension puzzling. "There is a central massive structure at the heart of the galaxy from where they control everything. It can disconnect parts of it to operate as ships when there is need to but it remains a single mind. The subspace holograms are a residual physical echo of their form that they can project anywhere in three dimensional space, they replaced the concept of drones a century ago."
"Fascinating…" Haldo rubbed his chin thoughtfully and scratched his ear.
"Where are you taking us?" Captain Girling glowered fixedly at the Commander.
"We have to see a being who is better equipped to explain." She turned to him with a certain coldness in her eye.
"A being?" Katherine shrugged. "You evasiveness is a little melodramatic, isn't it?"
"It has no name we can conceive of." She stared at the Starfleet officer in annoyance. "It has chosen to help us in our struggle against becoming Borg."
"Blake!" Haldo called out suddenly. "I need to check the upgrades to my engines. I could use your help down there."
Blake knew full well that Haldo only tolerated other people's presence on the ship grudgingly and to invite somebody else into his engine bay was almost unheard of.
He stood up from the central chair with an intrigued frown and followed his engineer while the Commander blustered slightly at his departure. "Katherine, you have the bridge!"
"What's going on?" Blake asked as the turbolift doors slid open to the engineering alcove with the central power plexus throbbing away with a snaking arc of energy running through its heart.
"I need to tell you something!" He told the Captain with a troubled expression. "I didn't stop running scans on the fleet but I kept our energy carrier waves low. With the state these ships are in I doubt they could have noticed us."
"What did you see?" Blake leant back against a control panel with his undivided attention focused on Haldo.
"Firstly the stars!" Haldo shrugged. "If we're roughly 200 years in the future then I should be able to extrapolate our position but the stars are all out of alignment."
"What could cause that?" Blake's eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
"Gravity." Haldo shrugged. "Something huge must be affecting the gravitational effects of the entire galaxy. If the Borg have a central station then it must be vast. My guess is it would have to be ten times the width of our solar system to cause the kind of effect we're seeing."
"That's impossible!" Blake waved his hand to dismiss the suggestion and allowed himself a smirk.
"Nothing much else could exhibit the mass effect." Haldo wasn't smirking. His face was totally serious and the smile instantly vanished from the Captain's face.
"You mean it?" Blake scowled. "You believe there's a structure over ten times the size of our home system?"
"The clouds are interfering with my scans so I can't confirm it but the maths would seem to bear out my hypothesis." Haldo nodded. "However…"
"However?" Blake groaned, leaning back on the panel wearily.
"I've detected two other things in the fleet that might interest you, and not necessarily in a good way." Haldo hung his head slightly and shrugged.
Blake nodded for him to continue as he noted the feeling that this was how things had conspired once more against him to get worse.
"We were once sent out to rescue a race who had been experimenting with a Warp drive that malfunctioned." Haldo began. "We tractored the ship away from a Cardassian destroyer while under cloak."
"I remember." Blake nodded.
"Well we were attacked by an odd vessel that hurt us badly." Haldo continued coldly. "I've detected three other ships of the same configuration in the fleet so far."
"I see!" Blake rubbed his chin. "Two hundred years is a long time, a lot could have happened."
"I've also detected thirteen mushroom-shaped vessels exhibiting the same Warp-signature as the Necrodian ship!" Haldo told him. "I guess it was a busy couple of centuries?"
Blake turned to stare at the Corinthian's power source. He watched for a moment as the arcing blue bolt of pure energy roared from the emitter pad at the base into the receiver at the top through a transparent sphere.
"If the Borg have annexed the entire Galaxy then whoever was left would band together." He surmised rhetorically.
"There's Klingon, Romulan, Kazon, Tholian, Breen, Ferengi and even Vulcans out there." Haldo agreed. "It's a bit of a stretch to see the Necrodians. They came into our space and simply attacked everything they saw."
"They didn't attack us." Blake scowled, turning back to Haldo. "They backed away from us the first time they saw us."
Haldo frowned thoughtfully. "Perhaps they didn't know what to make of us? This ship is rather odd."
"They had already attacked Klingon ships and the Resilient." Blake shook his head. "None of this makes any sense. We have more questions than answers as usual!"
"Welcome to Starfleet!" Haldo quipped weakly.
Blake looked down to the control panel. He ran his fingers gently over the smooth surface of the interface thoughtfully. He gazed at the ventral schematic of his ship for a moment. "What shape are we in?" He said finally. "If we need to fight, can we?"
"We're more than a match for most of this fleet!" Haldo nodded. "It's safe to assume that the virus has upgraded the power to the weapons so we should be able to match even that ship that attacked us. More than a couple of them and we're in poor shape to defend ourselves."
"I want scanners running at full capacity!" Blake snapped round suddenly and issued an order. "I want all sensors to penetrate these clouds."
"You want to think our way out of this?" Haldo nodded thoughtfully.
"I want to get out of this." Blake agreed. "I don't care if I have to think, eat or dig my way out with my bare hands. If we've really been brought to the future then we need to get home and put things right before any of this happens."
"Wouldn't that be a violation of the Prime Directive?" Haldo frowned.
"Well if we were in the present talking about the future then I think we'd be alright." Blake said hopefully. "I doubt many people would object to us saving the entire galaxy from the Borg."
"Rogers to Girling…" The Com signal suddenly spoke from his badge.
"We've arrived!" Blake shuddered as he spoke. His fingers brushed against the gold emblem. "On my way!"
Katherine stared fixedly at the image on the viewer as the Corinthian followed the beaten up USS Interdictor into a dense blue nebula.
"Sensors are a waste of time!" Doctor Jones told them redundantly. "I can't detect out further than a hundred kilometres."
"I think that's the point!" Clogg muttered to himself as the image of the virtually derelict battle cruiser slunk deeper into the pulsating cloud. She was a heavily upgraded Miranda type vessel with a pair of under-slung nacelles and a larger weapons array. Few had been built but during the development of the Miranda, Starfleet had flirted briefly with adaptations of the basic frame to test the abilities of the design and it had proved to be excellent.
"We can't see out." The Commander agreed. "And Borg can't see in. This is the heart of the resistance."
Blake and Haldo stepped onto the bridge, each heading for their posts as they did so.
"You have a base here?" Katherine asked, standing up from the command chair as Blake approached.
"We do!" The Commander agreed with a glance towards the Captain as he stepped closer to the viewer.
"Something's happening." Blake glanced towards her.
"What?" She scowled back at him suspiciously, reaching reflexively for the communicator pad on her arm to speak with her ship.
"Sensors are reading movement!" Haldo agreed.
"A ship heading this way." Jones nodded. "Quite small, quite fast."
"We're detecting nothing." She frowned. "Are you sure?"
"Particle wake." Blake told her grimly. "We have some tricks of our own. Clogg, track it and program a Phaser cannon sequence just in case."
"No!" She cried out, stepping in front of the Captain. "Don't fire!"
Suddenly a ship emerged from the clouds. A long and narrow machine pulsating with yellow energy along its beige metallic hull from the front of which two blades protruded at a stark downwards angle. It banked towards the ships and fired a pulse of flickering energy at the lead vessel, the USS Interdictor.
The bolts connected with her upgraded shields which lit up angrily in her defence. The two ships behind the Corinthian shot forwards. One was a boxy beige commercial vessel and the other was a small Federation transport ship.
"Return fire!" Blake ordered forcefully as the attacking vessel lined up to fire on the two ships that sprung forward in defence of their lead.
"No!" The Commander insisted forcefully, pressing buttons on her communicator. "Don't fire!"
Clogg's hand hovered over the control panel as he cast a glance to his Captain. Blake looked forwards to the view screen. The attacking ship was arcing towards them through the flaming debris of the commercial vessel that had proved no match for her weapons and the Interdictor was turning to bring her main weapons to bear.
Blake nodded to his tactical officer. A beam of energy lashed out from the cannon in the nose.
"No!" Commander Baker screamed out in panic as she watched with wide eyed horror.
The Federation vessel slammed hard into the Corinthian's beam and stopped it from hitting the attacking vessel. Her shields flashed silently in space, the ship erupting with damage and spewing flaming hull panels as emergency ejection plates fired free to vent plasma from her crippled tactical array.
Blake turned in stunned silence as the Interdictor began an attack run on the little ship.
"What did you do?" He cried out angrily, stepping towards the officer.
"What I had to!" She shouted back, trembling nervously as she glanced at the battle being waged beyond the ship.
"We could have killed the crew of that ship!" Blake pointed to the Federation vessel that was tumbling out of control deeper into the nebula. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Photons!" She swallowed hard. "Fire photons…"
Blake glowered at her angrily and nodded for Clogg to follow her suggestion. The screen lit up instantly with the angry red light of a dozen flaming torpedoes as they streaked towards their target. The small ship buffeted from the impacts and was finished by the Interdictor's main weapons.
"Plot a course to retrieve that ship!" Blake instructed, ignoring the Commander. "We need to tractor it back before it disappears from our sensors."
"My ship will handle the rescue!" She told him weakly.
"Shut up!" Blake shouted at her with a suddenness and aggression that sent her reeling back in shock and plunged the bridge crew into silence. "You have some explaining to do." He told her more calmly. She swallowed nervously and glanced around at the accusing faces that glowered back.
"We couldn't let you fire the cannon." She shrugged, her eyes glazing over as she stepped nervously away.
"Why?" He stepped forwards towards her.
"Borg never saw it." She told him. "It was experimental, there's a chance that Borg haven't adapted to it yet, we may be able to copy the frequency into the upgrade virus and use it against them. If we fire it now before we have a chance to adapt it then they'll develop a defence."
"That makes sense." Haldo told him softly to try and calm the Captain.
"And that was worth risking the lives of a the crew of that ship for?" Katherine shook her head in dismay.
"This isn't your world!" The Commander cried out, her voice cracking with emotion. "We know we're going to die. We know that our lives will end in an unspeakable agony that will stretch on for eternity if and when Borg catches us. We'd all rather die than have that happen to us. We live day by day, struggling to survive long enough to see tomorrow." She clapped her hand to her forehead and struggled to compose herself. "The future to us is a convoy drifting through what's left of space fleeing from Borg sensors, eating stale ration packs, breathing acrid air and drinking poisoned water."
"That ship wasn't Borg." Blake persisted, his voice still more calm than before.
"It's not just Borg that are after us." She sighed, rubbing her eyes.
"You still have some explaining to do!" Blake told her with a shallow smile. He turned to Katherine. "Send a message to the Interdictor. Offer them any assistance in repairs." She nodded and began opening a channel.
"Cardassian." The Commander said softly with a frown as she struggled against her feelings. "You called them Cardassians."
"I'm listening." Blake told her firmly as he stepped closer as if admonishing a child.
"I only know stories." She looked up with her red, sorrowful eyes. "Borg didn't understand why Humans and other species resisted assimilation so fiercely. They assimilated a few Cardassians and noted their psychological makeup. They ended up making a pact. The Cardassians agreed to allow themselves to be partially assimilated so long as they retained their individuality. That suited Borg because they wanted them to come up with plans to conquer the Alpha quadrant and so they formed an alliance. They're all connected now, Borg hears their thoughts but allows them their independence so long as they follow instructions."
"That makes sense." Haldo noted grimly. "I've known some Cardassians, they'd make a deal with the devil to save their own skins."
"Sounds like they did just that." Katherine said coldly.
"While you're being honest, maybe you'd like to tell us why we were brought here?" Blake suggested.
"You are the reason that the Alpha quadrant fell to Borg." She looked up at him, remembering her anger. "You're the reason that we have to live like this!"
Captain Anok shook his head in dismay. His bridge was even more of a mess than it usually was. A support beam lay fallen from the roof with power conduits strewn all round it. Floor plates had been laid over it some time ago to stop the crew from tripping over it on their way to one of only two turbo-lift shafts that still functioned on board the ancient vessel. Maintenance had been reduced on board the ship to the point where only systems vital to the continued functioning of the vessel would receive any attention whatsoever.
Crewmen slept in bunks at their posts while their colleagues worked around them both to save time in an emergency and because three complete decks were uninhabitable due to damage from continued attacks so the vessel struggled to support even her skeleton crew.
"The port nacelle is offline." The chief engineer reported dryly. "There are plasma leaks from the core. Main weapons are dead too now."
"Call for backup!" The Captain sighed. "There's no more ships here with the ability to defend themselves. Get at least two more."
"I doubt Red-squad can spare any more." Lieutenant Crowe said with a deep frown on his young face. "They're stretched pretty thin as it is."
"We'll be back in time to join them before the attack." The Captain assured him.
"They've agreed to send two vessels." The communications officer called out from the damaged console. "WP23 and a Tholian cruiser are on their way. They should arrive within the hour."
"Excellent!" He smirked. "That should be enough while we're in here."
"The Corinthian is offering assistance!" The officer said in surprise.
"Ignore them!" The Captain sneered in disgust.
"Sir…" The young Lieutenant craned over the communications console excitedly. "They're offering medical supplies and food rations as well!"
"I said ignore them!" The Captain snapped, slamming his fist down onto the side of his chair.
"Yes sir." The officer hung his head disappointedly.
Captain Anok looked over to the young man with a deep frown. He turned around to the other expectant faces looking back hopefully at him. "Tell them to beam the supplies aboard." He acceded reluctantly to the relief of his crew.
"They have rejected our offer of assistance with repairs." Katherine shrugged without surprise. "They're transmitting co-ordinates for the supplies now."
"How bad is it?" Blake turned to the Commander.
"Bad!" She sighed. "We don't eat properly, rations are scarce. The replicators are busy generating spares to keep our ships together. We have a pool of resources for the ships too badly damaged to support themselves but it's never enough. The Starfleet ships that are left control the fleet and Klingons guard the perimeters. The commercial or inferior ships help each other as best they can."
Katherine snapped open her Tricorder and waved it over the length of the Commanders body. She glanced back objectionably and stepped away from the instrument in fear.
"Borderline malnutrition." Katherine began, shaking her head. "She has several minor infections and mild radiation poisoning too."
"I didn't give you permission to scan me!" She said angrily.
"Well you're on my ship now!" Blake told her firmly. "Replicating the supplies for the Interdictor is going to take us a while. In the mean time you're to get a meal and report to sick-bay for treatment."
"I am not leaving the bridge." The Commander narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
"You have your orders." Blake smiled thinly at her. "Mr. Clogg, would you escort this woman to a replicator so she can follow them?"
"Repairs are complete!" Lieutenant Crowe reported from the helm control that had long since been adapted to cover a much wider mission parameter.
"I seriously doubt that!" Captain Anok grumbled to himself humourlessly.
"Well the nacelle is responding to the plasma feed and the weapons should be nominal in less than twenty minutes." The lieutenant corrected himself. "We can get under way at least."
"Well I'll settle for that!" The Captain grinned. "Instruct the Corinthian to follow us to the base."
"They're confirming out request and are under way with us." The communications officer reported.
"How much more can she take?" The Captain stood up and glanced around his tattered bridge. The ship had been in service for decades and decommissioned for decades longer than that before being pressed back into service for the resistance fleet. Her day had long since passed and yet here she was serving as the command vessel for the resistance fleet.
"Not much!" The Lieutenant agreed. "The structure is falling apart. She's not going to last more than a few more weeks at most. The integrity field generators are shot and backups are nearly fused. We'd be dead now if the Corinthian hadn't fired those torpedoes."
The Captain scowled at him angrily but said nothing. "A few weeks is more than enough." He told them all aloud. "If she lasts that long she'll outlive all of us!"
"Blake!" Haldo pointed to the viewer. The magnification was set to maximum and Haldo had managed to clear up some of the image. Swimming into view was the base of the resistance.
"Oh my God!" Blake stood up in surprise and stared at the familiar image that swam towards him through the murky nebula gasses.
"That's where we're going!" Commander Baker told him. The unmistakable image of the clawed pylon reached out through the charged clouds, grey and brown metals, smashed and damaged but still utterly Cardassian in design.
"That's Deep Space 9!" Doctor Jones confirmed from the scanners. "Or at least what's left of it. More than a third of the station is absent."
"I'm detecting residual sub-space field energy." Haldo hung his head. "This is no nebula, is it?"
"There are stories!" The Commander shrugged. "There was a conduit here, some kind of hole in space. When it was destroyed this nebula was all that was left."
"This is the wreckage of the Wormhole." Haldo shook his head scornfully. "That would mean that Bajor is gone too. There are no planets in here, only particles of rock. It must have been utterly wiped out."
"Most planets are!" She turned to the engineer with a shrug. "The matter can usually be recycled into Borg."
"Incoming message!" Katherine told him as she dragged her attention to the gloomy spectre of the remains of the station that somehow looked like dead bones being bleached by a desert sun.
"On screen." Blake ordered in dismay.
The image of Captain Anok appeared on the screen amidst the wreckage of his control room. "We've transmitted the co-ordinates." He began. "You are to beam to them immediately. I will meet you there."
"I'll bring two officers with me!" Blake told him, nodding in agreement.
"No!" He snapped angrily. "Just you!"
Blake glanced back up to the screen coldly to be met by the angry glare of his fellow Captain. "Alright." He agreed with a reserved nod.
"Commander Baker will remain in charge of your vessel." He told them. "You will remain in position."
"Sir…" The Commander stepped forward to protest.
"Captain Anok out." He snapped as the transmission abruptly ceased.
"I guess we play along!" Girling glared at the Commander as he drew his Phaser from the arm of the command chair.
"For what it's worth…" She began. "I have some doubts about the stories I heard. We were brought up hearing about the accursed Corinthian and the evil crew. I think most of it was probably an exaggeration."
"Thanks." He smirked sarcastically as he dropped the weapon to the holder on his belt. "Haldo, make sure I have a ship to come back to!"
"I always do." Haldo grinned back. "Have fun."
Captain Anok was already waiting as Blake materialised in the transporter beam. He glanced quickly around the station. The lighting was dim and the panelling was unfamiliar. Armoured plates had been welded to the floor and walls and new equipment ran the length of the corridor that looked makeshift and assembled poorly from salvaged parts.
"Hello again." The Captain scowled. "This is our base."
"DS9." Blake nodded, hardly listening. "I was here once. It was Christmas and my crew needed a break. We came here to unwind."
"You were here before?" The Captain raised an eyebrow.
"It was full of people, full of life." He agreed. "It was like you didn't have to go out and explore the galaxy, it all came here to visit you. There was everything here, every species."
"I hear it used to be a Federation outpost." The Captain nodded, trying to sound like he had no interest.
"It was…" He agreed simply.
"I'll take you to meet the being who has helped us!" The Captain gestured with an outstretched palm for Blake to head off. He complied and the two began on their way.
"I have questions." Blake told him conversationally as they stepped along the quiet corridor. "A lot of things don't make sense to us."
"Nothing makes sense." The Captain smirked to himself. "We fight every day in the hope of dying. It's not the world you left behind."
"Why do you think we are to blame for the Borg taking over the Alpha quadrant?" Blake asked.
"Because you are…" He told him coldly. "The Corinthian technology was integrated into every other new ship after your disappearance. The Corinthian was declared a success by the authorities and new vessels were built based upon her. Your ships was hailed as a hero and the influence was easily accepted into Federation technology. When Borg came the defences we'd designed turned against us. Our ships were easy to assimilate and our technology was useful to our enemies. Without realising it we had played into their hands. They took everything we had away from us and there was virtually nothing we could do to resist them."
"And that's my fault?" Blake shook his head.
"You're the Corinthian." The Captain scowled. "We have to blame someone."
"But we disappeared at the time when you brought us here." Blake
began. "The man who designed the Corinthian was on board and the technology
was kept secret so how did it get out into normal Starfleet channels?"
"Maybe you should ask who I'm taking you to see?" The Captain stopped in his tracks and turned to glower at Girling.
"What is it?" He asked finally, the man's eyes boring coldly into his.
"You'll find out!"
"I'm detecting something!" Haldo grinned and glanced toward Doctor Jones.
"Damn!" The Doctor grumbled as his upgraded sensors hadn't beaten Haldo's. "You win! Looks like I'll get the next coffee."
"What is it?" Katherine stood up and stepped to the rear of the bridge.
"A communication frequency. Someone is hailing with a long-range beam directed this way." Haldo announced, grinning still more at the Doctor.
"No!" The Commander frowned and rubbed the back of her neck in exasperation. "Borg could hear it."
"We're being hailed from your ship!" Katherine added, glancing to the Commander.
She pressed her communicator pad and turned away from the others. "Go ahead!" She said with a lowered voice.
"Can you tell if they're aiming the signal at us, the base or the Interdictor?" Katherine asked, leaning over the guard-rail.
"No he can't…" Jones smirked. "There's still too much interference."
"We have another problem!" Commander Baker interjected, rubbing her temples thoughtfully. "One of our escort ships is on fire!"
"On fire?" Haldo frowned and glanced a troubled expression to Katherine who returned his dubious glare.
"WP23." She nodded. "It's an unmanned vessel and there's nobody available to fix it. I'm going to have to go over myself and try to help out."
"I could go!" Haldo smirked. "It would be interesting to go aboard a vessel from my own future."
"It gets worse!" The Commander sighed wearily. "We need to send a ship to find out who's hailing us but the Tholians are refusing to abandon their post without express orders from the Captain!"
"Those troublesome Tholians!" Haldo grinned and drew his engineering away-pack from the console. "I can patch up the ship and take it to investigate this signal. I can make repairs en-route!"
"I'm not happy about this!" Katherine scowled at him. "I doubt the Captain would approve either."
"It is my observation that Captain Girling is happy to take any opportunity to banish Haldo from the bridge." Clogg observed stoically, earning himself an acrid glare from the lanky engineer.
"I don't know…" The Commander glanced from Katherine to Haldo thoughtfully, clearly troubled.
"How long have you been a Commander?" Katherine asked softly.
"Two weeks." She frowned deeply back to the Lieutenant. "Almost two weeks."
"I suppose it's redundant to ask if Captain Anok is really a Captain?" Clogg shook his head dubiously.
"He is." She turned and spat her answer defensively. "He's one of the last full officers of the Federation defence force."
"Alright…" Katherine took a deep breath and stepped away from the rail. "Haldo, beam yourself to the ship but I want reports every 10 minutes."
"I'm on my way!" He grinned happily.
Haldo materialised in a flickering beam of blue light. He glanced around the gloomy interior of the vessel with disappointment. The internal structure was a mess of exposed power conduits and brashly assembled panelling.
"What a piece of junk…" He smiled humourlessly to himself as he began searching for the source of the fire.
"What?" A voice called out from nowhere as the ambient lighting seemed to rise slightly. Haldo frowned curiously and glanced around with interest.
"Who said that?" He called out. "I'm not going to hurt you, I'm an engineer. I'm here to help."
"An engineer?" The voice called out with an edge of sarcasm. "Just what I need."
"Well this ship's on fire." Haldo shrugged as a lop-sided grin formed on his face. "You need something, this old bucket looks like it's held together with tape, dirt and a prayer!"
"Bucket?" It cried out in annoyance.
"Look, come out and help me." He suggested as he returned his attention to the Tricorder and began making his way to the fire.
"Nice to see you were fully briefed before you were sent over here." The voice seemed to sigh to itself.
"What does that mean?" He asked as he made his way along the poorly lit corridor towards the damaged area.
"Welcome to WP23." The voice said.
"Wait…" Haldo lowered the Tricorder to his side and grinned to himself. "You're telling me that you are the ship? I'm talking to a ship?"
"I'm talking to a creature that has two less chromosomes than a chimp, how ridiculous do you think I feel?" The ship retorted.
"We need to patch you up and get under way." Haldo explained with a wry grin. "There's a ship coming this way making enough noise to attract a lot of unwanted attention."
"I see it." She agreed. "I can make two thirds hyper-impulse while you patch me up."
"Hyper-impulse?" Haldo laughed out loud. "When the Borg attacked did they assimilate everyone with a sense of proportion first?"
"Hyper-impulse is a proven technology…" She scowled scornfully at him. "It accelerates me up to Warp five with three intermeshed Warp-fields that allow me to manoeuvre at Warp speed."
"Well make your best speed for now!" Haldo told her. "Do you know what's caused this fire?"
"Normally I could repair it myself." She told him with a note of regret. "I'm not quite the ship I used to be."
"None of us are getting any younger…" He quipped and then realised he was bantering with a ship and shook his head, laughing at himself as he did.
"My entire hull is latticed with a web of replicator strings." She began. "They are a series of micro projectors that can repair damage. There was a feedback in my web and I've lost a section. I can't regenerate without it."
"Well I can manually cut off the energy feed and stop the fire." Haldo suggested. "I can take some of these webs from another section and replace enough of it to help you repair the rest yourself?"
"I suppose…" The ship grumbled.
"Won't that work?" Haldo shrugged.
"It's not that…" She cringed. "I've just never had a crew before, I've never had another being tampering with my delicate and sophisticated circuitry since I became sentient."
"No offence intended…" He began with a smirk. "…But you look about as delicate and sophisticated as a sledge hammer to the back of the skull."
"No offence intended?" The ship grumbled at him. "What sort of thing would you say if you did want to hurt my feelings?"
"Ask Doctor Jones sometime." Haldo quipped as he knelt down at the damaged section of plating where a small plasma fire was glowing angrily behind the bulkhead wall. "What kind of ship are you anyway?"
"I'm WP23!" The ship replied simply. "Don't tell me you've not heard of me? I'm one of the most famous ships in the fleet."
"Well I'm not from around here." Haldo told her as the fire spluttered out.
"I was once a racer." She began proudly. "Long before I became sentient I was part of the Doranian endurance competitions and won five times in a row."
"I've heard of them!" Haldo grinned to himself, remembering the races all too well.
"Well I was originally a commercial freighter but my computer core and warp coils came from a captured Danube class Runabout." She told him. "Some group were spying on the races for some reason and I was captured and turned into a contestant five years later after an extensive refit."
"Really?" Haldo raised an eyebrow. "A captured Runabout? From Section 31?"
"Yeah!" She agreed happily. "Of course all this was long before I was sentient."
"Of course." He shrugged sarcastically as he inserted a silvery string of replicator modules into the damaged section.
"My mid section was replaced with a larger and permanent hull and I had a new warp-core fitted from an Oberth class." She continued. "A whole new arrangement of Warp-coils were fitted and load of new stuff. I didn't win the first time out but after a few more upgrades I was the best ship out there!"
Captain Blake Girling stepped into the cold, dark chamber and behind him the door slid shut hesitantly, pushed manually closed by Captain Anok.
"Hello…" He called out into the large chamber, his voice echoing around the endless metallic bay. Suddenly the darkness cracked open as the first tendrils of blue light felt their way through from nowhere spilling a sickly luminescence around the bay.
"Welcome Girling." A voice croaked out from the darkness as if bouncing around the far extremities of the room but coming from nowhere. The blue light grew as Girling watched, transfixed by the spectacle. The blue light pieced through the centre of the room and a gigantic blue sphere began to emanate into the universe from nowhere.
"You wanted to see me…" Blake gasped as familiarity began to gnaw at him of the alien looking thing before him.
"Oh yes." It agreed.
"What are you?" He shook his head in wonder.
"I am of the last of my kind." It spoke more evenly as the glowing blue orb throbbed away in front of him. "I am of the Prophets. Before that I am the Seer and once I am the Light and the Weaver of vision."
"I've heard of you." Girling admitted. "You inhabited the wormhole that was here."
"Borg came." It agreed, shimmering uneasily as it spoke.
"You had me brought here…" Blake told the alien. "But we've met before, haven't we?"
"Yes." It hissed, its words trailing off into silence.
"It was months ago." Blake began, his memory sharp. "We were attacked by an alien vessel and you intercepted it."
"Not I." It told him. "One of my kind is sent to fix time. There is no return for it."
"What is going on?" Blake shrugged. "Why did you bring the Corinthian here?"
"The Corinthian is vanishing from time." The orb told him. "We have a low powered temporal shifter at the disposal of the fleet, it is barely able to move objects as large as ships through time but we use it to remove you from history at the moment of the Necrodian attack."
"Why?" Blake insisted.
"We have to." It spoke coldly, its hiss rasping through the stale air. "Our shifter is temporally inclined here. It will only move things to and from this place."
"We have seen several more of the kind of ship that attacked us in this fleet." Blake said. "Why were we attacked in the past? Did you send a ship back to destroy us?"
"It is complicated." The orb explained. "You encounter a vessel, lost in time and space and you assist it to return home."
Blake nodded and allowed the alien to continue. "That vessel returns to the distant past and then arrives safely at it's home. With them a member of your crew who has a cybernetic implant and your technology that transfers brain patterns from one to another. Their own people have witnessed the technology aboard your ship and are now able to see their own feeble vessel in a new light. They embark on a quest to improve themselves which eventually is an obsession amongst their kind."
"What happened?" Blake frowned as a faint tendril of dread began to creep up his spine.
"They are Borg." It said simply. "Their path leads them here and you help to reveal it to them."
"No…" He gasped; stepping involuntarily back in horror as the full realisation hit him.
"The fleet does not know this." The orb told him, pulsating gently. "Borg technology exists in your vessel and that technology is the downfall of the Federation. They hate you for that and that alone. Revealing more to them would be superfluous."
"I helped to create the Borg?" Blake shook his head, refusing to accept what he was hearing.
"The vessel that attacks you is a Ches'kaa cruiser." The Oracle told him. "It attempts to prevent the return of the prototype vessel in the hope of averting their creation. When it fails one of my kind will remove the Ches'kaa to prevent further corruption to the time-line. Borg are inevitable in this galaxy. Eventually one race will grow in power as is the nature of the universe. Borg simply seek perfection, would it be worse if the Klingons, the Breen, the Tholians, the Romulans or the Ches'kaa became the dominant race? Humanoids are naturally combative and race to find technology to defend themselves. Borg is the final expression of that. Borg or something exactly like them exist in all other universes eventually where Humanoids hold sway."
"Things could be worse?" Blake gasped.
"There is hope." The Orb explained. "The fleet is attacking Borg. They may yet succeed."
"You're in good shape!" Haldo snapped shut his modified Tricorder and wiped his hands on the legs of his uniform as he stood up from the bulkhead wall. "Are we under way?"
"We're heading for the approaching ship!" She told him. "I can't make Transwarp in this nebula and don't want to exceed Warp 4 as the sensors are so poor in here. We could end up colliding with a lump of rock or another ship."
"How many ships are hiding in here?" Haldo stepped into the control room. It was narrow and functional with little thought given to aesthetics.
"Hardly any." She told him. "The Federation made their last stand here though. At the outskirts are the wreckage of the fleet and occasionally we encounter some debris in here."
"I see." Haldo frowned; the thought of a dead fleet floating around the nebula sent chills through him.
"We're not allowed to scavenge it for parts or recycle it for the replicators." She explained. "There is too much Borg technology in there. We could end up killing ourselves by happening across something we didn't understand. We had to use ancient vessels built before the Corinthian infested the fleet."
"How much did technology change in the last 200 years?" Haldo asked conversationally as he packed away his tools.
"From what you remember things changed a lot." She began earnestly. "A lot of our abilities were lost in the Borg invasions. I'm one of the few remaining vessels with any advanced technology."
"Really?" He added. "What are you capable of?"
"I can make Warp 14." She told him proudly. "Even the big refitted Galaxies could only make 13."
"Did they re-scale the Warp chart again?" He smirked; slamming shut his toolbox and stowing it under the controls.
"No!" She told him angrily, her voice snapping. "Anything after maximum achievable Warp speed of 9.999 is Transwarp 1. We just delve into a lower subspace domain. I can get to level 4 which makes me nearly twice as fast as your Corinthian."
"We didn't have a very good grasp of the Transwarp capabilities of my ship." Haldo admitted, turning a chair around to lower himself into. "It seems weird talking to a ship. You don't have a face. I feel rude speaking to you and not looking at you."
"Well just look where I always look!" She told him. "Out into space. Out into the endless realm of possibilities where anything can happen. Borg could die tomorrow or we could discover a new universe to live in. Out here anything can happen."
Haldo looked out into the glowing blue nebula at the heart of a new future he'd never imagined in his darkest nightmares. "I guess you're right." He said grimly. "Anything can happen."
Blake walked out of the bay, his face ashen white and his head lowered to the floor as his mind reeled from what he'd heard.
"Well?" The Captain asked, standing up suddenly as soon as he saw him. "What did it tell you?"
"You're attacking the Borg?" Blake turned his head slowly to face him. "You're taking the whole fleet to attack the Borg?"
"We intend to do that." He nodded with a cold note of certainty on his face, his expression one of determination.
"Have you ever seen the Borg central installation?" Blake shook his head sadly. "We calculate it's ten times the width of Earth's solar system. That's an unthinkable size, you wouldn't have a hope of surviving."
Captain Anok frowned at him. "We don't believe it's wider than two thousand kilometres!" He said softly, his mind rattling over calculations in his head. "Borg is widely spread out and highly decentralised."
"Then why attack a central core?" Blake frowned as still more parts of the puzzle refused to fit into place.
"Because it's the largest known concentration of Borg." He replied with a shrug. "We believe that destroying it could cause a feedback through it that could disable or destroy Borg everywhere."
"Simply because the Orb told you?" Blake turned fully to face him, his eyebrows pitching down as anger began to take hold of him. "It's suicide and you know it."
"Suicide?" Captain Anok glowered back at him. "Borg is made from a cluster of technology and biological components. In your day it was a collective of drones, people with a group intelligence who had been augmented with implants. Now there is only Borg. It harvests whatever parts are available to grow and sustain itself. It will tear our living bodies apart while we can do nothing but endure the agony. Then it will rip our brains from our skulls and slowly integrate them into itself. We will feel our consciousness being subverted while Borg fills our thoughts and robs us of our identity and then we will helplessly serve as part of it spending an eternity in pain while we become a part of our own demise."
"And you're willing to die rather than face the potential horror of living?" Blake gazed into the Captain's eyes, seeing something in him he'd missed before and finding a further measure of understanding of their plight.
"Wouldn't you?" He asked softly. "Maybe we have no choice… We have only old ships taken from museums and scrap-yards against an enemy that has destroyed the culture of the entire galaxy and we know that we have little hope. What we have is ourselves and every man, woman and entity in this fleet would happily die for a chance to strike back, even if it's a futile gesture. It's the only thing we have left."
"You've survived this long." Blake argued.
"We've survived but we'll never live again." He agreed darkly. "We make small attacks on the outskirts of Borg. We pick at its toes like insects fighting a lion. I doubt it even notices us any more."
Blake looked back at the bay, remembering his own part in the creation of the nightmare these people lived in.
"I'm going back to my ship." He said weakly. "I'm going back to the Corinthian. Apparently I have things to do."
"What the hell did they do to you?" Katherine gasped as the dishevelled form of Captain Girling materialised on the bridge. "You look terrible."
"I had some bad news!" He told her grimly as he made his way to the centre chair. "Very bad in fact."
"It shows." She frowned, stepping up to him and ignoring her post. "What's going on?"
"I wish I knew." He shook his head and sighed heavily to himself. "I wish I knew."
"Did you see the this entity?" Doctor Jones called out in interest. "What was it?"
"I saw it." Blake told him without looking back. "It's a Prophet. One of the entities that lived in the Bajoran Wormhole."
"What did it say to you?" Katherine asked softly. Blake looked up to the expectant faces around him waiting for his revelation. He shook his head wearily, closing his eyes as he struggled to marshal his thoughts.
"Borg technology was slowly integrated into the fleet after being copied from this ship." He began slowly. "It was meant to harden them against attack but when the Borg came it just made them easier to assimilate. Their ships were lost quickly before the Federation erected new electronic counter measures against them."
"The virus!" Baker agreed with a nod. "It's been refined but it's essentially the same program that Starfleet gave out in the Borg invasion. It was under development to be a shield for the entire quadrant against another invasion but there wasn't time to perfect it."
"It was too late by then." Blake continued. "The fleet made a last stand against them but by then they had already taken heavy losses. There was nothing they could do."
"And this is somehow our fault?" Clogg breathed out heavily as he spoke. "They blame us because our ship was the first with Borg technology?"
Blake turned to face him and nodded slowly in agreement. "Actually it gets rather worse than that."
Katherine frowned as she watched Blake's expression darkening, a foreboding look settled on his face and he seemed to sink visibly under the weight of the news.
"This is apparently not public knowledge…" He began, looking up at the guest officer. "Can I consider your lips sealed on anything you hear here?"
She nodded, her curiosity outweighing her duty to her original mandate.
"We encountered a vessel some months ago. A small Warp-powered ship that had got itself lost." He began, waiting for a sign that the crew remembered. Katherine adopted a quizzical expression as he continued. "We rescued that ship and it was sent home, we helped them fix their technology and one of our own crewmen went with them."
"So what?" Doctor Jones shrugged.
"So we sent them back thousands of years through time to their home." Blake told him. "They evolved over thousands of generations into the Borg once they'd tasted a glimpse of us. We showed them the path to follow."
"Oh… my… god…" Katherine staggered back in horror, her hand reflexively moving up to cover her mouth as her jaw gaped open in surprise. "One had brain damage. I linked their neural patterns together to stabilise him."
"And our crewman had a prosthetic arm!" Clogg added, his hand rubbing his temples in exasperation.
"What have we done?" Katherine shook her head, lost in contemplation.
"We've doomed the entire galaxy!" Blake told her with a note of certainty.
"You didn't know." Baker reminded them, her palms rising as she spoke. "It sounds like you were only trying to help!"
"That won't bring back the tens of thousands of civilisations, worlds and cultures that have been annihilated because of our interference." Blake replied coldly.
"What did the Orb want us to do?" Clogg stood up straight and shook off his feelings as he asked his question.
"Destroy the ship!" Blake told him. "We're to take the Corinthian to some quiet part of space and self-destruct her."
"You can't be serious." Katherine gasped. "Suicide?"
He nodded weakly. "It seems the thing to do. I'm going to have to cloak the ship and slink away. The Oracle gave me the co-ordinates to head to where we won't cause any more damage to anybody. There's a debris field in the outskirts of this nebula where Borg sensors can't penetrate and the Fleet won't go."
"Perhaps we would be more useful in attacking the Borg central complex?" Clogg suggested.
"That structure is over 10 times the width of Earth's solar system." Blake reminded him. "Any attack on that would be futile. Even the wreckage of the ship or the energy from the explosion could be useful to the Borg. It's best if we do this the way we're told to."
"I'm detecting a small ship on long range sensors." WP23 called out cheerfully. Haldo looked up with sudden interest from the control panels. They were metallic with small displays set into them, not at all like Starfleet of his era.
"How far?" He asked.
"Another half an hour at most." She told him.
"I was looking at your controls." Haldo began conversationally. "They seem quite out of date even for my time."
"They were replaced years ago." She began. "The touch pads were too easy to assimilate. Borg could send their nano-probes straight through them. My panels are armoured duralium, nothing much can get through there. Most of the technology in the fleet is ancient compared to what you're used to but it works and we don't have much choice but to use it!"
Haldo nodded to himself in agreement. "What about your name? WP23, was that your old racing designation?"
"No!" She replied with a cheeriness he hadn't expected. "It stands for Wolf-Pack 23."
"What's that then?" He smirked, realising that he'd found something she had been dying to tell him all about. "When Borg came to our borders Starfleet made a final stand at Bajor. They knew it stood little chance of stopping the invasion but it would at least slow them down while they evacuated Earth. Most of the ships were the modern types installed with the protective virus but they knew they'd all be easy to assimilate. By then Starfleet had a new plan, they took 39 ships from the museums that would be very difficult for Borg to take over and installed the artificial intelligence equipment. We were assigned to cover the evacuation and were named in honour of the Wolf 359 fleet that first engaged Borg."
Haldo shook his head, a deep frown settling on his forehead. "Evacuating Earth!" He said rhetorically to himself, deeply troubled at the very notion.
"My positronic computer installed the replicator web throughout the hull of the ship. I made the necessary modifications as I grew to sentience. I'm almost impossible to assimilate now!" She told him proudly.
"And you never had a crew?" He sat up in the slightly uncomfortable chair at the side of the cockpit. He'd ignored the two front seats for the more inviting post at the engineering station.
"Luckily not!" She almost seemed to be smiling when she spoke. "Apparently there's some spikes in my software so I have to obey the commands of a ranking officer if one comes aboard. I rather enjoy my independence though."
"Don't we all." He smiled back. "Now what about that ship?"
"Well it's small and is heading directly for us." She began. "I would say it's Antarian but it's a rather odd ship. I've never seen one quite like it."
"Can we hail them yet?" Haldo rubbed his chin while the recognition tables flashed on the displays around him, showing off her mental processes like he was inside her mind and viewing her thoughts.
Captain Girling stood at the front of the bridge. In the viewer the image of the USS Interdictor floated before them. Once a powerful and daunting vessel now she was reduced to little more then scrap, holding together against all reason by a determined crew.
"You're not going to tell them?" Katherine asked softly, gazing out at the dilapidated warship and the remains of DS9 behind her.
"No." He shook his head. "We'll cloak and slink away quietly, just as we were told to do."
"What about our guest?" She gestured to the Commander behind them.
"She's coming along for the ride." He told her. "I'll eject her out of range of the blast in an escape pod or give her a shuttle. I don't want her alerting the fleet. If they try and salvage this ship then the whole fleet could end up making themselves even easier to assimilate."
"So we're really doing this?" She sighed. "We're really going to die?"
"We don't have a choice." Blake stared fixedly at the monitor. "Because of our actions most of the galaxy has been wiped out. If we stay we're giving the Borg an opportunity to destroy everything that's left. This isn't suicide, it's a sacrifice."
"Is there nothing else we can do?" She shrugged. "Nothing we can do to help these people?"
"Yes." He nodded grimly. "Destroy the ship!"
"Clogg!" Blake turned away suddenly to his tactical officer. "Have you got Haldo on long range sensors?"
"Yes." He nodded. "Barely but I've got a lock."
"I want you to download our mission logs." Blake began as he turned back to Katherine. "Hail him. I need to send him a message."
"I doubt it will work through all this interference." Katherine shrugged apologetically. "We could fire a message drone towards him with a recording?"
"Make it so…" Blake nodded thoughtfully. "And then we have a job to do!"
"Hail them!" Haldo stood up and stepped up to the massive transparent aluminium window. They had dropped out of Warp to meet the other vessel. It was a small ship with space for no more than four people, bulbous and odd looking with protruding appendages from the rear.
"They're hailing us!" WP23 told him.
"Can you put them on a screen somewhere?" Haldo shrugged, glancing around the dizzying array or instruments and switches all around him. Behind the cockpit the bulkhead lit up and projected a hologram of the inside of the vessel. "How's that?" She asked sarcastically.
"I'm Haldo Compz." He began as he peered into the gloomy little craft. It was arranged with four seats spaciously laid out around a central control panel. The ship had only two occupants and a young woman stood up with a beaming smile.
"I know who you are!" She said. "We met about 80 years ago!"
"Allarn?" Haldo smirked, shaking his head as he remembered her familiar face.
"That's right…" She grinned excitedly. "It's good to see you!"
"80 years?" He shook his head curiously. "We've come forward through time about two centuries."
"I don't really bother with linear time any more." She scolded, waving her hand dismissively. "I gave up trying to follow it about a decade ago; give or take a few hundred years. Can you beam me over, we need to talk?"
"Can we?" Haldo turned back from the rear bulkhead.
"Can we?" The ship repeated sarcastically. "I can transport them with molecular conversion, I can phase-shift them through dimensions or match their quantum harmonics and warp them here through sub-space."
"We'll beam you straight over!" Haldo shook his head, smiling wryly at the ship's enthusiasm for showing off which fell only slightly short of his own.
"Just me!" She told him pointing to her travelling companion. "Mr. GI needs to stay here and watch my ship."
The Corinthian suddenly moved. She banked instantly to port as the cloaking field rose to cover her departure. As she melted away from view she changed course and heading, doubling back to avoid any incoming weapons.
"Well now we're committed." Doctor Jones said fearfully.
"Nobody fired." Clogg looked up from the tactical controls. "We completely caught them off-guard."
"I guess they weren't expecting us to run out on them." Blake sighed. "Course and heading is set?"
"It is!" Katherine confirmed. "We're on our way."
"The final voyage of the Corinthian!" Blake mused grimly to himself. "I never thought it would end like this."
"The Interdictor is hailing us!" Katherine said sadly. "They're not very happy over there!"
"I can hardly blame them for that!" Blake scowled at himself. "We're not too thrilled over here either."
"Maintain silence?" She asked knowingly.
Blake nodded back his reply. "As far as they know we're just vanishing again."
"What about me?" The Commander asked, leaning uneasily on the rail around the bridge.
"You can't ever tell your people about us!" Blake began with a heavy breath to clear his mind. "I'm planning on dropping you off with in a shuttle when we're safely out of detection range." He stared at her for a moment with a wry smile. "Unless you'd like to come along and die with us?"
She shook her head and lowered her eyes from his gaze.
"I've launched the message buoy." Katherine told him. "It's on its way to Haldo."
"Everything is on it?" Blake turned to her as he spoke. He already knew it was and needn't have asked.
"Everything." She agreed.
"I'll be in my ready-room." Blake said finally with a sigh.
"Damn them!" Captain Anok cried out, slamming his fist down hard on the edge of his chair.
"I can't detect anything!" The officer called out. "The Corinthian has completely vanished!"
"He's cloaked it." The Captain scowled into the viewer. The blue haze of the nebula glowed back at him and in its depths lurked the ship he despised so intently.
"Sir!" The officer turned back to the Captain. "The fleet?"
"Set course." He agreed, lifting himself from his chair to pace angrily about the bridge. "Let the Corinthian rot in here. We don't have time to search for them."
"They're massing at the rendezvous co-ordinates." The young man tapped a few buttons and a computer generated grid appeared on the viewer. "They're expecting us, sir."
"Full impulse until we leave the nebula." He instructed. "Then best Warp factor we can manage. We have a war to fight!"
"Welcome aboard!" Haldo raised his hand to greet Allarn as she materialised in a flash aboard the ship.
"Thanks!" She shook his hand warmly. "I was hoping to find you. I've come a long way."
"I don't understand?" Haldo sat at his chosen position at the engineering panel and gestured to another chair for her to sit herself in. She duly complied before continuing.
"I was travelling about a hundred years from now and detected a trans-temporal distortion wave." She began matter-of-factly. "In case you don't know what that is it's what happens when a change in the past occurs and effects the present. I can detect those changes and my ship is shielded against them so I watched what was happening as they're usually quite interesting. I watched one once and before that Humans only had four fingers."
"Time changed?" Haldo shook his head and frowned curiously.
"It changed a lot!" She agreed with a knowing smile. "None of this had actually happened where I was. Borg were still largely confined to the Delta quadrant and hadn't expended for nearly a century. The Alpha and Beta quadrant races had developed a sub-space field that caused a resonance to build up against their nano-probes and destroy their programming. Any Borg encountering the field simply ceased to function, they couldn't get close again after that."
"Really?" Haldo's frown deepened.
"Yes!" She agreed happily. "My husband is 30 million years in the future at the moment and he hadn't heard anything about this change either."
"30 million years?" Haldo gasped in surprise. "What's he doing there?"
"Decorating." She shrugged. "We bought a holiday home there. It's nice and quiet, the nearest corporal neighbours are 567 thousand light years away."
Haldo remained silent. His head slowly traced back and forth while he tried to decide if she was playing games with him or not.
"Anyway…" She continued. "I re-calibrated my ship to surf the temporal distortion back to the source and it brought me here."
"But this is all natural!" Haldo rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "The only time travel incident was the Corinthian being brought here but she was meant to vanish at that moment anyway. It was recorded in history."
"Of course it was!" She grinned and began tapping her foot as she waited with a gloating expression of superiority.
"…But of course if history changed then we'd only experience the new timeline." Haldo sighed at his own stupidity.
"Take your time!" She smirked.
"So bringing the Corinthian forwards through time has actually caused this?" Haldo guessed. "The Borg invasion, the destruction of the Federation? This was all caused by one ship travelling through time?"
"No!" She shook her head in exasperation. "Sometimes I forget how complicated this all is to a linear species not used to time travel."
Haldo glowered at her in annoyance while he waited for her to continue.
"It wasn't just cause and effect." She began. "The Corinthian was an important part of the equation but not the only part!"
"So what the hell is going on?" Haldo cried out.
Captain Girling sat on the edge of his desk. He held a Padd in his hand and displayed the schematic of his ship. He gazed at her unusual lines. She was indeed a unique vessel and had become a very important part of him.
A chime at the door roused his mind back to reality.
"Enter!" He called out, discarding the Padd to the stark metallic desk as he stood up.
The door slid open with a characteristic hiss as Katherine walked in.
"Hi." He nodded to her, gesturing to a chair for her to sit down. "Problem?"
"Problem?" She smirked. "We're all going to be dead in about an hour. Where would you like me to start?"
"Did you add a note?" Blake asked, lowering himself with a sigh to the seat behind the counter as two glasses materialised between them.
"To the message buoy?" She shrugged. "No. I have nobody left to say anything to. Everyone I care about is already here. 13 hours of mission logs will say anything we need to say to everyone else."
"I didn't leave a note either." He agreed, taking the glass from the desk. "Scotch!" He announced. "To Haldo!"
"To Haldo." She agreed, sipping at the fiery brown liquor. Her face contorted slightly as the flavour lit up her palette. "You know who did send a personal message?" Blake shook his head. "Doctor Jones!" She smiled. "He sent a short note to Haldo. I didn't read it but I think it shows that those two were closer than either of them would like to admit."
"As if we didn't know that already!" Blake smirked.
"I guess we were all closer than we'd admit to." She ventured, toying absently with her glass.
"We certainly were." He nodded in agreement.
"I have something I'd like to say…" She took a deep breath as she began. Blake looked up, waiting for her to continue. "It looks like we're all going to die and I wouldn't want to go without telling you something that's been on my mind for a long time."
"Go on…" Blake encouraged her.
"Clogg to Captain Girling." The Com badge chirped suddenly, shattering the moment.
"Girling here." He sighed to himself. "Can this wait?"
"I think you need to see this!" Clogg insisted.
"On my way…" He said finally. Blake looked up to Katherine who appeared disappointed. "Duty calls." She smiled weakly.
Haldo scanned through Allarn's notes from her ship's computer with a raised eyebrow. "This is incredibly complicated." He said finally, giving up on discerning what he was looking for.
"There's a lot of history there." She agreed. "Most of it has never happened now."
"So what was meant to happen?" He shrugged. "What would have happened if we'd never been brought to the future?"
"I don't really know." She admitted. "I wasn't there. I do know that the Necrodians were not what you thought they were. Where I've come from they ended up being granted refugee status by the Federation."
"What?" Haldo waved his hand at the ridiculous suggestion. "They attacked us the moment they arrived in our space."
"I don't have all the answers!" She rubbed her temples. "All I do know is that a divergence was caused when the Corinthian was brought here but reversing it won't be enough to fix the damage."
"So you're arguing that the Corinthian was not the cause of the failure of Starfleet's defences?" WP23 sneered at the suggestion.
"Yes!" She agreed. She looked back at Haldo, blinking widely. "Who said that?"
"The ship." Haldo grinned. "Haven't you ever been aboard a talking ship before?"
"Of course." Allarn smirked. "My second husband was a talking ship but his family didn't think I was good enough for him."
"They make a good point!" WP23 goaded.
"Ok…" Haldo held up Allarn's reference files. "We have answers but no idea what questions to ask!"
"We have 20 trillion compressed isoquads of raw data to sift through." She agreed. "We need to find the Corinthian and start narrowing down the search parameters."
"We need to join the fleet!" WP23 protested. "We have a job to do!"
"Which is?" Haldo shrugged.
"We're amassing the fleet for one big push against the central Borg complex." She told him. "It's our last chance and I'm not going to be sat here listening to you two flirting when there's work to be done."
"So you actually married a talking ship?" Haldo quipped to Allarn.
She nodded her head and took a deep breath. "If this ship won't help us then we'll take mine." She told Haldo.
"We might have better luck if you'd help us." Haldo told WP23, attempting to flatter her ego. "You're an impressive ship."
"No." She said firmly.
"If you help us then none of this might ever have happened." Allarn told her. "None of this was meant to. Where I've come from Borg were no threat to the Alpha quadrant for at least another century after this."
"So then I'd never exist?" WP23 said stoically. "Enticing options so far."
"I could give you our temporal shielding." Allarn offered. "It would protect you from local changes in the timeline the same way my ship is shielded."
"I still have work to do." She grumbled objectionably.
"If you join us then you'd be saving the lives of everyone in the fleet as well as those of all the people who died in the invasion." Haldo told her. "Wasn't your mission to protect the lives of the inhabitants of Earth? Well here's your chance to do it."
"I was definitely happier without a crew!" She told them in meek irritation. "Give me the temporal shields and let's get on with this."
"Oh my god…" Blake muttered to himself as the image on the viewer filled his mind. He was transported back to his day aboard the Mercy fleet Starship, Mirage. They had dropped out of Warp at Wolf 359 and seen the devastation the Borg had left in their wake. Now, over two centuries later he was seeing the same thing again. Beyond the ship was the graveyard of dozens of broken vessels. The ships sent to slow down the invasion had been torn apart, scattered out before the Corinthian as she skulked respectfully through the silent wrecks.
"28 vessels." Doctor Jones said softly. "No escape pods, no shuttles."
"They couldn't have stood a chance." Katherine agreed, her eyes flicking from one smashed hulk to the next.
"Only three of the ships out there are on our recognition tables." Clogg added, making his usual and highly efficient tactical review. "There's the saucer of a Galaxy class and the remains of an Akira and Sovereign.
"Everything else is new?" Blake frowned at the vessels as they slowly picked their way through the debris. His eyes locked onto a gigantic ship ahead of them. It had an unusual configuration with a long domed upper hull and massive round Bussard collectors either side of an engineering deck. "These ships look vaguely familiar!" He ventured, turning to the officers around him.
"They look like the Apex!" Katherine agreed. "The future of Starfleet design, wasn't it?"
"So the Apex was put into mass production after all?" Blake dug his balled fist into his sides as he thought to himself.
"Blake!" Doctor Jones said in surprise. "I've found something very odd about those ships!"
"I'm listening…" He turned to the errant scientist.
"I couldn't get very good scans of the Apex because her shields and stealth fields were up but these ships I can scan easily." The Doctor began excitedly. "I'm seeing some very odd things."
"Me too." Clogg agreed. "The hulls do indeed have a Borg style signature in the structure of their particles. The Apex may have had it too."
"It's not just that though" .The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully and his eyes lit up with inspiration. "I know what was special about the Apex!" He said finally with a bright grin.
"Go on…" Blake told him, the others in expectant silence.
"There's an unusual residual charge on the hull particles." He explained. "There's only one thing that could explain it. They've been replicated."
"Well most hull material is replicated." Blake shrugged. "What's so special about this?"
"Not the material." The Doctor enthused. "To see this kind of effect the entire ships must have been replicated."
"That's impossible." Clogg sneered at him. "You can't replicate a whole ship."
"Wait!" Blake raised a finger to the security officer. "The Apex was built in two weeks. It was a small, simplified design that they needed to test because there was something radically odd about it."
"And they were transporting junk in the cargo ship!" Katherine added. "Spare parts to be loaded into a replicator matrix."
"It would explain a lot!" Blake nodded his head. "Good work, Doctor."
"So what does this mean?" Clogg glowered at the wreckage out in space beyond them. "We can replicate an entire shuttle. Did they take that ability from the Corinthian somehow?"
"I don't see how they could…" Blake said thoughtfully. "We were docked at Earth once but we maintained the highest security. Nobody unauthorised came near this ship. We also left Haldo aboard which is like having a pack of rabid dogs guarding the engine room."
"Well the hulls show Borg technology signatures." The Doctor began, relishing his position in Haldo's absence. "Somebody must have got the technology from us somehow. They certainly didn't get it from the base the Corinthian was built at, that was completely destroyed."
"So what does this mean?" Clogg said, eager to cut through the supposition and deal with only facts.
"I don't know." Blake admitted. "But it doesn't change anything either. We still need to scuttle the ship."
WP23 surrounded herself with the trans-temporal field. With it in place any changes to history would have no effect on her as she was slightly phased out of her normal place in the temporal fabric of the universe.
"So what happened to the Necrodians?" Haldo said, pacing the length of the narrow control room.
"After the encounter with them Starfleet met four more of their city-ships." WP23 began. "The first ship was utterly destroyed. After the Corinthian vanished it was believed she had been hit with a weapon. The fleet changed their tactics with the intention of annihilating the vessel before it was able to use it again. The other four were attacked on sight. One more was destroyed, the others fled into deep space and were never heard from again until we assembled the fleet."
"So where does that leave us?" Allarn asked with a sigh. "Before the changes the Necrodians were allowed to inhabit a world near the Federation/Romulan border where everyone could keep an eye on them."
"So if the Corinthian hadn't vanished then the Necrodian vessel would have been brought to a surrender and not destroyed?" Haldo suggested.
"Could be." Allarn agreed. "I don't have good records of that time. I can't be sure."
"Well they weren't meant to be destroyed." Haldo said stubbornly, growing impatient. "So why were they?"
"You mean that someone came up with the idea of destroying the Necrodians to change history?" She rubbed her chin and narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. "Interesting idea but hardly Borg's style."
"What about Cardassian?" WP23 suggested. "They're aligned with Borg. They're a scheming group of dangerous deviants…"
"How about it?" Haldo looked at the time-surfing alien with a raised eyebrow. "If Borg wanted to take over the galaxy would they come up with this to change time?"
"No." She shook her head. "Something is still missing. Borg couldn't have known about the changes to the timeline unless they'd already seen them in the future and they had no technology to allow them to do it."
Haldo hung his head and sighed wearily.
"This is all too complex!" Allarn groaned. "Somebody that can see time in a non-linear way must have orchestrated this. Borg just couldn't have come up with a plan this sophisticated two centuries ago. It doesn't make sense."
"Haldo!" WP23 called out. "I'm detecting something."
"What?" He gasped. "A ship?"
"No." She said curiously. "Something very small but it's heading this way and emitting an intermittent signal."
"I'm detecting something." Doctor Jones frowned.
"Confirmed." Clogg agreed. "We're being followed by a cloaked vessel."
"I've been watching the particle wake." The Doctor explained. "Nobody off this bridge knows we've learnt to use it as a means of detecting cloaked vehicles so I've been able to spot them."
"Anybody in your fleet capable of cloaking themselves?" Blake turned to their guest officer.
"No!" She shook her head enthusiastically. "Klingon and Romulan type cloaks are not much use against Borg so we stopped using them altogether to conserve power."
"Then who?" Blake sneered back at the viewer as the image flashed to the rear of the ship.
"If I had to guess…" Clogg smiled to the others. "It matches the configuration of the Cardassian ship."
"What a surprise." Blake smiled. He turned from the viewers to the crew. "I have to die when the ship is destroyed." He began. "I have to remove all Borg technology and my body is full of it. I was planning to let everyone else go in a shuttle if they would chose to live here."
"Go where?" Doctor Jones shrugged.
"Well the ship is going to be destroyed but I don't see a significant difference in self destructing her or being destroyed in a fight with a Cardassian ship." Blake smiled and turned back to the viewer.
"I'd never have left." Katherine said firmly.
"I'd rather die here than take my chances out there." Jones agreed with a shudder. "At least I'd die with my friends.
"You don't even need to ask!" Clogg said simply.
"Shields up!" Blake commanded. "Red alert. Lock weapons!"
"A message buoy." Haldo frowned. "It's from the Corinthian."
"What's on it?" Allarn asked with interest as Haldo waved his Tricorder around the cylindrical object they'd beamed aboard.
"About 43 hours of logs and a holographic data-stream." He said, snapping his instrument shut. "WP23, can you play the message?"
"Can I play the message?" She said sarcastically as the holographic image flashed onto the rear bulkhead.
Suddenly the bridge of the Corinthian appeared with Captain Girling stood before the centre chair. "Hello Haldo!" He said with a shrug. "We've sent you the last logs of the Corinthian from the moment we were sent after the Apex until now. We've been given instructions by the being assisting the fleet. It seems we were largely responsible for the existence of the Borg and have no choice but to scuttle the ship. We need to destroy her so that no Borg technology exists that might further damage the survivors of the Borg invasion." Blake paused for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. "I'm ordering you not to get involved any further with the Corinthian. I want you to take our records and keep them so that one day we can show that no matter how things worked out we always intended to do the right thing. The message contains records of the 13 hours we've been here and a further copy of all data recorded from the point we were assigned to track the Apex."
"Oh no…" Haldo sighed weakly. "They're going to destroy the ship!"
"We might still have time!" Allarn said with a strong sense of urgency. "We need to find them and fast!"
The binnacle at the base of the ship's nose erupted in fire as a full spread of quantum torpedoes blasted out. The burning white weapons arced to the rear of the ship in a tight turn and tore through space at their target.
"Movement!" Clogg grinned as the torpedoes began erupting over the target area. "We caught them off guard though."
"Ten direct hits!" Doctor Jones cried out triumphantly. "A ship is uncloaking."
"Weapons lock…" Katherine warned. "I'm detecting their sensors."
The Cardassian vessel appeared in space, her shields all but crippled and her systems damaged. Carbon scoring was visible over the damaged hull and the glowing engine radiators stuttered sporadically.
"Lock the Phaser cannon!" Blake ordered.
"No!" The Commander insisted.
"It's a little late to think about integrating it into an attack on the Borg." Blake told her with a weak smile. The ship rocked slightly as a low-energy weapons blast cut into her shields.
"No damage." Clogg frowned. "We must have really hurt them, that blast wouldn't have worried a shuttle."
"It looks like all our old tricks are new again!" Blake smirked. "Can you disable them with a photon torpedo?"
"I think I could disable them with a hand-Phaser." Clogg smiled.
"Why were they following us?" Katherine stood up from communications controls.
"What?" Blake turned to her in surprise.
"Why follow us? Why not attack?" She shrugged.
"We do appear to outgun them." Clogg suggested. "Cardassians have never provoked anyone unless very certain of a victory."
"But why watch us?" Katherine raised her palms upwards. "Why keep an eye on us? How did they even know we were here?"
"Borg sensors are totally useless in here." The Commander shrugged.
"They couldn't." Blake agreed, casting a worried glance at the viewer where the damaged ship hung in space. "Nobody knew we were here. Nobody except the Prophet that sent us."
"Scan that ship!" Blake said to the Doctor who began at once probing the alien vessel with the Corinthian's potent sensors.
"What am I looking for?" He frowned. "Wait!" He said suddenly, interrupting himself. "I think I found it."
"What?" Blake grinned knowingly as he stared at the enemy ship. "Let me guess… Virtually identical to our own ship?"
"What does this mean?" The Doctor frowned.
"It means something much bigger is going on here than we thought." Blake told him.
"They're regenerating." Clogg warned. "They're going to be a threat again soon."
"No they're not!" Blake told him angrily. "Disable them with torpedoes."
The weapons raced to their target, erupting mercilessly over the ship's hull. The flickering lights died out altogether and the ship drifted lifelessly in space.
"How many Cardassians are likely to be aboard?" Blake turned to the Commander.
"I don't know." She shrugged. "Maybe 12, possibly more. You're not thinking about going over there?"
"I am!" He told her firmly. "A lot of answers could be over there on that ship!"
"I could try to download their logs!" Jones suggested as he attempted to establish a link to their systems.
"They don't have logs." Commander Baker said. "Everything is sent directly to Borg. Nothing is stored on the ship itself."
"Borg drones have a storage chip of every order they received from the collective." Clogg rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps we could bring one here and extract it?"
"There no longer is a collective." Baker said, shaking her head.
"Well then it's a good job we're not talking about Borg." Blake reminded them. "The Cardassians might still have that technology."
"You can't go over there!" The Commander insisted.
"Continue scans." Blake ordered. He turned to look at her. "If we don't find anything then I'll have no other choice."
"Necrodians!" Haldo announced in triumph as he found some records of them in Allarn's files.
"What does it say?" She edged towards him with interest, craning her neck to read over his shoulder.
"Oh dear!" Haldo said as his face dropped. "This isn't good at all!"
"What?" WP23 called out. "Download the files to me so I can see them too!"
"They weren't our enemy…" Haldo looked up from the Padd, his eyes closing reflexively as his heart sunk. "They came to the Alpha quadrant looking for sanctuary from their enemy."
"Who was their enemy?" Allarn grabbed the Padd from him and began reading the files for herself. "They were destroyed, their race had been all but wiped out. They created a virus capable of being encoded with their genetic material and intelligence."
"So they weren't a race of beings?" WP23 asked curiously. "They were a virus by the time they met the Federation?"
"The virus was a liquid capable of animating dead tissue." Haldo told her softly. "The virus had their entire culture and intelligence encoded into it as memories. It was a single entity telepathically connected to all other traces of the virus. Each "Necrodian" was a part of the virus like a gigantic organic body."
"Clever!" Allarn agreed with a sigh. "So what's the problem with that?"
"Read on…" Haldo told her, hanging his head slightly.
"Ok…" She agreed, looking at him with a measure of concern in her expression. "What exactly am I looking for?"
"Their enemy!" Haldo told her. "It kind of makes all the pieces fit together."
"Oh my god!" She gasped. "If that is true then it means…"
"I know what it means!" Haldo told her, cutting off her speech. "That's the difference. That's what the change was that set the difference between the normal timeline you were in and this one that has been altered by time-travel."
"This wouldn't work unless…" She cut herself off again as realisation dawned on her. "I don't believe this."
"What?" WP23 cried out, infuriated by her non-inclusion.
"Definitely?" Blake asked, staring motionlessly out into space through the viewer. The Cardassian ship drifted aimlessly before them and beyond that the wreckage of the fleet, destroyed by their hopeless encounter with the Borg fleet.
"Yes!" Doctor Jones nodded in agreement. "I'm certain. I've completed a very detailed scan and the technology is virtually identical. There's no way that the Corinthian was ever based on pure Borg technology."
"I just don't believe this!" Clogg muttered angrily, rubbing his temples. "How could this happen?"
"The Borg scout." Ensign Rogers surmised. "It was encountered by the medical fleet sent to look for survivors after the Wolf 359 invasion. We assumed that it was Borg. It looked Borg, it had Borg technology in it and had capabilities we'd never seen beyond them."
"But then we'd never seen a Cardassian augmented with Borg technology back then." Blake said scornfully.
"So the scout was especially built to give to us?" Jones shook his head. "Why would these Borg and Cardassian allies want to help us?"
Blake pointed out to the destroyed fleet. "Because of that!" He told them. "They wanted to make us easier to assimilate by making our technology more like theirs."
"They deliberately built a scout ship for us?" Clogg shook his head.
"I doubt that." Blake said thoughtfully. "I imagine it was an old ship that they gave to the Cardassians to help them increase their technology. The idea probably occurred to them that if using the scout would make them more like the Borg then maybe they should give the same type of ship to us."
"But we didn't use it to make us more like them!" Jones insisted forcefully. "The Corinthian never had her technology studied. The captured equipment stayed aboard her, all the Scarabs were destroyed, nothing was left!"
"The derelict vessel!" Katherine said suddenly as realisation dawned.
Blake turned to her with interest as another piece of the puzzle slotted into place. "We found a gigantic ancient Borg ship that Section 31 had found first!" Katherine reminded them.
"It was nothing more than a giant replicator." Doctor Jones groaned. "The Pulsar had already transmitted their findings back before we arrived."
"It was an ancient vessel." Clogg raised an eyebrow thoughtfully. "Maybe Section 31 used the technology to evolve the Apex?"
"It makes sense." Blake frowned.
"So the Corinthian was never directly responsible for any of this?" Clogg suggested hopefully. "If the Pulsar took the technology and sent it back to Section 31 then the Apex would have happened anyway, even if the Corinthian had never existed."
"And the Prophet would have known that!" Blake added as he turned away from the monitor.
"Where could Blake have gone?" Haldo stood up and banged his fist down hard onto the console. "We have to find him and fast!"
"He could have gone anywhere to self-destruct the ship." Allarn raised her eyebrow thoughtfully with a shrug.
"Well presumably he'd have wanted to stay out of the way and not blow up anything else along with him?" WP23 suggested. "There really aren't many places left he could do that!"
"What do you mean?" Haldo snapped around suddenly."
"Borg is everywhere." She told him. "If he started out from the base then there would only have really been the wasteland. It's high in radiation from the collapse of the wormhole, Borg can't see into it but we don't go there because it's like an old graveyard of crippled ships."
"Set course!" Haldo instructed. "Go to maximum warp!"
"In open space I can make Warp 14. We can be there in three minutes." WP23 announced somewhat smugly.
"Fast little ship!" Allarn commented dryly.
"Little?" She grumbled.
"The fleet were making one last final attack on the Borg central base!" Clogg said as the crew huddled around the briefing table at the rear of the Corinthian's bridge. He pointed to a holographic display floating above the smooth black surface. "We can safely assume that it's also a trap!"
"The fleet can't possibly be a threat to an installation that's ten times the width of our solar system." Katherine said with a shake of the head. "Nothing could."
"They're not going there to destroy the installation." Blake replied with an angry sigh. "They're going there to be destroyed. This is a quick and easy way to finish off the last of the resistance."
"But why?" Katherine leant back to the bulkhead wall in exasperation. "The fleet is finished. It's no threat to the Borg."
"They're tying up loose ends." Clogg said thoughtfully. "They're taking us out of the equation and destroying the last few ships that resist them. If I had to guess I'd say they we're about to do something big!"
"Like what?" Doctor Jones rubbed his temples.
"From a tactical standpoint it sounds to me like they've finished their preparations and are now going ahead with something." Clogg shrugged.
"Wait!" Blake said suddenly, his eye widening in surprise.
"What?" Katherine sprung back to his side. "What's happening?"
"Haldo." Blake frowned. "He's hailing us."
"On screen!" Captain Girling instructed as the crew rushed to their stations around the bridge. Haldo's face appeared in the centre viewer instantly and he sighed in obvious relief.
"We've found you!" He smiled. "We can't see you. Are you cloaked?"
"I thought I gave you your orders." Blake smiled thinly his reply.
"I'm not Starfleet." Haldo reminded him. "I'm just your friend, Blake. You can ask but you can't tell me what to do."
"Don't I know it." The Captain agreed with a nod.
"I have some important things to tell you!" Haldo insisted. "Please halt the countdown on the self-destruct until I can explain."
"Well…" Blake smiled at his engineer. "I haven't actually begun the countdown just yet."
"Great!" Haldo grinned. "I've found some things out about the Necrodians that you really need to hear!"
Blake nodded for him to continue. "They were running from their old enemy." Haldo began excitedly. "Time has been changed radically from what was meant to happen. The Necrodians were a dying race and turned their memories into an infectious virus that was only meant to attack dead tissue. It was their hope that something of their culture and technology would survive when everything else was dead. It mutated over a couple of centuries to be able to kill living tissue as it was designed to be able to adapt and survive."
"Fascinating." Blake said sarcastically. "And this is meant to not make me want to blow myself up?"
"But something really important happened!" Haldo smirked knowingly. "The enemy that had slaughtered their race was the Borg!" Haldo waited for a moment while the revelation dawned on the crew before proceeding. "They knew that an Alpha quadrant species were aligned with the Borg but didn't know it was the Cardassians. When they detected the Corinthian they presumed it was the Federation that was working with their enemy and attempted to withdraw and protect themselves. After the fight with the Resilient they tried to find evidence of the Borg, that was why they were locked in a search pattern!"
"My god!" Doctor Jones gasped. "That all makes a lot of sense."
"When the Corinthian vanished the fleet assumed we were destroyed by a weapon." Haldo told them. "They destroyed the Necrodian city-ship but in the normal time-line the Corinthian helped to disable the ship and all this was discovered. In the normal time line the fight was seen as a mistake and the Necrodians were granted asylum and set up a colony."
Blake stepped backward reflexively and breathed out while his mind raced. "I can hardly believe it." He said weakly.
"Necrodian technology helped the Federation to strengthen the borders. They developed a sub-space field that disrupted Borg nano-probes and caused them to be disabled instantly whenever they tried to enter our space." Haldo told them with increasing excitement. "The Borg never attacked again."
"So they changed history." Katherine shook her head. "I can't believe such a small thing can make such a big difference to history."
"And only one thing could have known." Blake said. "Only one being could have seen through time in a non-linear way and planned all this with such intricacy."
"A Prophet!" Haldo smiled proudly. "The Borg probably assimilated at least one of the Wormhole aliens. They used that ability to plot the take-over of the entire galaxy. We think they're planning to move Borg back through time to assimilate the past until they haven't just assimilated space but all of time as well."
"But what can we do?" Blake shrugged. "We can't travel back through time to put things right. We're trapped here and the fleet are about to attack the central core. It's a trap, they'll all be destroyed."
"I have someone here who might have a few ideas about that!" Haldo raised his palm to gesture to the other passenger. Allarn stepped into view and waved happily to the crew.
"Great!" Blake smiled half-heartedly. "Every sentient being in the galaxy has been wiped out and somehow you managed to survive."
"I thought you'd be pleased to see me!" She quipped sarcastically. "If you're not now then you certainly will be when I tell you what I have in mind."
"I need to beam her over." Haldo interjected. "She thinks she has a plan."
"A plan to change history?" Blake narrowed his eyes.
"I have a theory." She nodded.
"I'm listening." Blake folded his arms over his chest.
"The central core is so large that the gravitational effect is pulling all the stars in this region about?" She asked with a raised eyebrow. Blake nodded in agreement. "I think that's impossible." She grinned.
"End recording!" Haldo said as he slumped back in the chair. "How long now?"
"Not long at all." She said happily. "We'll engage the fleet in about seven minutes. The Corinthian should be there by then too."
"Great!" Haldo shuddered. "And then it's all over for us."
"It certainly looks that way!" WP23 agreed. "I noticed you forgot to mention that we were ordered to take the entire message logs out of here and keep them safe for whoever might read them in the future."
"Orders." Haldo rolled his eyes.
"We're meant to drop off the record logs into space for future generations, not chase the Corinthian while she makes a suicide run."
"You don't seem too concerned about our imminent death." Haldo said conversationally as the stars streaked soundlessly by.
"I'm several centuries old." She began with a note of amusement. "I'm old and tired. My hyper-impulse module is virtually worn out, my secondary computer core is so old it misfires so that some days I can't remember where I am and my hull is holding together with force fields where the metal is so corroded it's flaking off. I'll welcome the end when it comes."
"I won't." Haldo admitted. "My kind was halfway across the galaxy and I wanted to find them one day. I hoped I'd live long enough to watch some of my friends die."
"I'm sure you'll hold out another seven minutes!" She told him dryly.
"I can't ask any of you to come along with me!" Blake began from the front of the bridge. "I have to do this, none of you have to join me."
"Finished!" Allarn called out happily from Haldo's engineering console. "I've added the temporal shielding matrix to your energy emitters. It's the same thing that temporal investigation ships have to protect them from changes in the time-line."
"Will it work?" Clogg asked dryly.
"The chances of us finding out are virtually non-existent." She admitted. "To give us a better chance I've upgraded every system as best I can and set the frequency from Blake's personal Phaser into the cannon. Borg will have never seen either so we'll have a chance for a few shots if we need them."
"A few shots?" Blake repeated her words curiously. "Is that it?"
"If we're lucky!" She agreed with a smile. "I do tend to be."
"I'm ready here too." Doctor Jones added. "I've flooded every compartment with deuterium and anti-matter. It'll certainly make a big bang but even a huge explosion will barely make a dent on the Borg here."
"Trust me!" Allarn told him. "I know what I'm doing."
"You'd better!" Clogg told her accusingly.
"We'll be there in a few minutes." Blake called out. "Now is the time for all of you to decide what you want to do."
Commander Baker stepped forward to the Captain's side. "This was always my fight." She insisted. "If you think I'll let you drop me off in a shuttle while everyone I know goes to make a final stand against Borg then you don't know me at all."
"It's been a pleasure to serve on this ship." Clogg added, not looking up from his console. "I'd rather die here than live anywhere else without you all."
"I built this ship!" Jones said softly. "I did it to better mankind but for a while I saw a future that could have easily been caused by my own short-sightedness. My place is here, putting right what almost went wrong!"
Katherine smiled warmly up at him from the communications console. "You will insult me if you even ask!" She told him.
"Red alert." He said, turning to the viewer and taking his seat in the centre of the bridge. "We're going to give the Borg something they'll find much harder to digest than a fleet of Apex type ships!"
Captain Anok hand clenched the edge of his seat as the viewer showed the stars spiralling past. His knuckles were almost white as the bridge sat in silence apart from the few systems that still functioned bleeping their status to the frightened crew.
"Drop to Impulse for attack." He instructed. With a flash the viewer displayed the mammoth structure of the Borg installation before them as the fleet began to emerge around them, punching their way into normal space and streaking towards the target.
"My god!" Lieutenant Crowe said in horror. "Look at the size of that thing!"
"Weapons range?" The Captain's eye widened fearfully as the mass of glowing pipe-work filled the viewer.
"Ten seconds." The tactical officer reported. "Shields at maximum, all tubes loaded and ready. Phasers changed."
"Sir!" The helm officer said with alarm. "The first ships have engaged Borg."
Waves of ancient vessels flooded over the maze of technology, energy beams streaking out from every ship. Green blasts of weapons fire blazed out from the installation at them as huge chunks of glowing Borg technology broke away to engage the small vessels. An old Oberth class ship delivered a blazing salvo of torpedoes into the station just before a beam tore easily though her saucer, ripping easily through it like it were made of unshielded paper.
"They're tearing us apart!" Captain Anok muttered. "Fire at will. Hard to starboard, fire ventral Phasers and come about. Instruct Red squad to follow us in."
"Only twenty eight ships in Red squad still remain!" The communications officer announced as the ship lurched violently, her inertial dampers failing momentarily. A weapon struck the ship, the light dimmed instantly before a conduit shattered behind them spilling flaming chunks of debris and a shower of sparks over the rear consoles.
Beyond the USS Interdictor the Borg vessels were followed by the small Cardassian ships who fired indiscriminately into the attacking vessels.
"We can't take much more!" The young officer cried out as his console lights flashed intermittently. "Phasers are down. I'm losing impulse and Warp is gone!"
"Ramming speed!" The Captain ordered. "At least we can hurt it on our way out. It's better than being harvested!"
"Yes sir." The helm officer glanced behind him in terror as his finger obeyed his Captain's command, entering the course for the ship to automatically follow.
"Sir!" A voice cried out from the rear of the bridge. "Another ship is coming in. Dropping cloaks!"
"More Cardassians?" He barked helplessly.
"No sir!" The young woman called out with premature optimism mixed in with equal parts of surprise. "I don't believe it. It's…"
The Corinthian exploded from her short Transwarp journey with her nacelles retracted behind her. She tore through space at full sub-light speed attracting the attention of several Borg interceptors. A huge random lump of Borg technology moved in directly ahead of her, wider than a Galaxy class ship and three times the height, glowing angrily as it probed the small ship with its sensors. Without changing course the Corinthian ploughed straight into the alien vessel, ripping through decking, shredding through conduits and exploded though the other side of the stricken machinery that floated helplessly in space behind the dauntless Starfleet ship.
"Shields down by five percent!" Clogg reported with surprise as he turned to Allarn. "I don't know what you did to this ship but I'm certainly glad you did it."
Blake sat rigid in his chair, his eyes glassy and unseeing as he gazed blindly towards the viewer. His mind was locked into the controls of his ship and she responded instantly to his thoughts.
"You were right!" Jones cried out with relief. "That station is barely a fraction the size we thought it was!"
"So what does that mean?" Clogg asked as the viewer lit up with blazing weapons fire that they somehow kept avoiding.
"It means that the whole station is built around an artificially expanded black hole!" She grinned back to the tactical officer. "It means that they're using a sub-space field to enlarge and control a natural singularity and convert the frequency to turn it into a portal to the past."
"It seems impossible!" Jones grinned with the first slim possibility of success that had presented itself to them since they'd arrived. "They're turning a black-hole into a portal to send themselves back into the very beginnings of history?""That's right." She agreed. "They've already begun with small trips to send the temporal slingshot here. That's how they brought the Corinthian here, sent the Scout back for you to discover it and made all the other tiny changes to the timeline that were necessary to create this portal."
"And if we destroy it?" Clogg asked, his frown deepening as a crooked smile flashed cruelly over his lips.
"I've set the anti-matter explosion to be rooted through your transmitter array." She nodded in agreement. "The blast will send out the same field that Starfleet used in the correct timeline to keep the Borg out through the entire region of space like a gigantic radio transmitter. It will collapse the Borg in this region and they'll lose control of the singularity. They won't be able to send back any more Borg through history and we should be free to restore everything to the way it should have been."
"Except this ship!" Katherine sighed.
"Yes!" Allarn agreed. "My friend still has my ship. He should be able to surf the blast back and inform Starfleet command about the Necrodians. We should be able to stop the destruction of their vessel that way. The result should be the same."
"Clogg!" Blake called out from his chair. "Quantum torpedoes at your discretion. Fire at will!"
"It's about time!" He smiled in agreement as flaming bolts began surging from the nose of the ship.
The Corinthian banked to her side and blasted her way through a pair of Borg interceptors converging on her as she made her way closer to the heart of the installation. She rounded the closest one and flew barely inches away from her enemy's surface. The second of the two fired and missed, the energy crackling over the other Borg machinery sending a blast of arcing power from the conduits.
The Corinthian stretched out her nacelles and cut through the outer surface of the base. She twisted her way through the opening left by the parts of Borg that had detached to stop her. She suddenly appeared in an opening. It was vast and machinery stretched into the distance, feeding energy into a gigantic rift in space and time.
"Prepare to self-destruct." Blake warned his crew, the outside of the ship still filling his reality as torpedoes raced from the firing binnacle and Phasers tore into the structure around him.
Katherine put her hand on his shoulder but he never felt it. All he felt was his rage, his anger towards the Borg and his desire for revenge.
"Goodbye." He said simply as the ship flew into the tube that stretched into the singularity.
The explosion stretched out instantly, rippling into the pipe, disrupting the power and creating a blast that was hotter than the core of the sun.
"Got them!" WP23 cried out in triumph as the dishevelled forms materialised in her rear bay. "I got 6 life forms from the ship and their main computer."
"6?" Haldo frowned as the blast erupted furiously behind them.
"I'm sorry." She said dolefully. "I was beaming out through the blast, the signal degraded too quickly. I got as much as I could."
"Who didn't make it?" Haldo frowned fearfully. "There were ten people on that ship including my two engineers and Allarn."
"We have other problems right now." She reminded him as the black hole before them had begun to fold in on itself without the Borg technology pulling it open. "It doesn't look like any of us are going to make it."
"But who?" Haldo turned away from the engineering controls. "I have to know."
"We're heading directly into the heart of the singularity!" She told him. "If your calculations are correct it should seal up just as we cross the eye. It should vanish just before we're sucked into the central gravity well."
"I have to know" Haldo repeated, jumping out of the seat and making his way to the rear of the ship. "Stay on this course. You have the bridge!"
The rear door slid open as Haldo ran into the bay. All faces turned up to see him in surprise. He looked with relief from face to face at the survivors. Katherine stood up and ran her hands over her chest and down, breathing heavily, hardly able to believe she was still alive.
"What are you doing here?" She gasped. "What happened?"
"Just a little bit more of not doing as I was told." He grinned. Behind her was Blake, he was kneeling on the floor, his hands wrapped around his head as pain ravaged his brain from the destruction of the Corinthian. Katherine turned and realised more of her reality as the shock of surviving the blast began to subside. She knelt down beside him quickly to see what she could do to help. Behind them Clogg raised himself to his feet and reached out a hand to help Allarn to hers. "Well done." He grinned at her. "Very well done."
"Commander Baker!" Haldo nodded to the fleet officer who stared back at him blankly, her mouth open wordlessly in shock. Haldo looked to the rear of the bay where a single remaining body rolled over to sit up. Ensign Dawson who had been assigned to engineering looked back at him, his mouth curling upwards in relief.
"Doctor Jones?" Haldo whispered weakly to himself.
Katherine looked up to Haldo, her eyes filled with regret for the loss of their friends, the Doctor and the two other Starfleet officers who had been resurrected with Blake by the modified Borg technology. "I'm sorry." She said weakly.
"It's ok." He told her, turning from her eyes to wipe at his own with the back of his hand. "He was just a Section 31 scientist. He probably deserved it." He sniffed hard and blinked away the tears welling up in his eyes.
"I know you don't mean that!" She said softly.
"Haldo to the bridge!" WP23 insisted. "Now!"
Haldo flopped down in his engineering chair as the others filtered in behind him. "We're nearly at the eye!" She reported. "The signal is working and Borg is too badly damaged, they haven't attempted to stop us but three other vessels are following us in. My shields are focused at the rear and we're riding the shockwave, I guess they're doing the same."
"Who?" Blake said weakly lowering himself into the chair at the head of the compartment.
"One Cardassian." She began. "Allarn's vessel and some other alien ship, it registers as a Coo'gral."
"Will we outrun the blast?" Haldo looked at the monitor at his station and gulped nervously.
"I hope so!" She agreed. "But by my calculations the eye might still be functioning."
"We'll be crushed by the gravity in there if the Borg technology isn't still compensating for it." Allarn exclaimed in annoyance. "I still had three payments left to make on my ship!"
"That's the least of our troubles." WP23 told her. "It's still functioning as a temporal portal. We could end up anywhere! Billions of years before there's any technology or after everything in the Universe is long since dead and gone."
"No such thing in either case." Allarn smiled.
"We can't turn around." Blake groaned, rubbing his temples, his head still throbbing dully and his mind still foggy from having the ship and computer wrenched from his consciousness.
"You can't give orders around here!" The ship told him angrily. "You're Blake Girling!"
"He's also a Captain!" Haldo told her. "You're programmed to obey the commands of any ranking officer that you allow aboard."
"Oh no…" She gasped in abject horror. "You're right."
"Head straight into the eye!" Blake told the ship. "We've been through worse, we'll make it."
"When have we been through worse?" Haldo grumbled. "We're heading into a collapsing black-hole that's been converted to a temporal portal into pre-history while behind us the remains of our ship is destroying the Borg complex with the largest anti-matter explosion ever recorded, the main blast of which is heading straight for us.
"Maybe in the future maybe in the past!" Allarn added cheerfully. "That's what I love about time-travel, it's so wonderfully unpredictable."
"Hold on!" Blake warned the crew as the tiny ship headed ever closer to the gaping temporal orifice. "It looks like we're going in!"
Haldo pressed a few buttons and the message buoy streaked out from the launch tube into the orifice. "Some day somebody might read it." He shrugged as the windows lit up around him with the exploding station.
"Good luck to us all! Whenever we end up!"
Back to Part 1
|Last modified: 09 Nov 2020