Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 2: In The Depths and USS Hathaway: Season 1: The Santa Fe Chronicles

The Unimaginable Anguish of a Fallen Giant

Gamma Quadrant, System Unknown
2399
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The interior of the massive sphere was dominated by the inky blackness that mirrored the void it occupied. Only a few sources of pale green light peeked out of the hull through small imperfections in the superstructure. The atmosphere within the sphere had long grown stale, a pungent stench clinging to compartments that hadn’t yet depressurized in the long interval since the sphere was last maintained by its inhabitants. Sparks could be seen at odd intervals, random arches of energy flitting about the spaces in the cavernous corridors, casting fleeting shadows against the bulkheads that disappeared just as quickly as they were born.

The piercing sounds of the Federation transporter beam were overwhelmed by the dazzling blue glow which engulfed the room, until it was replaced by three humanoid lifeforms. Standing side by side, phasers in their gloved hands, the humanoids immediately began to survey the room they found themselves in. As their heads turned in all directions, the lighting from the beacons atop their helmets bounced off of walls and consoles alike.

The compartment was very much the picture of chaos, a far cry from the orderly norm that was the usual aesthetic of a Borg vessel. Debris from consoles long ruptured by some surge or another littered the floor, as did conduit pipings, bulkhead paneling, and even ceiling panels. The entire vessel seemed to have long ago fallen into disrepair, as if left to rot ages before the away team had discovered the ship.

“Not what I imagined the insides of a Borg ship to look like,” the team’s Bajoran strategist mused, a look of displeasure on her face as she found herself less than impressed at what she was looking at.

Her comments drew a look of derision from the Cardassian that accompanied her. “I for one am glad this ship isn’t in its normal condition, or we’d be facing hundreds of Borg about now,” Lieutenant Prida grumbled whilst looking around the dimly lit room.

Opting to ignore the juvenile dispute between the subordinates, Commander T’Prynn took several steps forward, tricorder in hand and making her own visual survey of the room. “Lieutenant Prida, locate the command console and see if you can hack into their sensor logs. I want to know what happened to this vessel and its occupants, and what brought it here. Noli, find out how to access the self-destruct,” she instructed as she took some further steps away and began exploring deeper into the room.

Soon enough, the argumentative pair left their mild mannered dispute behind and began the search for their targets. The chamber they had beamed into seemed to be devoid of any real power, the columns and alcoves bereft of the telltale glowing green backlighting that one would normally see being emitted. The only hint that the area had ever been powered at all came from the intermittent crackling of energy deep within the bulkheads, the infrequent popping sounds drawing the ears and eyes of the away team toward them whenever they issued forth.

Along one of the gently curving corridors, an echoing clang reverberated through the air. The sound of metal striking against metal was the likely culprit, though the suddenness of the cacophony of sound was almost a little too convenient given the deafening silence that had dominated the space for so long since their arrival. Deeper still, flashes of deep green light began to twinkle at the far reaches of sight, as if to entice the observers to follow it.

Monitors inside the EVA suits of the Starfleet officers recorded an instantaneous spike in the heart rates and blood pressures of the trio, even in that of the Vulcan team leader. Raising their phasers and pointing them in the direction of the sound, T’Prynn silently gestured with her right hand, waving ever so slightly for the officers to approach the apparent source of the sound, and the green flashes ahead. Acquiescing to the Vulcan’s request, Noli and Prida followed close behind their leader, eyes trained on the intermittent flashing ahead of them.

Strange shadows flitted across the deck as the green blinking grew more regular. Scattered remains of what could only be presumed to be drones were occupying places near the derelict alcoves that had long since been cut off from a power source. The flesh that had once been part of the mechanical remains had long vanished, the ravages of time leaving no clue as to who they might have once been. When a sudden surge of power did manage to escape the bulkhead and strike one of the corpses strewn about the ground, the servos and mechanisms would return to functionality for a split second, causing them to screech or groan in an otherworldly manner.

Taken aback by the sudden movement of the downed drone, the team’s Cardassian Operations officer stumbled backwards and crashed into a computer console, causing it to spark into life for the briefest of moments. Once the shock had subsided, Prida placed her hands either side of the console and dipped her head whilst she took a moment to compose herself again.

A clattering sound issued from the Cardassian’s left, and a blur of rapid motion filled her peripheral vision. An arm reached out, covered in metallic ‘flesh’ that generally replaced the limbs of beings who had undergone assimilation, and a hand seized the wrist of the EVA suit in a powerful grip. The glow of the console just barely illuminated the contours of the ‘thing’ that had grabbed hold of the woman, an angry red light suddenly glaring in her direction as if seeking something.

Engulfed in fear, the Cardassian let out a blood curdling scream as she flailed and struggled against the being that had seized her. The fleshless corpse toppled easily under the force of her flailing, a deafening clatter of dead weight issuing from the thing as it collapsed under its own weight after the power faded from it. The metallic half skull stared up at the Cardassian, the crimson light on the side of it blinking a few times before dying out again.

Several other temporarily ‘revived’ bodies jerked and spasmed in their respective alcoves, though none of them made contact with the away team as they lurched about spastically for a brief moment before joining the first body in their collapse to the deck. The entire spectacle lasted less than a minute, but it seemed to change the very air around them. Lights began to shine in earnest just around the bend of the corridor they had been traveling along, faint ripples of sounds that might have been the background noise of a normally powered Borg ship began to drift toward them.

Within seconds, Lieutenant Noli and her Vulcan commander pounced on their Cardassian colleague, all differences put aside as they dragged Prida to her feet and huddled together. In between deep breaths and worried glances, the Away Team held out their weapons in different directions.

“We… should get out of here…” the Cardassian breathed heavily, looking hopefully at the Vulcan.

“We cannot leave yet, Lieutenant. We must ascertain the nature of the mission this vessel was engaged in, and what caused its demise,” T’Prynn countered, “should you wish to return to the runabout, the Ensign Mizak can take your place.”

An uncharacteristic show of support and empathy from the Vulcan, and one which surprisingly gave the Cardassian the courage to go on – for now at least. “Not necessary, ma’am,” Prida shook her head slowly, “but if we are doing this, we do it quickly. I want to get out of here…”

“For once, I agree with you,” Lieutenant Noli nodded, aiming her phaser down the corridor ahead of them, “let’s do this.”

The passageway leading further toward the source of light and sound was no less eerie than the rest of the long walkway. Alcoves flanking either side hosting a number of desiccated corpses of drones that had long since wasted away. Snaps and fizzles could be heard at intervals, giving the corridor a strange background rhythm that seemed to claw at the away team’s sanity as they drew closer to their destination.

As the trio walked with hesitant steps, the odd bit of material that inevitably got kicked aside would cause a chain reaction of echoing clanks and tinkles as they set surrounding items into sudden motion after they had been left in place for countless months or even years. The farther the group advanced, the more frequent the sounds became, though their presence was anything but reassuring in the inky darkness that dominated the passage.

When they at last arrived in the chamber that had beckoned to them upon their arrival, the various consoles in the area were aglow with the pale green light that dominated the Borg’s version of display screens. Orbs of various shades of green were scattered about the screens, tethered together by tendrils of lighter shades of the self-same green hues. Strange ideograms of light and dark blue framed the various displays, offering up no clues as to what the screens might be trying to say to the untrained eye.

Many of the screens seemed to be looping information, their patterns flowing normally for a few moments before glitching violently and rewinding to some unknown part of their scroll before repeating the cycle again. The columns framing the displays held similar patterns of orbs and tendril-like lines, but they were static in nature, much like the input boards of a standard LCARS display. They would, however, dim at irregular intervals and sometimes disappear completely for a heartbeat or two before blinking back to life.

In the center of the room, removed from any of the drone remains that were scattered about the perimeter of the room, sat the body of what could only be described as a mummified corpse, flesh still largely intact but shrivelled to such a degree that recognizing that species of origin was next to impossible. One thing that stood out, upon closer inspection, was the lack of Borg augmentations, and the strange device still clutched in the being’s hand as if it had perished using it, though whether it was a weapon or some other manner of technology was impossible to ascertain simply by looking at it.

It was Noli that spotted the remains of the creature first, and upon removing her tricorder, she began her analysis of the being. Meanwhile, Prida made an instant beeline for one of the seemingly workable consoles. Like her counterpart, Prida retrieved her tricorder from the pouch on her belt and flicked it open. As the tricorder emitted its usual sounds, the Cardassian placed it atop the console and allowed the console to draw power from it.

Commander T’Prynn, after conducting her own visual analysis of the chamber, sidled up to the Bajoran who was crouched beside the corpse. Without a word, the Lieutenant gave her report.

“This is not a species we have encountered before,” the Bajoran grimaced, looking from the deceased entity, to her commander, and back again. “Definitely humanoid, with a remarkable physiology; I’m no scientist, but I’d wager that they are telepaths,” she revealed, turning her tricorder to the Vulcan for confirmation.

After a moment of reviewing the Bajoran’s findings, she nodded in agreement. “I concur with your findings Lieutenant. Are you able to ascertain the cause of death? It is clear that they were not assimilated,” the Vulcan noted, the lack of cybernetic entrails a give away.

Noli shook her head. “I’d recommend we transport the body to the Runabout and have the computer on the ship run a post mortem…” she then reached out a gloved hand to the device in the beings mummified hand, “…and this could do with some analysing also,” she suggested.

“I’d be careful if I were you,” the Cardassian called from behind, causing the two Starfleet officers to rise to their feet once again and look in her direction for clarification.

“Whoever these people are, they are responsible for what happened here,” she revealed, gesturing her colleagues over to the console she was staring at.

Playing on the screen were the last moments of the creature they had discovered laying on the deck plates, and possibly the final moments of the sphere itself. The oddly colored alien seemed to be shouting something, though the images didn’t come accompanied by sound. The degradation of the sphere’s memory core was obvious from the images skipping ahead several frames at times, while stuttering over the same portion of another part of the scene. The imperfections aside, the story the images showed were rather damning.

The drones in the room had tried to fight off whoever the being was, but their attempts to reach them seemed to be rebuked by some unseen hand. The most likely cause was the being’s telepathic abilities having some measure of influence on them, though just to what degree or in what manner remained a mystery. The being held the device it possessed up in the air, and a hateful flash of orange light flooded the room, the effect of the strange object making it instantly clear what had been done. Alcoves exploded, consoles winked out in an instant, and the drones that had been trying in vain to stop the being crumpled to the ground like puppets who had their strings cut. What was even more disturbing was just how quickly the flesh on the drones seemed to rot away, as if the device had unleashed some horrible plague of bacteria that targeted nanite-infused flesh specifically. 

After showing the trio the horrific scene, the screen images spasmed chaotically before reliving the scene once again. Whatever had caused that particular moment in time to occur, it seemed as if the sphere itself had burned that scene into its synthetic consciousness and was replaying the traumatic event in some tragic loop.

Sharing a number of concerned looks, the tension levels began to rise once more. This was a threat to the Borg that was on a par Species 8472 – and that was more than enough reason for the three to be terrified.

“Nothing changes,” the Vulcan instructed, “download as much of the computer logs as you can, Lieutenant Prida; Noli, transport the body onto the ship. We will take it back to New Bajor for further analysis,” she said.

Nodding, both officers went about their task with the diligence their situation required. Despite their combined efforts, the sphere was reluctant to release its grip on the information they had come for. Massive swaths of the data core had been corrupted so completely that finding even small pieces of uninterrupted data strings was proving to be nothing short of a miracle. Every time one of the officers accessed a data node that held the corrupt information, the panels around the room would dim ominously, and at some points disembodied cries could be heard filling the compartment. Flickers, sparks, and clanging echoed in from points unknown as the away team fought against the sheer volume of errors and faults that dominated the Borg craft. It was obvious by just how long it was taking just to pry a tenth of the information that could still be called viable out of the machine that the sphere was in incredibly poor shape.

Among the confusion the various sights and sounds made, Noli finally got to the point where she was ready to transport the deceased beings’ remains to the Runabout. Activating the internal communications array of her EVA suit, the Lieutenant called out beyond the horror within the sphere. “=/\=Away team to Perseus. Secure the aft compartment with a forcefield and lock on to my tricorder signal for transport.”

Within a matter of moments, the return signal from the Runabout indicated an acceptance of the Lieutenant’s order. “=/\=Transport underway.”

Once again, the trademark blue hue and audible hum of the Federation transporter beam filled the room, the void engulfed in light until the body successfully dematerialised and vanished from sight.

Rising to her feet, the Bajoran brushed herself down and walked over to her Cardassian colleague who was tapping away furiously at a console.

The file corruption continued to be an impediment, wild errors and a great deal of backtracking through the indexes was required to simply begin to make sense of a good portion of the still intact information that could help the away team solve their quandary about what had taken place aboard the sphere, not to mention the origins of the craft in the first place. The deeper the team tried to dig, the less the sphere seemed agreeable to sharing its collected knowledge.

A particularly violent shuddering rippled through the deck plates as a particularly large file cluster was opened. At first the lurching of the flooring seemed to be the only thing that had happened. Tense seconds slipped by in utter silence before muffled thudding slowly started to echo through the corridors. First, it was only one or two of them, distant heralds of what might have been some collapse or another of an unstable section of the massive neglected structure. A few more heartbeats passed in deafening silence before yet another, far more violent ripple of movement jared the very bones of the away team.

A screeching sound blared from the console, as if the vessel itself was experiencing some unimaginable anguish. As if in time with the scream of the equipment, much more prominent crackling booms issued from sources much closer to their position. The display that had once held only ideograms on its surface suddenly shifted, unbidden, to a diagnostic readout of the interior of the sphere, the central most point highlighted in an angry crimson color that seemed to be universal among all space faring races… The core of the ship had finally succumbed to disrepair and would soon snuff out any evidence the sphere had ever existed.

The floor beneath the away team heaved, bucking them into the air almost a full half meter before rudely depositing them back on the ground. The vessel’s death throws had begun, and the poorly cared for compartments of the ship offered no refuge for anything that occupied them, living or dead. Corpses, conduit remnants, hunks of metal; everything was tossed around violently and without exception. The cacophony of explosions became almost like a heartbeat from a heart that was seeing its final moments. The sphere was at the very end of its life and from the way it was reacting to it, it was not going to go quietly.

Holding on to one another for dear life, the crewmates steadied themselves long enough to be engulfed in the transporter beam of their vessel. With one final look around, each officer felt a profound sense of relief as their molecules were dematerialised and they vanished, albeit temporarily, from existence.