Star Trek: Babylon
Andrew J. Talon
This is just my first foray into Star Trek fanfiction, which might continue on into some Pocketbook Star Trek novels (eventually). I met Peter David at a sci fi convention, and said he'd be glad to look into my writing. He might not remember me, but hey: Might as well give it a shot, right?
Physicists all around the universe had once thought light to be the fastest thing in existence. It formed an impenetrable barrier that stopped starships, communications, and all other objects. It was considered mythical, a divine force that taunted and humbled all who attempted to master it. These same physicists would probably be surprised to learn that here and now, in the twenty-fourth century, that light was considered something of a joke.
A race was considered advanced when it exceeded this simplest of electromagnetic phenomena, even more so when it abandoned light for more exotic energy waves, particles, and combinations of both. Tachyons, chronitons, quarks, leptons-All received the most attention from a civilization in interstellar matters. Light became obsolete and inconsequential. No one wanted to study light anymore.
And yet, light continued on, not stopping, not changing, despite the ever accelerating cosmos around it. If light were an entity, it might find amusement in the boasts of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who cast it off as a subject for study. Their greatest starships could exceed light's constant speed, could outrun it without even trying, but when those starships ran out of fuel or power, it was light that continued to plod on. The subtle tortoise to sentient being's loud, noisy hares.
Light was never in a hurry. It didn't have to be.
Spacefaring beings, however, were a different matter.
The smoke-choked bridge was a cacophony of blurred lights, fuzzy figures, and blinding sparks. The captain in the middle of the chaos gripped the armrests of his chair like he was trying to strangle the innocent piece of furniture, as the deck rolled beneath him from another blast.
"Shields at thirty percent! Primary reactor coolant lines are down! Switching to backups!" Shouted his engineer, cursing colorfully from somewhere in the haze. The captain swore loudly as the ship shuddered and slammed back into normal space, crewmembers around him losing their balance.
"Warp engines are down! The core is just too unstable!"
"Fifteen dead on deck nine, sir!"
"Aft shields are down!"
The varied reports bombarded the captain, even as the vessel shook from another blast courtesy of her assailant. The captain got up and stumbled over to the engineering station, gripping the back of his officer's chair.
"Do we still have impulse power?"
"Ensign! Best speed! Random heading!" He turned to the distressed-looking tactical officer. "Throw our last torpedoes at them!"
"Aye!" His view switched back to the main screen ahead, suffering from lines of static as it fought to maintain a picture. Their pursuer, a massive sphere-shaped vessel, took the hits, but continued closing in.
"Damn. Anywhere nearby to hide?"
"I'm seeing… Something over to port… Looks like… An anomaly, of some kind," the operations officer reported loudly. She screamed as her console exploded, sending her flying to the middle of the bridge. The captain dove for cover just as another console exploded, pelting him with white-hot pieces of metal and polymers. He looked up, swore loudly, before typing something on the ruptured piloting console at the head of the bridge. He ignored the further screams of the wounded, ignoring the ceaseless pounding of the enemy ship's weapons-His entire being focused on the growing, blue sphere before them, offering them salvation from the deadly sphere behind them. Another hit, and the ship lost attitude control, tumbling like a leaf in the wind as it disappeared into the blue sphere. The pursuing vessel attempted to follow, but froze at the edge of the strange object. It stayed stuck, as though caught in a sticky web.
It began to quiver and shake, as though loosening itself from its invisible captor. Only instead of escaping, the ship was squashed, imploding into a flaming, wretched ball of debris. Only then could it enter the anomaly, but obviously it had not intended to go in as irony's bitch.
A last communiqué from the sphere-shaped vessel had been sent to its brethren: Continuing pursuit of starship Zhukov: Request inquiry into Sector 5336A anomalies.
The response had come almost immediately, but no one was there to hear it.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway started at the mild bump to her seat, and looked about quickly. She relaxed silently at the sight of a wide, well-lit shuttle bay outside the shuttle view screens, before turning her attention to her rather sheepish-looking pilot next to her.
"Sorry, Admiral. First time out of the sims," explained the young Bolian female, as she blushed dark blue. Janeway nodded in an almost regal manner, and smiled gently at the pilot.
"It's not a problem, Ensign. Just keep practicing. Not all transfers from Earth to the shipyards are as uneventful," Janeway advised, standing up and walking to the shuttle's rear hatch. Slowly, it descended, centimeter by centimeter, until finally it settled on the deck without a sound. Janeway blinked awkwardly at the prim, blonde lieutenant standing at attention before her, who had averted her gaze.
"Admiral Janeway… Welcome aboard Sojourner. The captain is expecting you," the officer stated quietly. Janeway blinked at her once more, before slowly nodding.
"Miss Gilmore." The former crew member of the infamous USS i Equinox /i nodded politely, and held out an arm to her left, motioning the admiral forward. Janeway turned and walked, Gilmore trailing behind. The shuttle bay operator stood at attention, to which Janeway nodded, before entering the turbolift, Gilmore right behind her. As it closed, Gilmore ordered the elevator to the bridge, and with a high-pitched hum it began to move. Neither spoke for a few moments.
"I wanted to thank you, Admiral… For speaking on my behalf at the court martial," broke Gilmore softly. The Admiral, not looking at her, simply nodded.
"Your actions warranted that I do so. Your service on Voyager did so as well." Janeway frowned. "I wasn't told you had been assigned to this ship."
"Captain Lee was the only captain who would let me join his crew, ma'am," Gilmore replied in a willowy tone. Janeway's frown deepened.
"I see." The lift mercifully reached the bridge, opening with a soft beep.
"Admiral on deck," squeaked a high-pitched voice in Federation standard. The admiral, having taken only a step onto the bridge, did a double take at the source of the order.
A dolphin, in a Starfleet uniform hovered in the air before her. Its eyes were narrowed as it looked over the straight-backed crew members on the bridge. The dolphin then turned and straightened its tail and flippers, inclining its head slightly to the openly gaping Janeway.
"Lieutenant Commander Twi'lei'hei, at your service, Admiral," the dolphin spoke in that same, high-pitched squeak. Janeway's gape turned into a broad grin.
"It's been a while, Commander. I haven't seen you since we were on the Billings." The admiral approached the dolphin, waving her arms slightly in what was roughly a human version of a dolphin handshake. Twi'lei'hei's perpetual dolphin grin remained in place.
"Weren't you a navigator?" Janeway asked.
"I switched to command. It's surprisingly easy to order people around and keep them in line." Twi'lei'hei snapped his jaws, inclining his head a bit more deeply. Janeway laughed, returning the gesture.
"Now, now, Commander Twee, let's not keep our guest waiting," came a gentle, yet roughened voice from behind Janeway. She turned, and had a flashback to Voyager upon meeting eyes very much like ones she'd encountered before on a bridge nearly identical to this one.
He was medium height, not much taller than she was, actually. His relatively pale skin and limber gait gave away a past spent in space. His brown hair was rather messy, something the admiral unconsciously tensed at. He would have never run around on her ship with a bird's nest like that on his head.
The most prominent of his features were easily his eyes. They were large, violet pools that coolly surveyed her, as though looking right through her. She returned with a cool gaze of her own, but found little more than what she had already gauged.
"Admiral, if you will," Captain Lee gestured behind him to his ready room. The admiral nodded, and regally walked past him, into the ready room, the captain behind her. She turned as soon as the doors closed behind him, but he was already headed to his desk. Once he sat, he gestured to the guest chair, and she sat.
"So, what brings you to my ship, Admiral?" Captain Lee opened with his fingers templed in front of him. The admiral maintained his level gaze, offering a small smile.
"You see little need for small talk. I like that. I'll cut to the chase, then: What do you know about Unimatrix Zero?" Lee's eyes hardened slightly.
"Former Borg drones, who broke free from the Collective and mounted a rebellion. Thanks largely to your efforts, Admiral, as I recall. Ever since the Collective collapsed nine months ago, ever more former drones have joined Unimatrix Zero, which has established itself as a space-going nation that has allied itself with the Federation. However, a number of other former Borg drones have refused to join, and are now using Borg technology for their own means."
"Many liberated races have begun taking revenge against their former oppressors, before their assimilation by the Borg," Janeway acknowledged with a nod. "Along with Romulan, Klingon, and even Cardassian former drones returning home with their prizes, and the situation is quickly getting out of hand. One of our ships, the Zhukov, was on a deep space reconnaissance mission to locate a rumored central hub, where several factions have been organizing and producing new Borg vessels. However, we lost contact with her two weeks ago, and Unimatrix Zero reports that they have picked up a few rogue Borg communications regarding the vessel's disappearance, along with one of their own spheres. But, not their destruction." Janeway leaned back in her chair, pushing a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear.
"If the Zhukov found the central hub, it is imperative we locate her, get the needed information, and take out the installation as quickly as possible. Now,as I understand it, the Sojourner has recently finished her refit to Voyager standard?" Captain Lee nodded.
"The production model Delta Flyer has been integrated into our shuttle pool without too much work. The Borg-modified astrometrics lab is nearly finished, along with the Borg modifications to the sensors, weapons, and shields. My chief engineer believes we can be ready for operational deployment in two, maybe three days." Lee smiled slightly. "The hull armor's been installed for a while now, but we've still received no word on either getting the Voyager stealth technology, or the torpedoes. My inquiries into getting them are never answered."
"Unfortunately, those technologies have been classified and relocated," Janeway replied flatly. "Our hull armor is not seen as so much of a threat as are the other technologies we… Brought back."
"Well, all of the upgrades are certainly major improvements, but even with them, we can't take on a Borg sphere, much less a major base of operations," Lee returned with a slight edge.
"Who says you'd have to?"
"If the Zhukov found something big, there's little doubt that the other ex-Borg are going to be looking for her too. And one little Intrepid-class starship, even with the new armor, isn't going to be near enough protection." Lee knit his fingers, looking at Janeway curiously. Janeway observed him stoically.
"Are you arranging for us to get those torpedoes, or the stealth tech?"
"Like I said… They've been classified."
"This mission's classified, isn't it?"
"Not that classified." Lee grimaced.
"Could we wrangle a cloak out of the Klingons?"
"Nope. You're going in with Task Force Pi," Janeway answered. She smiled in a slightly impish manner.
"The Sojourner will carry the ball. With your Borg upgrades you'll be the perfect ship to locate other Borg vessels, and, hopefully, the Zhukov." Lee nodded thoughtfully.
"Who is the task force commander?"
"Captain Koroshiya, of the USS Archangel. I have a feeling that even former Borg remember what a Sovereign-class starship did to them," Janeway noted with a predatory smile. Lee frowned.
"You aren't leading the task force, admiral?"
"I've been put in charge of upgrading all Intrepid-class starships in the fleet to Voyager standard. However, this allows me to take Voyager out along with the task force for slipstream testing, though I won't be in command of the fleet, no." The admiral smirked. "I sometimes wonder if Starfleet's keeping me in a position that doesn't allow me to screw around with the timeline again."
"You do have a considerably higher record of temporal violations than most other Starfleet captains… Even Kirk," Lee observed mildly. Janeway chuckled.
"You've done your homework."
"Always do… Well, when it counts for something. That's why I failed Theoretical Neutrino Variances," Lee noted dryly. "Couldn't see what the hubbub was about."
"Was that the class taught by Professor Ferrowright? I think I used that class to catch up on my sleep," Janeway shared with a small grin. Lee nodded.
"The same." Janeway sighed and leaned back in her chair again, before straightening and looking Captain Lee right in the eyes, unyielding this time.
"Captain… Adam… I've read your background."
"I know about the incident aboard the Endeavor," Janeway continued carefully before being interrupted by the captain's snorted breath.
"Please, Admiral. If you thought I wasn't up to this mission, you wouldn't have come in person. Correct?" Janeway sighed and shook her head.
"No. I wouldn't."
"Then… All you need to do, is tell me what to do, and I will accomplish this mission," Lee inclined his head, holding Janeway's gaze. Janeway cringed.
"Actually, I came here personally because I'm assigning… An expert to this mission. Someone intimately familiar with Borg technology." Lee blinked, before narrowing his eyes.
"No." Janeway blinked.
"No. Nein. No way. Non. Bek!" Janeway glared.
"Uh uh. Foul. Ab'i. Cree nnk nkk!"
"Does not compute."
"Captain, you will accept Miss Seven of Nine aboard this ship for this mission. Those are your orders!"
"Why not your old EMH? Surely he'd be better suited, right?"
"Captain, she's been free from the Collective for quite some time. If your concerns are on security I can assure you-"
"No, no… it's not that, Admiral. However… She is, well…" Janeway frowned in puzzlement.
"Yes?" Lee grimaced as though he was swallowing something foul.
"… Nevermind. It's merely personal differences between us, ma'am. She was rather… Rude, annoying, controlling, insensitive, in conclusion, a total bitch, ma'am!" Lee gritted his teeth.
"And those damn catsuits of hers! Can't she wear something less likely to get her busted for prostitution on Bajor, ma'am?" Janeway sighed deeply, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Captain, she is a civilian. She is free to wear what she wishes, within reason. And she is the expert assigned to this mission. If you don't want her onboard, I'm sure we could move her to the Archangel. But, if this mission is to succeed, it requires her to actually be able to use Borg technology. And none of the other ships in TFΠ have had it installed. So, Captain, do you really want your personal feelings to sabotage this mission?" Lee glared deeply at her, a gaze filled with simmer hatred and despair just behind the pupils. But, before she could probe further, the mask was back in place, and Lee sighed in personal exasperation.
"No, Admiral. I will carry out my mission." Janeway nodded.
"Good. Now then, she will be aboard within the hour. After which, you will rendezvous with TFΠ, at coordinates which will be brought along by Seven. But… While I'm here, I was hoping I could talk with one of your crewmates. An old friend of mine…"
To be continued...
A/N: I changed the name of Captain Lee's ship because Sojourner has been used so rarely in Star Trek fiction as a name for a ship. I mean, the Soujourner/Pathfinder mission to Mars in 1996 attracted more viewers than the moon landings!That's something that should be commemorated!Besides, Aquarius is more appropriate for a Galaxy-class starship, since they're named for great explorers (Magellan), or famousmanned spacecraft (Odyssey, Enterprise). So there.