by E. L. Zimmerman
Once the crowd had settled back into their seats after the brief furor that had erupted when they learned that the unidentified cloud was heading toward the planet Earth, Tuvok focused his complete attention on the Assembly. The captain had already stressed the magnitude of communicating the entire affair to the Gathered Races of Besaria.
He wasn’t about to disappoint his commanding officer.
‘After breaching the anomaly’s exterior, the three cruisers ventured deeper into the massive space vehicle. This maneuver, however, proved costly to the Klingon Empire, resulting in the deaths of over one thousand warriors. Utilizing Twelfth Power Energy torpedoes, not unlike those of the Pulse Cannon, the machine/organism disintegrated what it must have perceiving as hostile, attacking ships.
‘Starfleet later learned,’ he continued, shuffling briefly from his position behind the podium, ‘that the Klingon ships were not destroyed, in the most literal sense of the word. They were deleted from our current frame of existence, reduced to data patterns, a highly-advanced molecular cataloguing of the vessels in exacting detail. Call it … an accelerated memory, if you will. These data patterns are similar to the processing of matter through our ship’s transporters, but with exponentially greater and significantly more reliable analysis.
‘As a response to the crisis, Starfleet Command readied and dispatched a ship from its own registry – the USS Enterprise – to intercept the cloud. The Enterprise and her crew inevitably engaged the machine/organism.’
Tuvok noticed that his audience was, once again, rapt with curiosity, wondering about the fates of what he knew was, perhaps, the most legendary crew to ever serve a Starfleet ship.
Even on Vulcan, the names held an uncharacteristic reverence.
‘The single greatest difference between their encounter and the Klingons,’ he continued, ‘lay in the fact that the Enterprise crew was able to establish contact with the cloud’s central processing unit through use of a surprisingly primitive linguicode.’
With that, the Vulcan drew the PADD near and tapped the ‘off’ switch.
‘As events continued to unfold, an encounter with the entity resulted in a casualty. An energy probe, operated by the cloud, boarded the Starfleet vessel’s main bridge. It began scanning the ship’s computer system, performing a thorough examination of all records relative to the planet Earth. During this encounter, the ship’s navigator, a female Deltan, was … compromised.’
Tuvok paused and cleared his throat. ‘To date, there has been no conclusive evidence or universal theory to explain the cloud’s interest in the Enterprise’s navigator. However … Deltans, of our quadrant, possess a highly developed … sexuality. The Deltan instinct to … copulate, or to procreate their species, might have interested the machine/organism. We can only speculate that the machine/organism might have lacked the physiology to propagate a species of its own, much less possess the emotional curiosity of the Deltans to explore their … sensual boundaries.’
Again, the Vulcan cleared his throat. ‘Thus, it is safe to conclude that the navigator would have appeared to the cloud as a novelty.’
He momentarily studied his captive audience.
‘Without provocation, the energy probe disintegrated the navigator, as easily as the torpedoes had reduced the Klingon cruisers, to virtual nothingness. Much to the Enterprise crew’s surprise, the Deltan shortly returned, appearing as suddenly as she had vanished. However, Starfleet Science referred to her as … an identical.’
Murmurs quickly grew in the crowd.
‘An examination performed by the ship’s doctor, Dr. Leonard McCoy, proved that this new Deltan was much like the cloud. She was, in a clinical definition of much controversy, a machine/organism. A living machine. Undoubtedly, she had undergone the same data pattern conversion as the Klingon vessels, but, on this occasion, the cloud apparently utilized the complex molecular schematic to replicate the navigator, programmed to respond to broadcast programming through an automated transponder placed at the base of the navigator’s neck.
‘By establishing contact with this identical, the Enterprise crew learned that the machine/organism referred to itself … as V’Ger.’
‘LaCoste to Chakotay.’
Again using his boot to clamp down the violently twitching power coils, Chakotay dropped his tools and reached up to slap his comm badge.
‘Commander, I’ve managed to locate … well, uh …
‘Spit it out, Verena.’
After a pause, she said, ‘Sir, I believe I’ve located … well, I have a sensor image that would indicate I’ve either located Mr. Neelix … or one gigantic Tallaxian.’
Knowing full well that the ship’s sensors had difficulty enough penetrating the Generatrix’s natural shielding, Chakotay smiled. He didn’t have time to explain to LaCoste why there might be hundreds of Mr. Neelixes appearing on her scanners.
‘Good work, ensign,’ he replied. ‘Can you cross-reference, based on my comm signal, and give me directions to find Neelix?’
‘Sir,’ she began, ‘there isn’t a giant Tallaxian down there, is there?’
‘Verena,’ he tried, stifling a laugh, ‘I promise I’ll explain it all when I have more time.’
A crackling of intense static forced Chakotay to cover his ears. He grimaced, lowering his head. After the crackling faded, he shouted, ‘LaCoste, what was that?’
‘We’re scanning, sir.’
‘Did we just experience some kind of solar flare?’
‘Stand by, sir,’ came the response. ‘We’re receiving … we’re receiving what appears to be a distress …’
Suddenly, all communications ceased.
Chakotay placed his hands on his hips, waiting several seconds before he heard anything further from the Voyager bridge.
‘Oh … my God …’
Confused, Chakotay asked, ‘Ensign?’
There came no reply.
‘Lower decks,’ he told himself. ‘She’s found something, and she’s uncertain as how to qualify much less explain it.’ He’d seen it happen hundreds of times before, and the only solution was to force the ensign to talk it through.
‘Ensign Verena,’ he barked, ‘report!’
After another bout of communications interference, Chakotay heard, ‘Sir, do you have long range scanning capability down there?’
Nodding, he replied, ‘That’s affirmative, ensign.’
‘Then I think you’re going to need to see this for yourself, commander,’ she said, her voice laced with intensity. ‘I’d suggest that you get to a screen, sir … and fast.’
Suddenly, a voice disturbed Tuvok’s presentation.
‘How was this possible?’
Herself lost in the tale that had grown out of Tuvok’s explanation, Captain Janeway glanced up from the platform and into the throng. She watched as Packell slowly rose to his feet, angrily shrugging of the arm of his lifemate, Aulea.
‘Prefect?’ Tuvok asked politely.
‘How was this possible?’ Packell created. ‘How was it possible that a machine … any machine … could create a living being?’
Tuvok nodded. ‘Prefect, sadly the answer escapes me. In our quadrant, we have found that science has been relatively more advanced on occasions when compared to what we’ve encountered in the Delta Quadrant. In 2267, the United Federation of Planets discovered a previously unknown Class-K planetoid bearing the population of androids created somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy. In 2336, Dr. Noonien Soong, a cyberneticist, did construct two androids classified as sentient by Starfleet Legal … a Lieutenant Commander Data and his earlier prototype, Lore.’ The Vulcan glanced around the Assembly. ‘However, the ability for a machine to replicate life evades Starfleet Sciences. As I have stated, V’Ger accomplished data pattern conversion through the used of used plasma torpedoes and probes entirely comprised of Twelfth Power Energy. Somehow, the technology must be linked.’
Packell crossed his arms.
The crowd slowly responded. At first, the gathered residents shuffled in their seats. Then, they began chatting openly with one another.
‘Let Tuvok finish!’ Packell shouted over the roar of the crowd.
The crowd silenced.
‘Frankly, there is little more to summarize,’ Tuvok concluded. ‘Captain Janeway asked that I provide you with a recounting of the contact with V’Ger, as it is our only known dealing with an entity possessing application of Twelfth Power Energy.’
Stepping forward, nearing the platform, Packell asked, ‘So what you’re conjecturing is that this energy cloud … this V’Ger … it made contact with Besaria? It and the One … they met?’
‘No, Prefect,’ Janeway replied, quickly rising and approaching the podium to join her Security Officer. ‘We’re not suggesting that at all. In fact, your own history would bear those facts out, if that were the case.’
‘Then … just what is the purpose of sharing this story with my people this evening, Captain?’ the Trakill inquired.
She clasped her hands together before her.
Pursing her lips, she stared intently at her friend.
‘Prefect, as it turned out, V’Ger was not an entity entirely alien to our word, as we first assumed. V’Ger was actually an unmanned Earth probe called the Voyager Six. I won’t trouble you with the details on the name change. It isn’t important. The Enterprise crew determined that Voyager Six had, at some point on its journey, fallen into what we call a black hole, a space phenomenon caused by a collapsed neutron star. Apparently, this black hole was a conduit. It transported the probe across a vast distance where it emerged, unscathed, at the far side of the galaxy. From what we understand, Voyager Six was discovered by a race of pure machine intellects.’
‘The Borg?’ Packell asked. ‘You mean to say that the Borg found your probe?’
‘I think it’s safe to say that conclusion Starfleet has accepted since our encounter with the Borg … but I no longer accept that version as the truth.’
Sighing, she lifted her head and continued. ‘There’s no arguing that the One possessed a vast intellect. Undoubtedly, he co-opted much of what he knew from the Borg. While dining with him here on Besaria, the One shared with me some musings on his original encounter with the Borg. He explained that, when he merged genetically with the first drone, he had touched a consciousness. At first, I assumed that he was referring to the Borg hive-mind, the central thought processes running through all drones. But, as the One continued his tale, I realized that the consciousness he was referring to sounded more powerful than the Borg. In fact, the One implied that the Borg were nothing more than the minions of this greater consciousness.’
The crowd had remained silent through most of her speech. Some of them had shifted in their seats on the stone benches, but, for the most part, they had given her their undivided attention.
‘The One called them the Dia’Soto,’ she finally pronounced. ‘It is my belief that Voyager Six was found by the Dia’Soto. From records preserved by the Enterprise’s encounter with V’Ger, we know that the small Earth probe emerged from a vortex, and it plummeted into orbit around a living, machine world.
‘The Dia’Soto,’ she proclaimed. ‘And … I believe the vortex was Channelspace.’
She glanced around at her rapt audience. ‘The Dia’Soto equipped the Voyager probe with the ability to return to Earth to fulfill its mission … to share with its creator what it had learned on its journey. However, V’Ger had taken on a new facet to its programming. The probe believed that the Earth was, in fact, infested by carbon-based life forms.’
Kathryn Janeway stopped suddenly, held up her arms, and gestured at the audience before her.
They were mesmerized. The Assembly, in their first meeting, was witnessing a history lesson like no species ever before.
‘V’Ger declared the carbon-based units harmful. The probe was intent on reducing all of Earth into those data patterns Mr. Tuvok spoke of.’
The crowd remained silent.
‘Captain,’ Packell finally broke the hush, ‘I still don’t understand where this entire story is …’
‘Prefect,’ she interrupted, holding up a hand to him. ‘The One indicated that the Borg are, in fact, not so much a race as they are pawns. They have a designation. Species 0001. From here, I can only conjecture. Based on the data I have available, it is my firm belief that … Starfleet has assumed for several years that the Borg is an independent race. We’ve assumed that they have gone about their way assimilating other cultures, doing this only because it is central to their programming. But … the question remains … why? Why assimilate? The Borg don’t appear ethnocentrically bent on building a cybernetic empire. They don’t appear to function out of need or necessity. They simply … ‘do’ what they ‘do.’ Have the Borg existed for the sole purpose of assimilation, or are they simply acting on order by design?’
Unblinking, Packell stared at her.
‘Prefect,’ she concluded, ‘I believe that the Borg are servants of the Dia’Soto, carrying out orders to assimilate all species of the various universes and star systems into one enclave.’
Simply, Packell asked, ‘For what purpose?’
‘I don’t know,’ she answered honestly. ‘However, the danger of induced extinction comes to mind.’
Janeway noticed that the Assembly took on an eerie chill. Despite the pronounced fear from her audience, she pressed on. ‘Once the Dia’Soto discover what we have learned from their Borg drones recently re-assimilated into the Collective, they will have no reason to stay confined on their homeworld … wherever that may be in whatever part of the galaxy they may hide.’
Kathryn Janeway stepped to the edge of the raised platform.
‘As neither V’Ger nor the Borg have proved capable,’ she said, ‘I believe that the Dia’Soto will come personally to finish the job of ridding the universe, once and for all, of carbon-based life forms.’