(Author's note: Other USS Saratoga stories: Out of the Darkness, Hard Transitions Part 1, Hard Transitions Part 2.)
Lieutenant Commander Adriana Trozzo cursed the bulky environmental suit and helmet she had to wear. What bothered her even more though were the the various field disruptor relays that engineering had mounted to the walls inside the her astrometrics lab. While she understood the disruptors would enhance the titanium and dilithium particles in the air being used to degrade the force fields surrounding any Borg drones that boarded, the devices were sure to play hell with with her sensitive instruments.
Taking a moment to adjusted the phaser rifle she had been issued, Trozzo looked around at her people backing sure they were staying as calm as possible given that their ship was being pounded by Borg energy weapons. All six of her personnel were arrayed against the walls with fields of fire pointing inward since the Borg could beam over literally anywhere.
“Chief Warren,” Trozzo called out to the senior NCO of her group, “you started to tell us about the time you were on the Enterprise when it first encountered the Borg.” She said hoping that if the chief started talking it would distract everyone, at least a little, that given the situation their lifespans could probably be measured in minutes.
Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Warren was a thirty-seven year veteran of Starfleet and had served on so many different ships it was often joked that he had actually joined the service the day it was founded. “That was a nasty little episode,” he said in his deep Martian accent, “the goddamn entity called Q wanted to teach us a lesson in humility and tossed us into the middle of the Delta Quadrant. Told Captain Picard it was up to us now to cross half the galaxy...
Just as Chief Warren's story was about to really begin and bore everyone to death, salvation came from an unwelcome source over the ship's intercom. “All hands this is the captain, shield failure is immediate prepare for extreme evasive maneuvers and possible intruders. Alamo protocols are now under affect on all decks, everyone to weapons free!”
As if on cue, the ship violently lurched to starboard and down from Trozzo's perspective in an attempt to break off contact with the attacking Borg ship. She could almost imagine the overwhelmed inertial dampers struggling to keep the number of gees down to a survivable level. Luckily everyone in astrometrics were sufficiently tied down, preventing them from being thrown across the room.
It was then that, over the sound of the Saratoga's straining engines, the whine of an alien transporter was heard. “Okay people,” Warren cried out raising his rifle, “shit is about to get real.”
Six Borg drones had just enough time to fully materialized and begin surveying their surrounding before carefully aimed phaser blasts either vaporized them or blew enough chunks out of their bodies that they died on the spot. Over the internal intercom being used by everyone wearing the environmental suits, word was being passed that Borg were appearing all over the ship. Neither Trozzo, Warren, nor the other members of the astrometrics staff had much time to consider the other sections of the ship being boarded since another group of Borg were attempting to beam over in their area.
“Looks like ten to twelve this time trying to beam over,” Trozzo heard one of the young enlisted crewmen say nervously. Trozzo hated herself for not being able to remember the young girl's name at that moment.
“Hang tight,” Warren cried out, “concentrate on your assigned fields of fire and watch your rifle power levels.”
When transport was complete twelve Borg drones were standing in the lab, Trozzo saw that her people stayed true to their training and Warren's words of warning. Everyone fired the required short bursts and the Borg drones fell accordingly, some with puzzled looks, which she took to mean they were attempting to adapt their personal shield generators and utterly failing.
Things were going good until the ship abruptly changed course throwing one of the surviving Borg drones from the center of the lab to the bulkhead right next Chief Warren. Trozzo struggled to move her rifle to help Warren but the either the inertial dampers had failed or the artificial gravity in their section was malfunction making it even hard to breathe, much less shift her firing. The Borg drone was laying right next Warren waving its cybernetic laden arms wildly around. Chief Warren was attempting to undo the straps holding in him place when the Borg drone regained its composure, turned its head to look at Warren, and then raise one of its arms to attempt to implant the nano-devices into his body that begin the assimilation process.
As the gravity in astrometrics suddenly returned to normal, Warren was able to grab a hold of the Borg's arm and push back, although the drone had already extended the tubules from its wrist area that penetrate a person body to inject the nano-devices. There were only two Borg left in astrometrics at this point but before any of them could adjust their fire the drone next Warren was able to penetrate his suit with one tubule and infect him. With the return of normal gravity, Trozzo's people were able to quickly dispatch the remaining two Borg drones, but the damage was done.
“Dammit,” the old Martian veteran scream out. “I'm infected, you people know your orders,” Warren said clutching the arm of his suit the drone had punctured. “Now, dammit, I can feel these things running all through my body,” he cried out.
Trozzo didn't want to kill her friend and mentor, but right before her eyes she could see Borg implants taking hold from the part of Warren's face visible behind the face shield of his helmet. Without saying a word, she fired her rifle with the beam hitting Warren in the neck area. The old man vaporized before her eyes, but not before giving her one last, fully human smile. It then Trozzo realized the entire ship had gone quiet.
The main viewer at the front of the bridge showed a magnified image of the Borg cube gliding through space in pursuit of the Saratoga. The huge vessel was still firing off volleys of both plasma charges and intense particle-bean energy weapons, but the rate of fire had greater diminished.
“Axor,” Douglas yelled into the intercom, “what's the status on our shields?”
“Working as fast as possible, captain,” The Bolian responded. “We've had our own issues with drones beaming over here in engineering, but the coolant we let out into the atmosphere immediately begins boiling away their organic parts. But in turn that makes doing our own job even harder.”
“Understood,” Douglas said, “just give me your best guess.”
“No surprises, I'd say we can have partial shields restored in an hour.”
While they were totally familiar with the reports from other Starfleet crews that encountered the Borg, neither Connor Douglas nor his first officer, Commander Zhao had ever seen one of the bizarre vessels up-close. To Douglas, the Borg ship was more than just an ugly amalgamation of assimilated systems and different species dedicated to one inhuman purpose, it was a corruption of the very nature of universe that wished to express itself by way of infinite diversity. Zhao's first thought about the Borg vessel was that it reminded him of Earth's sharks, a predator looking for a meal. But he corrected himself thinking instead that sharks were a part of Earth's natural oceanic environment which put a limit on their numbers. Whereas the Borg Collective was on some level a thinking creature pursuing unrelenting growth and expansion at the expense of all other intelligent life. The one thought everyone on the bridge shared was the question as to whether the mines they had transported over would cripple the Borg ship before it had time to destroy the Saratoga.
“Lieutenant,” Connor Douglas said after turning the center chair towards the science station, “any indication that the mines are having an effect?”
“More than likely they have, sir,” Sovan said from her duty station. “The problem is that the Borg cube is just so large, they haven't reached a critical number yet.”
“Kinyor, what is the status of our boarders?” The captain asked.
“The Borg successfully transported at least two-hundred drones. All have either been vaporized or killed. We are still within Borg transporter range but my guess is that our countermeasures against their drone shields have them confused.”
“Doctor Amanda Cox,” Douglas called out over the intercom to medical, momentarily hating himself for not remember the new chief medical officer's name. “How many people have we lost?”
“My sensors confirm fifteen personnel were infected with assimilation probes, all are dead.” She said back through the speaker. It was Sovan who had come up with the idea to inject small medical nannites into the crew that would register on ship's internal sensors when one had become infected with Borg assimilation nanno-probes.
“So far, the butcher's bill is surprisingly low.” Douglas whispered to himself doubting that they were going to stay this lucky for long.
For the collective back on the Borg ship, the group mind was more than confused, it was in a panic. Even now the devices the Federation starship had beamed over were eating through thousands of the maze-like sections making up the cube. Countermeasures had, of course, been implemented but were largely ineffective given the nature of the self-replicating mines. The attempt to beam drones over for the purpose of assimilating the crew, thus learning the programming of the mines had also been stymied. Never in the history of the Borg had the shields used by drones been so effectively defeated. Telemetry from now dead drones suggested the atmosphere of the starship had been altered preventing the shields from fully forming, but the exact composition was as yet undetermined.
The collective finally came to a decision, the primary mission would take precedence. But that would mean one last attempt to destroy the Federation starship.
“Captain,” Kinyor declared from her station, “sensors show a sudden surge in power to Borg weapons.”
That caused Douglas to hit the intercom button on his environmental suit's forearm. “Axor, we need those shields now!” He exclaimed knowing all hell was about to rain down on them.
This time the Borg cube fired dozens of energy charges as well as several petawatt beams at the Saratoga. Had anyone of those beams impacted directly on the fleeing starship, it and the crew would have been totally destroyed. Instead the engineering team repairing the shields had succeeded far sooner in restoring them to working order. That alone saved everyone since even a partial hit on the ship would have damaged it to the point it would have been rendered a dead hulk in space. The second thing that saved the Saratoga was that the self-replicating mines had crossed a threshold to the point all systems inside the Borg ship were degrading exponentially.
Still the damage inflicted on the starship was considerable, the petawatt beams that hit the shields immediately shorted them out again, killing the very engineering crew members who had heroically restored them. This left the ship open to receive the full fury of the energy charges that upon impact ruptured the hull in several places venting both crew and atmosphere into space. Although it was the charges that hit the starboard warp nacelle that caused the most damage. The back third of the nacelle was blown away with the rest venting drive plasma sending the Saratoga tumbling through space out of control.
“We've lost warp drive,” Axor said over the intercom to the bridge crew, “damnation, my control boards indicate the starboard nacelle is a total loss. Captain, I'm going to have to take main power offline, it's either that or we lose antimatter containment!” The Bolian engineer said as he scrambled to save the ship and bring it back under control.
“Kinyor,” Douglas called out once the stars on the viewscreen stopped spinning, “what's the status on the Borg cube?” He asked while watching the enemy ship changing course and moving away from the Saratoga.
“It appears to be on a course for Kivant,” she said nervously. “At current speed it will be in weapons range in fifteen minutes.”
Douglas could feel his mission slipping away from him, it didn't matter that his crew and ship had faced down a Borg cube, the people and planet he was supposed to protect were now back in the target sights of the enemy.
“Axor,” he said over the intercom, “can you give me impulse, the Borg are heading back towards Kivant.”
“With the state of auxiliary power, I can give you two-thirds impulse but no phasers,” Axor replied back over the intercom.
“Helm,” Douglas said, “pursuit course. Kinyor, how many torpedoes do we still have in our inventory?”
“Ninety-two quantum and a full compliment of photons, captain,” she said already loading the launchers.
“Fire everything we've got for as long as we're in range.”
From the main viewscreen, everyone on the bridge saw the torpedoes fly from the Saratoga towards the Borg ship and impact on its surface. The problem was that with the Saratoga restricted to just two-thirds impulse the Borg ship was fast leaving them far behind.
“Captain,” Sovan said with his tone of voice clearly indicating he had discovered something fascinating. “My sensors are picking up massive energy fluctuations in the Borg ship's subspace field. I believe we are about to see it collapse from the internal disruptions caused by our self-replicating mines.” From his science station, Sovan magnified the image of the Borg cube on the viewscreen. Sure enough, bright flashes could be seen just the chaotic array of material making up its structure.
“I guess that would explain why the damn thing is puttering along just under full impulse.” Commander Zhao said from his seat.
“It's still getting ahead of us though,” Douglas said watching the Saratoga's torpedoes chasing down the fleeing enemy ship. “Stop with the torpedoes, Kinyor,” Douglas ordered, “we're just wasting them now.”
The minutes tick by with the blue-brown orb of Kivant becoming visible in the bridge viewscreen. During this same time, the Borg ship continued to show growing signs of disruption inside but resolutely refused to die. Wanting his crew thinking and doing something useful, Douglas ordered the ship's atmosphere to be flushed of all the particles and gases used to defeat the Borg drones.
“Suggestions people, because I'm out of ideas,” Douglas said after finally being able to remove the environmental suit's helmet.
Everyone was silent for several seconds, but then Sovan raised his head up from his console. “Captain, “I think the Borg cube is about to explode.”
It had become apparent to the collective mind inside the Borg cube that their ship had been compromised so thoroughly that it would be unable to complete even its primary mission. Just as Sovan had first described the concept of the self-replicating mines to Captain Douglas as like the old human affliction of cancer, the Borg ship was now riddled with hundreds of exploding tumors it could not defeat. Even with the large ship's generalized design allowing systems to be rerouted thousands of ways without causing any degradation in performance or efficiency, the collective was discovering that there was only one option left, self destruction. But it could make one last attempt at causing the most damage to the most populated areas of the target planet.
In their self described attempt at reaching perfection, the Borg Collective had abandoned things like the emotions of hope, compassion, love, kindness. Such things were inefficient and irrelevant, but it was something akin to hate and spite the collective inside the doomed ship summoned to find the will to fire off one last burst of its petawatt beam at the polar cities surrounding Kivant's north pole.
The energy beam last all of seven seconds before the Borg ship finally exploded. But it impacted on the surface of the planet and instantly caused an explosion in the five-hundred megaton range vaporizing over four-hundred square kilometers of urban infrastructure.
The bridge crew of the Saratoga watched in stunned silence as the mushroom cloud blossomed on the surface of the planet they were assigned to protect. At that moment, they all shared a sense of mutual failure so extreme it was as if the Borg had sterilized the entire planet.
It was naturally the captain who gathered his wits first wanting to quantify their failure. “I don't care anymore about the restrictions the kich have on us outsiders poking our noses into their precious cultural heritage and privacy. Sovan, actively scan the entire north polar urban megalopolis, tell me how many have died and a number for those remaining.”
Lieutenant Sovan quickly complied, but it was his findings that caused the Vulcan's expertly practiced control of his emotions to slip. “Captain,” he said not really believing his findings even though he triple checked the results, “the entire north polar urban complex is almost completely devoid of any lifeforms. I'm detecting no more than two-thousand individuals scattered about the areas untouched by the Borg energy blast. Extrapolating from that data and comparing it to the size of the overall city, I hypothesize that no one died in the resulting explosion.”
“Sovan,” Douglas said looking at his science officer, “the Kivant government records say that city's population is over one-hundred forty five million individuals.”
“Logic suggests that the Kivant government is lying, Captain Douglas.” Was all Sovan could say in return.
Connor Douglas stood in the center of what was clearly meant to be an open air park in a section of the north polar city undamaged by the Borg's last gasp attempt to complete its mission. While the kich had done much to make their homeworld livable again, because of their self-induced ecological and climate holocaust the high arctic regions of Kivant would never return to their natural frozen state. It was late summer moving into autumn in the northern hemisphere and the temperature in the city was a warm thirty-three degrees centigrade. One of the members of the security detachment Commander Zhao forced his friend and captain to take along pointed out that the smoke and haze in the atmosphere from the weapon blast had probably lowered the temperature a few degrees.
Against proscribed Starfleet protocol, Douglas left his First Officer in command of the Saratoga upon reaching orbit and had taken a shuttle down to the surface. Brazenly defying the radio calls by the Kivant government to cease and desist, Douglas closely surveyed and scanned the entire north polar megalopolis and confirmed Sovan's own discovery that it was one huge and well maintained ghost town. Douglas' only message to the Kivant government was that he wanted to see the Primus at his landing site immediately. Douglas didn't have to wait long, less than a standard hour later the leader of Kivant's own shuttle touchdown across from his.
“What was the purpose of the lie, Th'lou?” Douglas asked the man immediately. “Why the elaborate ruse to make everyone think there were almost one-hundred, fifty million people living in this city. The same goes for the south polar city, we scanned it was well and found only about five-thousand people living there when there's suppose to be close to two-hundred million? I lost close to half my crew defending this planet, tell me why?”That was when Primus Th'lou finally let the rest of his species sad history be known.
As the climate of Kivant collapsed so many centuries before, it wasn't the stressed national governments that established the polar cities as a last ditch refuge for their species. It was the rich corporate elites who built the cities whose desperate need to control and own everything caused the calamity to begin with. Using their private armies, the corporations secured the needed territory and resources to begin construction, all at the expense of the masses that were dying of hunger, disease, and a climate that could swing from flooding to drought in the space of a couple of months.
The first cities were completed about the same time the last of the struggling national governments finally fell apart. The entire time the Elites just sat behind their massive walled fortresses indifferent to the suffering of others. The same went for the members of their private armies and the workers and servants that would be needed to maintain a proper lifestyle. As a group they all explained away their callous abandonment of the rest of the planet as the only thing that could be done in the face of such an overwhelming disaster. The general idea was why should they sacrifice their well being for strange looking and culturally scary people they didn't even know.
Less than three generations later, history had been rewritten painting the founders of the polar cities as intrepid and brave pioneers struggling to keep alive the flame of civilization. Not that the great-grandchildren of those that built the cities had time to think about history. While the active abuse of the planetary environment had long stopped, the amount of carbon dioxide and methane put into the atmosphere continued to cause havoc on Kivant's climate. The initial greenhouse effect caused by excessive releasing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from industry kicked off the thawing of the polar tundra. Methane gas, locked into those frozen arctic regions for millions of years began to be out gassed by the abnormally high temperatures. This created a feedback loop where released methane raised global temperatures even more causing more tundra to thaw which in turn liberated more methane, again raising the global temperatures.
The third generation of polar city inhabitants spent every bit of their technical know-how and available resources to counteract the methane feedback cycle. They eventually advanced their genetic engineering technology enough to create various species of algae and moss that was able to soak up both the carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere preventing a general greenhouse runaway effect which would have ended all life on the planet. The next race was to save Kivant's oceans, which had become so acidic from being saturated with carbon dioxide that most large marine species had gone extinct. It was a combination of luck and an engineered plankton species that gave the oceans enough time to recover. Still the damage was done, Kivant had suffered through an artificially created mass extinction event leaving next to nothing of the vibrant planetary biosphere that once existed. Even though the kich had prevented the worst of the possible outcomes, over seventy-five percent of their planet was uninhabitable.
The kich essentially puttered along for several centuries up until one-hundred, twenty years before Starfleet's unmanned Pioneer 8 probe stumbled upon the star system. A small group of historians discovered the true record of how Kivant's ecological holocaust was brought about. Despite the best efforts of the polar city rulers, descendants of the corporate elites, to stop it, this information triggered a revolutionary movement which overthrew that government. The new democratically elected provisional government also learned that during the early years of the holocaust genetic researchers played around with the kich genome inserting into the general population what they thought were certain enhanced traits for intelligence and physical stamina. While these traits did indeed help in the short term, later genetic scientists discovered the changes in the genome were making kich procreation increasingly difficult. It would take decades, but it was clear that eventually most of the kich species would go extinct because of the genetic modifications. The only chance of survival was to separate out the small percentage of kich whose genome did not contain the modified genes. To avoid a panic, the provisional government kept this information secret from the general public but began a program to breed untainted kich using donated eggs and sperm and implanting the embryos in surrogate mothers.
It was when the USS Ark Royal made first contact with the kich that things began opening up for them. Associate membership in the Federation allowed the Starfleet Corp of Engineers to use planetary engineering technology to rehabilitate huge areas of Kivant's surface for permanent habitation. It was during this time that the Kivant government decided to hide the nature of their population crash and offer their planet up for settlement to refugees from all over the Federation. They based their decision on the fear that the Federation would abandon them if they knew the nature of their descendants crimes.
As the first colonies for off world refugees were founded, the Kivant government began heavily pushing the unmodified members of their species to leave the polar cities for the new settlements. Knowing that the unmodified kich would interbreed with the others species living on Kivant, it was the hope of the government that by opening up their restored world to those seeking homes they would earn some redemption for the sins of their ancestors committed against all those who died in the ecological holocaust.
Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Two weeks have passed since Admiral Tarn returned Starbase 257 to full operation. He immediately ordered the Saratoga towed to one of the drydocks to begin a full repair and overhaul of all our damaged systems. Both my own chief engineer, Commander Axor, and the drydock master say it will take at least four months to bring my ship back to full operation.
At the same time I heard the news that my ship would be completely out of action for the foreseeable future we received word from Starfleet Command on Earth ordering all ships to proceed to the Azure Nebula. Word from the USS Enterprise is that the nebula is hiding subspace tunnels which allow the Borg to cross over from their part of the galaxy in the Delta Quadrant to known space here in the Beta. Whether this forming allied armada will defeat the Borg or see the end of the Federation and all the other civilizations in our part of the galaxy is at this moment unknown.
(Author's note: This admittedly half-assed story is based on the scenario in David Mack's excellent trilogy: Star Trek: Destiny. It tells the story of the massive Borg invasion into Federation space as well as their origin. This trilogy isn't just good Star Trek, it is excellent science fiction.)