“Imagine you’re born with a phaser pointing at your head. You learn to live with it. Even though you know it’s set to kill, that it could be triggered any moment. Your behaviour plays out like the phaser was never there at all.” ~ Vice Admiral M’Elpa 


Ahwahnee, Yamaguchi, Firebrand, break off and intercept on course 031 mark 6.  

Acknowledged, Command. Beginning attack run. 

There exists infinite diversity in infinite combinations; the unlikeliest of chances shaped by time and will into foregone inevitabilities. It was their great misfortune, and yet their fate to be there at that hour on that day in that place.  

They knew nothing of what awaited them. Had they possessed any semblance of understanding, any degree of knowledge as to the horror they faced, then perhaps their steely countenance might have slipped. But for that crew on that day in that place it did not. Communications poured in, telling of the ships that threw themselves forward like waves breaking against unforgiving rocks. Debris dissipated like foam droplets, neutralised and minuscule, to be absorbed back into the ocean continuum.  

It’s some kind of holding beam. Shields at 80 percent… 50 percent… 20 percent…  

Escape pods! Now! All hands abandon ship!  

Hull breaches on all decks.  

Acrid smoke billowed across the bridge. Red alert lighting filtered through, each pulse shimmering like a dull heartbeat. The pods left the ship; tiny seeds bursting forth from a burning flower. Skeletal fibres held the spaceframe together as flames ate away at connective tissue. Empty decks, void of atmosphere, hung exposed to the cruelty of space.  

They had once walked the decks with poise and purpose, now they cowered and sunk in fragile shells to await rescue. Some were lucky. Others would meet a fate that would send shivers down the spines of even the most stoic of the Vulcans. Ripped from their hiding places, reassembled in assimilation chambers, their minds were gouged from their bodies and embedded in a seething mass of consciousness. Personalities, cultures, friends, stories; homogenised into code with which to feed that metastatic growth in the blackest depths of the galaxy.  

Thus, the biological and technological distinctiveness of Species 5618, 3259, 1599 and 2846 was successfully sampled. Part of the United Federation of Planets would be forever merged with the Collective, consumed. An innocence was consumed with it. Gone was the belief that enemies could be reasoned with. Hearts darkened, and preparations began for the next inevitable onslaught. 

Still that malevolence festered and wove its webs in the galactic antipodes. Occasionally reaching out across the spatial meridian, probing, moving backwards and forwards in time, calculating. The eyes of their prey were open, too, despite its three-dimensional thinking. Scant intelligence was gleaned from ships unintentionally cast across the galaxy. Rogue elements of the collective, Hugh, XBs that sought shelter and acceptance were re-individualised. Coming back from across the divide, their thoughts again their own, they told of the Collective’s unfathomable reach. Some adjusted. Some never regained the grasp on reality they once had, becoming prey themselves to unscrupulous Alpha Quadrant actors in the ballooning implant trade. There were no answers. The calm of the collective; gone, along with the peace and security of the hive. All the while it manifested like a shadow in an unseen corner of a room; the phaser pointed at all their heads. 



Dr. Lomal heaved himself up from the deck. The left side of his face felt hot, bathed in the heat of a burning EPS conduit. Shards of shattered cladding and melted console were scattered across the slope all the way down to the conn. He steadied himself, reaching out to grasp the curved railing only to see Alex Lupulo climbing to his feet. A sharp pain tore across his temple, it felt warm as he brought a hand to it and felt the viscosity of his Bajoran blood between thumb and forefinger. Lurching towards the storage lockers, he tapped in a hastily remembered code. He tore the medkit from its housing and turned. Triage. Delfino had regained consciousness. The hissing of fire suppression equipment rang in his ears as science and communications officers attacked the flames. Tursk, dazed for a moment, crouched down over Captain Vordenna who lay crumped at the foot of his chair.  

“Doc, he’s not breathing!” The burly Tellarite called over his shoulder. 

Before Tursk had even finished, Lomal was there with the scanner, “It’s OK,” he reassured the First Officer, “He’s in shock.” 

“That’s OK?” Confusion furrowed Tursk’s already pitted face. 

“From what I understand of Argosian physiology,” Lomal set the med kit down and flipped it open, “an extreme shock, like the blow to the head the Captain has experienced here,” he gently angled Felrak’s reptillian head forward, waving the dermal regenerator over a swollen bruise, “can cause a kind of metabolic stasis. To allow for faster repair of damaged tissue, the body can shut down certain non-essential functions and divert its energies elsewhere.”  

“Non-essential functions, like breathing?” Tursk’s incredulity was unalleviated.  

“Yes,” Lomal took a vial from the medkit, loading it into a hypospray, “the lichen on his skin can photosynthesise enough energy keep his brain running, just not enough for him to talk to us while his respiratory system is dormant,” he raised the hypospray to the Captain’s neck, “Some phytostimulants I made earlier, should do the trick.” 

Tursk looked on as, sure enough, Felrak’s eyes blinked once, then twice. His head turned, fixing on Tursk as the black pupils of his large yellow eyes narrowed into focus. He coughed, spluttered, groaning quietly, “R-report, Commander?” 

“Good to see you, Captain,” a smile tweaked Tursk’s beard up at the corners, “We were about to go and plant you in a holodeck field.” 

Lomal frowned, “Captain, let’s get you to sickbay immediately-” 

“No,” Felrak sat up. Tursk reached down, and Felrak obliged, not without considerable effort. 

“Captain, I must insist, you’ve just received a significant concussion,” Lomal remonstrated. 

“Turbolifts are no longer functioning, and I don’t feel like a trip through the Jeffries’ tubes,” Felrak dismissed the Doctor with a hint of mild irritation.  

Tursk whipped around to face Lupulo, “Is that confirmed?” 

“Yes, Sir…” Lupulo looked back then, unable to contain himself, “What the hell?” 

“Now’s not the time, Lup,” Tursk buried his own curiosity, too, “Delfino, have we got any read on where we are? The attack ship?” 

The young Lieutenant, who had been furiously working at what was left of the conn, threw her hands up, “Negative, Sir. It’s fried. Can’t see further than a few hundred thousand clicks.” 

A scaled hand balled into a fist, “We’ve come this far,” Felrak’s voice lowered, “Tursk, Delfino, Lupulo, get down to the shuttlebay, get out there, and see what you can find.”