FEDERATION'S END II: THE WITCHING HOUR
by E. L. Zimmerman

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

'You ...

'... are not Borg.'

Seated on the floor of the lengthy Borg corridor, Mandakorr breathed deeply. He tasted the stale, warm air, his eye closed in concentration. The mere act of inhalation and exhalation produced shock waves of tingling pain throughout his chest, but he forced the much-needed oxygen into and out of his lungs. Undoubtedly, the Borg implants, surgically-inserted circuitry, and the associated nanotechnology were busily rewriting, as best they could, his Gallenian genetic code. For a brief moment, he wondered truly - in the most fantastic definition of self he could assume - how much of himself was still ... himself? Undoubtedly, the microscopic mechanical parasites were fulfilling their programming. Certainly, no one could resist 'becoming' Borg. Powerless to stop the complicated process that had already begun to show its effects, he feared that the parasites dug deeper and deeper into his essence. His ongoing struggle against their completion would, ultimately, only elicit greater and greater pain.

'No,' he spoke aloud.

'No.'

'No.'

However it helped, he told himself that, so long as he could speak aloud, he would do so. So long as he had a voice, he would tell the Collective that they could not have him. With every ounce of his very being, he would fight them, individually if need be, and he was convinced that he would win. His resistance, unquestionably, would not be ...

... futile?

'You ...

'... are not Borg,' he told himself in the darkness.

He sat completely still on the deckplates, leaning against a very cold metal wall.

'You will not become Borg,' he repeated.

Concentrating on an inner serenity, that inner spark of Gallenian life symbolized, he imagined, by a glistening, twirling orb of white starlight adrift in a meadow of tall Besarian rootgrass, Mandakorr found peace again. Gradually, he had killed another panic attack. They had been increasing in intensity as the Borg nanites did their worst, driving him unconscious. Eventually, his controlled breathing had lowered his heart rate, and the temptation to sleep was gone.

'This, he told himself aloud, exhausted, this can't go on.'

He heard his voice echo in the still corridor.

'This can't go on.'

Despite his uncertainty as to how far the Borg Cube had traveled after he had been abducted from the Voyager bridge, after the sentries had engaged the Starfleet crew ... and they had lost ...

Lost.

Lost.

'Lost?'

No.

Harry Kim and the others were safe.

They had not been assimilated ...

... would not be assimilated ...

Slowly, his recollection of the event was coming back to him.

The Pulse Cannon had destroyed part of the Borg Armada. Only those who had been abducted were transported from the Voyager's bridge. Then, the Cubes had departed and ...

Mandakorr couldn't guess as to how near or far from Besaria he might be.

But ...

One lesson he had learned in his exploration of the vast universe was that, despite whatever alien technology he encountered, he could tell a communications interface from an interspatial drive exhibitor when he saw one.

He knew he had only one chance.

'Voyager,' he whispered, the word sounding like a chant of magic.

'Harry Kim.'

'Do not lose your identity.'

'You are not Borg.'

'You will not become Borg.'

'You will ...

... die ... before you let them make you Borg.'

Fighting pure exhaustion, he slapped out with his arms, grasping the metallic piping that lined the Cube's corridor. Straining against the protest of his aching muscles, he pulled with all his might. Gritting his teeth, he sensed the burning in his compromised tissues, but he ignored all pain.

'You ...

... are not Borg.'

'You ...

... will not be a Borg.'

'YOU WILL NOT BECOME BORG.'

He felt the wall against his back start to move.

Slowly, he pulled himself upward. His leverage increased when his waistline met something solid, and he used that influence to increase his wrenching. One after the other, he dragged his heavy feet beneath him, closer to the base of the wall.

Without warning, the pain intensified!

Spires of flames shot into his arms and up his legs, licking at his face, and Mandakorr allowed a momentary scream to fill the Cube.

His bellow echo endlessly, hauntingly back at him.

'I WILL NOT BECOME BORG!' he shouted in defiance.

Finally, he stood.

Faltering, his balance wavering, he gripped his fingers tighter around the piping, steadying himself. Groggy, he turned his head to his left to find ...

... a communications console?

Apparently, he had previously found the means with which to attempt his distress signal. He guessed, out of either elation or exhaustion, he must've passed out.

Freeing his hands, he agreeably fell in the direction of the console, catching himself against the unit's metal housing. His face cracked hard against the surface, and he heard the crunch of steel striking steel. Wondering how many implants on his face had just collided with the communications panel and if he had done them damage, Mandakorr realized quickly that he had almost brought about another panic attack ...

... but he denied it.

'You ...

... will ...

... not ...

... become ...

... Borg ...'

Defeating the impulse to collapse again, to fall into an even deeper slumber than the one he must've succumbed to before, he jerked the right half of his body upward, flailing his right arm onto the blinking console. Quickly, desperately, he fumbled across the panel's surface, searching for something, anything, to lock his fingers around, and he found a large knob. He closed his throbbing fingers around it.

Exhaled mightily, he now released a torrent of tears freely from his single eye.

'You ...

... will ...

... contact ...

... Voyager.'

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