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

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Finally, much to his surprise and confusion, Mandakorr heard a solitary voice crack the silence, echoing throughout the vast corridor:

"You do not compute."

Straining to lift his head, glancing up and down the hallway lined with Borg conduits and junction boxes, the former Gallenian squinted. In the distance, he made out a hazy shape that vaguely resembled something ... humanoid. The shape moved, and Mandakorr discerned that, whoever was there, was now quickly approaching him.

"Help," he whispered, his voice raspy, his body drained physically from his efforts to broadcast a distress call through subspace. "Please ... help me."

Mandakorr laid his head back down on the floor. He heard and felt the heavy footfalls of the faceless stranger rapidly approaching.

Clunk.

Clunk.

Clunk.

"Yours is a voice unheard in the Collective," he heard again.

'No,' Mandakorr cried out in his mind. Somehow, his effort to escape the Cube must've awakened a single drone, and that drone was now intent on 'dealing' with him.

Clunk.

Clunk.

Clunk.

"You do not compute."

'NO!' Mandakorr screamed inside. 'NO! NOT NOW! NOT NOW!'

Swallowing his growing anger, Mandakorr tried desperately to sit up as the figure approaching him, but he couldn't find the strength.

'GET UP, YOU FOOL!' he harshly commanded, his muscles protesting with all of their aches. 'GET UP NOW!'

Quickly, jerking, placing his own free arm under him, he pushed up, ignoring the pain, lifting his upper torso slowly from the deckplates where he had been sleeping. Panting, rasping, he tried desperately to right himself.

Clunk.

Clunk.

Clunk.

Squinting, Mandakorr glanced in the direction of the pounding footsteps and found that the approaching form did suddenly take the familiar shape of a Borg drone.

"You are not Borg," the drone said, still marching toward the Gallenian.

Clunk.

Clunk.

Clunk.

"That's what I've been ... telling myself," Mandadorr agreed, weakly. "I am not Borg."

"You have failed to complete the Borg maturation process," the drone assessed, his feet still pounding like hammers on the metal deckplates.

"I will not complete the process," Mandakorr struggled to reply. "You'll have to kill me first."

"As you wish," the drone replied, mechanically, his voice void of any emotion.

"I'll never ... I'll never be a Borg."

"You will be reduced to data patterns and extinguished," the drone concluded.

Finally reaching Mandakorr, the drone bent and grabbed the Gallenian's chestplate, easily hoisting the former pilot a few more inches from the deckplates. Raising his prosthetic limb, the drone's blades whirred to life. Deliberately, he drove them down toward the Gallenian's neckline, and -

Reacting with as much energy as he could muster, Mandakorr wrenched his body, slipping the drone's grasped. With a painful thud, he dropped to the floor. As fast as lightning, he pulled his single remaining Gallenian limb out from under him and reached upward, seeking to take hold of the drone's prosthetic. Missing his grip by an inch, Mandakorr screamed as the winding tore through the Borg armor and into his hand. He howled as pain flared through his tired, nearly spent body.

"You will be extinguished," the drone stated.

Biting his lip, ignoring the pain, Mandakorr yanked his hand clear of the twirling blades, sending a torrent of blood - his blood - into his face. Angrily, defiantly, he heaved air into his fatigued lungs.

"I'm not," he spat, "making this easy ... on you!"

From his position on his back, he performed a Gallenian slat, a combat defensive maneuver trained to those serving the Gallenian Star Corps long ago, bringing up the flat of his right foot and chopping at the aggressor's nearest elbow.

Startled, the drone stumbled backward, clearly not expecting any resistance from the weakened half-Gallenian, half-Borg found awake aboard an entirely dormant Borg cube.

"You will be extinguished," the drone repeated, stepping forward.

As the drone approached, Mandakorr closed his eyes and concentrated on his own Borg prosthetic.

'The blades.'

'The blades.'

'The blades.'

To his exultation, the blades on his own Borg prosthetic whirled slowly, sputtered, and then blurred as they spun to magnificent life.

"I learned this one from Kathryn Janeway," he spat.

Lashing out, he flung his prosthetic, like a primitive club, at the oncoming enemy.

Expecting no attack, the drone walked right into the limb.

Gritting his teeth, Mandakorr dug his blades through the Borg armor and deep into the drone's chest circuitry. Sparks ignited, bursting from the drone's implants, and flew in all directions.

Briefly, Mandakorr thought that he glimpsed an expression form on the face of the drone ... one of complete and utter surprise ...

... or was it humiliation?

Screaming, tearing his prosthetic downward, the Gallenian gutted his attacker, literally ripping the drone into two nearly symmetrical halves from the chest down.

When the drone's involuntary twitching subsided, Mandakorr yanked his blades free.

Stumbling wildly out of control, his legs giving out under him, the drone plummeted backward, even more sparks and now flames erupting from every possible circuit. Expressionless, he tumbled to the deck ...

... dead.

Exhausted, Mandakorr dropped solidly to the deckplates, so hard he inadvertently knocked the wind out of himself. Concentrated, he forced air into his lungs at first in slow, painful gulps, and then in gradually longer gasps. He realized that he needed to re-energize himself in the event that the attacking drone wasn't alone.

Between his breaths, he listened, intently, but he heard only the gurgle of his own respiration.

Once more, Mandakorr found himself alone on the Borg cube.

In the stillness of the vast ship, Mandakorr succumbed to his emotions, and he sobbed as quietly as he could, fearing he would wake the other sleeping drones. Brushing his tears away with his bloodied hand, he could only lay there and hope against all hope that Harry Kim or some other blessed soul aboard the starship Voyager had received his distress call ...

... and were responding.

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