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Sphere of Shadows

Lakota has returned to Deep Space 17 after a long mission, hoping for some peace. However, tranquillity is shattered when sensors detect an anomaly in the dangerous Ryton system. Fleet Captain Nazir learns that the USS Proteus has identified a subspace phenomenon with a large vessel inside.

Ordered to investigate, the USS Lakota and the USS Proxima arrive to find a damaged Borg sphere emerging from a subspace aperture. The crew, haunted by past encounters, prepares for battle as the Borg sphere begins to regenerate.

Despite their efforts, the initial attack fails, leading to a daring infiltration mission into the Borg sphere. Inside, away teams face intense combat and discover the sphere is part of a larger fleet that infiltrated the quadrant. They disable the regeneration matrix but trigger a self-destruct sequence, creating a subspace rift that threatens to destroy the Proxima

1 – The Wandering Starship

Somewhere between DS11 and the Ryton System
Day 1

In the depths of space, lightyears from the nearest starship, starbase or space body, something was stirring. Something miraculous and intriguing. Something exciting enough that it drew the gaze of a wandering starship some distance away, causing the Echelon-class USS Proteus to divert from her patrol route on a mission of scientific discovery. But before Proteus could even get close, before the light-cruiser could even report-in to Starfleet about their findings, however small they were, the peculiar phenomena changed beyond recognition. From the small tendrils of energy that had earlier formed, a collision of ions and tachyons generated a massive rupture in space that sent a gravimetric distortion wave barrelling into the cosmos.

Throughout the sterile, metallic corridors of Proteus, strobes of crimson red suddenly replaced the standard illuminations that lit her hallowed halls. Happy, familiar chatter ceased as alert sirens wailed without hesitation or warning, sending personnel scuttling in new directions. One such officer, Deakon Iersa, hobbled along at the quickest speed his little legs could carry him. At just under five foot in height, the creature with cyan-coloured skin and enormous black orbs filling his eye sockets skipped to the turbo lift on deck six and directed it to the main bridge.

The cacophony of noise when he exited the lift was almost too much to bare for his bat-like ears, wincing at the sounds from around the command centre. He made his way towards his station, the one to starboard of the helm, and relieved the officer in his position. He was one of just fifteen officers across the ship that were older than twenty-five Earth years of age, one of the few survivors of the Frontier Day massacre. At 120 years of age, he was actually the most experienced member of the ship’s crew, despite his  lower rank, but that was the way he liked it. He had respect from his peers, but none of the responsibilities a higher rank would incur. He would be thankful of that today.

“Damage report?” the stern voice of the ship’s veteran commander, Captain Elara Quinn, called out from her position on the raised platform at the back of the bridge. From her vantage point, the Captain could see and hear everything; she was like a lion watching over her pride.

“Minor damage to shields Captain,” young Serina Mar declared from tactical, “weapons systems still functioning.”

“Propulsion systems working within normal parameters,” Celeste called from the CONN. Her quick thinking and repositioning of the ship had probably saved them from significant harm, and that drew a nod of appreciation from the Captain.

“We’re in pretty good shape all things considered,” the Chief Engineer told, stepping away from the engineering displays at the back of the bridge and reporting to the Captain.

Letting out a sigh of relief, the Captain returned to her seat, a brief exchange of looks with her XO signalling that they were alright to proceed as planned. For now.

“Talia,” the much elder XO called out towards the science station adjacent to him from his position as right hand man to the Captain, “further analysis of the anomaly?”

Sitting at the science wall, junior Lieutenant Talia Vos, daughter of the esteemed Captain Kelvan Vos, was hard at work analysing the data related to the strange phenomenon that had caused chaos across the ship. What she had discovered worried her. Was it actually possible? She hadn’t seen anything like it in the years since she had qualified and began her exploration of the stars, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. But everything she’d been taught told her the probability of such a phenomena forming in such a way was slim at best. But she had to be honest, right? She had to tell them what she had found, or what she believed she had found. Squeezing some more juice from the ship’s computer, the Lieutenant ran the same confirmation protocols as before.

“Lieutenant Vos?!” Commander Kael Draven, a native of Alpha Centauri, wasn’t particularly patient at the best of times, but in the middle of a potential crisis, his patience wore thinner than usual.

Yeah, yeah. I heard you the first time,’ she thought to herself, refusing to turn and acknowledge him until she had the answers he sought. Only when the computer confirmed her findings did she spin on her chair and look towards the command deck.

“I’ve run every form of analysis I can,” she told the old timer, “and every time the analysis comes back the same way. What we’re looking at is the terminus of a subspace corridor.” Her explanation was clear enough even for the notoriously sciencephobe XO to understand.

“A wormhole?” Quinn asked from the center chair. ”You’re telling me we have an unstable wormhole that just happens to open in our path?” Elara was notorious for questioning everything, even failing to believe things she saw with her own eyes until it was almost too late.

“Not exactly,” Talia shook her dreadlocked hair. “According to the sensor data we have, the placement of the aperture might be random and unstable, but the subspace tunnel itself is stable and would be accessible whenever the aperture is open.” Talia knew her stuff, having been on many science expeditions during her short career and having had the luxury of serving aboard some of the fleet’s finest science vessels before being headhunted for the Proteus to replace her former science chief.

“Ummm, Captain…”

“How the hell can the aperture shift so randomly?” Elara asked, gaze rooted on the young science chief.

“That’s one thing we’ve never truly been able to explain,” Talia frowned, “this one appears to be similar to the Barzan wormhole discovered in the 60’s, which had one fixed terminus, while the other side jumped from place to place, making travel through it too unpredictable.”

“Ummm, Captain…”

“Is there anything we can do to try and stabilise this end, to try and allow us to travel through safely?” Kael asked, sitting on the edge of his seat, listening to the science chief’s every word and trying to make sense of her analysis.

“Barzan was stabilised in the 90’s using anti-graviton and verteron fields,” she shrugged, “we could maybe try tha…”

“CAPTAIN!”

Snapping her head around almost 180 degrees, the Captain glared at the owner of the loud, rather rude voice that had been trying to interrupt for a few minutes. “What is it?!” she asked Lieutenant Mar, a little more aggressively than she perhaps intended.

“I can’t be certain,” the Betazoid answered, turning from her tactical station, “but sensors appear to be detecting a large metallic mass heading for the aperture.”

Well, that certainly got everyone’s attention, the command team turning their seats away from the science terminals and to the more central position overlooking the rest of the bridge.

“Adjusting the targeting array,” Talia called out, nodding to her tactical companion, “that should help with your sensors.”

Serina smiled in thanks, then immediately turned her attention back to the sensors on her panel. When she’d run the next set of sweeps, she found herself wishing she was almost anywhere but there.

“Captain, you’re not going to like this…”


An oval primary hull that made her resemble the enigmatic Sovereign explorer as opposed to her earlier kin she’d served for decades. A hull smothered with phaser arrays and torpedo launchers that gave her teeth like a lioness defending her pride. Four impulse engines that gave off a warm, welcoming glow and hinted at her significantly improved manoeuvrability at sublight speeds, and two elongated nacelles stretching for what felt like kilometers ensured she would be no slouch at warp either. She was curvy, streamlined and sexy. Lakota certainly was a sight to behold, even if she was only a dependable cruiser-type ship, rather than one of the top-of-the-line explorer models. That was enough for her.

And in a few short minutes or so, Lieutenant Lauren Mitchell hoped that Lakota would be her new home. At least for a while. She’d been summoned from the Proxima to serve as the new tactical operations chief aboard Lakota, unsure as to where the ship’s former tactical chief had gone, but was more than happy to make such a move. She needed to get out of the shadow of her superior on Proxima and it was time to chart a new course somewhere else.

Staring beyond the window pane on level five of Deep Space Seventeen, taking in the view of her new home, she grew impatient. She glared briefly back at the chronometer on the wall above the observation lounge door, then back to the stars beyond the task force headquarters. She’d been waiting, patiently, for nearly an hour. And that was some challenge for a woman who’d been known to give orders and then carry them out herself because she couldn’t bear to wait for someone to complete them. She was unsure how long meetings of the brass would usually take, but she’d been told that her new captain had been in there for nearly two hours now, and that couldn’t be good. She’d heard rumours of course, people who knew people who knew others who had reportedly gone missing. Was that what had drawn Lakota home, and what her new CO was discussing at length.

Behind her, the doors to the conference room parted suddenly, officers of differing rank and uniform colours evacuated at speed, causing the blonde human to step to the side. Her keen powers of observation allowed her to spot her new commanding officer and another woman among the throngs of people.

“Captain Nazir!” she called out, waving an arm in the air, straining to be identified by Lakota’s mistress.

To her credit, even over the din of voices, Keziah made out her name, and stopped to try and ascertain the location from where it came. Her companion noticed the woman first, and tapped the Captain on the arm, gesturing to the starboard edge of the crowd.

Craning her neck, the Fleet Captain made eye contact with the young woman and waved her over. Mitchell fought her way past the final few people and, when in front of the captain, she tugged on the hem of her uniform jacket. “Lieutenant Lauren Mitchell ma’am,” she smiled, offering a hand, “I was told to report to your command?”

Ah, so here she was, Starfleet’s answer to her ‘Or’uil’ problem. She wasn’t sure this petite woman from Earth would be able to fill the hole left by the Ungeat’s death, but she would at least give her the benefit of doubt. “Lieutenant,” she nodded, holding a hand to her companion, “this is my XO, Commander Noli Auru.”

Noli jutted her chin upwards, as if nodding to the ceiling. “Lieutenant,” she said flatly.

Before the conversation could proceed any further, Nazir began to march off again. “You’re not going to get much settling in time Lieutenant,” she frowned, “we’ve got an investigation to lead.”

Lauren struggled to match the pace of Lakota’s command team, who had caught her on the flat, but she tried her best. A wry smile crept upon her face, finding the cryptic statement about the investigation to be to her satisfaction. Who needed settling in time, anyway?


Whatever events had conspired to bring everyone here, to this place near the Typhon Expanse, seemed to culminate in the moments prior to Henry’s arrival in the transporter room. All across the ship, normal operating procedures ceased. Alert klaxons blared whilst lighting changed to an almost scarlet colour, randomly intermittent at first, before settling into a rhythmic pattern in sync with the alert klaxons overhead just in time for him to reach the foot of the transporter pad and the rematerialisation process to begin.

Once the swirling blue particles of matter converged to bring substance to the universe once more, Captain Nazir found herself glaring at the change in lighting and the sounds blaring above her. What the hell had changed in the few minutes since they’d left the briefing room on Deep Space Seventeen to transport home?

Henry could sense the consternation coming from the command team and, while ever sheepish, he had to be the bearer of bad news. But just as he was about to spill the proverbial beans, he locked eyes with the unexpected third person on the transporter pad. It had been years since they had seen each other. So long and so out of contact in fact that neither of them expected to see the other again, least of all here, on the outskirts of the Typhon Frontier.

“Henry?”

“Captain,” his scowl slowly drifted from the newcomer and towards the Captain. “Commander Prida asked me to inform you of the situation as soon as you beamed aboard,” Flyboy continued, raising his hand to mop some beads of sweat forming on his brow.

“Inform us then,” Noli scolded him.

Proteus has sent a distress call. She’s detected a wormhole-like entrance aperture near the Ryton system,” the pilot blurted out, “and she’s detected a ship headed for the Alpha Quadrant.”

Stepping down from the transporter pad, the Captain began to head for the door. “And this warrants our attention, why? Proteus is more than capable of handling herself,” Nazir shook her head, jutting it to the left and ordering Noli and the newcomer to follow close by as they entered the corridor. Henry chased after them, wondering how he could tell them his news, and decided to simply be blunt about it.

“Captain! Its the Borg…”

Nazir’s feet stopped quicker than her brain could seemingly compute the words that had come out of Henry’s mouth. Noli spun on her heels and glared at the pilot, daring him to confirm what he had just said one more time, only for him to simply nod. The Bajoran dropped her head and let out a sigh, her hands on her hips as the memories of recent times came flooding back. Keziah, meanwhile, found herself wandering over to the nearby wall and placing her palms flat against it, arms extended at full stretch, holding up her fragile torso as her own head dipped.

For what seemed like an age, no one said anything. They simply tried their best to absorb the fact that the Borg, their most lethal enemy, was on their doorstep yet again. And after everything they had been through, all the death and destruction wrought across the galaxy, let alone the Federation, it would be Lakota that would have to answer the call.

And right then, as her eyes welled and her limbs shook, it seemed that Captain Keziah Nazir, a veteran of hundreds of years of service, was about to lose what little sense of hope she had left for the galaxy. The spark she’d held onto on those dark days, crushed under the relentless nature of an enemy that simply could not be defeated. All she could think, all she could ask herself, was how had it again come to this.

Taking a deep breath, Noli looked up to the metallic roof plating, almost looking through the countless decks above and out into the heavens themselves. She took a moment to compose herself, to find the steel resolve she’d need to get them all through whatever chaos was to ensue. Only when she found it did she take a step closer to Henry and gave him his hushed orders.

“Inform Prida we’ll be there as soon as possible. Have her prepare the ship for departure and gather whatever information we’ll need,” the Bajoran’s orders were swift and clear, the two friends sharing concerned glances at the Captain, and then back at one another, all whilst the newcomer stood just feet away, eyes like saucers. “Contact Proteus and inform them we’re on the way,” the XO added before pointing at the nearby woman. “Whatever beef you two have can wait. We need to ascertain the truth behind the Proteus‘ findings and we’ll go from there.”

Henry wasn’t surprised that Noli was perceptive enough to detect the tension between himself and the newcomer, and he knew she’d know if her instructions hadn’t been followed, so simply nodded and waved for the woman in operations gold to follow after him.

Watching as the two Lieutenant’s left, her hands again glued to her hips, the Bajoran’s gaze moved to the Trill propped up by the bulkhead.

She’d learnt over the last year, that being a good XO meant that she had to look out for the wellbeing of her crew, and in this instance, that absolutely meant the mental health and wellbeing of their captain. For without Nazir, whatever challenge they would face in the coming days would surely be more difficult and dangerous.

The only problem was, she wasn’t sure how to support the Captain right now. But she knew someone who would.

2 – On What Grounds?

In orbit of DS17
Day 1

Given the atmosphere in the turbo lift on the way to the bridge, it would take a structural engineer with a phaser drill several hours to cut the tension between Flyboy and the younger blonde accompanying him to the command center. To his credit, Henry had decided to heed the words of the XO, pushing their issues on to the back burner for now, but giving the younger woman the silent treatment probably wasn’t the best way to do it.

The yellow and black clad woman tried her best to mimic the man, but found herself to be impatient and impetuous. Something many had said about her in recent times.

“Look, can we talk?” she asked him, turning her head to give him her full attention. When she received nothing back, she carried on. “If I had known you were here I wouldn’t have accepted the transfer,” she frowned. It was true, if she had known about Henry’s presence she’d have taken a posting on the other side of the quadrant.

Still nothing, so she decided to go nuclear with her comments. “You’ve been lousy at keeping the family updated. Mum always asks where you are and no one can tell her. I’ve done wrong, I get that, but she’s done nothing wrong,” she tried to appeal to what she still knew of his nature, hoping that accepting her part in the tensions would at least get him to talk. She was right.

“You may not realise this but the galaxy has gone a bit mental in the last year or so,” Henry tried to keep the pretence of not wanting to speak to her, not wanting to go against the XO’s order, his hands behind his back, tightly grasping each other until they turned white.

“That doesn’t excuse the way you’ve treated Mum,” Lauren told him, hands on her hips and glaring at her older sibling. Then came the kicker, the one phrase she knew he wouldn’t resist. “Dad would be ashamed of you for treating her like that,” she chided him.

Henry’s eyes widened as he turned his entire frame to tower over her, aggressively pointing in her face with his right index finger. “Don’t you dare lecture me on what father would be ashamed of,” then he jabbed her in the shoulder. “You. You’re the one he would be ashamed of.”

At that exact moment, in an event that would have made one of Henry’s twentieth century film writers proud, the turbo lift doors opened and revealed his outburst to the entire bridge. Once they realised that they were in the open for all to see and hear, Henry, now as red as the uniform he wore, stepped onto the command deck, locking eyes with Commander Prida as she spun in the command chair to ascertain the cause of the commotion.

“Henry?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, “Everything okay?”

Looking rather sheepish, Henry ran a hand through his hair, then dropped it to his side with a sigh. “Yes Commander,” he nodded.

Pushing herself out of the Captain’s chair, the Bajassian took a step closer to the helmsman and regarded him closely, then looked back to the blonde stood just behind him. “And you are?”

“Lieutenant Lauren Mitchell,” the younger woman smiled, offering a hand to the brunette in the same colour uniform as herself. “I just came aboard with your Captain… sorry, the Captain. I’m the new tactical chief,” she elaborated further, but ceased when the hand shake wasn’t reciprocated.

Prida, in an uncharacteristically cold and standoffish manner, simply moved her attention back to Henry. “Where is the Captain? Did you fill her in?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.

“Yeah, about that…” he lifted a hand and scratched his head while scrunching up his face. “We should talk…”


In the few minutes since the two officers had departed them, Nazir had not moved an inch. She was still in the same position: hunched over; propped against the wall with her arms at full stretch; head bowed and shaking from side to side. It was a shock for Zinn to see his proud Captain in such a position once he rounded the corner to their location.

Sidling up to the XO, who looked more than a little exasperated as she held one hand to her brow and the other on her hip, the doctor lowered his tone so that he didn’t distress the Trill any further, all the while noting the chatter she was having with herself. “What the hell happened?”

“We’ve been put on alert,” Noli matched his tone, turning her entire body to shield the captain from her words. “A possible Borg incursion near Deep Space Eleven,” she elaborated further.

“And that triggered… this?” the Deltan’s eyes widened at just how serious the matter had apparently become. Deep rooted trauma they had suffered in recent months had a lot to answer for. But then, so did Starfleet, since they had continually put the Lakota crew in disastrous situations.

Noli nodded slowly, looking genuinely concerned for their captain. There was, however, an elephant in the corridor that she needed to ask, given the situation they faced. “Doctor, I have to ask…” she took another look at the Captain, and felt for her. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she uncomfortably asked the question she’d been dreading. “Is she still taking her medication?”

Zinn looked shell-shocked at the question from the XO. “How the hell do you know about that?” he took a step closer and glowered at her, visibly angry.

“I caught her,” Noli confessed, looking back at the Trill then the Doctor. But instead of feeling ashamed at breaking that confidentiality, she doubled down on her concern. “She dropped a tablet in the observation lounge and I had it tested. She’s taking antidepressants and sleeping pills just so she can function, and I need to know that this…” she waved at the Trill, almost exasperated, “this will not happen in a bigger crisis moment.”

“You’ve invaded her privacy and her right to medical treatment!” Zinn scolded the XO. “I’ll be putting this in my log and informing Command,” he told her bluntly.

“And I’ll tell them you’ve been keeping the captain drugged instead of sending her for the counselling and support she needs,” Noli spat back, seething at his boldness. “You’ve helped create… this!”

“She came to me for help,” Zinn’s anger abated slightly, looking at the Trill, “and after everything we’ve all been through, I wasn’t going to turn her away. Now I get that you have to look out for this ship and crew, but so do I. And if I have to medicate her for a while to keep her in the chair, I’ll do that. I’d rather have her there than,” he looked the Bajoran up and down, “someone else.”

Noli took a moment to compose herself, biting her tongue so hard she could almost taste the blood in her mouth. When she was ready, she took a step towards the much taller male. “Since we’re being so candid,” she stared him dead in the eye, “if I get so much as a hint that she is going to be a risk to this ship or crew, I’ll remove her from command, and I’ll send you with her.”

“Careful Commander. That sounds awfully like mutiny,” the Deltan chided the XO, a sly smile crept upon his face, then took a step back and towards the Captain.

“I don’t want to see her on the bridge until she’s fit and well,” Noli warned him, her voice louder than she had perhaps intended, and then stormed off down the corridor. A final look behind her saw Zinn crouched beside the captain, whispering something.


Appearing from the turbo lift at the back of the bridge, Noli took a moment to take in the sight of the bridge crew hard at work. These people needed their captain, she needed her captain, but she couldn’t let Keziah put them at risk if she wasn’t fit for duty. Too much was at stake.

Her almost daydream like state was interrupted when Prida walked up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You ok? Where’s the captain?”

“Indisposed but she’s ok,” Noli plastered her best smile across her face and nodded quickly. It was time to get to action and worry about the captain afterwards. “Where are we at with preparations?”

“We’re ready to go whenever you are,” the Chief Engineer nodded, holding an arm out, almost welcoming the XO back to the bridge. “Oh, and Proxima‘s powering up with orders to support whatever action we take,” she added as they moved towards the center of the bridge.

Noli stood behind the command chair, listening and dutifully nodding in all the right places until her friend went silent. Gripping the headrest, the Bajoran found herself staring at the empty seat directly in front of her. It felt wrong to sit in it, given the threat she’d made just a few minutes earlier. But if she didn’t, people would know something was wrong, and she couldn’t have that right now. Reluctantly, she turned the chair slightly and lowered herself into it.

“Henry,” she called out after a second or two of self-composure, “take us to the outer marker and set a course for the Proteus,” she instructed. “Contact Proxima and thank them for their assistance. Have them match our course and speed,” she nodded towards the newcomer at tactical.

“We’ve got somewhere to be, and I want to be there yesterday…”

3 – The Truth Behind the Line in the Sand

En-route to the USS Proteus
Day 1

“You need to be careful…”

Slumped in the chair opposite the Chief Medical Officer’s desk, Keziah looked more than a little fragile. Being told that her XO knew about her compromised medical state was not something she anticipated having to deal with right now, especially on the march to possibly confront their most feared adversaries. Again. For the umpteenth time in the last year. But, she knew she had no one else to blame.

“I should have been honest with Noli from the start,” Nazir sighed, running a hand over her mouth and cheeks whilst shaking her head slowly. “She’s always afforded me that. I should have trusted her with the information,” she added, dropping her hands into her lap like a naughty schoolgirl who had been caught cheating on a test.

“Noli is a fantastic investigator,” Zinn shrugged, “she would have found out eventually. What worries me is her ambition. She’s never shied away from the fact that she wants the big chair. She could use this information against you, given the opportunity,” he warned the Captain sternly. He’d known Noli a lot longer than Nazir, but he’d never much cared for the woman and her brashness. Perhaps because it sometimes hit a little too close to home for his liking. But he stood by his commanding officer. He hadn’t always done that with Vasoch, and it cost them their friend, wherever he had perished after the Changeling infiltration of Starfleet. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

But, either to her credit, or her detriment, Nazir scoffed at the suggestion from the doctor. She couldn’t entertain Noli being a mutineer even for a single moment. She loved the rule of law and her shipmates meant everything to her. She’d never knowingly plunge them into such a disastrous move over something so small.

Would she?

“I’ll bear that in mind,” the captain found herself nodding along to his suggestion without even realising it. However, she couldn’t spend all day in sickbay entertaining the idea that her XO could be planning a mutinous assembly against her. She had other places to be, and she’d already been with Zinn for the better part of an hour.

“Am I good to go, Doctor?” she asked hopefully, sitting forward in her chair, preparing to launch to her feet at the hint of being free to go.

“I want you back here for another checkup at your earliest convenience,” the bald Deltan instructed but eventually relented with a smile. “And I advise you come clean to Noli as quickly as you can. But, you’re free to go.”

With a spring in her step, the captain bid farewell to the physician and made for the door…

…and an awkward conversation with her XO.


“So far,” Lieutenant Mar spun from the tactical wall she had been glued to and looked towards the captain in the center of the bridge, “sensors confirm the Borg ship is holding position roughly a thousand kilometers into the wormhole.”

“Just close enough to keep the aperture open,” Celeste added from the CONN, her fingers having a much-needed respite while Proteus remained stationary, guarding the gateway before them.

“Has anyone actually considered the obvious?”

Captain Quinn turned a fraction in her chair and looked at the mouthpiece to her left. “And what might that be, doctor?”

Lieutenant Nash Everett, perhaps the most inexperienced of the senior officers at Quinn’s disposal, had a habit of speaking before engaging his brain, and as soon as he noticed the captain’s expression, he knew he’d probably done it again. But, he’d come too far now to stop himself. “Well, I was just thinking, what if we simply collapsed the wormhole?” he asked.

Kael, the only person on the ship with more years of service than the captain, baulked at the suggestion. “Spoken like a true novice to space,” he scoffed. “We can’t just go around closing entrances to wormholes,” he chided the CMO.

“But why not?” Nash cocked his head, looking beyond the captain and to the XO. “We’re presented with a real, immediate threat just a thousand kilometers away. Surely the logical thing to do would be to close the wormhole and prevent them coming through?” he doubled down on his suggestion.

Quinn shook her head. “We have no idea who else is using this wormhole,” the veteran commander told her subordinate. “If we go detonating this wormhole, yes, we’ll likely destroy the Borg and stop them coming through. But we don’t know who else we might hurt along the way, or what other impacts closing the wormhole might have. It could be a civilisation’s source of trade and income. Or maybe their own means of escape from some terrible evil,” her words were a bit more pleasant and measured than those of the XO, but the sentiment remained the same; they weren’t going to close the wormhole. At least, not unless she had orders to do so from someone on high.

Speaking of orders, she turned her attention away from the sheepish-looking physician and towards the tactical chief who had confirmed their findings just a few short minutes ago. “I think it’s time we checked in with the response team,” she instructed with a nod. “open a channel to Lakota.”

Serina Mar, tough as the ship’s tritanium hull and surprisingly astute for someone so young and inexperienced, turned back to her station and input all of the correct instructions to open communications with Fleet Captain Nazir aboard the Lakota, only the channel didn’t open as required. She tried again. And a third time, this time directing the channel to the Proxima instead, but the channel didn’t open to them, either.

“I can’t reach them,” she called out, drawing a concerned look from the command team.

“I can tell you why,” the voice came from the adjacent station to Mar’s, the science officer there hard at work. “The Borg are emitting a distortion field,” Lieutenant Vos told, turning to the Captain. “They are jamming all communications.”

Rising to her feet slowly, with purpose and a look of almost panic on her wrinkled face, the Captain stared so intensely at the screen before her that she almost burnt a hole through the bulkhead. If her crew were not already on edge thanks to the presence of the Borg ship, just sitting on the other side of the wormhole entrance, they certainly were when she uttered her next words. Words she whispered, just loud enough to scare the hell out of the younger officers on the bridge – officers who had been dreading this day ever since they’d been assimilated on Frontier Day. A confrontation no one wanted now seemed inevitable.

“They’re coming…” 


“About five weeks…”

Noli sat beside the captain in the observation lounge, aghast at what she was being told. Her captain, her mentor and someone she had started to consider a friend, had been keeping her drug use and insomnia from her for over a month. But as she listened, she wasn’t sure who appalled her the most: the fact that the captain had done these things and not confided in her; or the fact that she, as XO and the one responsible for the crew, hadn’t noticed a thing until just the other day.

“Everything just got on top of me,” Nazir tried to explain, but her words sounded more like an excuse. “When we got back from the funeral I just couldn’t sleep. I’ve probably had about six proper nights sleep in that whole time where I haven’t needed help,” there was no hiding it now. She had to come clean.

“And Zinn’s been helping this entire time?” the XO asked, her tone a little harsher than she perhaps intended.

Nazir nodded slowly, ashamed of herself for letting things get so bad. “We were hoping to start withdrawing the medication with some rest at the station,” the captain revealed, “but then the alert came through and something just… triggered me.”

That much was clear,’ Noli told herself, thinking back to the incident in the corridor below decks. “You should have told me,” the XO countered bluntly.

“I know. I should have trusted you enough to tell you,” Keziah admitted.

Noli shook her head slowly, pursing her lips as she did so, “I need to know you’re not going to put this ship at risk. That there will be no more… moments… like earlier,” she appealed to the captain’s inner sense of responsibility, leaning in and looking a little less cold as she did so, a little more… human.

“As soon as this crisis is over, I’m going to take some shore leave and the ship will be yours until the situation is resolved. Until then, I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” the Trill told her concerned XO. But she could sense the incoming question on Noli’s lips, “And if it does, you have every right to remove me from command. But I am asking you to trust me, in the same way I should have trusted you.”

Noli didn’t get a chance to answer the captain. The room was swiftly engulfed in darkness, its normal lighting replaced by the eerily familiar red strobes that accompanied the sudden sounding of the red alert klaxons.

Pushing out their chairs at speed and propelling themselves to their feet, the two women marched for the bridge, Noli stopping at the last second to allow the captain to pass ahead of her, sharing a glance with her captain that made it clear to both that, whilst the situation between them was still somewhat tense and there remained work to be done, they were still united. For now.

“Report!” Nazir beckoned as she reached the command chair and spun it by the headrest so she could take her position in command of the Lakota.

It was the newcomer, Lieutenant Mitchell, who addressed the captain first. “We’ve lost communication with Proteus,” Lauren revealed, turning towards the command deck. “Last communication from Captain Quinn suggested the Borg were holding steady inside the wormhole, but sensors have detected weapons fire at their location,” the tactical chief concluded, turning back to her station to continue monitoring the sensor data as it came in.

“Increase speed to maximum warp. Have Proxima match our velocity,” the Trill in command ordered to no one in particular, simply knowing and trusting that her people could do their jobs well. “We’re going in, and we’re going in hot,” she added, with approval from the XO who now took her own seat to her right.

“Speed increased; Proxima is matching us,” Henry called from the CONN.

“All defensive and offensive systems are at your disposal Captain,” Lauren added from tactical again.

“Engineering reports ready for anything,” Noli added after reading the text transmission on the small display attached to her chair.

“ETA, ten minutes and fifteen seconds,” Henry continued, his hands dancing a merry jig across the helm station.

Hurtling through space in close formation with her Sovereign-class cousin, Lakota‘s streamlined frame meant she could close the distance faster than she would have been able to before her massive refit, which had its advantages. It did have one large disadvantage though. It meant the crew’s dance with destiny would be brought forward somewhat, and they certainly weren’t looking forward to clashing with the Borg yet again. But with one of their own under threat, they had no choice but to respond.

As fate would have it, they would soon be proven right. A deadly clash with the Borg was inevitable…

4 – The Situation Unfolds

Arbazan System
Day 1

“Dropping from warp in 3…2… 1…”

On the edge of the Arbazan system, two magnificent bright lights preceded the emergence of two of the sleekest starships Starfleet had in their arsenal. As soon as the vessels appeared from their warp vortices, they effortlessly switched between warp and impulse power, surging towards their target with purpose.

Watching through the holographic viewer at the front of the bridge once the image appeared, Captain and crew watched aghast at the sight unfolding before their very eyes. A swirling storm of energy made the periphery of the wormhole’s aperture light up the heavens, but it was the devastation directly between the arrivals in the system and the wormhole itself that caused the most concern. Debris littered the area, a combination of hull fragments from both of the vessels that had, apparently, engaged in an epic conflict.

Proteus, cut off from all beyond the system, had seemingly engaged the Borg in an attempt to prevent their advance into Federation space – with a hell of a set of consequences in return. She now lay there, in the dead of space, listing to port and spinning on her axis, propelled by the one thruster that seemed to still be working. It seemed to be the only thing still working on the burning hulk. Lakota didn’t need to get any closer for her people to see the flickering lights and the large swathes of their colleague’s vessel without power. The only blessing they could count on was that the Borg didn’t seem to be in any better shape either.

“Sphere is largely offline and regenerating,” Lieutenant Mitchell told from tactical, her ocean-like eyes the only ones not looking out of the viewer. “However they managed it, Proteus gave the Borg a run for their money,” she concluded, relaxing back in her seat, somewhat proud of her colleagues for their efforts. She just hoped it wasn’t in vain.

“Even with her advances, Proteus wouldn’t have been a match for the sphere if it wasn’t already severely damaged,” Noli retorted from her position behind Voran at Ops.

“Agreed Commander,” the Vulcan nodded. “Borg debris at the mouth of the wormhole is not only keeping the aperture open but is showing signs of decay weeks old. She was damaged long before the encounter with Proteus,” the unassuming Vulcan was many things, and being thorough was one of his strengths, his analysis as excellent as always. For the next two minutes, he unravelled all of the Borg systems currently offline, and where the Borg were prioritising their regeneration efforts. It didn’t bode well for the Starfleet ships.

“Contact Proxima,” Nazir finally chimed in after staring at the scene before them for an age, “inform Captain Vos that we’re sending medical and engineering teams to Proteus. Have him do the same, and then request his presence in a conference call at his earliest convenience,” she instructed, rising from her command chair and taking the short walk to the XO’s side.

“Number One,” she looked at Noli, “in the absence of Commander Peri, and with Lieutenant Mitchell being relatively new to the team, I’d like you to command the relief teams,” she told her XO, but in a tone that implied that she was almost seeking permission, or acceptance of her request from her first officer, instead of the non-negotiable tone she usually used.

Slightly reluctant at first, the Bajoran eventually nodded in agreement. “As you wish Captain,” Noli nodded, arms folded across her chest. “I’ll check in regularly,” she added, by way of confirmation that she would be watching what was going on aboard both ships. She was trusting of her commanding officer, but wary, too.

When she received the nod from Nazir, Noli sprang into action mode. “Have medical and engineering teams meet me in transporter rooms one and two. Voran, you’re with me,” she instructed, patting the Ops chief on the shoulder. She’d usually take the tactical chief on such a mission, but with the Borg just kilometers away, she felt it best to leave Mitchell aboard Lakota. Plus, the newcomer had so far done nothing to demonstrate she would be any sort of asset to her team.

Headed for the lift, she was stopped by Mitchell calling across to her from tactical. “Proxima reports they’re sending teams to decks seven through sixteen. You’ve got everything from six upwards,” the tactical chief confirmed, eliciting a nod from the XO before she disappeared with her Vulcan counterpart.


Darkness had long engulfed the command centre of Proteus, as, it appeared, had lifelessness. Not a soul moved while consoles flickered and cables hanging from gaping holes in the ceiling sparked dangerously. For the briefest of moments, the darkness was replaced with several bright, swirling hues of blue as the transporter rematerialisation process took place, and several figures appeared on the bridge. Activating the light beacons strapped to their wrists, the newcomers to the Echelon-class light cruiser began their sweep of the command deck, searching for survivors of the epic dual with the Borg.

Commander Zinn, alongside Noli and without so much as a hint of the earlier tension that existed between them, made for the command chairs at the top of the platform. Slumped in the chairs, an elder woman with black hair, and a man with white hair and a blood-stained white beard, remained unconscious, oblivious to their fate. As did the rest of the bridge crew.

“It’s not looking good. I need to get as many of them as possible to sickbay,” Zinn told the XO whilst scanning the lifeless bodies of the Proteus command team.

“Captain!”

Both Zinn and Noli turned just in time to prevent an onrushing young woman from reaching the injured officers. “Steady there!” Noli grabbed the woman in the arm at exactly the right moment to stop her from collapsing to the floor in a heap. “They’ll be okay Lieutenant,” she lied after noticing the woman’s rank insignia. “I’m Commander Noli, first officer of the Lakota,” she told the younger human.

“Celeste Moreau,” the fallen responded, with the faintest of French accents, “CONN officer.”

“I’ve got to get your commanding officers to my sickbay,” Zinn told the youngster, “but I promise we’ll do everything we can to help them. The best thing you can do right now is assist my colleagues here in ascertaining the state of your ship and the rest of the crew.” His tone was firm and authoritative, yet surprisingly it put the younger woman at ease. Maybe it was the blue uniform and his humanitarian efforts that helped.

“Yes doctor,” she nodded slowly, relaxing into the support offered to her by Noli and one of the Lakota‘s medical team.

When the helmswoman had been dealt with sufficiently, Zinn rose to his feet and tapped his commbadge. “Zinn to Lakota. Three to beam up,” was his instruction, and whilst Noli stood and watched, the Chief Medical Officer dematerialised, along with his two patients.

“Commander,” Voran interrupted, “we have completed a sweep of the bridge. So far, everyone is accounted for, and being tended to,” the Vulcan revealed, turning to the forward stations. “I’d like permission to try and access ship systems and ascertain the degree of damage,” he waited for the nod from the Commander, and then assumed the empty Operations station seat.

“With your commanding officers on Lakota, who would be in command over here?” Noli asked as she rounded the young Frenchwoman’s position.

“That would be Lieutenant Iersa,” she nodded towards a stricken-looking alien under the close care of the Lakota medics, “he’s our Ops chief.”

Noli let out a sigh. A Lieutenant being left in command of a ship of over four hundred souls wasn’t ideal. She had an idea, but it wasn’t exactly her favourite plan considering the state of things aboard her own ship. “Okay Lieutenant,” she smiled, “help the teams in any way you can and we’ll do our best to get your ship operational again. In the meantime, I’m going to let my Captain know the situation,” Noli patted the woman on the shoulder gently and then walked away to have a hushed conversation with Voran. The Vulcan seemingly agreed, and Noli tapped her commbadge.

“Noli to Lakota…”


Executive Officer’s log, supplemental.

 

Away teams from Lakota and Proxima are aboard Proteus and engaging in repair and humanitarian efforts. So far, only three lives have been lost during the confrontation with the Borg, but there are a number of serious injuries being attended to by medical staff. Captain Quinn and her executive officer are aboard the Lakota under the care of Doctor Zinn, leaving a dearth of command experience among this young and inexperienced crew. In discussion with Captain Nazir, I have assumed command of Proteus until such a time as a member of her command team can resume their duties. While I am reluctant to leave behind my duties on Lakota, given the recent… tensions… I have to put the safety of this crew first. They need someone capable of leading them. I hope that’s me for now.

 

Repair teams indicate it will be several hours before the ship can get back into any potential fight with the Borg. Weapons, warp engines and communications are just a few of the systems that remain offline. Our teams will continue to support Lieutenant Meniz as she endeavours to get the ship functioning again. Until then, we’ll be flanked by Lakota and Proxima, both ship’s forming the defensive screen that could be essential to our safety.

 

I just hope we can be functional before the Borg sphere regenerates and perceives our task group as a threat…