FEDERATION'S END II: THE WITCHING HOUR
by E. L. Zimmerman
"Captain," B'Elanna Torres called from the Engineering station, her fingers dancing rapidly across the flickering console touchplates, "we're entering weapon's range, and I'm detecting weak energy signatures from those Borg Cubes."
"Also weak," B'Elanna stated, without emotion.
"The distress signal?" Kathryn Janeway asked, hopeful.
"Loud and clear," B'Elanna affirmed.
Calmly, Janeway ordered, "Let's see what's out there. Main viewer."
The image of six Borg Cubes loomed before her. They hung in the stillness of blackened space. In fact, they were completely still. For a moment, Janeway imagined that she was nothing more than a tourist, visiting a museum somewhere in Indiana, back on Earth. She imagined herself standing in the main exhibition hall, staring up at a huge portrait of Borg Cubes ... but she trusted that the image in her mind was far from the frightening truth.
"Six," she muttered under her breath, careful to ensure that no one on her command staff would see her flinch. "What are we doing here?"
"This is the Delta Flyer," Harry Kim announced over the ship's intercom, breaking her momentary fixation on the viewer. "You give the word, Captain. We're ready when you are."
"Standby, ensign," she said.
Again, Captain Janeway granted herself the luxury of studying the Cubes. A geometric abnormality of complex piping, girders, and hull plates, the Cubes drifted ever so slightly, she now noticed, but they didn't near one another. Automation systems linked to external sensors must've somehow prevented the danger of collision.
"Mr. Tuvok," she stated, "open a hailing frequency."
The bridge filled with an eerie stillness.
"Captain, that might be interpreted as provocative," Tuvok cautioned.
"And unwise," B'Elanna added.
"Do it," Janeway ordered.
After a moment, the Vulcan replied, "Channel open."
Swallowing, she stood, approaching the visage captivating her on the main viewer. Firmly, she announced, "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. Borg Cube, please respond."
She felt the eyes of her bridge crew drilling into her backside, but she refused to show them the slightest flinch. This was what they were here for. This was what she intended to finish.
Again, she tried, "I repeat: please respond."
Kathryn Janeway only heard the utter stillness of the vacuum separating her ship from the Borg Armada.
Tapping her comm badge, Janeway ordered, "Delta Flyer, this is the Captain. Proceed with your launch, but, Harry, I want to be perfectly clear on this." Gradually, she turned and strode back to her command chair. "Only you and Maxwell beam aboard the Cube transmitting the distress signal. Tom stays on the Flyer with his foot on the gas."
"Ma'am?" Harry asked, confused by the metaphor.
Turning around to face the main viewer, she sat. "Don't worry. With his predilection for twentieth century history, I'm sure Tom understands me perfectly. If even one of those Cube's shows signs of life, I want the best pilot I have getting your team as far away from here as quickly as possible. Head for Besaria at best speed. Don't look back. Don't wait for us. We'll position ourselves between the Flyer and the Cube, should it become necessary. And Harry? I want pinpoint precision beaming to the exact spot where that distress signal is originating. Get in. Get out. No sightseeing. Understood?"
"Aye, Captain," she heard.
'And for Heaven's sake,' she thought, 'be careful.'