STAR TREK Adventures #10: Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 47263.6

RomCloak

The Romulan Warbird Devian, as she cloaks

Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 47263.6

Captain Matsumoto Sulu

USS Excelsior

At a distance of 131.3 light years I knew it would take the best part of four days for my sub-space call for help to reach Narendra Station, and for their reply to get back to Excelsior.  Four days might be three too many if the Borg decide to head for the wormhole and come through.  But I trust in our watchful probes to feed us intelligence about the Borg: let’s hope they make no aggressive move in our direction.  Perhaps they will presume the Sphere we destroyed is now rampaging through the Shackleton Expanse and has no need of any help: good for us if that is the case!

In fact, our probes reported that the Borg weren’t doing anything at all, except modifying their Cube to swallow the alien artefact whole.  We have two weeks, according to First Officer Rekan and Chief Engineer Resh, before the alien vessel will disappear – presumably forever – into the depths of the Borg Cube, and the Borg would learn all the technological marvels the alien civilisation have promised.

This cannot not be allowed to happen, and time is tight, but what we might do about it is unclear.

We spent those four days scouring through the debris field from the Sphere we destroyed.  My little flotilla had hit the Sphere so hard in the closing moments of the battle that there was very little left.  We brought aboard a few chunks of twisted metal and circuitry that looked promising, but I’m not holding out much hope of learning anything really ground-breaking about the Borg’s technology from them.

But, I can’t say the same about the Borg themselves.  Doctor Ketsu requested a few dead Borg drones upon which to experiment, and his studies, macabre as they may seem to some back in the safety of the Federation Core, have advanced our knowledge of the Borg’s organic-cybernetic interface enormously.  He has even advanced theories on how the Collective’s individuals connect and interact with the Collective as a whole.  This has given rise to the intriguing possibility that we might be able to inject some malicious code, through an individual Borg, that could corrupt the Collective’s capabilities, and perhaps give us a hope against that Cube.  It may all be wishful “pie-in-the-sky” thinking, but it’s an avenue to explore for sure: if only we had a live Borg or two to work with…

My discussions with Harper of the USS Aurora and the Romulan Commander Nurama have been interesting, but not as fruitful as I’d have liked: the Romulan eventually decided (based on orders from the Romulan Star Command, I expect) that she could not share her cloaking technology, so any strategy against the Borg will have to work on the basis of only one hidden vessel…  Frustrating, seeing how far I thought my and Nurama’s trusting relationship had come, and under the circumstances!  But so be it.  Perhaps I have to rein in my optimism about Nurama and prepare for the worst.

Captain’s Log – Supplemental: Stardate 47264.8

I have received Starfleet’s reply, direct from Fleet Admiral Gustafson himself no less.  I’m glad to say they are taking my report seriously.  Not only is Admiral Burfict of Narendra station sending all the ships he has at his disposal (only three in fact, but including the Galaxy Class Venture) but Starfleet Command is drawing all the ships in the local sector to support us (perhaps another ten) and they are looking to mobilise the Federation and our Klingon allies to gather a fleet big enough to defeat the Borg Cube.  Great news for the Federation and the Empire, but not so great that it will be a month before even the USS Venture arrives to help us.

So, no cavalry, but I’m not sure what I expected.  Even Gustafson said as much in his missive:

“In short Matsumoto, what I am saying is you and Captain Harper are on your own.  I trust you both to hold the line and do whatever is required to protect the Federation.  While it would be of enormous potential benefit to learn what these alien artefacts have to teach us it is imperative that we do not let that knowledge fall into the hands of the Borg.  Your top priority is to prevent this.”

I’m not sure how one Nova class, one Excelsior class, and one perhaps less-than-trustworthy Romulan D’Deridex warbird can stop a Borg Cube, but we must do what we can.

My motto is, after all, “Resistance is not futile…”

Captain’s Log – Supplemental: Stardate 47266.6

After much discussion I settled on our strategy for this encounter:

The number one priority was to get the data from the alien artefact if that were possible, and get out alive (or get the data out before we fell, if it came to that).  To achieve this we would have to rely upon the Romulans and their cloaking technology to get close enough to the alien artefact, and hope that the Borg either weren’t looking for us or weren’t able to find us.  Even then there was no guarantee we could access that rich data, and no guarantee that the Borg hadn’t already got their hands on it (although the fact they were going to such lengths to absorb the alien sphere suggested they hadn’t).

Second (although some in my command crew held that this was the highest priority) we needed to kidnap some drones, ideally from a Sphere but from the Cube if we had no other choice (I mean, an angry Sphere after us would be bad enough, but an angry Cube would see us all assimilated or dead).  Ketsu seemed sure he could find a way to infect the Borg Collective if he could work on a live drone, but it seemed a long shot to me.

Excelsior, with Lieutenant Banks in command, and Aurora were to wait by the wormhole and offer tactical support if the plan went wrong, but otherwise were under orders to flee back through the wormhole should they come under attack once we had sent the data to them.

A reasonable plan, under the circumstances, but two things worried me and my command crew, and we spoke long about them in my conference room:

  • First, the trustworthiness of the Romulans: there was no doubt that Nurama had been in contact with the High Command and surely had orders of her own.  We were placing our trust completely in her hands by transferring command of the flotilla to her bridge, with me and my command crew, and only five tactical officers as my personal “entourage”.  I expected betrayal, and ordered contingency plans to take the Devian’s bridge should Nurama double-cross us.  Rekan and Resh both questioned the need for this: they may be right (indeed I hope they are) but this lack of perspective casts doubt on their future command potential.  You have to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.  I sincerely hoped that my and Nurama’s growing relationship would not end at the point of a phaser: I wouldn’t be the one to betray that trust, but I wouldn’t take her betrayal lying down.  And my orders reflected this fact, regardless of my First Officer’s and Chief Engineer’s misplaced misgivings.
  • Second, the ethics of using a living creature, a Borg drone, for our ends: after all, these drones were all once men and women, like us, regardless of their species and home planet.  Didn’t they deserve more respect?  Didn’t they deserve our best efforts to save them?  After all, Captain Picard of Enterprise was rescued, saved, rehabilitated.  So who’s to say we couldn’t do the same for these poor souls?  It’s a decision that will always be right and always be wrong, but I chose to authorise the plan for what I think are good reasons: the Borg, regardless of the provenance of their drones, is an existential threat to the existence of everything I care about in this universe, and must be fought at every turn: and a Borg Cube has perhaps 100,000 drones aboard, and a Sphere 5,000 or so.  Which drones do we save, as it’s clear we cannot save them all?  In battle, we strain every sinew to kill them, and my crew cheered when the Sphere exploded and 5,000 drones breathed their last.  It’s hard-nosed perhaps, but for me, those men and women, and the people they once were, died the dreadful day they were assimilated: if the chance to save them falls into our lap then we should take it of course, but otherwise I don’t owe these poor creatures any debt of restraint – they are now enemies of civilisation and as such we should take all chances we have to stop them.

So, I gave the command and we executed the plan.

CubeSphere

The Borg Cube with one of its nearby Spheres (Excelsior to scale is as long as the Sphere is wide)

On breaching the wormhole we saw that the situation hadn’t changed much: the Cube was on the edge of the black hole’s accretion disc, close to the artefact, both about half a light year from our position, with two Spheres slightly closer to us.  Running under cloak and silent the Devian headed towards the artefact.  As we did so we tried to contact the aliens, with a narrow band tight beam signal telling them how bad the Borg are, and suggesting they take action to protect their artefact if they were able.

No reply.

Scans showed that the artefact was as good as solid: we could find no way in, and no gap inside it to which we could beam.  We approached, well within range of the Cube’s weapons and tractor beams and awed by the sheer size and malevolence of the thing.  I have fought one, seen one before, but not this close and not with the time to stare in wonder at the technical brilliance behind it.  Frankly, if I hadn’t had the mission to focus on even I would have been terrified out of my wits.

We were about to give up on the artefact when Resh suggested we navigate the Devian to almost touching distance and hail them.  It seemed a fruitless effort but to everyone’s surprise it worked!  The artefact started transmitting a message to Nurama’s ship and the data streamed in, the Borg Cube none the wiser as far as we could see.  Resh oversaw the downloads into Devian’s computer but there was no dual download – no copy for the Federation.  I challenged Nurama and she tried to fob me off, saying the tactical situation was the priority and she would, of course, forward us a copy later: I replied that two of our combined 2300 crew could manage the copy and the rest the tactical situation, and she relented.  Resh confirmed the data we got was that received from the aliens.

Priority one successful and still cloaked we proceeded to priority two: the kidnap of five live Borg drones from the Cube.  Resh helped the Devian’s Transporter Chief and the captives were soon materialising in the Devian’s brig as the Warbird spooled up her warp drive.  But this didn’t go undetected.

BorgDrones#1

The two Spheres, already with a head-start on us, immediately went to Warp 9 and headed for the wormhole.  Devian went to Warp 9 too, her maximum emergency warp that had proved so damaging before.  But we needed more.  Resh again helped the Romulans and together we pushed their singularity drives to Warp 9.2, meaning we arrived at the wormhole with 15 minutes to spare over the Spheres.

My re-united flotilla fled through the wormhole, giving Dr Ketsu a shade over an hour with Excelsior’s equipment to work on the live Borg and infect them with his malware.  Four were infected in the hope that they would spread the virus to the Collective when they re-connected.  The fifth was kept secure and sealed off, safe in the electronic quarantine of a Faraday Cage.

We had no idea if this would work, if the sacrifice of the individuals who became these drones would be worth it.  I should have had more faith in my Chief Medical Officer – within minutes of the Borg’s emergence from the wormhole the malware took hold and the Spheres showed signs of trouble, systems failing.  We kept the Spheres at bay and out of weapons range, and within the hour both Borg vessels were dead in space, largely undamaged but with crews that were no longer operational.  We opened fire and damaged the Spheres, against the risk they would overcome the virus and become operational again.  But I wanted to capture these ships for the Federation, to study and learn how to defeat the Borg for good.  So just winging these Spheres was not enough.

And here we ran into another terrible dilemma.  I assigned tactical teams (a lot of tactical teams) to board the Spheres with orders to kill every drone they found, nearly 10,000 all told.  My official report details my command reasons for doing this, but the bottom line was I could not rely on the virus.  It was entirely reasonable to assume the Borg would eventually overcome it, and suddenly we would face two operational Borg Spheres and would be at a tactical disadvantage, with crew aboard the Spheres and at close range.

That was a risk too far.  But also, for the men and women tasked to carry it out, that was perhaps a command too far.  But that’s the responsibility you bear and the price you pay as a member of Starfleet, and the responsibility you bear and the price you pay as a Starfleet Captain.  I only hope I bear that weight with as much resilience and dignity as the crews of Excelsior and Aurora.

So, every drone had to die: if the vessels had no crew they could not function, so no crew it would be.  Regardless of their race, species or gender, regardless of who they might have been in their lives before, they had to die.  That said, we saved the first 200 we found, beaming them to the spare brig space aboard both Excelsior and Aurora to return to wiser heads than ours in the hope they could, one day, be restored to their prior states: a tiny gesture amongst so much killing.

A final post-script before I turn my thoughts to the Borg Cube, and what we might do about that.  We have secured the data from the alien artefact despite my suspicion and the reluctance of the Romulans.  It checks out, according to Resh, and has been sent post haste back to Starfleet for investigation.  Despite my fears I still feel a strong bond with Commander Nurama, and for her good faith and courage under fire I arranged a surprise for her.

Shortly after the defeat of the Borg Spheres I invited Nurama and her command crew to Excelsior for a conference, only to use it to award her with the Starfleet Legion Of Honour, the highest battlefield honour I can bestow.  She was obviously moved by this gesture.  Privately, and after the ceremony, Nurama told me she had dis-obeyed direct orders from the Romulan High Command who had expressly forbidden her to share the alien information with the Federation.  I told her that they need never find out, but if they did she could join Starfleet where there would be a place for her to serve on Excelsior under my command…

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