Chapter 51: New Guests and Old Shipmates
It would probably be redundant to say that the Borg Queen was, by now, very used to billions of voices in her ear, jabbering about everyone and everything all at once. Her mind continually prioritised information and tactics from and to millions of drones and vessels, sending and receiving vast streams of data every second. She was, essentially, constantly playing hundreds of games of Othello on an enormous scale, with no total endgame in sight.
What she was not used to doing was losing. Not only that, but losing to an inferior species with inadequate resources to withstand them. And what annoyed her most was that the species had the gall to continue to do so, at almost every opportunity they could get.
Every loss felt as if a knife had been taken to her head - with every drone that died and was not replaced, she lost a part of the multifaceted network of processing power. She lost, in essence, a part of herself.
And this time, she felt it particularly well.
She had just made some projections on the assimilatability of north Canada when it happened. First she heard reports from the tactical droids – some pathetic ship that had only barely been resisting them was attempting to make yet another run on the cube. A small fraction of the ship had been destroyed, yes, but the few drones lost were nothing. She had assimilated orders of magnitude more beings somewhere else in the last minute.
And then came the scatted warnings. An explosion had occurred, and none of the drones that had reported it could predict what the extent of the damage would be.
Then she heard the readings. Some of the drones had been able to analyse the spectrum of the blast before it had caught up with them. The readings indicated elements that were involved in the construction of early Galactic Federation starship. Other reports suggested temperatures in excess of 15,000 degrees Celcius.
How had it made it past the shields? The configuration of the ships in question were not unknown to the Borg, since they had encountered members of the Federation as early as 2067, performing… what was it? Ah, yes, deep-space scientific research and exploration. As far as she could tell, they had not changed much in the sixty years beforehand.
Speaking of which, the shields for quarter of the ships was now down. How could that be? How hadn’t the redundant shield generators kicked in?
She didn’t receive a reply.
Instead, the Queen felt a powerful pulse run through her, a wave of sadness and regret from hundreds of minds.
And the minds were calling out to her.
Calling for help. Calling for their mothers or fathers, for their theological guides, for anyone.
And then, screaming.
Thousands of minds were screaming, screaming all at once, screaming in her ear, for the pain to end.
And then they were silenced.
All this happened in a matter of seconds.
“Dammit! What was that?”
The sickly face of the Borg Queen poured over the screens in front of her. It was that ship… that Galactic Federation cruiser. The Dakana. She should have destroyed it when she had the chance.
“Blast that Jumba!” Her fist slammed the wall in front of her. “I thought he’d been captured!”
A hyperdrive coil of unknown configuration caused the explosion. Its power readings were disguised.
Finally, the minds of the Collective had recovered and were up to speed. Maybe now she could get some answers.
Twenty-nine percent of the the ship has been rendered inoperable, a further thirty-two percent with a significant decrease in efficiency. Overall effectiveness down thirty-four percent. Atmospheric compression in affected area restored.
“Yes, but what about Jumba?”
The whereabouts of Jumba Jookiba are unknown. All data from the unimatrix assigned to guard Jumba Jookiba lost.
“Dammit!” she repeated. Things were not going well.
Jumba Jookiba sighted in Section Two-Zero-Five accompanied by two members of Species 117. Sending units to eng…
“No, we’ll send our… guest.” She smirked as she uttered the words, thinking of the delicious irony. It was such a human concept, but it was one the Borg understood well.
Footsteps. Her chain of thought now broken, she turned to face the intruder.
“I told you you were wasting too much time on Lilo.”
The Queen felt offended by this suggestion. Part of perfection was knowing how long and how much was enough for each and every task.
“Nonsense,” she smiled, delighting herself for a moment in the thoughts of assimilating her shadowy companion. He had served his purpose, what need did she have of him?
The creature flinched ever so slightly; it must have sensed this line of thought forming in the Queen’s mind.
“Look, why don’t I just deal with them myself? I know Jumba and his… experiments. I can predict what they’ll do.”
He emphasised the word ‘experiments’ with a level of disgust and hatred, as if the very word was a revolting concept.
The Borg Queen thought about this for a millisecond. Perhaps she should humour the poor thing before she assimilated it.
“Fine, fine… but only if our friend doesn’t succeed. Understand?”
The creature saluted, and turned to leave.
“Although,” he said, pausing for a moment, “grudges aren’t a healthy thing, especially one so old. Sometimes one should just move on, least it may destroy you.”
She faltered at this suggestion. She had no time for such nonsense. “We have no concepts of resentment or revenge. We merely seek to improve ourselves, and to eliminate the unfit.”
The creature shrugged. “Just a warning,” he said. “Nothing more.”
And with those final words, he left.
“Come on, people, this way!”
With a wave of her hand, Captain Jameston motioned for her landing party to follow her down the passageway. After her, phaser rifle held cautiously before her chest, walked Teresa Bamez.
Teresa was a bushy brown-haired woman of similar statue to her captain, although compared to Jameston’s rather pale complexion, her skin was a fair way darker. She wore the same black vest that everyone in her crew wore, although hers was topped with the mustard-amber stripe that signified she was an engineer (in this case, chief of ship operations), as opposed to her captain and pilot, which each wore a deep wine-like red, or the seaweed-blue that the science and medical officers wore.
If Teresa was attempting to hide her uneasiness, she was doing a rather poor job of it – almost on tiptoes, her hands shook nervously each time she stepped forward. Frankly, Jameston didn’t blame her – the first (and last) time they had been on a ship of the Borg, they had almost not gotten away - if it hadn’t been for the heroic sacrifice of one of their team, they would have not made it at all.
She still thought about her sometimes, when moments were still and silent. No-one deserved that fate. No one.
But she was not prepared to abandon that Delta Quadrant ship, nor let the same thing happen to its’ inhabitants.
Following Bamez was a slightly shorter woman, wearing the same mustard-striped uniform. She had short black –and very straight – hair, and her complexion was, all things considered, about midway between Bamez and Jameston. She held her rifle firm, and walked with short but steady steps that echoed briefly down the hallway.
This was Ensign Ming, the tactical and communications officer. Jameston could often sense a feeling of unnerving calm around Ming, and it had been that which had made her essential in situations like these.
In her footsteps was a Hawaiian native who was slightly taller than Bamez, wearing the wine-red striped uniform that signified command. She had stowed her phaser in her pocket, but her hand was hovering over it, ready to pull it out if need be.
This was the ship’s pilot, Ensign Malo. If truth be told, technically she should still be piloting the ship, but as Ensign Grey was more than qualified to pilot, Jameston was sure no-one would mind her (very minor) rule bending.
Bringing up the rear was a pink-toned blond-haired ponytailed woman, also wearing a yellow-striped vest – Ellie Ericson, the chief of security on the USS Serenity, confidently strode down the passage, phaser firmly pointed forward.
Each one huddled around a corner as they waited for everyone to catch up. When they had, and Jameston had gyven the all clear signal, off they went again.
“Right, Teresa, where to from here?” Jameston asked.
“Gah!” Teresa jumped visibly at the sound of her captain’s voice. Jameston was beginning to have second thoughts – her skill with technology was second-to-none among the remaining crew, but she might make a mistake that would cost them if she stayed in the state she was in.
“Er… well, we g-g-go left, and then pass thr-three p-passageways, left, and r-right again, I guess…”
Jamston tried to put a reassuring face on.
“Are you OK? Because if you’re not, I can have Miles beam you back, and you can co-ordinate the search from the brid-”
“I’m fine.” Her brow furrowed as a look of determination formed on her face. ‘I can do this.”
“Right.” Jameston was unsure about this declaration, but didn’t want to press the issue. If the worst came to the worst, she could always beam her back at a moment’s notice.
“Well. Then I guess we can….”
But then she stopped, putting her arm out to indicate to the others to halt as well. A familiar voice floated through the air, punctuated by one that wasn’t as familiar – that of a female.
“Look, I am merely sayink that ve vould ‘ave better luck vith the EM band over five-hundred megahertz.”
“Well, I’m not so sure. I seem to remember quite a few of your gadgets operate below five-hundred megahertz…”
“Zats because ze are being older models!”
Another voice, a long raspy one, joined in.
“Oy, chunga bey…”
As the three unknown beings conversed, Jameston motioned for the four to follow her towards the source of the noise. Slowly they moved down the corridor, until they found themselves at the juncture out of which the voices were coming.
“On three,” instructed Jameston, motioning with her phaser towards the corridor. The others nodded.
“One, two, three!”
And they took positions in front of the corridor, all aiming towards the two aliens, who had abruptly stopped as suddenly as they could.
“Hey, it’s Older Captain Girl!” Jumba seemed relieved that it wasn’t someone else.
“Older?” She hadn’t thought she looked that old.
“Don’t worry, he calls every adult that.” The other alien, a short furry pink one with violet hair and sea-blue glasses, nodded as if to confirm her statement.
“This is 419,” Jumba introduced the experiment. “She is my, how you say, assistant.”
“Really?” Teresa’s eyes lit up as she seemingly forgot where she was. “What’s her prim…”
She promptly stopped when she noticed the look Jameston had shot over her shoulder.
“Er, I mean… she sounds quite bright.”
“Why, thank you,” replied 419.
“Yes, 419 was always being curious type,” said Jumba, evidently proud of the work he had done with her. “And this –” he pointed to the roof, where a blue creature, almost a cross between a crab and a dog, was clinging to the ceiling. “This is my evil genius experiment, 626, a keen fighter and the height of my scientific research in genetic mutation.”
The blue thing dropped from the ceiling onto its feet, and gave a bow, offering its hand.
“Aloha, 626,” Jameston said, shaking his hand. Malo put her hand to her mouth, and Teresa looked as if she had interrupted a chortle suddenly.
“Aloha,” the alien replied, evidently not noticing the reaction of the other two. “And mahalo, Jumba.”
“No problem at all, 626!”
“Well, I’m Vi Jameston,” the Captain introduced, “and this is my crew: Teresa Barmez, ops; Ensign ‘Yuks’ Ming, tactical and comm.; Ensign ‘Mips’ Malo, pilot; and Ellie Ericson, chief of security.”
“Nice to be making the pleasure,” Jumba greeted them. 419 meekly waved a bit, while Stitch bowed again.
“Well, anyway, we are here to be finding Little Girl, who was taken from us by evil cybonetic creatures,” continued Jumba, as if this kind of thing happened on a regular basis. “Where are you headed?”
“Well, we detected that one of your crew were beamed aboard the Borg cube, so we decided to help you guys out.” She was relieved he had brought up the subject first – it had made it significantly easier to come up with something, and it wasn’t too far from the truth. “So, should we go our separate ways? We would cover more ground that way.”
Jumba rubbed his chin. “Well, we have a fairly good idea where she is being, but you are welcome to help.”
“Right, so, we’ll let you know if we find Lil- er, the little girl then.”
Jameston took a breath, then mentally scoulded herself. The smallest mistake could cost them their trust.
But Jumba nodded, evidently satisfied. And then he paused, as if he had just thought of something.
“Oh, if you could look out for little green experiment, about the same height as 419 here, but with long ears like carrot-eating Earth-animal, ‘twould be most excellent.”
Jameston smiled and sighed with relief, glad the question wasn’t about her slip of the tounge. “OK, we’ll do that.”
At this moment, the pink experiment frowned, wrinkling her nose in the process.
“What’s the problem, er… 419, was it?” asked the Captain.
“Yes.” She straightened her glasses. “Anyway, how di-”
“I think,” interrupted Jumba, perhaps a little too quickly, “that we should be off. 419, you can tell me what you wanted to say on the way.”
“But-” 419 protested.
“I really think we should be going,” he said, in a manner that suggested that there was something he didn’t want said in front of Jameston or her crew.
“No problems then, we’ll be on our way.” Jameston gestured for her crew to continue where they were headed. “We’ll be seeing you again, then.”
“If everything works out,” agreed Jumba. “Farewell, then.”
“Farewell,” said Jameston, and with that she left after her crew.