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Part of USS Redding: Starve the Borg and Bravo Fleet: We Are the Borg

Node 6: Walk in the Storm

USS Franscini, Xi Velorum
June, 2401
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Personal log of Ensign Diran Koli, supplemental entry, June 2401: Commander Siouinon and Commander T’Konte of the USS Franscini have come up with a plan. We are en route. Is this a suicide mission? I am not enthusiastic about it.

The ion purple sky angrily staring them down, Diran Koli thought of the series of choice that had led them there.

It had started in Main Engineering, after the coolant leak had been repaired, after the two Commanders had finished debating the plan.

“The Borg are starving” had said Commander Siouinon, “but we’re going to feed them what they want.”

T’Konte, standing next to her, had raised her eyebrow at the repeated use of a food-based metaphor.

They had called the Redding away team (Lieutenants al-Kwaritzmi, Sirti-nei-Plex and Friedrichsen) and an equal amount of personnel of the Franscini to receive orders. Diran hadn’t really memorized the names of the Franscini personnel, but their minds could be empathically felt: tired, spent, hungry, and despite all determined to sacrifice anything to save what was left of the crew.

The Redding squad was doing better — still in their sealed EV suits, but relatively fresh, their minds nervous, active. Relatively empty in Friedrichsen’s case, relatively morose as far as al-Kwaritzmi was concerned.

“Since we are in much better state” had added Commander Siouinon, her tone determined, her eyes looking down at a padd in her hands, “it is us of the Redding who are going to take care of the dangerous part of this. If nothing changes, Commander T’Konte and her people are going to remain sealed here.”

T’Konte’s mind was perfectly still, harsh, logical, but even a not particularly skilled empath such as Diran could feel a bit of annoyance at that statement.

“What are we to do, Commander?” had asked Iskander — calm and controlled despite the sullenness projected by his mind.

Before she could answer, a loud bang from some remote part of Main Engineering. Shouting. Phasers. Minds engulfed in cold terror.

“Borg” had whispered Diran.

“The Borg!” had screamed a voice from far away in Main Engineering. “We have a breach!”

Commander T’Konte’s mind remained controlled and placate — a testament to her self-control. The Vulcan looked at Commander Siouinon.

“We accelerate the plan. Variant C.”

Commander Siouinon had to take a deep breath before answering.

“Yes.”

“Assimilation of Main Engineering is going to be swift. We have less than 20 minutes” had said T’Konte. “If we fail, the ship and the 200 crewmembers who are in the transporter buffers are going to be lost. We act.”

The Franscini‘s crew had been ordered to evacuate from Main Engineering and make their way to the bow of the ship — presumably a Borg-free area. al-Kwaritzmi had been assigned to a “reattach the beacon” mission, and T’Konte told him to follow her to the shuttlebay. Friedrichsen and Sirti-nei-Plex had been dispatched to the impulse engine control room.

Commander Siouinon and Diran Koli had entered a Jefferies tube and started descending throughout the ship, as fast as possible.

“Where are we going, Commander?” had asked Diran Koli.

“You will not like the answer” she had grumbled.

That was quite an understatement.

They had descended, deck after deck after deck, until they had reached the hull. Then they had exited the ship.

And now, boots magnetized and attached to the duranium hull of the Franscini, they stood outside, on the lower side of the saucer section. Above them, the small secondary hull that was connected to the saucer by a pair of curved pylons; and in the middle of the small secondary hull, the shiny deflector dish, running mad on energy.

Therese Siouinon had pointed to it, above their heads.

“That’s where we are going” she announced.

Above them, the ion storm — purple, full of lightning and of energy.

They started walking, encumbered by their EV suits.

“And once we are there?” asked Diran.

“You tell me.”

Diran thought for a moment.

“We can assume that the Borg will soon be undoing what the crew did to the energy grid. The deflector dish is going to stop malfunctioning. They’re going to call reinforcements.”

Siouinon nodded inside of the helmet of the EV suit.

“We can’t allow that” she said. “But we have no way to stop the Borg in Main Engineering.”

They were walking in the direction of the pilons.

Diran could recall quite well what Commander Siouinon had said about the intensity of the ion storm when they were on the shuttle; and what Commander T’Konte had said about half-assimilated Borg drones being vaporized by the hundreds trying to reach the deflector dish by walking on the pilons.

The Betazoid felt, consequently, quite nervous. On the screen that was built inside the visor of the helmet, he toggled until he found the status of the EV suit. It had 96% energy supply, but registered a constant amount of ionizing radiation from the storm.

As if to prove a point, a thunder hit the ship maybe twenty meters away from the two: blindingly bright, purple, angry, yet perfectly silent. The electric charge spread through the hull at light-speed, and the suit registered it. Its integrity was still perfect, but the energy had fallen to 94%.

“I was a scientist in my previous career. Did you know that?” asked, abruptly, Commander Siouinon.

The question came completely unexpected.

“Eh? Sorry, Commander? You are still in the scientific section.”

“Oh. Don’t be mistaken. Looking into a scanner and recognizing something isn’t being a Scientist. A Starfleet science officer is a person who has two minutes to look at a couple of scans and datapoints and give a four-word answer to a Captain. A scientist is a person who studies a problem for months, or years, and tries to elucidate a principle of nature or something like that.”

Diran Koli considered this point for a short moment.

“I… see.”

“i worked as an exogeologist. I don’t expect that you know much about what we did, but there’s a planet, out there, where crystals grow to be mountain-sized. I’ve seen emeralds as large as a California-class starship. We didn’t know how it was possible. So the Federation established an outpost, and I became part of the Starfleet crew complement. We started with a thesis, and you know what happened to it?”

“You proved it?”

“How dull that would be! How simple! No, of course not, Ensign. Something much more exciting happened — we disproved it.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Science isn’t an engineering problem that has to be fixed, Ensign. Having to restart from square one means that there’s more to be learned than you thought, that you’re going to gain more than what you suspected. Nothing is as invigorating as having to clear the field and look somewhere else. So we came up with another working thesis, and you know what happened to it, Ensign?”

“You… disproved it too?”

“Yes!”

They had now reached the base of the pilons. They started the climb. Diran had a momentary vertigo when the magnetic boots attached to the curve of the pilon, bending the saucer section beneath them to an impossible angle.

“Disproving a thesis is also informative in itself” continued Therese Siouinon. Her mind felt… focused, energized. “Sometimes it forces you to learn more about the phenomenon you’re studying, laying the basis for the next iteration. Sometimes it leads to serendipitous realizations. Sometimes it becomes a new field of study. But we had a goal — and eventually, we found a theory we couldn’t disprove.”

“So you found the truth, Commander.”

“Science can’t be fixed! We are not engineers! The truth is immaterial, is abstract, is a word I do not trust and do not like. We found something better than the truth: a good model. And it wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t been wrong, consistently wrong, and had taken such joy in realizing how wrong we were!”

There was a pause. For almost five meters, nobody spoke.

“That was all to say that I remember, Ensign, aboard the shuttle, having said that anything less than a shuttle would definitely be vaporized by the strength of this ion storm. And we are only wearing EV suits.”

“So… you hope to be wrong?”

“As a scientist, I so wish to be wrong.”

A thunder hit the pilon. Diran could feel the magnetized boots losing for a moment contact to the hull (probably an effect of inductance), and the energy dropped to 92%.

“We are to, as fast as possible, dismantle the Borg modifications to the deflector dish” said Therese Siouinon. “Before the Borg fix it from Main Engineering, and before the ship exits the ion storm.”

“Are we flying out of this purple cloud of death?”

“Friedrichsen and Sirti-nei-Plex are going to the control room of the impulse engine to drive us manually out of here.”

“Couldn’t we have waited to be outside of the ion storm before coming out here?” asked Diran, more and more nervous.

“That was Variant B. We picked Variant C. Are you afraid of death, Ensign?”

Diran Koli pondered the question for a moment.

“Only on the good days, Commander.”

“And on the bad days?”

“Much more afraid of life on those days, Commander.”

She, inexpectedly, laughed, her mind amused.

“Why have we never spoken before today, Ensign? Oh! You should join my book club!” she exclaimed.

They had finally reached the deflector dish. Large, blueish, filled with enough energy to electrocute anyone with a touch, and covered in ugly clumps of Borg technology: a crude subspace beacon, black and green but bathed in blueish energy.

Diran assessed quickly the damage with his engineer’s eye. It was… bad.

“That’s a lot to be removed” he said. “And with so much energy running through the deflector, we’re almost sure to get electrocuted. If the ion storm doesn’t get us in the meantime.”

Therese Siouinon grinned and opened her engineering kit. Her mind was an impressive maelstrom of fear, awe, and determination.

“Let’s prove you wrong, Ensign” she said brandishing a decoupler.

Diran, despite himself, smiled.