Also, all of the Mad Chatters should be able to recognize an incarnation of themselves in this one (g).
On her last day as an individual, Riley Frazier woke to klaxons.
Disorientated, her heart pounding in her throat, she stumbled out of bed and located her communicator on the dresser, only to realize the sirens had gone silent.
"Frazier to the Bridge. What's going on?"
"No need to get excited, Riley. It's just a false alarm." The first officer, Commander Goode, sounded sheepish over the comm link. "Engineering was a little jumpy and tripped the alarm by accident."
Frazier let out a sigh of relief as she staggered into the bathroom. There was no point in going back to sleep now, even though she still had two hours left before she was required to return to duty. She splashed water on her face and then leaned forward, bracing herself against the sink as she stared at her reflection. Dark circles edged her bloodshot eyes. In the flurry of activity of the past three days prior to rendezvousing with the fleet at Wolf 359, the crew of the USS Roosevelt had been pulling double-shifts in preparation for a showdown with the Borg. The accidental tripping of the warning system in Engineering didn't surprise Frazier; everyone was on edge, knowing an armed confrontation was imminent.
As Frazier got ready, her gaze fell on a framed picture on the wall. At the last family reunion three summers ago, the Frazier clan had posed among the bluebonnets rippling on the grounds of their Texas Hill Country ranch. In the center of the gathering sat Frazier's grandfather, Alvin Frazier, a proud dyed-in-the-wool Texan who often participated in re-enactments of famous Texas revolutionary battles and had an incurable addiction for mesquite barbeque. Alvin Frazier lived and breathed Texas and had passed on that same pride in the Lone Star State to his favorite granddaughter.
After changing into a fresh uniform, Frazier made her way to the mess hall. It was just after 0600 hours and given the early hour, Frazier didn't expect to see many officers from alpha shift present; however, she was wrong because the ship's tactical officer, Lieutenant Gerry, and the chief helm officer, Lieutenant Logan, were seated by the window, picking at the remains of breakfast. Frazier replicated a cup of coffee for herself as well as a bagel with cream cheese before joining them.
"Good morning," Frazier said.
"Looks like this morning's engineering snafu woke you too," Gerry commented. In his late twenties, Chris Gerry had earned the respect of colleagues, not to mention the attention of the Roosevelt's captain who had put in a good word for him at Starfleet Command. Frazier knew it would not be long before Gerry was tapped for command track.
"Yes," Frazier said, savoring the aroma of her French roast coffee; she was convinced there was no other way to wake up properly. "No doubt, there will be some very unhappy and cranky people aboard and frankly, it's the last thing we needed. How could something like this happen?"
"Security codes for the sensor array were corrupted during last night's database upload," Logan answered, shaking her head in disbelief. Eibhlis Logan had come to Starfleet via Belfast and at times, her Irish brogue inflected an otherwise perfect Standard accent. "During the long range scanner sweep, the sensors identified any ships approaching our position as Borg."
"Sounds like someone was a little overzealous," Frazier said. "But that kind of sloppiness cannot be tolerated at a time like this."
"You could hear Captain Bonham yelling at Commander Lorey three decks away," Gerry said, referring to the Roosevelt's chief engineer. "The ensign responsible has been relieved of duty temporarily until the data revision has been completed."
"A wise course of action," Frazier said. "Sounds like the two of you have the inside scoop."
"Couldn't sleep, Commander, not when the Borg are expected any day now," Gerry said. "So I thought I'd make myself useful and run a weapons check on the Bridge and so I got to hear the whole thing as it unfolded."
Frazier nodded. She could understand wanting to keep busy. It had been three
days since Admiral Hanson had ordered all nearby ships to Wolf 359 to rendezvous
at that point to mount a defense against the Borg. The Roosevelt, which had
been on a science mission less than a day away, had been among the first to
arrive; since then, they had simply been holding position. The timeline for
the Borg's project arrival kept changing on a minute-by-minute basis. The various
estimates ranged anywhere from hours to days.
Logan pointed toward the viewport. "Scuttlebutt says we should be at full-strength within the hour."
"How many have arrived now?" Frazier asked, taking a look out the window at all of the assembled starships.
"Twenty-nine, according to my last tactical survey," Gerry said. He pushed his plate, with the half-eaten remains of a croissant on it, away. "Forty are expected in total."
"That is a lot of fire power against one enemy ship," Logan said, her hands shaking as she buttered her muffin. Frazier knew Logan -- like so many others on the Roosevelt, enlisted and officer both -- had never expected to see combat. While Starfleet was the defensive arm of the Federation, its mission had increasingly become one dedicated to exploration and discovery.
"It does seem like a waste of Starfleet's resources, doesn't it?" Gerry asked. He eyed Frazier, who curled her hand around her coffee mug. "Well, Commander? What do you think?"
"Admiral Hanson wants to deliver a definitive blow once and for all. We're only 7.5 lightyears from Earth, and I'm sure the Admiral doesn't want to take any chance the Borg might slip through," Frazier said. As she glanced out the window, she saw two more ships – a Challenger-class and an Excelsior-class ship – arrive. "There is speculation that there Borg were responsible for the destruction of the Federation colonies along the Neutral Zone back in '64." Her knuckles whitened as she gripped her mug even more tightly. "There were no survivors."
"As you said, it's all speculation that the Borg were responsible for that. Regardless of who attacked the colonies, if they had been properly defended, then they wouldn't have been destroyed," Logan argued.
Frazier was about to respond when the mess hall doors slid open, revealing Commander Goode.
"At ease," Goode said, waving a hand at the three officers who had started to rise from their seats at her approach. "I was on my way to Engineering and thought I'd come take a look at the view myself." Goode nodded at the empty chair next to Frazier. "Is this taken?"
"It's all yours, Commander," Frazier said.
Goode nodded in response and folded her lank and lean body into the chair. Her posture was casual, almost relaxed -- a sharp contrast to that of the other three officers seated at the table. But then Frazier remembered that Goode, after the Captain, was the longest-serving member of the senior staff. Twenty years and counting, and if Frazier recalled correctly, this wasn't the first armed encounter Goode had experienced; there had been at least one or two skirmishes with the Cardassians on Goode's previous posting on the Phoenix.
"We're just discussing the size of the fleet, ma'am," Logan said, breaking into Riley's thoughts. She nodded in Gerry's direction. "Chris and I thought perhaps, it's a little excessive considering advance reports say there is only one Borg vessel."
"We don't know much about the Borg, but we are sure they are a formidable enemy," Goode answered, knitting her fingers together. "We have pieced together a patchwork of information, but of course, it goes without saying, until we are, so to speak, face-to-face with them, we won't know exactly what they are capable of."
"Some believe the Borg were responsible for the destruction of the Neutral Zone colonies two years ago," Frazier said quietly. Across the table, Logan grimaced.
"That is still debatable," Goode said sharply, "but you are correct in your speculation, Riley. The current evidence matches what little we do know of the Borg. The recent disappearance of a colony on Joret IV is what gave Admiral Hanson reason to believe the Borg had opened a new offensive here at Wolf 359. In light of that incident, Admiral Hanson and his aide, Lieutenant Commander Shelby reviewed reports of previous attacks on colonies in which the perpetrators were unknown. While it cannot definitely be proved, the Admiral has good reason to believe the destruction of the colonies in the Neutral Zone was the work of the Borg and there are several other incidents which are being reviewed under suspicion that the Enterprise's encounter with the Borg last year wasn't the first."
Frazier finished off her coffee. "Wasn't Commander Shelby assigned to develop strategic plans against a potential Borg offensive?" Frazier had never met Commander Shelby, but she knew Goode and Bonham had beamed over to the Admiral's ship on the previous day. Frazier had full confidence in Hanson; the Admiral's record, especially at Setlik III against the Cardassians, was well-known. However, Elizabeth Shelby was an unknown factor and Frazier had stopped short of investigating the Commander herself; she wanted to know more about the woman whom she suspected was the chief architect of the current offensive against the Borg.
Goode turned to look once more out the windows, her expression growing more pensive as yet another starship, a Galaxy-class, joined the armada. "Until we got orders three days ago to rendezvous here, yes, Shelby was in charge. Hanson, however, took over when he received new intelligence the Borg were on their way. Shelby's work has been incorporated into the anticipated defense and she's still considered the leading intelligence officer on the Borg. At this moment, however, she has been reassigned to the Enterprise." Goode's lips turned slightly upward as she pushed back her chair, the legs scratching roughly against the gray carpet.
"I heard a rumor Captain Picard of the Enterprise has been captured by the Borg," Logan said. Frazier turned to Logan in surprise. Where could Logan have possibly gotten that idea from?
Goode made a hand gesture, dismissing the comment. "Well, consider it exactly that, Lieutenant, a rumor."
"But if it were true," Logan said, "then the Borg would have a tactical advantage over us, wouldn't they? And we would need all of those ships, correct?"
"No Starfleet captain would share secrets with the enemy. They would rather die. Death, after all, is preferable to colluding with the enemy, even involuntarily," Goode said flatly. She rose. "I need to check on something in Engineering."
After the Commander's departure, Logan looked pensively out the window. Gerry, however, faced Frazier.
"Did Commander Goode tell us the truth about Captain Picard?" Gerry asked bluntly.
"You heard her," Frazier said sharply.
"One of them, forty of us..." Logan muttered. "We should overpower the Borg fair easy." With a wry smile, she continued, "It doesn't quite seem right somehow, all of us arrayed against just one of them."
"As Commander Goode said, I would not underestimate the Borg," Frazier said, unable to resist injecting a note of caution. While she too shared Starfleet's belief that their success was inevitable, she also knew it was too dangerous to assume victory from the outset. "History is full of precedents—-"
The comment caught Gerry's attention. "Not another one of the great Texan legends!"
Frazier ignored him and continued on. "During the battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston and his men overpowered General Santa Anna with a surprise attack. In just eighteen minutes, Houston overpowered the Mexicans, thus winning independence for the Texans. Houston only had 900 men at his disposal, compared to the nearly 1,500 Santa Anna commanded."
"Are you comparing the Borg to Sam Houston, Commander?" Gerry sounded amused. "With all due respect, Commander, I'm not sure what good another history lesson is going to do us."
Frazier flushed at his comment. Her pride in her family's tradition of military service, not to mention her interest in Texas history, was well-known among the senior staff. As a child, Riley had hung on her grandfather's every word while he regaled her with stories of larger-than-life heroes – some of them her own ancestors.
"History is more than just fascinating stories. Occasionally, we can learn from what has happened before," Frazier said coolly. "It's one of the primary reasons why we study history."
"Well, I live in the twenty-fourth century, thank you very much. I really don't see the relevance of family fables, especially given we're facing an enemy whom we know next to nothing about other than they leave a path of destruction behind," Gerry said disdainfully. "No offense, Commander."
"None taken," Frazier said mildly. She picked up her empty cup and plate. "Battles have been won and lost unexpectedly on longer odds in the past. It's good to be confident, but not wise to be overly so."
"Admiral Hanson's scenarios predict relatively low casualties for the Federation," Gerry said.
"Are you surprised? Those are the kinds of numbers Starfleet Command likes to hear. High casualties never play well in the media," Frazier said. "I'll see you on the Bridge."
After three years as the Roosevelt's chief science officer, Frazier knew every inch of the ship intimately and thus selected a longer and less-efficient route than usual to reach the Bridge. She needed time to gather her thoughts together and she didn't feel like returning to her quarters to ponder the conversation she'd had with Logan and Gerry. Frazier made her way through the corridors, nodding absent-mindedly at the passing crewmembers. The turbolift lurched to a stop.
"Ah, Commander." The Roosevelt's captain, James Bonham, turned as Frazier entered the Bridge.
"Good morning, Captain."
Bonham pointed to the screen which showed a wide-angle view of the armada assembled.
"Well, what do you think?"
"It's impressive, Captain," Frazier said honestly. She took a look around the Bridge. There were still twenty minutes left before the changeover from gamma to alpha shift, so with the exception of the Captain and herself, the rest of the senior staff was not present.
As Bonham approached her, Frazier could clearly see the lines at the corners of his eyes, the tightness in his jaw, and the stiffness of his posture.
"What is the matter, Captain?" Frazier asked softly and immediately regretted her question. A battle was imminent and of course, the captain of the Roosevelt would be concerned.
"The Roosevelt is a science vessel, Riley," Bonham said, keeping his voice purposely low. "You know as well as I do some of the people aboard this ship are not ready for the battle to come." He sighed. "We've spent the last few days practicing drills, refining battle plans, and anticipating every possible scenario, but I still can't help but think we're forgetting something."
Before Frazier could respond, the doors to the Bridge slid open revealing Gerry and Logan. The shift change from gamma to alpha went smoothly. In every way, it was a day like any other.
Frazier studied the readings on her console. Wolf 359, the fourth star closest to Earth, gave off gamma radiation and other wave particles that had the potential of interfering with navigational and sensor arrays. Quickly, Frazier enabled the proper filters. She ran a preliminary test to make sure the data came back within specifications with minimal variance. While her primary duty during the battle would be to keep an eye on astronomical data, she would also back up Gerry on tactical operational data to make sure nothing was missed.
Occasionally Frazier looked up at the viewscreen, noting the starships slowly moving themselves into formation; it was no easy task and she certainly did not envy Admiral Hanson, who was commanding the fleet from his ship, the Liberty. In the background, the murmur of voices rose and fell, occasionally interrupted by communiqués – both visual and audio – from other ships, as well as the admiral.
Frazier narrowed her eyes as she noted suspicious activity on the long range scanners. Her fingers flying quickly over the console, she amplified and clarified the signal. Sure enough, the blip revealed itself as a ship lacking a Federation warp signature trail.
Bonham was at her side immediately. Frazier pointed to the reading; the warp signature exactly matched the trails picked up around Joret IV in the aftermath of the colony's disappearance.
"The Borg," she said in a low voice. "It has to be."
Bonham looked over at Gerry who nodded his confirmation.
"ETA in twelve minutes," the lieutenant said. He shook his head. "I've never seen a ship move that fast before."
Bonham's lips flattened into a straight line. "Inform the Admiral we have picked up the Borg on long range sensors and –-" he turned to Gerry "—- go to red alert."
"Aye, sir," Gerry said. The klaxons blared in the background, the red lights flashing through the Bridge, making it hard to concentrate fully; this time it was no mistake, no drill. Frazier steeled herself, trying to calm her nerves. Perhaps, the Borg would turn away once they saw the overwhelming force the Federation had gathered to combat them.
Frazier pushed away her fear in shame and surprise. She doubted her ancestor, Daniel Frazier, who had died at the Alamo, had even entertained such thoughts. She thought fleetingly of Colonel Travis telling his men to step over the line he'd drawn in the sand, to see who would choose to face certain death. The story was most probably the stuff legends -- and heroes -- were made of, but Riley appreciated it for what it meant. Starfleet -- and by extension, she -- had made a decision. The line had been crossed; there was no going back.
"Ten minutes to intercept with the Borg vessel," Gerry announced.
"Incoming transmission from Admiral Hanson to all hands," Frazier said crisply. "Audio and visual both."
"Put it on the viewscreen," the Captain said. Frazier complied, aware of the sudden burst of energy among the crew as the visage of JP Hanson appeared on the viewscreen.
"I'll keep this short as the enemy has been sighted," Hanson said briskly. "You have been well-trained and you know what to do. Good luck." Hanson's face faded from view as the white emblem of the Federation on its standard blue background appeared on the viewscreen.
"Maintain an open comm link at all times, Commander," Bonham said.
"Aye, sir," Frazier replied. The turbolift doors opened, revealing Commander Goode.
"Glad you could join us, Commander," Bonham remarked with uncharacteristic sarcasm.
"I got here as fast as I could," Goode said. She glanced warily around the Bridge. "Captain, we have a situation in Engineering."
"A 'situation'?" Bonham sounded incredulous. Frazier noticed that all eyes were now turned towards the Commander. Resolutely, she focused her attention on the panel display in front of her. After a brief conversation with the Captain, Goode took her seat next to Bonham. Given the expression of nonchalance on the faces of the command team, Frazier supposed the 'situation' in Engineering wasn't quite as desperate as Goode had initially made it sound.
"The Borg are on a course heading 2163.4 mark 9," Gerry reported.
"They're close enough to get a visual now, Captain," Frazier said.
"Maintain our position behind the Liberty," Bonham ordered. "And bring up the Borg vessel on viewscreen, Lieutenant."
The Bridge officers remained completely silent as the visual of the Borg ship took over the screen. The cubical Borg ship possessed a rough exterior rather than smooth hull-plating, thus contributing to its foreboding appearance. This first glimpse confirmed the Borg were unlike anything Starfleet has encountered before. According to Frazier's scans, the Borg didn't even seem aware of the vast Starfleet armada gathered to stop its path. Her stomach lurched uncomfortably.
"All systems online and powered at 100 percent," Goode said, her tone brisk and confident.
"Nothing from the Borg cube," Gerry reported.
"Nothing, Lieutenant?" Bonham's skepticism was obvious. "Surely they realize we're here?"
"I think they do know, sir," Frazier said. She couldn't explain her comment with anything factual or scientific; it was a gut reaction, pure and simple.
"If the Borg know we're here, why aren't they reacting?" Logan asked in frustration.
Bonham eyed the officer speculatively. "Patience, Lieutenant, you'll get your wish for action soon enough."
Frazier frowned. "Sir, what if they're trying to catch us off guard? Playing possum, so to speak?"
"That's not likely, Commander," Bonham said. He stood in the middle of the Bridge, arms akimbo. "Considering we've got the cube surrounded and outnumbered."
"Appearances can be deceiving," Frazier said without thinking.
Bonham shot her an impatient look. "Are you going to tell me about General Sam Houston again, Commander?"
She chose to overlook the curtness and exasperation evident in his voice. "No, sir, but there is a lot we don't know about the Borg. Their weapons are unknown to us, their culture, their language—-" she took a long look at the Borg cube "—- too many variables to call the outcome on this one, Captain."
"And what are you basing that assessment on, Commander?" This comment came from Logan. "None of the scans give any indication the Borg possess any kind of super weapon and we do have a numerical tactical advantage over them."
"I find their complete operational silence as well as their—"
"Captain! The Borg are powering up their weapons!" Gerry yelled. Riley snapped her attention back to her console, the display confirming Gerry's words. "The Borg are firing!"
"Shields up!" Goode called.
"The Borg are targeting the Liberty!"
Frazier glanced down at her sensor readings just as Goode reported, "The Liberty has sustained two hits, but its shields are still holding–-"
"Helm, prepare to take evasive maneuvers, delta pattern-–"
The air crackled with tension as Bonham barked out commands and senior staff members relayed status reports. Frazier looked at the viewscreen, staring as the Borg cube continued to target the Liberty. After the sixth such strike, the Galaxy-class starship took a direct hit to the starboard bow.
"The Liberty has sustained a direct hit to the port nacelle, sir," Goode said. "It's dropping back now. The Firebrand and Gage will escort it to the rearguard. The Melbourne is now in position, Captain."
"Maintain current position, Lieutenant."
"Aye sir," Logan said.
Frazier scanned the other ships in the vicinity. Directly behind the Melbourne, the Bellerophon and Ahwahnee were slowly coming about, their weapons fully powered and their shields at maximum intensity. The Saratoga and the Tolstoy flanked the other three ships, leaving the Roosevelt as the rear guard.
"Lorey to Bonham." The chief engineer's voice crackled over the comm system. "We have just detected an imbalance in the anti-matter flow. This problem should be easily corrected-—"
"An imbalance? Commander, we haven't sustained a single hit. What the hell is going on down there?" Bonham paced the Bridge, his hands clasped behind his back.
"We're working on it, sir," Lorey said.
"Well, work faster!" Bonham snapped as the Roosevelt shook violently.
Frazier slid off her chair, banging her knee roughly against the floor. Quickly, she scrambled back into her seat, reviewing the data flying across the console. Tapping a key, she summoned up an overview of the Borg cube's matrix. It appeared the main power generators were in the middle of the cube...
"Status!" Bonham barked.
"We sustained a direct hit to our aft shields," Goode reported. "Holding at 80 percent. Captain, we need to make our answer a good one!"
"Captain," Frazier said urgently, "the heat readings imply the Borg generate their power here –-" she pointed to a spot on her console "—- perhaps if we target those systems..."
"Understood," Bonham said sharply. "Lieutenant?"
"Arming photon torpedoes now, Captain," Gerry said.
"Target the location Commander Frazier indicated, Lieutenant. And on my mark, fire." Bonham moved closed to the helm. "Logan, bring us in range..."
Bonham watched the screen carefully and then when the angle appeared close, he turned to Gerry. "Now, Lieutenant!"
The targeted burst of firepower at the Borg seemed to bounce off uselessly off the Borg ship. Frazier shook her head in dismay. Perhaps she had miscalculated the Borg's shield harmonics. After a quick check of numbers though, Frazier knew she hadn't made a mistake.
"Captain!" Goode was on her feet, pointing to the viewscreen.
Frazier looked up in horror. The Borg cube was rapidly closing the gap between itself and the armada. The front half of the Melbourne exploded in a brilliance of orange and red. The Saratoga, Awahnee and the Chekov -- which had arrived from the port side --launched a concentrated burst of fire power at the cube.
"I don't understand," Frazier said as she continued to analyze the data she was receiving. "They seem to know exactly how to modulate their shields to deflect anything we throw at them. How is that possible?"
"That's a good question, Commander," Bonham said grimly as he stared at the viewscreen. "Their ability to anticipate our next move and react to deflect it is, in a word, uncanny."
As Logan guided the Roosevelt into position, Gerry fired off a barrage of torpedoes, joining the other ships in the assault on the single cube. Infuriatingly, the Borg vessel continued on its path, impervious to the torpedoes and phaser blasts launched at it. The viewscreen lit up once again and the crew gaped as a huge hulk of the Melbourne careened past.
"Sir, the Awhanee has been destroyed," Goode said.
The entire Bridge crew fell silent. Only the occasional beeping of a control system interrupted the incessant wail of the klaxons.
"A message from Admiral Hanson, sir," Frazier said finally. Her voice sounded scratchy and far away, even to her own ears. "We are to replace the Awhanee in the formation."
"You have your orders, Logan," Bonham said.
The lights on the Bridge dimmed briefly. Engineering reported a decrease in power due to the previous hit the Roosevelt sustained. Commander Lorey reported he planned to reroute power from non-essential systems to the shields and weapons. As the ship shook again, Frazier's already injured knee rammed into her console, shooting pain through her leg. She gritted her teeth.
"Borg closing in, sir," Gerry said tersely. The Borg cube emitted a sudden burst of fire. Frazier bit her lip as she watched the Saratoga take a direct hit to the starboard nacelle. Moments later, escape pods began to stream out of the ship. One or two of the pods were caught in the crossfire.
The map grid in front of her showed the Kyushu and Liberator coming to the defense of the Saratoga. The Borg turned its attention to the Liberator and Kyushu, managing to destroy the Kyushu's shield integrity and take out its port nacelles in a few shots. The Liberator hurled more torpedoes while the Saratoga concentrated its phasers on the cube. As Frazier pulled together a status report on the Kyushu, she could see the ship was badly damaged. Like the Saratoga, the Kyushu began to launch escape pods.
"The Saratoga isn't going to hold out much longer!" Gerry exclaimed. Frazier's reports confirmed Gerry's words; a second later, the Saratoga exploded. The Roosevelt rocked from the aftershocks while the already badly damaged Kyushu was left defenseless as it listed helplessly on its side.
"The Kyushu has shut down all life support and environmental systems and directing all power to the engines," Goode said.
In horror, Frazier watched the Kyushu gather speed. Plotting out the magnitude and angle of the Kyushu's trajectory, Frazier knew exactly what the Kyushu's captain intended.
"Oh my God," she whispered.
The Kyushu smashed into the cube, exploding into an orange-red ball of fire. Stunned, Frazier ran scans, which revealed very little damage inflicted to the cube; the Kyushu's sacrifice had merely slowed the Borg's progress for a few seconds.
"Four ships down and not a scratch on the cube," Bonham said, his voice laced with a mixture of awe and respect, tempered with an intense sadness.
Frazier swallowed hard, pushing fear away. The situation certainly did not look good for the Federation, but they still had the advantage of numbers. Despite her earlier words of warning, she so wanted to believe victory could still be theirs.
Another explosion rocked the Roosevelt.
"Direct hit on the starboard nacelle!" Gerry said.
"Power reserves at 50 percent, Captain, switching to auxiliary systems," Goode said.
Gerry continued his litany, "Fire on deck seven, science labs, fire suppressant equipment non-operational, sealing off affected areas and evacuating—"
"Captain! Hull breach on deck seven!" Goode exclaimed. "Casualty reports coming in from all over. Seven are reported dead and twelve critically injured."
Bonham sagged a little, his proud posture giving way to the burden of loss.
"We've exhausted all of our torpedoes, sir," Gerry reported. "Phasers are operating at 85 percent power now."
"Understood. Use your discretion, Lieutenant."
On the viewscreen, an explosion tore through the Buran. Debris hurtled through space, some pieces bouncing off the Roosevelt's already weakening shields. Frazier stifled the impulse to gag as she saw what appeared to be Starfleet personnel being sucked out a hull breach on the lowers decks of the New Orleans. She couldn't think of a worse possible death, to suffocate in the cold of space. She swallowed the hard lump forming in her throat and turned her attention to
the message light blinking on her console.
"Incoming from the Liberator," Frazier said. "Captain Kelley asks we fire in tandem on his mark."
"Receiving coordinates now," Gerry said. "I have informed the Captain Kelley's tactical officer we have phasers only."
"Shields are at forty percent. Engineering is compensating for the hull breach on deck seven," Goode said.
Frazier's scans confirmed Goode's words. How long would hull integrity last under these kinds of conditions? And would an evacuation even be possible? Frazier recognized their circumstances for what they were: an impossible situation. Her chest tightened and she found it hard to breathe.
"The shields containing the hull breach on deck seven are failing. And Engineering reports heavy radiation flooding decks three and six," Goode said. The first officer sounded collected, and Frazier deeply envied Goode's calmness.
"Recommendations?" Bonham looked meaningfully at Goode
"I suggest we drop back, sir," Goode said quietly. "We cannot sustain another hit and keeping phasers charged drains power from life support and environmental systems. Evacuation is our only option."
For a moment, Frazier wondered if the captain and first officer of the Kyushu had had a similar conversation and then, had come up with another option entirely. Of course, she reminded herself, the Kyushu had been damaged much, much worse.
Bonham turned his gaze upward, staring up at the ceiling. After a moment, he nodded. "Hail the Admiral and tell him we're breaking formation." Bonham took a deep breath as he stared at the remains of the Buran floating through space. Frazier turned her attention back to her console, her fingers tightening as she gripped the sides of her station. She was relieved, though ashamed to admit just how relieved she was that they were retreating.
Colonel Travis drew a line in the sand with a stick. His black boots, dull with dust, crunched the earth beneath his step. He stared at the men in front of him. Nearly 200 strong, all having come to Texas in the last few years, and some even in the last few months come expressly for the fight against the Mexicans. He was willing to die, but he was unable to ask the same of the others, Travis said. There would be no turning back now; General Santa Anna had fortified his men outside the walls of the Alamo. Cross the line if you wish to stay, Travis said. All but one man did so.
Frazier took deep, slow breaths. Calm, she thought, calm. She reminded herself of the story of the Alamo, of the valiant defenders who had been shown no quarter by Santa Anna. Where had they gotten that kind of courage from? For God's sake, she was a member of the senior staff, an officer the younger members looked towards for guidance. This was no time to lose her nerve.
"Lorey to Bonham." The Chief Engineer's calm voice broke into Frazier's thoughts. The comm link crackled with static and no amount of compensation on Frazier's part could clear the transmission. She glanced apologetically in Bonham's direction but he took no notice.
"Go ahead, Commander," Bonham said briskly.
"The containment field is in danger of failure, sir. We were unable to correct the earlier imbalance and it has caused a chain reaction in our primary systems. In anticipation of a breach, I've begun the sequence to eject the warp core." Static threatened to overwhelm Lorey's voice; Frazier had to strain to hear him clearly.
Bonham sighed. "Understood, Commander."
"Sir, without the warp core, we're dead in the water," Goode said. "I suggest we evacuate all personnel now using the escape pods."
"The Borg are picking off the pods one by one, Commander," the Captain said shortly. "I'm not sure we'd be better off using that method of evacuation. I'd rather take my chances with a strategic retreat."
"We don't have time, Captain," Goode said fiercely. "You heard Commander Lorey."
Frazier cleared her throat. "I agree with Commander Goode, sir. My scans show the Borg currently appear unaware of us. We might not get a window of opportunity to evacuate again."
The words were hard to get out and Frazier hated to admit just how much she wanted to escape from this battle. She knew in her heart that her ancestors would have never even *entertained* the thought of retreat, of *choosing* self-preservation. She bit her lip hard enough to draw blood.
Bonham tipped his head to the side, obviously considering her recommendation. Finally he nodded, with a heavy sigh. "Agreed." He took a step in Goode's direction. "I will, of course, remain on the Bridge, and therefore, overseeing the evacuation will be your duty." He took a deep breath. "Attention, all hands, this is the Captain. Prepare to implement emergency evacuation procedures and report to your designated escape pod immediately."
"Sir," Frazier said, "the comm system is malfunctioning on deck seven." She twisted in her seat to face the Captain and his First Officer. "I don't believe they heard you down there."
Goode looked at the captain. "We'll have to go in person to evacuate any remaining personnel there."
"Then you'd better get going, Commander," Bonham said. "Don't wait for my order."
"You heard me, Sara." Bonham's expression softened. "You have your orders."
Goode swallowed and tipped her head in acknowledgement.
"Engineering to the Bridge. Inertial dampeners are failing." The hint of desperation in Lorey's voice was unmistakable. "Captain, I'm running out of options."
"Do what you can, Mr. Lorey," Bonham said. "Frazier, you're
with Commander Goode."
Frazier nodded. She took one last look at her console, running her fingers over the smooth LCARS surface one final time and followed Goode into the turbolift.
"I anticipate the Captain will go down with the ship if it comes to that," Goode said. "I have no doubt he plans to ram the cube in the same way the Kyushu did."
Frazier grasped the handrail for support as the turbolift dropped down to level seven. The doors opened, and Goode cautiously stepped out, Frazier directly behind her. The smoke was thick, stinging Frazier's nostrils as she moved forward, her hand brushing up against the wall as a guide. The emergency lights flickered slightly and Frazier yelped as her fingers came in contact with a sparking panel.
"Are you all right, Commander?" Goode asked anxiously.
"I'm fine," Frazier said. She looked down at her fingers, pain shooting deep down through the epidermis. It would be a nasty burn when all was said and done. Ashamed at her momentary weakness, Frazier continued ahead, her eyes stinging and smarting from the smoke. "Anyone here?" she yelled. No answer. She pulled out her tricorder, looking at it closely. Shields were only minutes away from failure. The ship lurched and Frazier fell to the floor. She lay momentarily stunned before getting to her feet.
"Anyone here? Anyone?" Frazier's throat ached, whether from trying to shout over the klaxons, the smoke, or a combination, she didn't know.
"We're losing auxiliary systems on this deck," Goode said tensely as she looked at her tricorder. "The force fields are just barely holding. I don't even want to *think* about the status of the environmental systems."
"In other words, we don't have much time," Frazier said grimly.
"We should split up. You go that way," Goode said, pointing, "and I'll take this side. Locate any personnel remaining on this deck and we'll rendezvous at the escape pods." She looked grimly at Frazier. "Good luck, Commander."
Frazier continued down the corridor, using the light from her tricorder to illuminate her path. A minute later, she ran into an engineer, Lieutenant Perry, intent on a repair. The young man's face was covered in a thin sheen of perspiration, his hair mussed and sticking straight up. Frazier noticed a nasty gash on the lieutenant's hand.
"Lieutenant," Frazier said sharply. "What are you doing? You have orders to evacuate."
"Some of the relays connecting the environmental systems have to be manually replaced and recalibrated," Perry explained as Frazier approached.
"Leave your tools, Lieutenant, and make your way to the escape pods," Frazier said.
"I can fix this, ma'am. I only need a few more minutes—-"
"You have your orders," Frazier said tensely. "Anyone else on this deck?"
Perry nodded. "Dr. Anderson, I think, but I'm the only engineer left."
"Understood, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
She watched as Perry disappeared into the haze of smoke. Shaking her head, she continued down the corridor. The ship rocked violently then, tossing Frazier against the walls. In the distance, she saw the outward bend of metal. Another hull breach. Frazier backed away, her chest tightening at the thought of the force fields failing, of being sucked out into space.
She took a long look down the corridor. Smoke completely obscured her view, but she could hear the groans near the hull breach and hadn't Perry confirmed Dr. Anderson's presence? She couldn't just leave whoever was there behind. Attempting a rescue meant jeopardizing her life, but over five hundred years ago, her ancestors had crossed a line in the sand, taking that very same risk.
Her grandfather had often told her, "You come from a long line of heroes, Riley Frazier, never forget that. Courage and sacrifice run through your blood."
Frazier moved quickly. There was a chance she could find who was there and drag them to safety before the hull completely buckled. She was halfway down the corridor when the second explosion knocked her against the wall.
Sparks sputtered all around her. The ship creaked, lolling slightly to the side. Frazier groaned as she hit the floor. A steel beam on the opposite side of the corridor came crashing down, blocking her path. The odds of reaching anyone on the other side of the beam mounted. Frustrated, Frazier slammed her fist into the wall.
"Damn it." Her voice cracked with emotion and fury. "Damn, damn, damn." She coughed, and then she heard a groan nearby. "Who's there?"
"Me, ma'am, Ensign Barr." The female voice was just barely audible. Dropping to her knees, Frazier crawled forward until her hand touched synthetic fabric. The beam had trapped the young woman.
"I'm going to try to help you," Frazier said, pressing the heel of her hands against the beam, hoping against hope she would be strong enough to push the steel off the younger woman.
"It's all right, ma'am," Barr whispered. "The shields..."
"I know. I'm going to get you out of here," Frazier answered sharply. "Lie still, Rachel." Frazier pushed again. There was no give. Barr groaned in pain. "I'm going to give it another push, Ensign. Don't move."
"Don't worry," Barr said breathlessly. "I'm not going anywhere." She offered a weak smile in Frazier's direction. Still, even with the additional effort, the beam didn't move. "You should go, Commander."
"Not until I get you out." Frazier grunted as she put the full force of her entire body weight against the steel. Nothing. She was sweating profusely now and her eyes were watering.
"Commander, the shields--"
Frazier didn't answer. She reached down and pressed two fingers against Barr's neck. The young woman's pulse was weakening. Frazier looked over her shoulder. She could hear the shields sparking; in a matter of minutes, the shields would collapse and this entire deck would open to space. Frazier gave one last, desperate thrust, and still nothing. Frazier took one long look down the hall and then in the other direction. At her feet, Barr moaned; already the Ensign's face was taking on an ashen hue.
"Where is Dr. Anderson?" Frazier demanded. Perhaps if she could find Anderson, together they would be able to lift the metal beam off Barr.
With effort, Barr whispered, "Dead. I saw him sucked out when the hull breached, just before the shields..."
Bile rose in Frazier's throat. "Is there anyone else? Anyone at all left on this deck?"
The undertone in Barr's voice caused Frazier to lean in closer. "Is that the truth?"
"There's nothing you can do for any of them," Barr said. She coughed. "Ma'am..."
"That's my decision to make, Ensign, not yours."
Barr didn't respond; her eyes had closed. Frazier gave the steel beam another push, and again, there was no give.
"We Texans don't run away from a fight," her grandfather had once said. "We stand our ground, we work hard, we work together. We don't avoid it and we certainly don't give up."
Frazier looked back down the corridor; perhaps Goode was still on deck seven. It was a chance she had to take.
"I'm going to get help," Frazier told Barr but there was no response from the ensign, her eyes rolling back beneath half-closed eyelids. And then, with a trace of black humor, Frazier added, "Don't go anywhere."
Barr groaned in response.
Frazier backed away and then broke into a run. Suddenly, the ship keeled to the port side, knocking Frazier off balance. She rolled over and got to her feet as quickly as her aching knee would allow her. In horror, she realized the hull had finally breached; there was no chance now for anyone on the other side of the steel beam which had trapped Barr. In a matter of seconds, after all of the oxygen had been sucked out, there would be no hope for *her*.
It was then she realized she was no longer alone.
Hobbling, Frazier took a step forward toward the dark shadowy figures. "Who's there?"
"We are Borg. Prepare to be assimilated."
Frazier stared. The figures advancing towards her were clad completely in what appeared to be black body armor, with metallic tubules protruding from various parts of their body. They were humanoid in form, moving mechanically.
Panicking, Frazier pounded on the turbolift door, willing for it to open. When that didn't work, she tried to access the communications grid for the deck, was little more than a lump of twisted metal. The only way out was through the Jefferies tubes; she wasn't as familiar with the interior tubing as the engineers were. Taking a chance, she ripped off a wall panel, flinging it in the direction of the Borg coming towards her. She was halfway through when she felt the cold touch of metal against her skin.
The sky above was a brilliant blue, the rolling hills covered in red yellow orange white wildflowers, the smell of mesquite and cedar heavy in the air.
Frazier kicked as she tried to wrench free of the Borg's tight grip on her arm.
It hadn't rained in days. The heat hung heavily and oppressively. Summer in Texas, her favorite season, her favorite time of the year.
She screamed as the metal stabbed through her uniform, into her side, just below her ribs.
As a child, she had sat among bluebonnets, her face and hands sticky with barbecue sauce. Beneath the gnarled branches of a live oak tree, she had heard and absorbed her ancestors' stories. Here, where the endless horizon rose up to meet the sky, she had memorized the battles. In her games, she would run along the paths, pretending to be a lookout for Colonel Travis, and later, for Sam Houston.
The second stab to the neck effectively paralyzed her. Riley Frazier's mouth formed a perfect O, her scream stuck in her throat.
The Fraziers celebrated the blood-drenched soil with a barbeque every Fourth of July; they were a part of Texas just as Texas was a part of them. As she grew older, Riley realized there would always be two sides to any history. She chose to believe in the legend of heroes.
There was no pain.
The bluebonnets rippled endlessly across the silver-green prairies. As a child, she had thought this scenery was nothing less than perfection.
In the background, the klaxons continued to howl.
~ the end
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