PERSONAL LOG, Lieutenant Y'Vrn Martyn: Stardate 43997.6

I don't know if anyone will ever hear these words. But if they do, and I must assume that I am no longer among the living, please get this recording to Federation Ambassador Valeria MacFarlane.

I am alone. Again.

As I glance back out the rear window of this single-occupant escape pod, I can still see the fire of the carnage I have left behind. The Borg ship was... awesome, for lack of a better word. More powerful than we had ever dreamed. And with the captured captain of the starship Enterprise, whom we must now call "Locutus," leading them, it seems more and more likely that the Federation is about fall.

Nothing we tried could even put a dent in that damn thing!

The inferno among the stars is getting smaller and smaller, as I move further and further away from it. I don't know how many others made it off in one piece. Perhaps, I was the only one. I've programmed the small, on-board navigational computer to set me down on the first Class-M world it can locate.

Though between you and me, I sincerely doubt that even if this bucket can last the journey to that world that it will set me down on the surface in one piece. So meanwhile, I have to pass the time somehow. Might as well do it making out my "last will and testament," as it were.

How, in the name of God, did I ever end up like this? I suppose it all began on that fateful day nearly a year ago...

I had been aboard the U.S.S. Cairo for about two and a half years, ever since I received my lieutenant's pips. I guess I was expecting to move up the ranks at a steady pace, maybe making Commander by the time I was in my late thirties. After that, who could say?

Oh, there were plenty of purely research vessels in Starfleet, but at twenty-two, serving aboard a ship whose main purpose was mapping out stellar nebulae or cataloguing gaseous planets did not promise the kind of adventure and excitement that someone at that age usually craves. It was certainly not what I desired.

So, thanks to the little bit of pull I did have with Starfleet Command, I requested to be posted aboard the Cairo. Now that, I had thought, would be an assignment!

The Cairo had spent the last few months in and out of the space between the Cardassian Empire and the Federation. We didn't have much on the Cardassians at that time, and so it was our job to get as close to the border as we possibly could, without rousing their suspicion of course, and learn as much about them as we were able. Yeah, that was what I was looking for! Something to research that had just a hint of danger to it.

It's amazing how stupid one can be when they're younger.

As I remember it, I was sitting in the research lab one day, going over some recent transmissions we had picked up from along the Cardassian border. Unfortunately, we nearly provoked an entire fleet of Galor-class warships to come across the border and basically blow us out of the stars. If it hadn't been thanks to a brilliant maneuver by our CO, I think we probably would have ended up as kibble for whatever the Cardassian equivalent of a dog was.

However, we hadn't made it out without a few bumps. And so, we were ordered to the nearest star base for some much-needed repairs, and maybe even some shore leave. That would be nice. Unfortunately, the Captain said he wanted the data we had just received analyzed and translated with our speculations as to what the Cardassians were doing before we got there, or there wouldn't be any shore leave.

"Just get it done," he had said.

And so, there I was staring at the information as it rolled by on the screen atop my desk. I remember my eyes began burning after a while, and having the realization pass over me that I could not remember the last time I'd blinked. So, I closed my eyelids and rubbed my eyes with my thumb and forefinger for about ten seconds, hoping I could coax some moisture to return to them and douse the burning sensation.

I didn't know what it was about my eyes. Mother had always told me that all Yarzonians had light green sclera and emerald irises. She also mentioned that Yarzon was a desert world and that it was possible that because of the harsh, dry conditions of the planet, that Yarzonian eyes did not have as-fully-developed tear ducts as humans had.

Personally, I never bought that. All my years as a researcher had made me realize that nature invariably compensates for shortages in one way or another. In other words, I believed that most Yarzonians actually had more-developed tear ducts than humans because of the planet's conditions, and that if my eyes were indeed as dry as I believed them to be, then I should have had a river flowing into them right now.

But I didn't. And seeing as I had never actually met another Yarzonian, I'd never know if my mother's theory, or my own was the correct one.

After I had finished rubbing my eyes, I looked up from my terminal. As I blinked once or twice, trying to bring everything back into focus, I noticed that the room was not as full as it usually was. Oh, there were about three or four other people in the room besides me, but there was usually triple that number here.

Where were they all? I wondered. The Captain did say he wanted this done before we reached the star base. Then the terrifying thought occurred to me: oh God! Maybe we have and my report's the only one NOT on the Captain's desk! In a slight panic, I whipped my head quickly around the room, searching for a sign that my worst fears had come to pass.

Then, I saw it. The chronometer on the far wall of the research area. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It read that it was 1800 hours, the time everyone usually went to grab a bite to eat. My heart, which had been beating faster than a mouse running for its life from some ravenous, salivating feline, began to slow down as I retook me seat.

I wasn't really all that hungry at the moment, so I decided to just sit there at my terminal studying the data until I did feel my stomach ache, protesting the fact that it wasn't full. I turned my attentions once again to the brightly-lit blue characters which ran endlessly across the terminal's black screen.

That's when I heard the doors to the research area hiss open. The first thought that ran through my mind was that perhaps it was several of the other officers in the department returning early from dinner. No doubt to get a head start on fulfilling the Captain's request. I didn't bother to look up from the terminal.

That was when I felt a finger poking me on the shoulder. I glanced up and saw Ensign Monroe, a rather insecure young man who just transferred aboard, looking down nervously at me. Monroe always looked as if he had just urinated without remembering to unzip his uniform trousers.

However, the look on his face at that particular moment was even more intense than usual. He was cocking his head to his left side as he looked down at me. I began wondering if he had suddenly developed some kind of nervous twitch or perhaps experiencing a seizure, as the jerky movement of his head became less subtle and much more intense. As if he were non-verbally trying to warn me of something.

I glanced above the top of my terminal, and when I saw them standing in the open doorway, my heart began racing again. I rose to stand at attention as Captain Jellico stepped into the room. Beside him walked a much older, plump, balding man with wispy salt-and-pepper hair, wearing the uniform of a Starfleet Admiral.

Captain Jellico looked back at the Admiral, who for the first time appeared to notice that the few people who were in the room were all standing at attention. "Oh, as you were everyone," said the Admiral.

The other three or four people in the room took their seats, as did I, but with much less haste. The information on the Cardassians could wait a moment or two. At that moment, I really wanted to see what the Captain and this Admiral were doing here.

I made like I had returned my attention to the screen in front of me, though in fact, my eyes were staring past the top of the terminal towards the two senior officers. At first, they appeared to be doing the standard inspection. Looking around to make sure everyone in the room was busy enough, running their fingers along a tabletop checking for dust that shouldn't've been there.

Finally, after they had circled the room once, the Admiral stopped dead in his tracks, and turned to face the Captain.

"Alright," the Admiral began pleasantly in a deep, scratchy voice, "which one is he?"

Captain Jellico raised his arm and pointed in my direction. "Over there, sir," he said.

Could he...? No, he couldn't have meant me. I glanced quickly behind me, and there, at her usual terminal, was Lieutenant Borana. Yes, the dedicated, though somewhat standoffish, Andorian was definitely the one the Admiral had been talking about. She was who they wanted to see! Good for her; maybe she was about to be promoted, or decorated or something.

I returned my attention to the screen once again. This time, with the full intention of doing my job of analyzing the data.

I had been sitting there for no more than a moment, when I heard the sound of someone clearing their throat above me. Somewhat annoyed by the disgusting sound, I glanced up from my terminal.

And nearly had a heart attack.

Captain Jellico and the Admiral were standing right in front of my desk! I don't know how long they had been there, but the Admiral grinned warmly at me while Captain Jellico's stony face had just a touch of annoyance written across it.

"Admiral Hanson, this is Lieutenant Y'Vrn Martyn," introduced the Captain.

Admiral Hanson extended his hand to me and I quickly rose from my chair and returned the gesture. All the while hoping that neither one of them could sense the confusion and embarrassment I was experiencing at the moment.

"Yes," said the Admiral as we shook hands, "I've heard quite a lot about you, Lieutenant."

"Lieutenant Martyn has been instrumental in helping us decipher several Cardassian military codes," said the Captain. "He seems to have quite a flare for it."

"Does he really?" said Admiral Hanson, sounding very impressed.

I shot a quick glance at my CO.

I had always admired Captain Edward Jellico from the moment I stepped aboard the Cairo. He had a keen sense of order and discipline that I have rarely found in other humans. He was a strong, imposing man with a keen sense of right and wrong that few other Starfleet officers could match. He did not easily give his loyalties, but when he did, you had them forever.

Had he not been born on Earth, I would have sworn that he had Yarzonian blood flowing through his veins.

The Captain and I had become as close as two officers could expect to be aboard a starship, but he was still my captain. And I was still just a lieutenant. So, I really didn't feel quite right telling him that I wanted to be called by my Yarzonian name. Especially not with a fleet admiral standing next to us in the same room!

The Admiral turned away from me and began to walk towards the doors. Captain Jellico began to follow him a second or two later. The doors parted and Admiral Hanson paced sprightly through the threshold and into the outside corridor. As Captain Jellico was about to depart as well, he turned back to face me once again.

"Well, don't just stand there, Lieutenant," he said sternly. "Follow us."

As I stepped into the at-the-moment-deserted corridor outside the research area, I noticed that Captain Jellico had already caught up with Admiral Hanson, who was walking at a light, but steady pace about twenty feet down. I dashed after them and finally joined them after about five seconds. Admiral Hanson shot a glance behind him at me as I came up behind them. He smiled again.

"Ah, there you are Lieutenant," said Admiral Hanson.

I chuckled to myself. This Admiral Hanson appeared to me to be the complete antithesis of Captain Jellico. He seemed open, warm, and it appeared that he would always make an effort to become friendly with every officer who served under him. I imagine that if some officers had a poker game going on in their off-duty hours, the Admiral would surely have wanted to join them.

And while I have no doubt that Hanson was an effective commander, (one didn't become an admiral in Starfleet because of their good looks,) it was a style that, at the time, I wasn't used to. Captain Jellico had once commented that to be an effective commander, you had to have some distance between yourself and the lower-ranking officers. Being too friendly with your shipmates could only bring about trouble for the ship, and for the longest time, that was precisely what I believed.

"I was just talking with your Captain about you, Lieutenant," Admiral Hanson continued. "Your service record aboard this ship has been commendable."

"Thank you sir," I said, carefully pacing my steps so that I didn't accidentally bump into the back of either one of them.

"I understand that it was you who deciphered the transmission detailing the Cardassian attack on Salla 3. We would have lost that colony if it hadn't been for your brilliant analysis."

"I really can't take all the credit sir," I stammered, feeling my cheeks flush.

"Don't be modest, Lieutenant," said Captain Jellico, with a rare smile. "If you hadn't been able to determine that they were using a trinary code, we would never have been able to figure out the rest."

"Well," I said again with slight embarrassment, "I still say it was a team effort."

"Modest," commented the Admiral. "And a real team player, too. I like that in an officer. I think you may just be the man we're looking for."

"For what, sir?" I wondered.

Admiral Hanson paused a moment before continuing. I've noticed that most high-ranking officers have a tendency to do that whenever they had something to tell you that noone else was meant to hear. I don't remember Admiral Hanson actually looking over his shoulder to make sure that the corridor was indeed clear of other people, but in retrospect, I imagine he might have. I know I would've!

"I imagine you're familiar with the records of the Federation's flag ship?" said Admiral Hanson.

"You mean the Enterprise?" I wondered.

Admiral Hanson nodded. "This hasn't been made public knowledge as of yet, but a few months back, the Enterprise encountered a life form which may pose a serious threat to the safety of all the Federated worlds."

"More than the Cardassians?" I enquired.

"More than the Cardassians, the Romulans, the Gorn, and the Tholians put together."

That surprised me, I recalled. I'd often wondered if sooner or later, the Federation might encounter an enemy that could prove to be too much to overcome. But I never thought I'd live to see the day that it actually happened. Now, here I was, in a corridor with both my captain and a high-ranking Starfleet admiral who had just told me that it was possible that that day had finally come!

"They're called the Borg," Admiral Hanson went on to say, "and Starfleet is anticipating that they will be in our region of space some time within the next three years."

It was even worse than I'd imagined. This Borg, whoever or whatever they were, must have had the upper echelons of Starfleet Command quaking in their boots. But still I wondered what all this had to do with me?

The Admiral quickly supplied me with the answer.

"A division is being created within Starfleet Tactical, whose mission will be to study the Borg and see if some kind of defense against them can developed in time. We're recruiting the best researchers and tactical analysts in Starfleet to operate this division."

"I take it then," I boldly ventured, "that I'm on your list?"

"Close to the top of it, actually," said Captain Jellico with pride.

There's an old Earth expression which says that happiness is a pat on the back from your boss. At that moment, I began to understand for the first time where that saying might have come from. Captain Jellico rarely, if ever, expressed pride in his officers. Perhaps he was afraid of their egos growing too large and consequently them not being able to complete their duties.

That's what made this display all the more special to me. At that time, I don't remember ever being happier in my life than I was at that moment. If I'd been near a mirror, I imagine the width of my smile would have been splitting my face in half.

"Well, what do you say, Lieutenant?" asked Admiral Hanson. "Would you like to be a part of Borg Tactical Analysis?"

With an excited nod of my head, I accepted the offer.

And sealed my fate.