VI: The Great Escape
Kirk lashed out with a series of strikes to the metal flesh monster: fist, elbow, fist. At its base form the creature was human and she knew the strikes should have fractured its skull. But the flesh was married to steel and the creature was not even paused. The Borg snapped out its right arm in reply to the attack and sent Kirk tumbling over the bridge railing.
Hansen drew out his phaser but the Borg as quickly reached out and grabbed his throat. Hansen struggled for a moment then fell to the ground as the machine man released him. The monster turned to the next crewman, an engineer who had been on the bridge trying to lock down a reactor leak. The crewman lunged at the beast, but for all the force that the young man could muster the machine thing simply stood its ground, immovable, and unstoppable. The man stepped back, but not quickly enough. The creature snatched him by the throat. He was about to fall at the hands of the borg, but Faulkner would not have it.
From the helmsman's phaser fiery energy lanced out across the bridge, but nothing happened to the Borg. The undead machine dropped the young man and marched past him. The engineer, like the captain had fallen to the ground gasping for air and struggling to stay alive. His skin began to pale and it seemed as if death was taking him.
Kirk pulled herself to her feet, shaking off the impact and the fall, then pulled out her phaser and began to fire. Twin beams of fury, from her and Faulkner, lazed into the creatures' chest, enough power to explode nearly a ton of rock, and yet the blasts just washed over it as if they were made of nothing more than brightly colored streams of water.
"Let's get the wounded and go!" Kirk shouted as she crossed to the opposite side of the bridge. There was no way to win this here and now. It was best to get as many out as she could. She took only a moment to taste the irony and understood now what Hansen was trying to do earlier. There was still a lot she had to learn about being a captain.
The monster walked over to Leeds, kneeled down and grabbed his neck. Then stood and began to walk to the back of the bridge where Kirk, Faulkner, Tien, and the wounded were loading into a turbo lift.
Tien helped the young engineer into the turbo lift. Once freed of his cargo he turned to Faulkner and shouted, "Keep it distracted, I think I can stop it."
Faulkner placed a wounded officer with the others and watched as Tien jumped back onto the bridge. Tien shot past the Borg headed towards the science station on the starboard side of the bridge. He had an idea and if it worked it was worth his life. The Borg turned away from the survivors and moved methodically towards Tien.
Kirk shouted for him to retreat but moved into support him realizing that Tien wasn't paying attention. Tien was lost in the moment and it would take more than words to gain his attention.
Faulkner locked out the door controls. He heard the turbo lift swoosh away and let rest of the bridge personnel leave his mind. He then moved toward the intruder in the center of the bridge. The Borg was quick, but wasn't agile. It walked as if it were forced to, each motion fierce and intense, yet awkward and clumsy. What could be seen of its face was pale, like death, and the smell of something rotted and lost rose up from it. It had been alive at one time, but now stood on the edge of the mortal coil, drifting close to, but never peering into the undiscovered country.
Tien landed at the science panel, cleared a way the rubble, and began to enter in the viral sequence. Kirk was still shouting for him to pull back but motioned to Faulkner to come around the machine-monster. She maneuvered within arms reach of the thing and it turned toward her. She leapt back with lightning speed and rolled over the rail to the tactical station. The creature looked confused for a minute, then stomped around the rail to follow Kirk. It couldn't seem to see a way to navigate over the rail, and Kirk saw this as a weakness. Adam then jumped in close to the beast, and it snapped and began to pursue him. Suddenly this fearsome monster seemed somewhat less intimidating. The raging hell sent beast coddled down to nothing more than a mere puppet.
The two began to pickle the monster, dropping in and out of its range-one closer than the other then back, again. The Borg's weakness was exploited. This drone was programmed to move towards the nearest person no matter what. It didn't use common sense or individual decision making power; it did what it was programmed to do. Had it not been so dangerous, the situation would have seemed comical.
Tien launched the back up program on the panel and rerouted the programming. He focused the ship's subspace transceiver assembly on to the bridge and launched the last virus that he had. The power distribution nodes on the cube were to well shielded to tap into the collective, but the processors on this drone were not. As Kirk had discovered, the drones were the weakest link in the collective, and Tien was going to make surethat they exploited it.
There was a shudder as the local space began to ebb at the mighty transmission. The Borg drone continued to flutter between the two Starfleet officers, and Kirk thought for a moment that she could keep this up indefinitely.
It was done. The Iconian Virus had been transmitted to the small drone. Soon its mechanical components would malfunction, and if Tien guessed right, the entire Borg collective would fall. The Iconian virus would rend the great collective apart just as it had done to the USS Yamato, and just as it had done to his parents' ship.
Several green flickers appeared on the bridge. The Borg had adapted. A dozen more drones transported in. They were surrounding the three officers and it was painfully obvious that it was over. There was no place to run and no way to get through them. Tien moved away from the science console towards the center of the room. The Borg stood for a moment, still and quiet in the smoke-filled bridge. Then in unison the came to life. They marched through the dimly lit world without pause or question.
Tien drew his phaser, then he felt something at his ankle. Leeds was struggling up. Tien pulled him to his feet, but something was horribly wrong with Leeds. His face was wet, and black lines traced under his skin. When Leeds was on his feet he grasped at Tien and tried to hold him.
Faulkner and Kirk were back-to-back; phasers set to overload. They might die, but they were going to take some of these bastards with them.
The Borg began to close in on Tien as Leeds held him in a grip of steel. Kirk and Faulkner were seconds away from annihilation, the choking air and the wall of undead slowly asphyxiating any hope of survival. The sound of the phasers began to rise as energy rebounded and built up in the pre-fire chambers. Once initiated the subtle, fine weapons would become bombs that could rend the bridge from the hull.
Then every thing changed.
The green light of the tractor link faded from the main view-screen, the Borg stopped what they were doing and then looked up toward the cube. They seemed as if they were listening to something like a whisper far away. Even Leeds let go of Tien.
"What's happening?" Faulkner stood wide-eyed and ready to die. The power building in his phaser was growing closer to detonation with every second.
"Tien lets go!" Kirk tuned down her phaser and shot Leeds. Tien ran across the bridge but no Borg moved to stop him.
"My phaser is going to overload, I can't stop it!" Faulkner warned as he struggled with the device. The distinct high-pitched whine that came from the emitter crystal as it rebounded energy onto itself pierced their ears. They didn't have much time left.
Kirk turned her phaser to the doors and blew up the locking mechanism and the hydraulic systems. She then pulled with all her might and forced the doors open enough to squeeze through. The shaft was empty and not well lit. She turned to Faulkner who tossed his weapon into the center of the bridge. Kirk knew the Turbo shafts had no gravity but it made it no less dramatic as she dived into the darkened maw. Not missing a beat Tien and Faulkner jumped in right behind her.
The trio slowly dropped three decks and then felt the explosion of the phaser on the bridge. There was a blast of air and they began to rise again. Kirk grabbed the access ladder and Tien grabbed her foot. Faulkner fell back and reached to grab Tien's leg but missed. The rush of air increased and they knew that the bulkhead had collapsed. The ship had force-fields that would seal off such breaches, but nothing had yet come to intercede. Adam watched Tien fade in the darkness and he knew that if he couldn't grab something soon he would die. The air was rushing in his ears and his breath was growing short. Adam braced to hit the doors that led to the bridge. The fear of death by vacuum thick on his mind, and he prayed that when he hit he would have enough strength to keep himself from being torn into space.
Kirk pulled with all her might. Her fingers wet with perspiration and she was slipping off the cold steel ladder. They were in zero G, but the air was pulling at them mercilessly. The entire volume of the turbo shafts ran past them like an onslaught hurricane funneled through a ten by ten tube. If she were alone she could do it, but with Tien holding on she would soon slip. Gritting her teeth and focusing with all her mind she pulled in against the blasting wind and locked her arm in the rungs. Her arm would rip from her socket before she would let go.
Then the blasting air stilled as the structural integrity fields formed electric scabs over the wounds of the Agincourt. Adam quickly climbed down the dark shaft towards his friends. They rallied their strength, pried open the doors to deck three, and collapsed on the cold steel floors. Only a scant red flickering light colored their skins, as the acrid air of the deck vented slowly past them and into the now quiet shaft.
"Can't breath..."Tien grasped as he put his face to the cool steel.
"You'll be fine. There is...plenty of air. Keep low." Kirk said in short concise bursts.
Less than ten minutes had passed since they had engaged the Borg and Kirk had no idea how much longer it would last. Her mind raced with thoughts of Leeds, Hansen, and the fate of the Earth. Things were happening too fast for her to take them in. She needed a plan of action and she needed to save her crew. No less than a miracle would work.
"Dammit!" Faulkner exclaimed, "I locked the controls onto the cube. We're gonna ram it."
"We would have already hit it by now." Kirk said as she looked up and scanned down the corridor. She wiped the sweat from her face and pulled herself up in the darkness. The ship rumbled and she held the wall to maintain her footing. Photon wake; at least they were still fighting out there.
"She's right." Tien confirmed as the lights on the deck began to flicker back to life.
A single central corridor dominated deck three. It had lateral junctions, an armory and several offices. It also had the escape pods.
"I want you two to see if there are any escape pods left. I'm going to check this deck for survivors." Kirk didn't want to tell them what she really had planed; that she was about to give the Borg one last punch in the nose.
Kirk motioned them to ready an escape pod while she ran to her office. She rounded the corner and there was one of the Borg. It was still poised as if something were whispering into its metal-flesh ear. It was between her and where she wanted to be.
She held her breath and quickly slid past it. Like its brothers on the bridge, it seemed locked in a fugue state. As she rushed by it she could smell oil and rotted flesh. It was nauseating, but she steeled herself and moved on.
As she entered her office she looked at the Lurpa in the corner. It was a gift from the Ambassador himself. A flicker of a smile flashed across her beaten brow at the thought of Ambassador Spock handing her such a gift. She immediately refocused on her desk computer and began to pull up pertinent files.
"Computer, auto destruct sequence. Kirk Amanda T.; gamma, one, seven, zero"
The screen made no sounds but asked for the verification.
"Kirk to Faulkner, I can't get back to you. Launch now."
"We aren't leaving you Lieutenant!" Tien's voice came across from her comm. badge.
"I'll take a different pod- go now. That's an order."
She looked at the screen waiting to commit herself to this effort. Faulkner had launched them at the Borg, and the tractor had let go. If the cube stopped then the ship would continue to drift toward it. When the Kyushu blew her warp core it paused the beast. At the least the Agincourt would pause it again, if not destroy the thing completely.
"Computer, zero, zero, destruct-" But she was interrupted before she could enter in the final sequence. The doors to her office swished open and her phaser was drawn and aimed before they were fully parted. But she did not fire.
"Amanda!" Chartreuse screamed out, her slicked back blue hair; now shuffled and dull. Next to her was an Andorian woman that Kirk hadn't seen before. They both had rifles and they were aimed at Kirk.
"Kirk, Lieutenant Commander." She said to the Andorian.
"Bova, Doctor Bova." She stepped aside to reveal two other humans also wearing medical uniforms, "This is Green and Craig."
We were heading towards the bridge when these things started grabbing people." Chartreuse explained, still not lowering the weapon.
"Did you let them touch you?" Bova still held a phaser rifle at Kirk.
Green pulled out a tricorder and began to scan Kirk, "Minor infection, surface only. We can amputate."
Green was a young woman of fair complexion, emerald eyes and a distinct gem on her brow indicative of her Hindu background.
"Whoa, hold on there. I'm one of the good guys. Ivey?"
"She'll be fine if we can get her to a medical facility." Bova spoke to Chartreuse as if Kirk were not present.
"They have micro mechanical assimilators that convert the blood and body tissue making you one of them." Chartreuse explained.
Kirk looked at her hand, the one she had struck the alien with. It was irritated and itched, the skin growing pale around the knuckles.
"Faulkner to Kirk. We got a problem."
Chartreuse eyes lit as she whispered her lovers' name.
"Report" Kirk said as Bova and the others lowered their phasers.
"The escape pods can't launch, " Faulkner's voice was low and edgy.
Then there came a deep groaning as if something large had begun to push on the hull. The ship shuddered and Kirk knew that tractor had been re-engaged. She grabbed a tricorder from her desk and motioned Green for her his rifle. There was a moment of hesitation, and but the young nurse gave it up.
Paula Green had only three years in Starfleet medical. She had joined because her family had, in one way or another, been apart of Starfleet since its inception. She didn't want to face the frontier, nor fight in boarder skirmishes. She wanted to be a nurse, helping and caring for the hurt and injured.
"Zero, zero, destruct; one," Kirk said adamantly to the waiting computer. She thought about it for a moment. How much time would she have before the cube could re-enter warp. "Eight minute silent count down."
"What the-!" Jubae pushed towards Kirk, "You just killed us all!"
"Doctor your more than welcome to stay," Kirk pushed her aside, "But I'm leaving." And then she briskly walked out into the corridor.
The machine man was still in the corridor attentively listening to the silence, but Kirk suspected that wouldn't last long. She ran past it without pause and then nodded for the others to come. Knowing it probably was shielded against her weapon, Kirk focused her phaser on the floor beneath the drone. If it moved she would blast the floor away. It wouldn't kill the drone, but would slow it down long enough for them to get by. Bova, Chartreuse, and the two medical techs quickly ran past the drone.
They re-grouped at the escape pod hatch where they could see what Kirk had planned. The escape pods small viewer showed that the ship was being pulled closer to the Cube.
"I guess they want a closer look." Kirk said. Her communicator beeped and she instinctively tapped at it, "Kirk here."
"We are the Borg...." the voice began. She looked down at her chest and pulled the commbadge off. Then the others began to chirp and announce the Borg mantra.... "You will be assimilated."
"Resistance is futile," sounded through the corridors.
"Your life as you have known it is over, from this point forward you will service us." Every piece of equipment that could relay sound spoke the horrible chant repeating it endlessly.
The Comm panels lit up and the LCAR's display fluttered and faded. The familiar interface replaced by strange ganglia-like glyphs. The transmission began to play on the corridor panels and a familiar face appeared. It was Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise. He had been assimilated by the Borg, and was chanting the undead mantra.
"Jesus, is that Captain Picard?" Green gasped. Green was a cadet at the academy the year that the Enterprise had launched. She had the pleasure of hearing Picard speak at a ceremony. His smooth voice was now lifeless and cold. She had thought that he was the indomitable Captain, and if he couldn't stop these things, then no one could.
"Is that what's going to happen to Leeds?" Faulkner spoke gravely.
"We're not gonna make it are we," Bova's voice was lost and empty.
The drone, as if on cue turned towards the group and began to walk.
Kirk swallowed deeply and gritted her teeth. It was time for a miracle, only none were coming.