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Part of USS Ride: Waylaid by Necessary Interdiction and Bravo Fleet: We Are the Borg

5 | Contingency

Brunel Station | Beta Quadrant
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With slow, methodical footfalls, Commander Amanda Greystone made her way toward her office on Brunel Station. She’d been up most of the night, talking to her various colleagues in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers scattered across the galaxy, as well as various members of the Admiralty. 

She’d lost 20 team members over the course of half a day. A Borg Sphere that she’d been assured was deactivated and harmless had partially re-initialized, and in the process attempted to assimilate the scientists who were scanning its interior. Attempted, as the damage to the Sphere had essentially negated the efficacy of the nanoprobes, and all medical scans showed that rather than replicate ad infinitum in the victims’ blood streams, they’d essentially used them as fuel until there was nothing left, and then gone dark once the person died. 

A terrible tragedy had unfolded on her station, and a potential threat had only barely been neutralized. She had spent hours alternating between sobbing over the loss of her friends, and thanking whatever deity of luck had graced her with a team that had the ability to figure out what exactly was going wrong. 

Looking down at her PADD, she kept pouring over the data through blurry eyes, as she had most of the last night. She had to have been missing something. 

“Couldn’t sleep either, Commander?” 

Greystone looked up and sighed. Lieutenant Commander Ralessa zh’Dar, the Chief of Security of the USS Ride was standing in the doorway to her office with two cups of what looked to be steaming hot tea. She had half a mind to tell the woman to beam back to her ship and leave her to her reports and studies…but she was loath to admit that she did want the company. And the tea. 

Gesturing her in, Greystone replied, “No. I keep going over it again and again in my head. That there had to be something I missed, that there was something that should have been staring me in the face saying ‘HEY! This shit’s going to reactivate and you and your team need to get clear!’ But there just isn’t. There was no way we could’ve known that a sphere this damaged would suddenly re-activate after years without an active power source, and just go completely haywire.” 

Sliding a mug across the desk, zh’Dar said, “But there is. They’re the Borg, sir.” 

“Please,” Greystone responded. “Please just call me Amanda.” 

“Sure. Drink your tea, Amanda. My point is, the Borg are renowned for contingencies layered on contingencies. They build for function over form. They build so that if one piece of the collective’s chain gets broken, links elsewhere along the length strengthen and shore up what remains. It’s how they’ve survived and adapted for as long as they have. It’s what makes them nearly impossible to figure out. It’s why we run from them and only engage them in a fight when it’s the last possible option left to us before death or assimilation.”

Taking a sip, Greystone sighed softly, and set her PADD back down on her desk. Looking up at the Andorian woman, she said, “You’d make a hell of a ship’s captain. Never even encountered the Borg, and you understand them perfectly.” 

“You’re young, have you encountered them?” zh’Dar asked. 

“No,” Greystone sighed. “At least not directly. Ran from stray ships a few times, hid from them a few times. Frontier Day was my only real experience with them.” 

“It was most peoples’ only real experience with them,” zh’Dar responded. 

“You know, I was on the Bardeen when we found this sphere. We thought we’d hit a latinum mine. Here’s this…derelict Borg ship, beat to hell and adrift on the ass end of the Beta Quadrant. No drones onboard, no power signatures, just floating there like a giant black orb suspended in space. Captain Tanner wanted to destroy it. He said no matter what state it was in, it could adapt, rebuild itself, and the Borg would come looking for it.”  

“Well, mercifully he was wrong about at least part of that,” zh’Dar responded, taking a sip of her tea. “How’d you end up in charge of the thing?” 

“I was the one who recommended Brunel Station be repurposed to study it,” Greystone said through a sad smile. “SCE had just been using this as a scrapyard for old ships, so it seemed the perfect spot. Brunel’s out of the way of most major civilizations. Hell, there’s not even an inhabited planet within a couple hours at warp 7. I figured the sphere was in such a state, that we could take it apart piece by piece. Really dig in, and figure out what we could use against them; how much of their own technology could be repurposed by Starfleet to get the upper hand against them. But every year it was something. First being unable to get into the deep reaches of the ship. Then half my staff being reassigned to install the Fleet Formation software suite across the Fleet. Then Frontier Day and all of its awfulness…it was just setback after setback. I think I’d given up on finding anything meaningful, and that we’d just have this lump of Borg sitting in our scrapping bay for the rest of time. We never even got to figure out who did all this damage. Maybe those fluidic aliens from the Delta Quadrant? Maybe some kind of feral space monster with a taste for Borg flesh? Now I guess we’ll never know.”  

Her monologue was interrupted by the station’s gentle toning chime, indicating the start of Alpha shift. 

“Do you need to do something about that?” zh’Dar asked. 

“Nah, we’re on standby until we get further orders,” Greystone responded. “All that’s left is contingency four, and we’re out of orders.” 

“Okay. Look, Commander…” “Amanda.” “Fine, Commander Amanda. At least it scans rhythmically. I didn’t beam down to beat you up over your decisions,” zh’Dar said in the most comforting tone she could muster. “You requested an assignment you thought would be fulfilling. Something about the work called to you, and you thought it would make a difference. It’s what everyone who goes into Starfleet does, irrespective of the track they’re on. And for what it’s worth, thank you for finally giving me at least a piece of the puzzle as to what you’re doing down here, but I didn’t come down here to interview or interrogate you either. I came down here because I couldn’t sleep, and saw you were in your office awake too, and guessed you probably didn’t sleep much either and could use the company. What I saw was…an awful scene of horror. But I didn’t know those people. They were Starfleet, and presumably had people that cared about them, and it’s awful that they went the way they did but…” 

Sighing and taking a sip of her tea, she continued, “You actually knew them. When I came back to your office after nuking the vinculum, you were sobbing. So I have to be honest, I don’t really care what the plan was with the sphere. These were your friends, and they died, and that sucks. The least you could use right now is someone to sit with you and drink tea, and remember them.” 

All hands, contingency four. All hands, contingency four, the computer’s automated voice intoned. 

zh’Dar looked out of the office at the massive black sphere hanging by its fixtures, a small group of scientists quickly leaving the large bay in which it was suspended.

“You might as well stick around to see this, so you can include it in your final report,” Greystone said. 

“I’m not filing shit,” zh’Dar said, turning her gaze toward the scrapping bay. The two watched on as the forcefield lowered and fixtures retracted, allowing the sphere to float out into the inky void of space. It began a slow rotation as the rush of air caught the various pits across the surface, before settling and beginning to float away from the station. 

Depressing a command on her desk, Greystone ordered, “Repulsion. Distance Marker Theta.” A tractor beam began to push the sphere further and further away from the station, until the pair could barely make it out against the black backdrop of space. 

“Fire one, authorization Greystone Omega Four-Seven.” 

The forcefield shimmered quickly back into place as a blue streak flew out from parts unknown on Brunel Station. It impacted the side of the Sphere with a visible explosion, leaving little but jagged scraps of metal behind. 

‘Tricobalt’, zh’Dar thought.

With a sigh, Greystone stood up from her desk, and grabbed her PADD. “I’ve got a bunch of reports to file now, but I could use some breakfast first. You?” 

zh’Dar offered what was likely the first sincere smile she had since she’d seen the state of the scientists on the sphere, and replied “Let me tell my partners I’ll be home late this morning, but yeah. I could use some food.”