The Antares problem pt2
Episode 4: Infiltration
3110 words - 6.2 OF Standard Post Measure
Gunnery Sergeant Lowset took her place on the transporter padd, her team were positioned so that the Lt's were in the center and so that they were all faced outwards. They were aiming at beaming into a staging area the crew of the Illiran ship had established. At best they would have the support of a dozen security officers, at worst they would be beaming into the newly expanded hive. She had decided to start with the directed EM weapon, she expected the collective will adapt but she had programmed it to switch frequencies just like her phaser, so hoped this would be enough to hold them off longer.
Hadir took his place in the center of the transporter pad. He checked his gear a standard issue phaser, a colt made peacemaker that fired 45 caliber combustion rounds and a tricorder. The peacemaker was holstered in a replica US western holster. Hadir was after all a student of history. He looked toward the Gunny. "Gunnery Sergeant keep those weapons at the ready but aimed toward the ground for the time being. If we are beaming into a hive I do not want to provoke them." The tone of his voice was official it was clear that this was an order.
Sibyl took up a position on the pad, phaser in hand, all the while trying not to over think too much and get psyched out by the number of possibilities awaiting them. She nodded her readiness.
Moments later they appeared in a bright, large room. Well lit and painted battleship grey it appeared to be a loading dock. A dozen large hunger-like doors led off from all the walls. Around them were very sturdy and well built barricades manned with yellow jacketed security personal.
"You're from the Eagle?" asked the ranking officer stepping forward. "I am Major Hons, Chief of ships Security."
Hadir stepped forward with his had extended. "I am Lieutenant Hadir Prenar the Chief of Security from the Eagle, this is Lieutenant Sibyl Danzer and Gunnery Sergeant Samantha Lowset..." He paused for a moment as he looked around and took his counterpart's hand to shake it. This certainly was not what Hadir had expected when they arrived. "What is the situation Major"
Sibyl stood to one side, taking in the faces of those in yellow. For the most part they were stoic and collected on the surface, professionals. But empathically she could feel the uncertain tension throughout.
Major Hons pointed at the large loading doors, "We have lost access to the cargo holds forward of those doors" he said "The Captain decided not to force them open and instead posted security around the ship to make sure whatever was in there could get out." He shrugged "Your Captain informed us that she thinks it is Borg, my people are trained to deal with them but before their attack on our ship a month ago we had never encountered them."
Hadir nodded as the wheels turned in his head. "Major perhaps we need to reconnoiter. The three of us, yourself and two of your best men should go through those doors and see what we are dealing with. I suggest getting your Captain's permission to force those doors open."
Hons turned and consulted with the bridge. It didn't take more than a few seconds so when he turned back he said "We can override the doors with the manual release." He pointed at the a large lever on the bulkhead beside the door. "When you are ready we will open the doors."
Gunny Lowest fanned her team out before the door but behind cover. They readied their rifles, she knew the drill when it came to the Borg but she wasn't going to take any chances either. "LT" she said "Ready when you are" the small Marine flicked the safety off her own rifle and then reached down and un-clipped the clutch on her pistol.
Sibyl moved to follow. She was feeling wrong about the sense of the borg beyond the wall. It was just one "mind" as far as she could account for it, decentralized and humming in a dreary state. And it was dead of emotion. To the empath it felt like a living corpse and drew goose flesh on her arms.
Hons nodded to the two security officers at the leaver. The doors reluctantly opened, a low fog rolled out into the loading bay lit by the standard green glow that came with the Borg. Beyond the door the cavern like cargo hold was dimly lit, green light sources doing nothing to illuminate the room. Then there was the movement, dozens of figures moved in the darkness, many with red laser light.
At great effort to control a reflex to fire, Sibyl kept her rifle pointed downward, waiting to see if there was call to react.
Hadir spoke just loud enough for his team to hear him. "Hold fire... hold fire..." He signaled Sibyl to come up along side him. His mouth opened to speak but nothing came out as something deep within Hadir struck a chord. Cardassians are cold blooded and susceptible to changes in temperature rather easily. He knew that the Borg usually kept their ships hot and humid, rather comfortable for his people. However, as the doors opened and the fog rolled out a Hadir had suddenly felt chill to the bone. There is definitely something wrong here. He thought and caught himself. "What do you make of this Lieutenant?" He finally said to Sibyl.
Her eyes were darting around as she maintained control, but her nostrils were flaring. She was self aware about her heart beating in her ears. No holodeck training had ever accounted for the nightmarish sense of the hive mind that was moving through her and she was trying not to allow it to paralyze her. "They're one mind. I feel the identical multiplicity of thought. They see us but we're not a priority. Their focus is on something else."
Gunny Lowest frowned, "Can you tell if it is here on this ship or on the planet?" Having a telepath was always a helpful combat assist.
Sibyl closed her eyes and, on a slow exhale, tried to focus. Intentionally trying to engage the full extent of her empathic reach made the creeping terror worse, far worse, but in the face of great stakes, she decided to brave it. She winced in pain, as she felt her inner self sliding into acidic black water and her physical body broke out in sweat all over, making her dark skin seem to glow in the faint light. When she spoke the deliberateness of her unnaturally lowered voice was not unlike a Delphic oracle speaking through a veil. The words were measured, as if spoken by the drones. "The focus is within. Within themselves. The resisters will serve a new purpose to the collective. Not integration..." She saw in her minds eye the rapid deterioration of rotting flesh in fast forward, only mechanical parts left writhing on the ground until they grew still, and the dried flesh finally scattering like dust on the wind, and within that dust, the hope of the collective. "Disintegration of the resistant. As they wish it..." Her fully black eyes opened, haunted. "So it will be."
The Illiran Major spoke at last. "Our Nanite factories, that's what they want" the revelation hit him like a tonne of bricks. "Is it also the reason why they are moving so slowly, they are unable to adapt to it? To assimilate it?"
Gunny Lowest frowned "That is an interesting concept. Maybe that gives us a chance to end this after all?"
"It sounds to me like the Borg have a small civil war on their hands. It also sounds like they have figured out how to adapt to the nanites. They simply destroy the infected, cut it off as one may sever a limb. We have seen the Borg use this tactic before. We need more information." Hadir said as he indicated that the team continue inside. "Right now they do not perceive us as a threat so we must try to learn all we can."
Lowest gave orders to her fireteam with quick, rapid battle sign. They moved forward into the hive in a loose arrow doing their best not to draw attention to themselves. It was up to the officers to find they clues, her job was to protect them while they did so.
Since slipping under the mental surface of the hive, the world around Sibyl was still a place superimposed one on top of another. She saw both from her own eyes and from an inner sense of the drones around her, although internally she was repulsed and in a suppressed terror, she was presently moving with the economy of a drone, as if in her own familiar quarters. She came to a console and secured her rifle in order to access the controls.
The Marines had their tricorder's set up to scan passively, the readings coming up in their HUD's. "We are scanning 48 active drones, 1 is inactive with minimum power readings and a 50th that seems to be undergoing extensive repairs" The Gunny said quietly. She didn't like this! She understood the need for this kind of contact with the Borg but something was amiss. "There are no signs of an assimilation station!"
Sibyl was uncertain, so she didn't contradict the reading. It just seemed in the numbing echo of minds in her head that there were more, stretching far and away in an imperceptible distance. She couldn't number the voices blurring into one. But she'd been to parties of dozens of people plenty of times and fifty just didn't seem right as a feeling. Although she copied everything that she could from her computer access into a secure image, Sibyl could not intuit much of the coded speak of the collective from their computer. Among what she could discern, she found sensor logs, power consumption readings, and she found something else that made her pause. The screen scrolled with thousands of designation numbers flashing like a digital waterfall of green over black. "There may be fifty here," She continued to speak low and metered in that disaffected way, "but there are thousands more in the hive registry."
Things were out of the ordinary but nothing that sent Hadir into overdrive as it were. That was until he heard Lowset mention that there was no assimilation chamber. He took a moment to look around, Hadir trusted what he saw with his eyes a little more than scans and tricorders and the like. The number of alcoves he saw did not match the data that was given on scanners. Fifty drones and thousands of alcoves. This led Hadir to a stunning and scary conclusion. This is not the main hive. Whatever this is, it is only a small force. He thought.
Hadir regrouped with the rest of the team to strategize what should be next. "From what I can tell there are fifty active drones here and yet there are alcoves and designations for thousands. This is not the central plexus. It could be a scout force. I suggest we step up our own investigations. Let us prepare for emergency beam out. The marines will form up around us and we will attempt to break into the Borg computer systems. We need to learn what we can of their plan. If there is a reaction from the Borg we leave in a hurry." He related his pan to the others.
Sibyl complied, although she moved almost as mechanically as the borg and her blink rate was disturbingly few and far between, still seemingly half enthralled. She resumed her rifle and took up a position back to back with Hadir. She could sense the coolheaded demeanor of her nearby co-worker and internally tried to use that as a counter anchor to the hive mind.
Lowest knew that her Marines were ready for this, the Borg would see this as a threat. Even so, the Borg would adapt before the Marines ran out of targets. "You heard him" she whispered over the communications band, "Prepare for engagement." They moved into position and knelt. Mirroring the other the Gunny pulled his pistol from its holster and placed it on the ground before her, followed by her Phaser carbine and undid the popper of his short sword holster and pushed the scabbard back out the way. She had easy access to all her gear, and like her it would be beamed away when the time came. She pulled the 30 shot magazine from the rifle and tapped it, making sure it was clear before slotting it back. Three green dots in her HUD showed her team was ready. "Ready when you are LT"
With a small amount of conceit Hadir cracked his knuckles and blew on his fingertips. Despite the small show of bravado he was worried that his computer skills would fail him. He patched his tricorder into an empty alcove. "They are going to notice right about now..." He called as his finger danced over the buttons the tricorder.
A beat passed and Sibyl drew a sharp breath as she felt the attention of the nearby borg pivot in their direction.
The encryption was incredible. But if Hadir's time in the Order taught him anything it was how to hack a computer. Just as the first drones turned toward the Starfleet crew Hadir's voice was heard again. "I'm in..." Now he had the task of sifting through until he found the data. Thankfully the Borg computers were meticulously organized. He saw the words and smiled smugly. The screen said Species 9365421 - Illirians. Without reading it Hadir began the download. "Hold em back for another 90 seconds and we are out of here."
The drones started coming away from their other tasks and filling the passage. The exit was being cut off. As long as the transporter links were still good, they had time, but if they failed, Sibyl knew they would now have to fight their way out. She took the safety off the rifle and engaged the random frequency pattern generator.
"Come on, come on..." Hadir spoke under his breath as he watched the download. There was a considerable amount of data. "I sure hope this is going to be worth it," he added. Hadir could hear the Borg as the approached, but there was nothing for it. "I need more time. Take em down if you have to." He called out to Sibyl and the Gunny.
Gunny Lowest thumbed the safety off her rifle, using sub vocal commands her team were directed to select their targets. She had made every bullet she had with her today. Each one was made to be unique, to make it as hard as possible for them to adapt. Lowest sighted through the sights and squeezed the trigger once. The 7.65mm round exploded from the barrel with a tight spin. A moment later it entered and exited the head of the nearest drone, it fell to the ground with a thud, another three dropped as her team sighted killed a drone each.
The fire team repositioned, they now circled the two officers. The whole point was that the Illirans would keep that big blast door closed, so they were on their own. They were burning through their ammo, no matter how much they tried to make their round unique some were bound to match a profile that the Borg had encountered before. So on those occasions it take two or even three rounds, soon she had swapped to her phaser rifle.
"Sir, there are only a handful left, but they are adapting now and will be upon us in only a few more moments" She pulled a stun grenade from her webbing and lobbed it into the remaining drones, it might confuse them for a moment or two. Jessica's rifle was now out of juice and her Pistol lay at her side, equally empty. The small Marine stood and pulled the short sword from her hip and slashed upwards in one even quick stroke killing another drone. She kicked it backwards into he one behind riding the dead one down and plunging the sword through the eye of the other.
Sibyl felt the thrall of her empathic connection shattering at all of the death she was experiencing. It was shocking, but not in the same way as sensing a fully aware person meeting their sudden end would have been. It was more like a dull throbbing pain was ended with each drone that fell. Her face streamed with tears at a sense of tortured souls being released from a living nightmare. She strode ahead, intuitively tracing a remaining drone that hadn't approached yet and fired into it's pale face, feeling her heart recoil as the target collapsed. Another behind it closed some of the distance and she took another shot, the phaser auto selecting a new frequency. But the drone's energy armor deflected it. Sibyl tried the trigger again, but it was equally rebuffed. She turned the rifle around and cracked the butt of it into the drones' nasal cavity— or what should have been a nasal cavity. it stumbled back, but Sibyl realized it must have had some modifications that reinforced that particular weak spot . She ducked as it stretched out an arm towards her and came up with the long knife into the underside of the Drone's chin, which she was relieved to find was not similarly upgraded. She kicked the drone back and watched as it writhed. Sibyl felt the need to examine the morbid feeling, as if looking into her own wound. The drone was suspended between life and death. She felt as it's hive connection severed, and then the terrible ache of ultimate loneliness as it desperately twisted. In the last, the hardware kept turning even after the drone's body fell otherwise limp.
Hadir heard the gunfire and the shouts of orders. However, he made sure to keep his eyes on the download. In the nick of time the download completed. Hadir hoped that it contained the information that could help them. "Prenar to Eagle get us out of here." He called into his comm badge.
In a flurry of light and atoms he away team was whisked away by the transporter chief of the Eagle. They had gotten what they needed and those last few drones would have been a problem for them, not to mention they might bring in reinforcements at a moments notice.