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Part of USS Odyssey: This Far, How Further? and Bravo Fleet: Frontier Day

This Far, How Further? – 8

USS Herschel (NCC-61044), Takara Sector, Alpha Quadrant
Stardate: 52188.7 (39 Years Ago)
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“Captain’s log, stardate five-two-one-eight-eight point seven. The Herschel has reached the edge of the Takara sector to begin our mapping expedition. We are entering the orbit of an L-class planet as my chief engineer has requested we conduct repairs to the warp engines.”

Following Lieutenant Commander Gray around the warp core in engineering, Captain T’Lynne examined the extent of the damage that the warp engines had sustained. The Vulcan was not best pleased, and Gray didn’t need to be a telepath to notice it. He had worked under her for almost two years, and though she was utterly emotionless, T’Lynne had her subtle signs.

“Your assessment is accurate, Commander, and your estimation of completing repairs, though it seems over-generous in duration, is acceptable to ensure we have warp capability in an appropriate time,” T’Lynne said, her hands firmly clasped together behind her back. They sat on the bottom of her spine, just like she usually did when she walked around the ship.

Knowing that was all she would say; Gray thanked his superior for her time in reviewing the damage and confirming she was satisfied with his repair estimates. Once she left engineering, he gave out a sigh. T’Lynne had required that they increase warp speed efficiency as she wanted to be ahead of their schedule for their mapping project. They had come out this far with their sister ship, the Tombaugh, and the two vessels were on a deep space mapping assignment. However, the overuse and taxation of the warp drive played its toll on the Excelsior-class starship. 

Gray had always depended on his boyish charms to ensure Captain T’Lynne agreed and supported his engineering ability. She had complimented him at least three times for his acts of ingenuity. He knew now she would want the same from him. 

The tall, dark hair and handsome chief engineer wandered over to one of the consoles after calling his deputy and other engineers for a briefing. “Right, listen up, everyone. We need to get these engines up and running. We have less than sixteen hours to do it. Any questions?”

One of his young engineers, an ensign, raised her hand. “Umm, sir, didn’t you estimate and tell the captain it would take up to twenty-four hours?”

He nodded. “I did, Ensign, but that’s the first thing you learn as a chief engineer; you give yourself room to show you are a miracle worker in getting things done ahead of estimates.”

“I’ll remember that, sir.” 

“Make sure you do,” Gray said with a wink. He had always led with a good sense of humour to ease his staff and ensure that chaos was kept out of his engineering room. He wanted everyone focused so they were calm and pure professionals during an emergency. 

Before he could issue more orders, the ship went to red alert. Gray’s heart sank as the familiar sound of the red alert klaxon filled the room. He knew this meant trouble, and he immediately began assessing the situation. His mind raced as he quickly analysed the ship’s systems and tried to determine the cause of the alarm. Despite his intense focus, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread as he considered what might be happening on the ship. Nevertheless, he remained calm and professional, determined to do everything possible to ensure the crew’s safety.

“Red Alert, all hands to battle stations!” declared the ship’s first officer over the intercom. 

Calling up the ship’s exterior sensors, Gray wanted to see who they were about to engage just as the ship rocked and came under fire. The visual feed showed a vessel he had never seen before. Gray couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the cubed-shaped ship up close for the first time. The massive spaceship was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Its surface was covered in a metallic black and grey texture that looked both menacing and awe-inspiring at the same time. As he gazed upon the cube, he felt a mix of fear and excitement wash over him. The vessel was massive, and there was no way they were any match for them. That said, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of curiosity and wonder about the alien ship and the technology that powered it. Despite his apprehension, Gray couldn’t tear his eyes away from the incredible sight before him. It was a moment he would never forget.

He was snapped out of his glaring when the ship was hit hard again, and the call from the bridge for them to transfer power to the shields was needed. Before Gray could transfer the extra power, the ship was hit again, and the computer showed that the shields were completely drained. There was nothing there for him to power up, and it would take almost a minute to get them recharged. He started the cycle immediately, just as Captain T’Lynne had ordered them to open fire. 

Phaser shots and torpedo blasts did nothing. The alien vessel caught them in a tractor beam, and before Gray could find a solution to break them free, he heard what sounded like a transporter effect near him. Looking up, a group of beings with technology attached to themselves appeared. Straight away, they started to hunt down his engineering staff and screams filled the room. 

Some engineers picked up the nearest handheld weapons and started to open fire on them. A couple of the beings fell to the floor and evaporated a few seconds later. Doing the same, Gray was keen to defend his ship. He took a nearby phaser, aimed it and fired on the being approaching him. “Gray to security, we have intruders in Main Engineering.” He said after tapping his combadge. 

Firing at the intruder, Gray’s weapon did nothing. He smacked it and fired again. Still nothing. The being continued to walk towards him. Gray increased the setting to maximum and fired. The powerful setting vapourised whatever it was. He trained his weapon on another and took another one out before more of them beamed in. This time his weapon was useless, and they started interacting with the computer displays. Gray overloaded one of the EPS conduits to take a few of them out, but before he had the chance to lock down the computer, he felt another intruder approach him. He started at the being who appeared almost lifeless. He couldn’t help but notice the cold, unfeeling gaze of its unyielding cybernetic eye. Its mechanical limbs moved with eerie precision as if each movement was calculated with ruthless efficiency. Its metallic armour seemed almost invulnerable, a testament to its technological prowess. 

Gray couldn’t resist as it caught him in its strong arms. He could feel the invasive tendrils stick their way into his neck. Instantly he felt something crawl under his skin. More technology? Despite his fear, Gray couldn’t help but marvel at this cybernetic monstrosity’s sheer power and sophistication. 

Then everything went black.

Then everything became calm.

“We are the Borg. Resistance is futile,” whispered in his mind, and he felt calm and at ease.

Stardate: 78275.4

USS Odyssey (NCC-80000), Spacedock, Earth, Sol System

Instantly Gray woke up and realised he wasn’t on the Herschel but in his quarters on the Odyssey. The nightmares of his assimilation still plagued him. The remnants of his nightmare still clinging to his mind. He sat up in bed, trying to shake off the feeling of being pulled into the cold embrace of the Borg. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that it was just a dream. As he looked around his peaceful room, he felt a sense of relief wash over him. The soft hum of the ship’s power systems filtering through helped to ground him in reality. His heart was racing. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. The feeling of sweat trickling down his chest was uncomfortable. The dampness stuck to his skin, making him feel sticky and gross. He could still feel his heart pounding in his chest, and he knew that his body was working hard. It was too much. 

Pushing the bed sheets off him, Reuben got himself off his bed and headed straight to the sonic shower. He removed his bedwear and told the computer to activate the shower. Gray stepped into the sonic shower, grateful for the soothing waves that were now enveloping his body. He closed his eyes and let out a contented sigh as the cleansing water washed away the bitter taste of his nightmare. The gentle hum of the shower provided a comforting background noise, and Gray felt his tense muscles start to relax. It was moments like these that made him appreciate the simple pleasures in life. As he opened his eyes and took in his surroundings, he wondered just how much longer he would have these dreams. 

Once he was done, he stepped out of the shower and looked at himself in the mirror. Gray stood in front of the holographic mirror, his gaze fixed on his reflection. As he took in the sight before him, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief and freedom. Every time he woke up, he expected to see himself as a drone. Instead, he saw himself without the Borg implants that had once dominated his body. His skin was smooth and with a few scars, but it was no longer blemished by the metallic protrusions that had once linked him to the collective. His eyes were bright and clear, no longer clouded by the influence of the Borg. And his posture was strong and confident, no longer hunched over in submission.

As Gray continued to stare at his reflection, he gazed down at his chest, marvelling at how muscular and strong it looked. He didn’t entirely feel like him. The underlying muscles rippled with power and potential. He had been going to the gym almost every day since he joined the Odyssey, joining some of the other senior staff in several workout exercises. Though it did him good on the physical side, he found the workouts good for his mental well-being too. Looking at his abs again, he blinked. It was a stark contrast to the way his chest had looked when it had been covered in Borg implants, the metal and wires obscuring his natural form. Now, he felt truly alive, connected to his own body in a way that he had not experienced before. Running his fingers over the well-defined contours of his chest and over the now-empty spaces where the implants had once been, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in his physical strength. Was it a testament to his resilience and determination? He wasn’t sure. Yet. Was he taking too much pride in his appearance? Again, he wasn’t sure. What he did know, though, was it was a tangible reminder that he had overcome the physical horrors of his past and emerged stronger than ever. Though the scars on his skin were there, and most of them had been healed by the incredible work of Doctor Slyvexs, he still had a long way to go. The scars remained inside.  

It was a strange feeling, to be sure, to no longer feel the reassuring presence of the cybernetic enhancements that had been a part of him for so long. But there was also a sense of freedom, a sense of being truly whole that he had not experienced in a long time. The only thing that remained was the ocular implant just above his left eye and the implant on his right elbow. There were still implants under his skin, the ones that couldn’t be removed entirely yet. Eventually, they would be, but his body needed time to adjust to not depending on them. 

It was a new beginning for Gray, a chance to reclaim his identity and forge his own path in life. And as he gazed upon his reflection, he knew that he was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead.

He hoped.

Making his way across his quarters, quarters that were indeed bigger than anything he had experienced on his previous postings, he entered the walk-in closet. Detecting his presence, the small room lit up, and the cupboard doors opened. His uniform hung there. After a few seconds, he had put it on and was now checking himself out one more time, ensuring he looked smart and presentable. Putting this newer uniform on felt weird to him. It wasn’t like the old ones he wore. Though he liked the new ones from over thirty years ago, the uniform he truly enjoyed wearing the most was the one that entered service in the late 2270s. The black trousers and the double-breasted red jacket worn over a turtlenecked undershirt were something else. Though he could see Starfleet trying to emulate it with this new design, it wasn’t the same. It was no surprise to Gray that it had lasted so long. Almost eighty years before, Starfleet made another radical change. Hanging next to his new uniform, though, was one thing he had been able to acquire out of storage. The excursion jacket. With its huge collar and deep pockets, Starfleet had never made anything like it since. 

He was interrupted by a sudden headache. 

“Computer, water, cold,” He ordered the replicator as he left the closet and made his way over to the food and drink dispenser. As he travelled, the computer created the drink, and after it appeared, Gray was in arm’s reach to pick it up. He gulped the whole thing down instantly. It didn’t help, and he wondered if it was because he was hungry. However, he tapped his combadge. “Gray to sickbay.”

“Go ahead, Reuben,” came Doctor Slyvexs’ response. “Are you okay?”

“I know you told me to get in touch if I don’t feel great. Well, I woke up with an incredible headache. Can I come in to see you, doctor?” Gray shared.

“Of course, commander, come in now,” She told him. 

Several minutes later, Slyvexs was running a deep scan on her patient. Gray liked the Denobulan woman. She always smiled and made him feel at ease. She and Counsellor Horin had helped him a lot. Starring at her tricorder, Slyvexs shook her head.

“Everything okay, doc?” He asked.

She nodded. “They are, Commander, I can see you have a headache, but I can’t work out why.” Slyvexs prepared a headache and pressed it against his neck. “This should help, but if it comes back or gets worse all of a sudden, I want you back here.”

“Aye, ma’am,” Gray said with a smirk. 

She picked up a PADD to update his records. “How are you sleeping?” She asked.

He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Not so great. Those nightmares have come back again.”

“Again?” She echoed. “And you sure it’s only since we’ve been back at Earth.”

He nodded. “And they’re very vivid.”

“If you find yourself worrying about sleeping tonight, come see me for a mild sedative.” Slyvexs offered.

“Thank you, doctor, but I’ve got a busy day ahead of me, and the sooner I put my mind on something else, well, hopefully, I can forget it all,” Gray said as he jumped off the bed.

She nodded. “Just take it easy.”

“I will,” He promised as he made his way out of sickbay.

As soon as the doors closed behind him, he sighed.