II: The Fear of Living
The doors slid open and Amanda T. Kirk was truly terrified for the first time in her life.
The air was thick and hot, and beads of dirty sweat poured across the trio. The strobe of the hallway was disturbing, a random flicking flash from the ground lights, and a watery green glow washing across the moist darkness. The panels that usually lined the halls and carried shipboard information via the LCARS displays were now infected with strange icons. Scrolling across the battered hall displays were deep green letters, which looked less like a language and more, like something alive.
The doors closed as Adam wished them luck and Godspeed. A Borg stood only meters before them. It looked straight on at Kirk, and took a step forward in the dark, its features mostly obscured in the sweltering midnight.
Kirk and her team stepped back, ready to dodge around the zombie like monster, their muscles tense, the hairs of their necks raised high, and there stomachs turning in circles.
The machine being lumbered forward, its dull yellow eye scanning them with no feeling or emotion.
Kirk gripped her phaser, and readied to fire. Sweat made it hard to hold her weapon, and it dripped in her eyes. Her sienna hair was matted and black and she was literally soaked in sweat.
Then the thing turned away.
The three looked at one another with confusion. But the monster's lack of interest did not pause them long. With no words said they quickly moved forward and past two more drones.
"They don't seem to know we are here." Bova whispered.
"Disadvantage of the collective." Kirk commented, but didn't stop. In her mind a countdown was beginning.
The trio walked past drone after drone, and each time they were passed by without inspection. Then they came to the last stretch of their journey. Kirk counted about thirty seconds before the self-destruct would tear open the ship and destroy them all. She knew that all she had to do was get to the manual override panel and launch the impulse exhaust and the shuttle and the others could beam to safety. For her two companions and herself, she wasn't sure what to do. But if they couldn't beam out there wasn't going to be much time for anything else.
From where they stood at thirty seconds it was less than a twenty meter run to the twin impulse engines that normally pushed the Agincourt an near light speeds. Between them and the massive drives stood no less than a dozen of the automaton monsters.
With confidence they began to move forward, rushing ever so carefully, as if each step might turn the monsters on them. They moved hurriedly past the first one. It seemed intent on rerouting a plasma relay and was focused on an open panel in the wall. The next two they passed were repairing an ODN line. They watched in amazement as two drones worked as one, each of their hands moving as if attached to a single being. The drones were much more efficient than the most trained engineers.
Again the three were ignored, and again they moved quickly in the flickering green darkness. Then one of the monsters ahead of them turned its head sharply, and its asymmetrical face locked onto Kirk and her crew. The Borg behind them turned and began to walk toward them. Twenty seconds left and something had changed.
"Let's go." Kirk said as she snapped forward. Only to be immediately thrown back by a 70 watt force-field.
She turned to where she came and saw that Jubae's phaser tip had already found a second force-field trapping them in a rather small space. Kirk turned to the control panel, but realized it was just outside of the field. She turned to the nearest Borg and readied herself to fight.
The zombie machines marched angrily toward them. Kirk breathed in a hot sticky breath as the machine walked right through the force field and reached out toward her. She dropped down and hit it in the gut, but the machine didn't stop.
Somewhere, far away on the Agincourt, deep in the secondary hull, a small explosive blasted the anti-matter pods apart to release the devastating fuel. But the Borg had already taken the precious cargo away. The self-destruct sputtered out-a few blown bulkheads and shattered conduits its only claim.
Jubae and Craig struck out at the monster, both their rifles slamming into its head. The twin strikes did nothing to stop the drone, and it picked up Amanda by her shoulder and pressed her against the force-field. The pain of the machine's vice grip and the eighty or ninety watts that ran through the force-field were more than even Kirk's bravado could handle, and the young Lieutenant cried out in pain.
The monster held its hand to her throat, and Kirk knew that she was going to die. She tried to pull her phaser up to overload it, but the intense pain overwhelmed her and she dropped it to the ground. Jubae and Craig were now simultaneously striking at another drone, and Kirk had the satisfaction that at least one more would fall.
Then there was a flash of light and the force-field collapsed. When it did, Kirk's weight shifted and she fell out of the demon's hands. The beast reoriented its cleaved metal face and grabbed at her again. As she looked up as a beam of phased energy smacked into it and slammed the beast backward. The machine fell to the ground amidst sparks and green fire, a huge dent made in its torso where the energy beam had landed.
From down the hall Chartreuse and Faulkner were laying down suppressive fire. The drones turned away from Kirk and pursued the new threat.
"We reset the phasers to fire micro kinetic bolts!" Chartreuse cried out.
"The can't adapt to that!" Faulkner shouted as he fired into a drone in front of him. But to his dismay the monster did not fall. The energy of the modified phaser only washed off its belly like harmless light.
"Go!" Faulkner shouted as the machine man lashed out at him.
Kirk didn't miss a beat. Instantly she was up and running and moving toward the impulse deck. Bova and Craig ran at full pace beside her. Two drones still stood before them and the doors.
Kirk dropped down and rolled below the first one's grasp and with all her might launched up and struck the second right on its nose. Her palm struck with sufficient force to send shards of bone deep into the monster's brain. And though it fell, it was not stopped. Jubae and Craig ran past the first one as it lunged for Kirk and then the second as it fell to the ground.
The trio came to the Impulse deck: heavy tritainum reinforced blast doors separated them from their goal. A glance back down the hall revealed a horde of black carapace wrapped bodies slowly washing in an angry wave toward the Starfleet personnel.
Craig opened the manual release as Kirk and Jubae quickly struggled to pull the door apart with modular handle attachments. As they pulled, young Craig readied his rifle to strike at anything undead that might come through.
As the doors creased a black armored arm lunged out and grabbed Craig's rifle. At that same moment the Borg from behind marched within reach of the trio.
Jubae lashed out at the arm with all her Andorian might and snapped it off at the wrist, black ooze spilling out in place of blood. Sparks and wire in place of muscle and sinew.
Craig turned toward the way he had come and was face-to-face with the dead, empty eyes of the collective. There was a painful bite on his neck and he fell back onto a broken Borg. He struggled but his world closed in on him; his mind pushed into a little box somewhere in his head. A numbing sensation overtook his body and his lips began to change color as they spoke their last words of defiance.
Jubae saw the black beetle-like bodies all around her and knew that the time had come. All her life she had lived on the edge of what she was, her intellect constantly at odds with her warrior blood. But now her mind had failed her, and here in the final moments she would not be Jubae-instead she would be the huntress. With her rifle she lashed out in a brezerker rage and began to tear into the horde, a fiery blue assault onto the collective. She would die, but she would take many Borg with her. The unstoppable bliss of rage consumed her and she was truly complete.
Kirk continued to pull open the door until a steel hand reached and grabbed at her shoulder. She instantly dropped, rolled through the opening to the impulse deck and jumped to her feet. There were too many Borg to count and her attacks, mostly blind, focused on harsh shoves. She displaced or threw the clumsy insects down before they could grab and contaminate her with their lecherous touch. She cleared the deck and could still hear Jubae's throaty battle cries. Her uniform ripped apart, the top half shredded as she pulled away from the collective grasp and ran toward the Emergency impulse flush venting control.
And then Kirk stopped dead in her tracks as fear and awe encompassed her. Her brave eyes panned up expecting to see the massive reactors of the impulse engines.
But there was nothing.
The entire Impulse deck had been cut away and only the black stained interior of the Borg hive dominated her view. The battle had started less than twenty minutes ago and already they had decimated the fleet, and dissected the Agincourt as if it were a toy. Jubae's cries suddenly were silenced and only the dull mantra of Locutus remained. Earth was doomed, the Federation would fall and there was nothing Amanda T. Kirk could do about it.
She turned to face death, as it walked in a collective march toward her, surrounding her. She raised her arms and stood ready. She had never feared death, and as the Borg moved in she realized that it was life that she had been truly afraid of. She had been living it for this moment, to die the defiant death and join her crew from the Tetsuo Shima. Her survivor guilt was now being answered.
Death came as memories of her mother, father, sister, and Savvik came rushing through her mind. If only she had more time...
Then a transporter beam whisked her away.
She knew where she was, but couldn't believe it. From the shuttle window Kirk could see the massive leviathan moving over them like a living metallic world. Then, as if it had never happened, the great beast launched away into hyper-light speed.
There were six of them cramped inside a tiny two-man craft, the only remnants of the crew of the Agincourt. The battle was over, twenty-two minutes and seven seconds later. The fleet decimated, the world forever changed.