Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why Sheriff Andy Taylor is a Hero to Me




Going to the local drug store to pick up my wife's prescription isn't my favorite chore, but at least it's fairly straight forward and quick if the pharmacist on duty is in a good mood. There is one lady who works behind the counter that seems to have a grudge against me, so much I figure I must look like a former boyfriend or ex-husband that treated her wrong. I take such incidents in stride now but something else happened yesterday as I walked into the drug store that exemplifies the nearly psychotic times we find ourselves living.

While the drug store in question will go unnamed, just know it is one of those ubiquitous national chains that tries to act like a mini-grocery store as well as having whole aisles dedicated to things like Halloween costumes and even cheap toys. As I walked through the automatic sliding doors I passed one of the store clerks stocking a shelf with colorful boxes. Wasn't really paying attention to the writing on the boxes but I did notice they looked rather heavy. As I turned a corner and started walking down another aisle, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of another person walking through the sliding glass door entrance.

Quick impressions are easily subject to misinterpretation but the guy seemed even more rushed than me as well as slightly perturbed. An idea reinforced when I started hearing an impatient voice whose volume was higher than anything used in a normal conversation. Whatever the case, I had my own task to accomplish and didn't think anymore of it, until I heard the seriously loud bang coming from that direction a second or two later. Being upfront, my first thought was that the guy I believed to be upset had pulled a gun and fired off a shot. At who, I had no idea but naturally the clerk innocently stocking shelves was high on the list.

The sad thing in all was that instead of just blowing off the noise, I instead stopped in my tracks and waited a few seconds to see if anything else happened, like more shots being fired or people beginning to scream in panic. Thankfully, except for the normal noise associated with a business, it was all quiet. Minutes later on the way back out I noticed that one of the shelves the clerk had been placing the heavy boxes on had broken or collapsed. As for the guy who seemed perturbed, I saw him at the general merchandise checkout with an armload of school supplies as I walked out the door.

Yes, this all ended uneventfully but the nasty bug in the societal system is that given the number of mass shootings this country has, sometimes on a monthly or even weekly basis, the possibility the dude buying school supplies was a deranged nutcase sporting a high-capacity firearm was real. At times I really hate all the trash comments I make about the area I live, but to be honest earning your concealed carry license for a handgun is one of the ways guys here is get another punch on their man card.

What it all boils down to is that I remember a time when I was a kid that while owning firearms was cool, the idea that you would carry one around in public was crazy to the general population, even here in the American South. This attitude was best exemplified by the ancient Andy Griffith Show where the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor made a point of not wearing a sidearm because he wanted people to respect him and his authority, not the weapon he carried. That example a little too abstract, well my own grandfather once verbally jumped all over my twenty-something ass in the 1980's when I attempted to carry my own .45 automatic inside a public place.

Understand, my pistol was unloaded and my reason for carrying it was because I didn't want to leave it in my car since one of the door locks was busted, but my grandfather looked me dead in the eye and said only morons walk around with guns in public. Back during those years my enthusiasm for firearms extended to the ownership of an assault rifle as well, which when I look at the pictures of myself taken with it seem really creepy now. To complete this story I sold both the assault rifle and that .45 when I became involved in SCUBA diving and wanted to buy my own equipment.

Needless to say, mass shootings back in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid and young “adult” were outrageously rare occurrences but since then popular culture has made carrying a gun almost a prerequisite for some to have self respect for themselves. Many disagree, but I have had discussions with gun enthusiasts and their denials of that idea always have the ring of drug addicts or alcoholics swearing up and down that they don't have a problem, that the issue is with everyone else. Throw in unstable individuals with easy access to some serious firepower and you get mass shootings and a lot of innocent people dead, including small children. While I had long since moved on to other more constructive activities, that particular event ended the lackadaisical attitude I had towards letting gun nuts have their fun as long as I didn't have to hear them speak.

Gun nuts will skip over this sentence but I'm not calling for the ban of civilian ownership of firearms. I own another .45 automatic, although it spends most of its existence locked up inside a box in my closet. But I don't believe you can rationally say the saturation of guns in our national culture is healthy. Instead of having the calm and cool fictional Andy Taylor saying he wanted people to respect him personally, you have types like Eastwood who made his fame playing a character that asks if some punk is feeling lucky while he points a .44 magnum at his head. Excuse me for picking on Eastwood because he has plenty of company, but people tend to copy what seems reasonable and when countless movies suggest that you need to carry a firearm to solve issues, especially difficult ones involving troublesome people you're creating an atmosphere where civil society can't function.

Yes, there are numerous instances where someone with a gun protected their lives and those of their families, that is not an issue. The issue is that the United States has exponentially more mass shootings than any industrialized western country. Of course, I am not including such third-world countries such as Somalia or any other where civil society has broken down completely. If the widespread ownership of all sorts of weapons promoted peace, like gun enthusiasts say they would here, shouldn't those countries be law-abiding garden spots?

I'll write it one more time, I'm not talking about banning civilian ownership of guns. But in a rational society there should be enough common sense that laws and regulations could be enacted to where mass shootings are once again relegated to the rare, bizarre occurrence like it was when the fictional Sheriff Taylor's attitude was widespread among the public. My general idea is that you have to be trained and then licensed to drive a car, seems reasonable to suggest that something like a gun might require similar procedures. I'll throw mandatory liability insurance as a requirement as well, although the first two things I mentioned sends the average gun nut into seizures. I've noticed the barest mention of forcing gun owners to carry liability insurance turns them into enraged children out for blood.   

As for those who may think I am living in fear of some unknown madman, maybe I am making more of the incident in the drug store than I should. But, then again I'm not the one who feels defenseless if I'm not walking around in public with a loaded concealed weapon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I'm still here-sort of-and should be fully functional by October

Time, or the lack of it, totally sucks. The main reason I decided to take a break was because no one would leave me the hell alone. Unobstructed free time for me is always rare but the month of September was unusually bad. It was sort of like an extended August, which is always my worst month.

Another issue was a total breakdown in what could be called my creative instinct. I simply couldn't think of a damn thing to write that was even halfway original or interesting. Not that any of my stuff has ever been that inspired to begin with, but even crappy middle age dudes like me would one day like to reach the status of hack writer.

This morning though I reached a bit of a breaking point. I was cutting the backyard feeling disgusted that I was wasting my life in a never ending battle with mother fraking grass. Don't get me wrong, I've never like cutting grass but it's damn near the end of September and I'll probably have to do this shit again one more time before the weather gets cold enough to make my lawn go dormant for the winter.

Somewhere in the back of my head I have this fantasy of buying a fifty-five gallon drum of the most toxic weed killer and spray it all over my lawn. After that I would burn the now dead grass residue and dance around in the flames laughing like a madman. Some might worry what the neighbors think if I actually got around to doing those things but they already think I'm crazy and I don't give a rip what their opinion is of me. They're just a bunch of Trump-loving, semi-suicidal morons deluded enough to think that narcissistic bastard won't frak the country to advance his own interests. My wife on the other hand is another matter, she demands I act civilized and decent in front of the sorry a-holes I am forced to live around. So, that leaves me little else but to take up my writing again and essentially live in the bizarre world that exists between my ears.

I'll leave you with this for now:


      

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Calling it quits--for a little while--maybe

Just not feeling it anymore. I'll probably be back, maybe really soon, or this might be the end.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thoughts on Childhood's End







One of the laziest tropes in science fiction is the sudden and unexpected arrival of gigantic alien spaceships above the cities of Earth. The most notable example of this sub-genre is the 1990's movie Independence Day where such ships are part of a grand invasion scheme to strip our planet bare of resources. Other than an extreme form of xenophobia that views all other intelligent life as a danger, Independence Day never really explains why these aliens with super engineering skills just don't go around harvesting asteroids, rich in vital strategic metals and frozen water, which are literally floating around in space free for the taking.

A simple cost benefit analysis would show how that instead of attacking and then moving into new planet-side territory, they could easily gobble up what asteroids they need and then head back out into deep space. And if these pesky aliens still felt the need to kill off humanity, all they would have to do is toss a half-dozen ten kilometer asteroids towards Earth and it would be totally game over for us hairless primates. Pretty much all that would be left after such a bombardment would be cockroaches, a few ants, and assorted slime molds and bacteria. Remember, it took just a single ten kilometer asteroid or comet to send the dinosaurs off into eternity.

Honorable mention for this story line has to go to the 1980's television series entitled “V”, where seemingly human looking aliens arrive and proclaim they come in peace and friendship only to once again be after some terrestrial resource, this time it's Earth's water. Never mind that water is abundant all over our solar system, with most of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn being really big snowballs. And I'm not even going to mention the Oort Cloud way out past Pluto which could contain trillions of icy comets, with more than enough water for dozens of thirsty evil alien armadas. Whatever the case, along the way during the “V” series we discover that these aliens are just wearing a human-looking disguise and are in fact quite reptilian in actual appearance.

Unless someone can correct me, the best story involving the sudden arrival of several dozen alien starships above human cities comes from the Arthur C. Clarke book entitled Childhood's End. It would be an awkward but accurate pun to say Clarke's novel leaves both Independence Day and “V” lightyears behind in simple story telling. Which is not hard since this is Arthur C. Clarke I'm talking about, the man was a true visionary. My one problem with him though is that he didn't really look favorably on what he considered science fantasy, (Star Trek, Star Wars) his stories had to have at least some basis in our current understanding of physics and the universe.

Childhood's End was published in 1953 and I read the book probably in the early 1980's. In fact I believe it was quite close to the time Carl Sagan's Cosmos aired on Public Television, and yes, the two did a number on my small brain that I have never really recovered from since.

In the book dozens of alien starships arrive and take up positions above terrestrial cities. But instead of looking to cause death and destruction one of the aliens, named Karellen proclaims to the world they have arrived to prevent humanity from committing suicide and are here to guide us to a more stable, peaceful, and sustainable future. Naturally, humans are suspicious but over the course of a few decades these aliens, called the Overlords, pretty much end human suffering. All during this time, the Overlords don't physically reveal themselves to us humans but hide behind barriers saying that until our species has matured, we would find their form extremely disturbing. Instead they work through one person, the Secretary General of the United Nations, who eventually smuggles a device aboard the alien craft that should allow him to see Karellen's true form. The Secretary General succeeds in his attempt but decides to to tell anyone else what Karellen looks like.

With the aid of the Overlords, humans enter a Golden age but there is a price. First off the Overlords put a stop to human space exploration with the only exception in the book being a manned base on the moon for astronomical research. Secondly, with all the humans on Earth fat and happy not only have all our cultures have become stagnant but technological research has almost stopped completely. I have to chalk that one up to the idea that with the Overlords several thousand years technologically ahead of us there isn't much sense in devoting time to engineering a better coffee maker or television. But things aren't all bad, with everyone getting a decent education no one freaks out when the Overlords finally reveal themselves to the public fifty years after their arrival. Turns out the Overlords look exactly like Christian-themed demons or Satan himself. They are bipedal creatures with cloven hooves for feet along with leathery wings on their backs, long barbed tail, and horns coming out of their heads.

While the Overlords were truthful in that they came to save humankind for our destructive ways, they didn't tell us the entire story. Turns out they are a sort of cosmic midwife for something referred to as the Overmind. See, in the novel we learn that nearly all intelligent species in the universe have to eventually evolve to a higher plane of existence and be adsorbed by the Overmind. An entity that seems to be the Grand Poo-bah of the cosmos. There is simply no choice in the matter, and for humans the first signs of this ascendancy comes from young children who develop telepathic, telekinetic, and a type of collective consciousness that totally freaks out their uncool H. sapien parents. Matters are only made worse when Karellen reveals to the world that because of this change normal humans won't be able to have anymore children. No, the Overlords are not responsible for that side effect, it is either the Overmind being a total dick and preventing conception or just something systemic to the whole process because the kids are on the verge of jumping dimensional planes.

As you can imagine, human civilization falls apart after this with everyone blaming the Overlords for this development. Throw in a human, Jan Rodricks, who stowed away aboard an outbound Overlord starship before the kids got seriously weird and you have the setting for the final act of the novel. By the time Jan comes back from his sightseeing adventure on the Overlord's homeworld normal humans are extinct. The kids are still around but you can't really say their human because they are in the final stages of joining the Overmind.

The Overlord's are cool with Jan permanently staying with them but he declines and offers to go planet-side to record the final moments of the kids linking up with the grand cosmic entity. See, the Overlords occupy an evolutionary dead end and will never be able to make the jump to higher existence like us humans. But they would very much appreciate any information Jan might be able to discern from the event. But before he departs for Earth's surface, Jan makes an assumption and asks the Overlords about the traumatic encounter they must have had with humanity in the distant past for our species to base our idea of evil on their form. Jan learns from Karellen that human's fear of them is not based on a past event but a racial premonition that echoed back down through time to the very beginnings of our species.

With Jan planet-side, he radios ups reports of a vast burning column going up into space, which is probably the kids. Afterwards the Earth itself begins to dissolve into transparency, including Jan whose final report mentions a final sense of fulfillment.

Yes, in Childhood's End the author does appear to break his rule about staying as close to real science as possible. Not only that, a reader would have to be pretty low on IQ points not to see the Christian imaginary inherent to the story. It goes beyond the Overlords looking like Satan, and by no fault of their own playing a part in the downfall of Man, and extends to the Overmind standing in for God and the evolved children linking up with it sounds a lot like the Rapture.

Given that I came from a moderately religious family who were regularly exposed to preachers that based their careers on End Times prophecy Childhood's End was an eye opener. Up until that general moment after finishing the book, the ultimate fate of the world and human destiny had been spelled out to me in such exacting details during certain church sermons that in hindsight it almost seems that those preachers were in on the planning of Jesus coming back to Earth. To not only have the creatures standing in for Satan and his fallen angels seem sympathetic along with the Overmind being seemingly less than a benevolent entity was a lot to handle.

As the years have gone by, both the book and the recent miniseries, which is what spurred this post, offer up some intriguing questions about the nature of the universe. For me the first mystery is the nature of the Overmind, I came away both times believing it was neither benevolent nor malevolent, just an inherent function of the universe trying to achieve some sense of itself. All I can say is that if Clarke ever decided to write a prequel to explain the Overmind's “birth” I surely would have bought the book the second I knew of its existence. Secondly, it would have been just as interesting to know the origins of the Overlords and how it was determined they could never evolve to join the Overmind. The Overlords existence also brings up the possibility that there are other species like them in different parts of the universe that occupy similar evolutionary dead ends.

Additionally, I have huge questions as to the nature of the utopia that the Overlords helped us develop here in Earth. Both the book and miniseries strongly suggest that removing all immediate concerns like poverty, hunger, political oppression, and outright fear would not create a culturally dynamic society. That the chief human response to such a condition might be for people to fall into a lowest common denominator situation where everyone just lays around and watches stuff like lowbrow reality shows. Think I might be overstating the case a little? Well, just look here at the good old United States where intelligent and thought-provoking PBS specials only rarely draw any significant attention while such moronic stuff like Duck Dynasty, Real Housewives, and numerous other "reality based" shows are cultural mainstays of popular attention. In short, here in the United States there are numerous ways for a person to develop and enhance themselves both mentally and physically but for Western industrialized societies we are, quite frankly, lazy, fat and embarrassingly ignorant fuckers.

Someone once said that surest way for humans to drive themselves mad and go extinct would be to impose some sort of utopia on us where I every need and desire was met. Unfortunately, I believe that might be the case, which is quite depressing to me since I would prefer to believe we humans might one day mature enough to rid ourselves of the scourges that have held us back since we became self aware.   

       


I suppose Childhood's End can be summed up as a book, and miniseries, that deals with Homo sapiens' place in the greater scheme of the universe and here on Earth. Are we the creation of some supreme entity or just a random accident of evolution? Ignoring the two possibilities of our origin for a moment I think the greater question we face in real life is what is our ultimate destiny. It actually scares me sometimes when I deal with people who just can't see past their own noses and have the imagination of your average rock. All too often our response to seeing our society and world change under our feet is to pull back in fear. You get enough people to do that and all sorts of human-made hell can easily be unleashed.

While the absolute last thing in this real life universe we have to worry about is gigantic alien spaceships turning up above Earth's cities we do have problem staring our species in the face that many just refuse to acknowledge. How and when we ultimately face the issues that threaten the lives of our children will signify our growth as a species, or truly show that we are indeed just a random accident that nature or a very silent and absent God will eventually wipe out of existence. 


Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Price of Past Sins: Star Trek Fan Fiction- The conclusion

 (Author's note: Other USS Saratoga stories: Out of the Darkness, Hard Transitions Part 1, Hard Transitions Part 2.)

Part Four

Lieutenant Commander Adriana Trozzo cursed the bulky environmental suit and helmet she had to wear. What bothered her even more though were the the various field disruptor relays that engineering had mounted to the walls inside the her astrometrics lab. While she understood the disruptors would enhance the titanium and dilithium particles in the air being used to degrade the force fields surrounding any Borg drones that boarded, the devices were sure to play hell with with her sensitive instruments.

Taking a moment to adjusted the phaser rifle she had been issued, Trozzo looked around at her people backing sure they were staying as calm as possible given that their ship was being pounded by Borg energy weapons. All six of her personnel were arrayed against the walls with fields of fire pointing inward since the Borg could beam over literally anywhere.

“Chief Warren,” Trozzo called out to the senior NCO of her group, “you started to tell us about the time you were on the Enterprise when it first encountered the Borg.” She said hoping that if the chief started talking it would distract everyone, at least a little, that given the situation their lifespans could probably be measured in minutes.

Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Warren was a thirty-seven year veteran of Starfleet and had served on so many different ships it was often joked that he had actually joined the service the day it was founded. “That was a nasty little episode,” he said in his deep Martian accent, “the goddamn entity called Q wanted to teach us a lesson in humility and tossed us into the middle of the Delta Quadrant. Told Captain Picard it was up to us now to cross half the galaxy...

Just as Chief Warren's story was about to really begin and bore everyone to death, salvation came from an unwelcome source over the ship's intercom. “All hands this is the captain, shield failure is immediate prepare for extreme evasive maneuvers and possible intruders. Alamo protocols are now under affect on all decks, everyone to weapons free!”

As if on cue, the ship violently lurched to starboard and down from Trozzo's perspective in an attempt to break off contact with the attacking Borg ship. She could almost imagine the overwhelmed inertial dampers struggling to keep the number of gees down to a survivable level. Luckily everyone in astrometrics were sufficiently tied down, preventing them from being thrown across the room.

It was then that, over the sound of the Saratoga's straining engines, the whine of an alien transporter was heard. “Okay people,” Warren cried out raising his rifle, “shit is about to get real.”

Six Borg drones had just enough time to fully materialized and begin surveying their surrounding before carefully aimed phaser blasts either vaporized them or blew enough chunks out of their bodies that they died on the spot. Over the internal intercom being used by everyone wearing the environmental suits, word was being passed that Borg were appearing all over the ship. Neither Trozzo, Warren, nor the other members of the astrometrics staff had much time to consider the other sections of the ship being boarded since another group of Borg were attempting to beam over in their area.

“Looks like ten to twelve this time trying to beam over,” Trozzo heard one of the young enlisted crewmen say nervously. Trozzo hated herself for not being able to remember the young girl's name at that moment.

“Hang tight,” Warren cried out, “concentrate on your assigned fields of fire and watch your rifle power levels.”

When transport was complete twelve Borg drones were standing in the lab, Trozzo saw that her people stayed true to their training and Warren's words of warning. Everyone fired the required short bursts and the Borg drones fell accordingly, some with puzzled looks, which she took to mean they were attempting to adapt their personal shield generators and utterly failing.

Things were going good until the ship abruptly changed course throwing one of the surviving Borg drones from the center of the lab to the bulkhead right next Chief Warren. Trozzo struggled to move her rifle to help Warren but the either the inertial dampers had failed or the artificial gravity in their section was malfunction making it even hard to breathe, much less shift her firing. The Borg drone was laying right next Warren waving its cybernetic laden arms wildly around. Chief Warren was attempting to undo the straps holding in him place when the Borg drone regained its composure, turned its head to look at Warren, and then raise one of its arms to attempt to implant the nano-devices into his body that begin the assimilation process.

As the gravity in astrometrics suddenly returned to normal, Warren was able to grab a hold of the Borg's arm and push back, although the drone had already extended the tubules from its wrist area that penetrate a person body to inject the nano-devices. There were only two Borg left in astrometrics at this point but before any of them could adjust their fire the drone next Warren was able to penetrate his suit with one tubule and infect him. With the return of normal gravity, Trozzo's people were able to quickly dispatch the remaining two Borg drones, but the damage was done.

“Dammit,” the old Martian veteran scream out. “I'm infected, you people know your orders,” Warren said clutching the arm of his suit the drone had punctured. “Now, dammit, I can feel these things running all through my body,” he cried out.

Trozzo didn't want to kill her friend and mentor, but right before her eyes she could see Borg implants taking hold from the part of Warren's face visible behind the face shield of his helmet. Without saying a word, she fired her rifle with the beam hitting Warren in the neck area. The old man vaporized before her eyes, but not before giving her one last, fully human smile. It then Trozzo realized the entire ship had gone quiet.

***




The main viewer at the front of the bridge showed a magnified image of the Borg cube gliding through space in pursuit of the Saratoga. The huge vessel was still firing off volleys of both plasma charges and intense particle-bean energy weapons, but the rate of fire had greater diminished.

“Axor,” Douglas yelled into the intercom, “what's the status on our shields?”

“Working as fast as possible, captain,” The Bolian responded. “We've had our own issues with drones beaming over here in engineering, but the coolant we let out into the atmosphere immediately begins boiling away their organic parts. But in turn that makes doing our own job even harder.”

“Understood,” Douglas said, “just give me your best guess.”

“No surprises, I'd say we can have partial shields restored in an hour.”

While they were totally familiar with the reports from other Starfleet crews that encountered the Borg, neither Connor Douglas nor his first officer, Commander Zhao had ever seen one of the bizarre vessels up-close. To Douglas, the Borg ship was more than just an ugly amalgamation of assimilated systems and different species dedicated to one inhuman purpose, it was a corruption of the very nature of universe that wished to express itself by way of infinite diversity. Zhao's first thought about the Borg vessel was that it reminded him of Earth's sharks, a predator looking for a meal. But he corrected himself thinking instead that sharks were a part of Earth's natural oceanic environment which put a limit on their numbers. Whereas the Borg Collective was on some level a thinking creature pursuing unrelenting growth and expansion at the expense of all other intelligent life. The one thought everyone on the bridge shared was the question as to whether the mines they had transported over would cripple the Borg ship before it had time to destroy the Saratoga.

“Lieutenant,” Connor Douglas said after turning the center chair towards the science station, “any indication that the mines are having an effect?”

“More than likely they have, sir,” Sovan said from her duty station. “The problem is that the Borg cube is just so large, they haven't reached a critical number yet.”

“Kinyor, what is the status of our boarders?” The captain asked.

“The Borg successfully transported at least two-hundred drones. All have either been vaporized or killed. We are still within Borg transporter range but my guess is that our countermeasures against their drone shields have them confused.”

“Doctor Amanda Cox,” Douglas called out over the intercom to medical, momentarily hating himself for not remember the new chief medical officer's name. “How many people have we lost?”

“My sensors confirm fifteen personnel were infected with assimilation probes, all are dead.” She said back through the speaker. It was Sovan who had come up with the idea to inject small medical nannites into the crew that would register on ship's internal sensors when one had become infected with Borg assimilation nanno-probes.

“So far, the butcher's bill is surprisingly low.” Douglas whispered to himself doubting that they were going to stay this lucky for long.

***

For the collective back on the Borg ship, the group mind was more than confused, it was in a panic. Even now the devices the Federation starship had beamed over were eating through thousands of the maze-like sections making up the cube. Countermeasures had, of course, been implemented but were largely ineffective given the nature of the self-replicating mines. The attempt to beam drones over for the purpose of assimilating the crew, thus learning the programming of the mines had also been stymied. Never in the history of the Borg had the shields used by drones been so effectively defeated. Telemetry from now dead drones suggested the atmosphere of the starship had been altered preventing the shields from fully forming, but the exact composition was as yet undetermined.

The collective finally came to a decision, the primary mission would take precedence. But that would mean one last attempt to destroy the Federation starship.

****

“Captain,” Kinyor declared from her station, “sensors show a sudden surge in power to Borg weapons.”

That caused Douglas to hit the intercom button on his environmental suit's forearm. “Axor, we need those shields now!” He exclaimed knowing all hell was about to rain down on them.

This time the Borg cube fired dozens of energy charges as well as several petawatt beams at the Saratoga. Had anyone of those beams impacted directly on the fleeing starship, it and the crew would have been totally destroyed. Instead the engineering team repairing the shields had succeeded far sooner in restoring them to working order. That alone saved everyone since even a partial hit on the ship would have damaged it to the point it would have been rendered a dead hulk in space. The second thing that saved the Saratoga was that the self-replicating mines had crossed a threshold to the point all systems inside the Borg ship were degrading exponentially.

Still the damage inflicted on the starship was considerable, the petawatt beams that hit the shields immediately shorted them out again, killing the very engineering crew members who had heroically restored them. This left the ship open to receive the full fury of the energy charges that upon impact ruptured the hull in several places venting both crew and atmosphere into space. Although it was the charges that hit the starboard warp nacelle that caused the most damage. The back third of the nacelle was blown away with the rest venting drive plasma sending the Saratoga tumbling through space out of control.

“We've lost warp drive,” Axor said over the intercom to the bridge crew, “damnation, my control boards indicate the starboard nacelle is a total loss. Captain, I'm going to have to take main power offline, it's either that or we lose antimatter containment!” The Bolian engineer said as he scrambled to save the ship and bring it back under control.

“Kinyor,” Douglas called out once the stars on the viewscreen stopped spinning, “what's the status on the Borg cube?” He asked while watching the enemy ship changing course and moving away from the Saratoga.

“It appears to be on a course for Kivant,” she said nervously. “At current speed it will be in weapons range in fifteen minutes.”

Douglas could feel his mission slipping away from him, it didn't matter that his crew and ship had faced down a Borg cube, the people and planet he was supposed to protect were now back in the target sights of the enemy.

“Axor,” he said over the intercom, “can you give me impulse, the Borg are heading back towards Kivant.”

“With the state of auxiliary power, I can give you two-thirds impulse but no phasers,” Axor replied back over the intercom.

“Helm,” Douglas said, “pursuit course. Kinyor, how many torpedoes do we still have in our inventory?”

“Ninety-two quantum and a full compliment of photons, captain,” she said already loading the launchers.

“Fire everything we've got for as long as we're in range.”

From the main viewscreen, everyone on the bridge saw the torpedoes fly from the Saratoga towards the Borg ship and impact on its surface. The problem was that with the Saratoga restricted to just two-thirds impulse the Borg ship was fast leaving them far behind.

“Captain,” Sovan said with his tone of voice clearly indicating he had discovered something fascinating. “My sensors are picking up massive energy fluctuations in the Borg ship's subspace field. I believe we are about to see it collapse from the internal disruptions caused by our self-replicating mines.” From his science station, Sovan magnified the image of the Borg cube on the viewscreen. Sure enough, bright flashes could be seen just the chaotic array of material making up its structure.

“I guess that would explain why the damn thing is puttering along just under full impulse.” Commander Zhao said from his seat.

“It's still getting ahead of us though,” Douglas said watching the Saratoga's torpedoes chasing down the fleeing enemy ship. “Stop with the torpedoes, Kinyor,” Douglas ordered, “we're just wasting them now.”

The minutes tick by with the blue-brown orb of Kivant becoming visible in the bridge viewscreen. During this same time, the Borg ship continued to show growing signs of disruption inside but resolutely refused to die. Wanting his crew thinking and doing something useful, Douglas ordered the ship's atmosphere to be flushed of all the particles and gases used to defeat the Borg drones.

“Suggestions people, because I'm out of ideas,” Douglas said after finally being able to remove the environmental suit's helmet.

Everyone was silent for several seconds, but then Sovan raised his head up from his console. “Captain, “I think the Borg cube is about to explode.”

***

It had become apparent to the collective mind inside the Borg cube that their ship had been compromised so thoroughly that it would be unable to complete even its primary mission. Just as Sovan had first described the concept of the self-replicating mines to Captain Douglas as like the old human affliction of cancer, the Borg ship was now riddled with hundreds of exploding tumors it could not defeat. Even with the large ship's generalized design allowing systems to be rerouted thousands of ways without causing any degradation in performance or efficiency, the collective was discovering that there was only one option left, self destruction. But it could make one last attempt at causing the most damage to the most populated areas of the target planet.

In their self described attempt at reaching perfection, the Borg Collective had abandoned things like the emotions of hope, compassion, love, kindness. Such things were inefficient and irrelevant, but it was something akin to hate and spite the collective inside the doomed ship summoned to find the will to fire off one last burst of its petawatt beam at the polar cities surrounding Kivant's north pole.

The energy beam last all of seven seconds before the Borg ship finally exploded. But it impacted on the surface of the planet and instantly caused an explosion in the five-hundred megaton range vaporizing over four-hundred square kilometers of urban infrastructure.
***

The bridge crew of the Saratoga watched in stunned silence as the mushroom cloud blossomed on the surface of the planet they were assigned to protect. At that moment, they all shared a sense of mutual failure so extreme it was as if the Borg had sterilized the entire planet.

It was naturally the captain who gathered his wits first wanting to quantify their failure. “I don't care anymore about the restrictions the kich have on us outsiders poking our noses into their precious cultural heritage and privacy. Sovan, actively scan the entire north polar urban megalopolis, tell me how many have died and a number for those remaining.”

Lieutenant Sovan quickly complied, but it was his findings that caused the Vulcan's expertly practiced control of his emotions to slip. “Captain,” he said not really believing his findings even though he triple checked the results, “the entire north polar urban complex is almost completely devoid of any lifeforms. I'm detecting no more than two-thousand individuals scattered about the areas untouched by the Borg energy blast. Extrapolating from that data and comparing it to the size of the overall city, I hypothesize that no one died in the resulting explosion.”

“Sovan,” Douglas said looking at his science officer, “the Kivant government records say that city's population is over one-hundred forty five million individuals.”

“Logic suggests that the Kivant government is lying, Captain Douglas.” Was all Sovan could say in return.

Part Five

Connor Douglas stood in the center of what was clearly meant to be an open air park in a section of the north polar city undamaged by the Borg's last gasp attempt to complete its mission. While the kich had done much to make their homeworld livable again, because of their self-induced ecological and climate holocaust the high arctic regions of Kivant would never return to their natural frozen state. It was late summer moving into autumn in the northern hemisphere and the temperature in the city was a warm thirty-three degrees centigrade. One of the members of the security detachment Commander Zhao forced his friend and captain to take along pointed out that the smoke and haze in the atmosphere from the weapon blast had probably lowered the temperature a few degrees.

Against proscribed Starfleet protocol Douglas left his First Officer in command of the Saratoga upon reaching orbit and had taken a shuttle down to the surface. Brazenly defying the radio calls by the Kivant government to cease and desist, Douglas closely surveyed and scanned the entire north polar megalopolis and confirmed Sovan's own discovery that it was one huge and well maintained ghost town. Douglas' only message to the Kivant government was that he wanted to see the Primus at his landing site immediately. Douglas didn't have to wait long, less than a standard hour later the leader of Kivant's own shuttle touchdown across from his.

“What was the purpose of the lie, Th'lou?” Douglas asked the man immediately. “Why the elaborate ruse to make everyone think there were almost one-hundred, fifty million people living in this city. The same goes for the south polar city, we scanned it was well and found only about five-thousand people living there when there's suppose to be close to two-hundred million? I lost close to have my crew defending this planet, tell me why?”That was when Primus Th'lou finally let the rest of his species sad history be known.

***

As the climate of Kivant collapsed so many centuries before, it wasn't the stressed national governments that established the polar cities as a last ditch refuge for their species. It was the rich corporate elites who built the cities whose desperate need to control and own everything caused the calamity to begin with. Using their private armies, the corporations secured the needed territory and resources to begin construction, all at the expense of the masses that were dying of hunger, disease, and a climate that could swing from flooding to drought in the space of a couple of months.

The first cities were completed about the same time the last of the struggling national governments finally fell apart. The entire time the Elites just sat behind their massive walled fortresses indifferent to the suffering of others. The same went for the members of their private armies and the workers and servants that would be needed to maintain a proper lifestyle. As a group they all explained away their callous abandonment of the rest of the planet as the only thing that could be done in the face of such an overwhelming disaster. The general idea was why should they sacrifice their well being for strange looking and culturally scary people they didn't even know.

Less than three generations later, history had been rewritten painting the founders of the polar cities as intrepid and brave pioneers struggling to keep alive the flame of civilization. Not that the great-grandchildren of those that built the cities had time to think about history. While the active abuse of the planetary environment had long stopped, the amount of carbon dioxide and methane put into the atmosphere continued to cause havoc on Kivant's climate. The initial greenhouse effect caused by excessive releasing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from industry kicked off the thawing of the polar tundra. Methane gas, locked into those frozen arctic regions for millions of years began to be out gassed by the abnormally high temperatures. This created a feedback loop where released methane raised global temperatures even more causing more tundra to thaw which in turn liberated more methane, again raising the global temperatures.

The third generation of polar city inhabitants spent every bit of their technical know-how and available resources to counteract the methane feedback cycle. They eventually advanced their genetic engineering technology enough to create various species of algae and moss that was able to soak up both the carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere preventing a general greenhouse runaway effect which would have ended all life on the planet. The next race was to save Kivant's oceans, which had become so acidic from being saturated with carbon dioxide that most large marine species had gone extinct. It was a combination of luck and an engineered plankton species that gave the oceans enough time to recover. Still the damage was done, Kivant had suffered through an artificially created mass extinction event leaving next to nothing of the vibrant planetary biosphere that once existed. Even though the kich had prevented the worst of the possible outcomes, over seventy-five percent of their planet was uninhabitable.

The kich essentially puttered along for several centuries up until one-hundred, twenty years before Starfleet's unmanned Pioneer 8 probe stumbled upon the star system. A small group of historians discovered the true record of how Kivant's ecological holocaust was brought about. Despite the best efforts of the polar city rulers, descendants of the corporate elites, stop it, this information triggered a revolutionary movement which overthrew that government. The new democratically elected provisional government also learned that during the early years of the holocaust genetic researchers played around with the kich genome inserting into the general population what they thought were certain enhanced traits for intelligence and physical stamina. While these traits did indeed help in the short term, later genetic scientists discovered the changes in the genome were making kich procreation increasingly difficult. It would take decades, but it was clear that eventually most of the kich species would go extinct because of the genetic modifications. The only chance of survival was to separate out the small percentage of kich whose genome did not contain the modified genes. To avoid a panic, the provisional government kept this information secret from the general public but began a program to breed untainted kich using donated eggs and sperm and implanting the embryos in surrogate mothers.

It was when the USS Ark Royal made first contact with the kich that things began opening up for them. Associate membership in the Federation allowed the Starfleet Corp of Engineers to use planetary engineering technology to rehabilitate huge areas of Kivant's surface for permanent habitation. It was during this time that the Kivant government decided to hide the nature of their population crash and offer their planet up for settlement to refugees from all over the Federation. They based their decision on the fear that the Federation would abandon them if they knew the nature of their descendants crimes.

As the first colonies for off world refugees were founded, the Kivant government began heavily pushing the unmodified members of their species to leave the polar cities for the new settlements. Knowing that the unmodified kich would interbreed with the others species living on Kivant, it was the hope of the government that by opening up their restored world to those seeking homes they would earn some redemption for the sins of their ancestors committed against all those who died in the ecological holocaust.

***

Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Stardate: 54199.6

Two weeks have passed since Admiral Tarn returned Starbase 257 to full operation. He immediately ordered the Saratoga towed to one of the drydocks to begin a full repair and overhaul of all our damaged systems. Both my own chief engineer, Commander Axor, and the drydock master say it will take at least four months to bring my ship back to full operation.

At the same time I heard the news that my ship would be completely out of action for the foreseeable future we received word from Starfleet Command on Earth ordering all ships to proceed to the Azure Nebula. Word from the USS Enterprise is that the nebula is hiding subspace tunnels which allow the Borg to cross over from their part of the galaxy in the Delta Quadrant to known space here in the Beta. Whether this forming allied armada will defeat the Borg or see the end of the Federation and all the other civilizations in our part of the galaxy is at this moment unknown.

 

(Author's note: This admittedly half-assed story is based on the scenario in David Mack's excellent trilogy: Star Trek: Destiny. It tells the story of the massive Borg invasion into Federation space as well as their origin. This trilogy isn't just good Star Trek, it is excellent science fiction.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Price of Past Sins: A Star Trek Fan fiction story

Art by Al-Proto
(Author's Note: This is my second version of this story. It's long so I have broken into two parts, the second half will be published tomorrow. Other USS Saratoga stories: Out of the Darkness, Hard Transitions Part 1, Hard Transitions Part 2.  )



Part One

As Captain Connor Douglas stood next the large display window looking out at the two orbiting drydocks trailing behind the main starbase complex, he couldn't help but considering the utter indifferent nature of the universe. Adding to his unsettled mindset, the gas giant planet the drydocks, associate factories, and living facilities making up Starbase 257 orbited glowed a sinister human blood red giving the impression that occasionally the universe just might fall on the other side of indifferent and more towards the cruel.

Deep down Douglas knew that mere existence for every living being, both sentient and primitive, was the result of countless random events going back to the Big Bang itself. Had something as small as the charge of protons been just the tiniest bit different the universe would have gone a completely divergent and alien path with stars unable to form. The same went for the formation of planets and the lifeforms that evolved on them. Any number of insignificant changes in events like the collision or scattering of different dust particles early in the formation of a star system could have been magnified until entirely different worlds, and the life forms on them, could have come into being, or conversely, been wiped from existence.

Douglas understood how primitive humans desperately wanted to cling to the idea that there was some guiding supreme entity watching over its special, chosen people. Without any real technology or understanding of the environment, just living on the surface of a planet made life extremely vulnerable to the whims of daily weather, climate change, and natural disasters. Yet somehow humans, and thousands of other species across the galaxy, crawled out of that hole to eventually build civilizations that worked hard to defy the seemingly indifferent, if not cruel nature of the universe and do something more than just survive.

Deep in Douglas' head, he fought back the urge to think that maybe the universe did in fact at times want to strike back at its grown children and show them all their noble endeavors were but motes of dust it could scatter on a whim.

Almost everyone living in both the alpha and beta quadrants of known space had hoped the end of the Dominion War would have brought the beginnings of another period of peace and stability for the populations of the Federation, Klingons Empire, Cardassian Union, and all the other species weary of conflict. After the successful invasion of Cardassia Prime, the Dominion forces surrendered and retreated back through the Bajoran wormhole to the gamma quadrant while their Breen allies crossed back over into their territory more than giving every conceivable indication their militant ways were over for now.

Starfleet, never meant to primarily be a military organization, almost immediately began switching back to its true purpose, exploration and scientific inquiry. Starships not needed for peacekeeping were sent back to the core worlds for refit and then dispatched out into the unknown. That was the case for Douglas' ship, the USS Saratoga, which after the Battle of the Mandith System was sent back to massive drydock facilities in orbit around Mars for refurbishment. A year later the Saratoga and her crew warped out of Sector 001 and actually made it across the red line, the current demarcation point where Federation space ended and the vast unknown began. For two full months Douglas felt that the true purpose of his life was being met as he and his crew spent their days seeking out new worlds and new life. It all ended suddenly when Starfleet sent out the general recall to all vessels within reach of the Federation and its member worlds. The United Federation of Planets was being stalked and preyed upon by its worst enemy with the general consensus that it intended to wipe clean all intelligent life within its collective reach.

Douglas' revelry was interrupted with the chirping of his combadge that was attached to the upper left of his uniform. “Douglas here,” he said to what he assumed was the aide to the admiral in charge of Starbase 257.

“Captain Douglas, the admiral is ready to see you now,” the young lieutenant j.g. said in English but with her Betazed accent giving her words a lyrical cadence.

Douglas marched back down the corridor towards the entrance to the admiral's quarters. When he reached the door sensor it slid back the opening allowing him entrance. The Betazed aide used that same moment to exit as well, her facial expression clearly indicating she was on a mission.

“Hello Captain Douglas,” Admiral Tarn, a joyful looking Denobulan, said from behind his desk while motioning the young human to take the seat in front of it. “I surely wish our meeting could be under more happier circumstances.” he said in a tone that denoted more than a little anxiety.”

“I assure you admiral, the last thing I wanted to hear from home was that the Borg were active in known space. It was bad enough when word leaked out that while part of the crew of the USS Einstein, Admiral Janeway was captured and assimilated aboard a dead and damaged Borg cube found adrift in space.” Douglas said adjusting his position trying to get comfortable in the chair obviously made for a Denobulan frame.

It was then that Douglas noticed the soft music playing in the background. Which cause Admiral Tarn to smile in a melancholy way that was strikingly human to Douglas, “Yes, captain that is the twentieth century human group known as the Beatles. I discovered their music while stationed at New Berlin on Luna early in my career, I have found that anything by Paul McCarthy and John Lennon helps me think.”

“Sir,” Douglas said, “why do I have a growing suspicion you called me here for something other than talking about the Borg?”

“My old friend and your former commanding officer, Prown Thrawn was quite right about you Connor. You are rather smart for a pink skin.” He finished laughing at the old and slightly racist term Andorians once had for those humans who originated from the northern European regions of Earth.

“It's actually about the planet you and your crew have been assigned to protect.” Tarn said in a tone that meant he was getting down to business. “The planet is called Kivant by the natives and they call themselves the kich. They've been an associate member of the Federation for decades and have applied for full status but various people in Starfleet intelligence have some questions about them.”

“Why do I now have a strong feeling I'm not going to like your request admiral?”

“Let's just hope the Borg don't show up and my request is all you have to be uncomfortable about.” Tarn finished before explaining the mystery about the kich species.

Part Two






  Native planetary name: Kivant
Star system designation: DDED-1445
Location: Beta Quadrant, Sector 5411
Basic information: Star system was first cataloged
by the Phoenix 8 unmanned probe on stardate
0403.2. System consists of four rocky worlds,
all class M or below and three gas giants class J or below.



Native intelligent species: one
“Kich”- mammalian humanoid
pop- 426 million

From the  Encyclopedia Galactica:
 Memory Alpha archives

The native intelligent species of Kivant, who call themselves the “kich”, are a mammalian humanoid race quite similar to Earth's Homo sapiens in both outward appearance and internal functions. The chief difference being an odd facial hair pattern on males and partial webbing between the fingers on females. Their evolutionary lineage in fact does go back to a hominid-like primate that inhabited the savannas of one of Kivant's continents.



The development of civilization began far earlier that what occurred on Earth or several other Federation members. In fact, the kich reached an 18th century level of Western European industrialized civilization around Earth's ninth century CE. Staying true to the theory of parallel planetary development, during the early years of Kivant's technological development it was divided up into seventy-five distinct nation-states with five major powers controlling large sections of the planet where socioeconomic maturation was not as advanced. These spheres of interest, or empires, often overlapped causing numerous wars generally fought by proxy agents made up of religious or ethnic groups under the direction by the major powers.



The turning point for kich civilization occurred around the eleventh century CE on Earth when Kivant's major powers became embroiled in a world war that ended imperial rule and created over a hundred new nations centered around two dominate nation-states. As it was on Earth after the Second World War, Kivant's two dominate powers championed conflicting social and economic systems. But the development of nuclear weapons prevented the two from engaging directly, instead a cold war ensued with the nation promoting totalitarian state control over personal lives and economic choices eventually collapsing from its inherent inefficiencies and corruption.



Further paralleling Earth's historical path, with the victory of the democratic and capitalistic system every underdeveloped nation on Kivant began rapid reforms to achieve the same economic level and lifestyle of the planet's dominate nation. Enormous industrialization projects were instituted in the developing nations which created a huge demand for resources that strained the planetary environment. This activity created vast fortunes overwhelmingly controlled by a tiny percentage who in turned used their influence to protect and continue rampant development at the expense of the majority of Kivant's inhabitants who were left to deal with the increasing pollution and encroaching environmental degradation.



The pollution and disruption of the planetary environment played havoc on the climate which caused crop failures leading to massive starvation and the resurgence of numerous diseases that were once under control. The kich population of Kivant peaked at 7.5 billion individuals around Earth's thirteenth century CE but soon began a steep decline as food and water shortages induced new wars. Combined with pandemics that were spread by waves of refugees the nations of Kivant were only barely able to stay ahead of onslaught of continuing disasters.



The breaking point came as frozen tundra located in the arctic regions thawed and began releasing massive amounts of methane. These events caused Kivant's average temperatures to shoot up even further making many areas of the planet uninhabitable. In less than twenty standard years the kich population fell to less than 251 million individuals with the survivors fleeing to the polar regions where temperatures remained livable.



At this stage of Kivant's ecological holocaust the last vestiges of national, ethnic, and religious identity were burned away with the remnants of kich civilization dedicating themselves to prevent their planet from succumbing to a runaway greenhouse effect. This Dark Age lasted for six-hundred standard years and only ended when the planetary climate stabilized around Earth's nineteenth century CE.



Eventually the remnant civilization on Kivant stabilized their planetary climate enough to allow for scientific research in fields unrelated to ecological recovery. By Earth's late twenty-second century CE, the kich had advanced enough to build a subspace telescope array in orbit of their home world in an attempt to detect other intelligent life in the galaxy. This allowed them to detect the unmanned Phoenix 8 probe as it entered their system. The probe was not programmed to initiate first contact since it did not detect any evidence of warp technology. After a quick scan, the probe jumped back into warp heading towards its next programmed destination. Now knowing that they were not alone in the universe, the government of Kivant then began a crash project to develop their own warp capability. Twenty years later the Federation starship Ark Royal passed close enough to the system to be detected with the kich launching several unmanned warp probes in an attempt draw the ship's attention.



On stardate 2262.0, Captain Iyaad Sharaf initiated first contact with the government of Kivant. Within five standard years Kivant petitioned the Federation council for associate membership which was almost immediately granted. The kich have no off-planet colonies but have allowed Starfleet extensive use of their star system which included the establishment of Star Base 257 and the construction of substantial dry dock facilities in orbit around the fifth planet in their system. In return for this almost unlimited access, the kich have made extensive use of Starfleet's Corp of Engineers and its planetary restructuring technology to reclaim their damaged world.



With vast areas of Kivant now livable, the kich have allowed over five million refugees over the intervening years to settle permanently on their world. However, the polar cities the kich built during their Dark Age were declared off limits by the government to protect their native culture.


Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Stardate: 54149.6

Forty days have passed since the beginning of a new round of Borg incursions into Federation space. Given the increased activity and now attacks on settled worlds there is little doubt that they are preparing for an all-out invasion. This time though their goal is not assimilation but outright genocide. For that reason Starfleet recalled us back to Federation space.

And we are now in our sixteenth day standing guard over the kich homeworld of Kivant. For that entire time we have not detected any Borg presence within range of our sensors. Due to this emergency, Starfleet Command sends us updates twice daily on engagements, which unfortunately includes losses in both ships and personnel. Even worse is the information we are receiving about the planets the Borg have sterilized. Despite the fact that the Borg have not yet penetrated into the core of Federation space, the death toll has now topped four billion sentient beings along with an uncountable amount of other lifeforms.

Several Starfleet ships have successfully defended their assigned star systems by improvising new tactics and weapons systems. As usual with the Borg, they quickly adapt and find ways to counteract these impromptu innovations. As we wait for our possible date with destiny, every person in the engineering, security, and tactical departments on this ship are working to come up with our own counter measures.

As everyone assigned to the team to design a method to undercut and defeat a Borg cube filed into the senior conference room situated behind the bridge, it was clear that telepathic nor emphatic abilities were not needed to detect the tension in the air. News of successful Borg attacks on various worlds along with the occasional report of how a particular ship and crew were able defeat that enemy ran like wildfire to everyone aboard the Saratoga. People who joined Starfleet were not the type that easily scared nor ran away from a fight. What was creating a level of anxiety greater than the darkest days of the Dominion War was that the fleet had long since been spread dangerously thin in an attempt protect thousands of inhabited worlds. It was with this unsettling knowledge that Connor Douglas walked into the conference room to add even more tension to the situation.

Thank you everyone, “ Connor said taking his seat at the end of the table. “I know we are pressed for time but I just received a classified communication for Starfleet Command telling me the Federation colony world of Oranto was attacked by a Borg cube twelve hours ago. After destroying the starships Wolf and Sunrise assigned to defend the planet, it then sterilized the surface killing all sixteen million residents.”

Connor took a moment to say small prayer of thanks to whatever deity might exist for remembering to check if any member of his crew was from Oranto, or had family members living there. Connor had long since talked with the two crew members on the Saratoga from Oranto and they were being helped by friends and one of the ship's assigned counselors. Still though, given the momentary look of dismay on the faces of everyone in the conference room, it was clear they had taken the loss of another world to the Borg personally.

Given this new information,” Connor began again, “the importance of coming up with a means to defeat or blunt a Borg attack cannot be understated. Lieutenant Sovan and Axor, have you two made any headway in devising a possible defense?”

For the briefest of moments Axor hoped Sovan would take the lead in explaining their plan. Sovan was the newest member of the crew, and as most Vulcans seem to prefer in new settings, he still irritatingly liked to sit back and observe everyone's personality traits and idiosyncrasies before becoming actively involved. What made things worse was that Sovan was from a region of Vulcan that still didn't care much for humans, why this was the case Axor had no idea. Taking some comfort that Bolians were as often perplexed with Vulcan culture as their longtime human friends, Axor tried not to hold anything against Sovan. That still left the chief engineer holding the bag in presenting their one idea that in simulation destroyed an attacking Borg cube.

“Captain Douglas,” Axor began, “our respective teams have several ideas but most of them suffer from having already been tried by other ships. Needless to say, those ideas that did defeat the Borg have allowed them to adapt making them now ineffective. The idea we have come up with though does have a high probability of success although our simulation usually result in the destruction of the ship.”

Captain Douglas leaned forward and smiled in a manner that sent a small chill down Axor's blue-skinned back. “Lieutenant,” Douglas said, “believe it or not that is the best news I've had since we were recalled back to home space. Please tell me what you two have in mind.”

Taking a deep breath, Axor was almost ready to lay out his presentation when Sovan interrupted him.

“Captain Douglas,” the Vulcan said in a overly dignified manner, “are you familiar with the old human infliction called cancer?”

Part Three

Alerted to approach of the visiting dignitary, Connor Douglas was standing at the entrance to his ready room when the portal door slide open. “Greetings, Primus Th'lou,” Connor said as he waved off the young ensign escorting the visitor and offered his left forearm for the kich's version of a formal greeting. “I'm sorry I couldn't meet you at the transporter room but, as you know, the situation right now demands nearly all of everyone's time.”

“I understand captain,” the middle-aged kich said as Douglas guided him towards the seat in front of his desk. “I'm just not certain as to why you have requested my presence, our agreement with Starfleet and the Federation allows them to make all decisions concerning the defense of our homeworld and star system.”

Douglas took a moment to gauge the being sitting on the other side of his desk. Th'lou looked to be average for a humanoid species, enough so that they could easily blend in with a dozen others from across the galaxy. What bothered Connor though, and Starfleet Command, was that while the actively supported Federation policy and principles, very few of the kich species every left the planet. In fact, other than small communities that were integrated with the several million refugees that were now permanently settled in the newly rehabilitated regions of Kivant, the kich kept strictly to their cities in the polar regions.

“That's exactly what I wanted to speak with you about,” Douglas said. “Given the Borg threat I wanted to strongly recommend that you begin evacuations of your polar cities. My data says they are quite densely populated which makes them prime targets if the Borg should get close enough to begin bombarding the planet.”

Being unfamiliar with kich physiology, Douglas would have sworn in court that the Primus of Kivant's face suddenly blanched as if he had just been caught in a lie. “Yes, Captain Douglas,” he said obviously trying to recover his composure, “I will take your advice into consideration but our agreements with both the Federation Council and Starfleet Command specifically states the polar cities are my species most cherished cultural possessions and that off worlders are strictly forbidden from visiting or interference in any of our affairs that take place inside those designated limits.”

The first thought that came to Douglas' mind after hearing Th'lou's warning was that the man was definitely hiding something. “Primus, no offense was meant and the last thing I want to do is interfere in your planet's culture. But as the person in charge of Kivant's defense in this crisis, I would not be doing my duty if I didn't mention a Borg disrupter beam has the ability to cut kilometer wide swaths through your cities down to the bedrock your structure's foundations are built upon.”

“Let us just hope the Borg do not show up or that you and your crew find a way to defeat them before one of their ships attains orbit.” Primus Th'lou said before standing up. “Captain, I really must be going...” Th'lou added making a motion towards the closed portal door.

With nothing else to say, Douglas touched his combadge,” Ensign Dilipa, please come to my ready room and escort the Primus back to the transporter for his return to the surface.”

Barely ten seconds later, the young ensign steps through the portal and immediately leaves with Primus Th'lou following. Douglas didn't start back on his work knowing his first officer and closest friend, Commander Zhao Shou would want to talk with him about the meeting.

“Well, how did it go Connor? Did you find out anything useful for Admiral Tarn?” Zhao asked after strolling into the ready room with only a perfunctory hesitation at the portal door.

“They're hiding something,” Douglas said leaning back in his chair. “What it is I have no idea, but I'd almost bet they would make a plea to the Borg for help if we tried to do anything overt like active scans or a fly over with a shuttle.”

“What are we going to do?” Zhao asks. “If the Borg get by us and fire off one ten second blast down onto their polar cities the death toll would be in the tens of millions.”

“We go ahead with our plan, Shou,” Douglas said using his friend's given name. “How is production on the mines going?”

“As long as the Borg don't show up in the next two days we'll have enough to proceed with the plan. And as for our protection measures should we have drones beam over, both Savon and Axor assure me the mixture of gases and particles we'll dump into ship's atmosphere will reduce the effectiveness of individual drone shields down to ten or fifteen percent.” Zhao said with a confidence he didn't exactly completely believe.

“Lets hope it works,” Douglas said, “because for the plan to work, we're going to have to get the Saratoga quite close to penetrate the Borg ship's subspace field to beam over the mines.”

“The nifty thing about that atmospheric mixture is that it will kill anyone within seconds should their environmental suits be compromised. At least that reduces the chances for the Borg assimilating our people.” Zhao added deadpan.

“Thank the universe, whatever gods exists, and the Great Bird of the Galaxy for such small favors.” Douglas said in return.







Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Stardate: 54172.1

After weeks of waiting long range sensors have detected a Borg cube ship on course for Kivant. I am delaying our interception until we have a better idea what the enemy ship's path through this star system's asteroid belt will be so we can better position our little surprises. Admiral Tarn has informed me that the Starship Ranger is on the way to provide reinforcement but their ETA at a minimum is twenty-eight hours. By that time we will either be victorious or dead.

“Borg vessel's course has been confirmed within a eighty-five percent certainty.” The tactical officer, Lieutenant Victoria Kinyor said from her station to the right of the captain's central command chair.

“Raise shields, prepare a full spread of quantum torpedoes, ready phasers.” Zhao said to Kinyor.

Without hesitation Douglas hit the intercom icon on the small screen mounted on the arm of his chair. “All hands this is the captain, we are at battled stations, everyone seal their environmental suits and prepare to repel boarders. The next few hours things are going to get very nasty. All section heads, damage control teams, tactical squads, and medics stay alert and be ready to move quickly.”

“Helm,” Douglas then called out to Ensign Reid, “lay in an intercept course, warp two. Engage.”

“Captain,” Commander Zhao said looking up from the screen mounted to his seat next Douglas, “Commander Axor is ready to flood all decks with the gas mixture.”

“Tell him to flood the decks, Number One,” Douglas said.

On the main viewer the star field shifted violently as the Saratoga moved towards the enemy craft. As the starship accelerated, it only took a few seconds before the massive and ugly cube ship appeared in the center. “It totally ignored Starbase 257,” Zhao said to no one in particular, “all remaining personnel still in the orbital facilities are at red alert with dependents down on the surface of one of the gas giant's larger moons.”

“Intercept in fifteen seconds,” Ensign Reid said from his station.

“Zhao, make sure engineering is ready to transport the mines into the Borg ship the second we penetrate their subspace field,” Douglas said. “Lieutenant Sovan,” Douglas began again turning his chair towards the science officer, “are you picking up anything out of the ordinary on the sensors?”

“No captain,” the Vulcan replied from his station, “standard Borg cube ship with about ten-thousand drones aboard. Given that we have not heard the usual proclamation that we will be assimilated it is safe to assume that the collective's goal is the sterilization of the surface of the planet.”

“Five seconds to intercept,” Ensign Reid nervously called out to the rest of the bridge crew.

“Tactical,” Douglas called out, “fire all weapons, reload torpedoes and go again with emphasis on possible tractor beam emitter points. We need to be able to break away as quick as possible or they will swat us like an Izarian sand wasp.”

High energy phaser fire lashed out from emitter strips on the Saratoga hitting the Borg cube. Explosions rippled across the chaotic surface of the enemy ship which were matched as quantum torpedoes impacted less than a second later. The Borg vessel, which up to that moment had decided to ignore everything else in the star system, now had to contend with the Federation ship getting in the way of its collective desire to wipe the target planet clean.

It slowed and focused its attention on the starship rushing toward it. The collective intelligence of over ten-thousand assimilated souls analyzed the incoming vessel and determined that it could not defeat them. Still, it would need to be destroyed, so the Borg ship slowed and brought its own weapons to bear on the Saratoga firing seven green glowing balls of energy towards it.

“Incoming,” Lieutenant Kinyor yelled from the tactical station, “high energy plasma charges.”

The helmsmen was able to alter course just enough to dodge the first two volleys with the Saratoga's automatic defenses firing several short phaser bursts to blow away three more, but the last two charges impacting on the primary hull, uncomfortable close to the bridge.

The result of the impacts had several bridge consoles explode sending a shower of sparks and small debris into the faces and bodies of the crew. Luckily for them, the new environmental suits were partially armored as well as equipped with personal shields that prevented any real injuries. As the crew of the Saratoga had planned, once they had gotten close enough to the Borg cube to penetrate its subspace field, preprogrammed computers jumped into action to beam over hundreds of self-replicating mines into the heart of the enemy ship. All told, the process had only taken ten seconds, but for everyone aboard the Saratoga, it seemed like a lifetime.

“Process complete, captain,” Zhao said, all mines are away.”

“Helm, get us the hell out of here, best possible speed,” Douglas said as his ship was rocked with several more impacts.

The Borg vessel, not exactly sure what the Federation starship had just attempted, was not about to just let its adversary slip away. The collective tried to catch the Saratoga in several tractor beams but each time both the alert human in charge of weapons and ship's tactical computers prevented the Borg emitters from getting focused. Phaser fire with carefully alternating frequencies destroyed each emitter and when the helmsmen jumped to warp the Borg vessel was forced to break off from its intended course to Kivant.

Inside the Borg vessel a couple of dozen of the self-replicating mines immediately detonated with the others quickly taking in the debris to make more of their kind. The rate of propagation agreed upon by both Axor and Sovan had six mines being made for every one that exploded. Borg drones died by the hundreds during each explosion as whole sections of the massive ship were rendered ineffective. Regeneration subsystems were activated, but each time newly created mines just detonated again making repairs ineffective. The collective mind of the Borg ship analyzed the situation and attempted several countermeasures but the most brilliant thing about Axor and Sovan's destructive creations was that they were just too stupid to be stopped. What began to worry the collective though was that the mines were growing at an exponential rate and in a few hours the insanely primitive weapons would destroy the ship if they were not stopped. For that reason, the collective decided they would have to assimilate the personnel on the Federation ship to discern a way shut down the mines.

“Captain Douglas,” Lieutenant Kinyor said, “ just want you to know the Borg vessel has jumped to warp and is pursuing us. I'd say they are quite upset.”

Douglas and Zhao looked at each other after hearing this news. “I guess this is where things start getting interesting.” They both said at the same time. Just a few seconds later the Borg ship began a barrage of weapons fire upon the Saratoga.

(Author's Note: The conclusion has been written and will be published this Saturday. I warned you this was a long story.)