Tissue Paper


Summary: Companion oneshot to Ozymandias, and even more scattered. The Enterprise-D goes into battle against a Borg cube, awake and aware in the midst of chaos.

Disclaimer: Le'letha has an Enterprise-D on her desk, and she loves it very much. Obviously she does not own the real one, otherwise her house would be crushed and she would be staring stupidly and attempting to process said miracle.


The sky is full of fire, and I cannot see the stars.

Around me, only the heat and light of battle in the cold and obsidian void; within me, order superimposed on chaos.

My world is full of chaos, and I struggle to protect my charges, my children, my masters; to strike out against those who would destroy both of us and continue on for more; to maintain the control that allows me to exist.

Does a starship have a survival instinct?

In times of peace, I have never found an answer to that question, when I ponder it. Perhaps I do not want to. Do I fear that the answer will be a negative, that I am nothing more than a collection of spare parts?

In times of battle, I know the answer in a gut I do not have. If I had no will to live, we would have died years ago; instead my crew and I bear the proud title of 'flagship'.

Which of us is the flagship? The ship, or the people? If the ship is also a person, what variable does that throw into the equation?

There are too many variables in a situation of life and death. My crew commands me to defend them, and I obey them willingly. Their hands direct me into the maw of death, and I race without pause into battle.

I am bound to obey; I am bound to protect; I am bound to find a middle ground when the two instincts clash. Logic routines tell me that we cannot win this fight, that the mechanical horrors in the ship too square to be a ship will destroy us, consume my children, and make me one of them if they do not simply blast me to shreds. I have sailed through the dust of space all my life. My corpse will join them if they do not fuse my body and secret mind to their self and their ships.

The logic routines tell me to flee. They tell me to turn tail on the abominations and run, run far away, where no one can hurt the feeble, vulnerable, endangered biological organisms that are protected from the inferno and fury of the empty void by my slightly more resilient body alone.

Those same small beings shake their fists at logic and survival instinct and turn and shake their fists again at the horror outside, even as the Borg ship burns fire into my side, rupturing the skin that shelters them.

Poor, brave, foolish beings, in an element they were never designed to inhabit, fighting a foe so far beyond them…

…And winning. We have won before. We will win again. And to hell with the logic circuits!

If the logic circuits could protest, they would be whirring angrily and giving me a long list of logical reasons why I am going to get one thousand people and one curiously sentient starship killed very quickly, very uselessly. However, I am the starship here and they merely shift tracks to analyze the best course of action, taking into account that our survival is no longer the top priority. It is currently hovering somewhere around item two point nine.

One: Destroy the Borg cube.

Two: Disable the Borg cube.

Three: Get out alive.

Sums it up rather, I think. After a quick bit of thought, I switch items; putting 'disable' at the top, 'survive' right below it, and 'destruction' at three. My crew is not the only one curious about the Borg, and 'live and learn' is right at the beginning of the self-preservation code.

The logic circuits have long since given up in mechanical disgust, and whirr metaphorically away in the computer core. Despite common sense, the computer core is not where I reside. I suspect I shall find my soul's resting place at the same time my people do.

Does a starship have a soul, if it can love her crew and people and place her own survival at a high priority? If she understands self-sacrifice, and that she cannot find her own soul, does she have one? Can failing to find something be the proof of its existence?

Fire and cold, mechanical darkness is blinding me, and I cannot hear the void.

Hell roars through the airless void between us, giving tongue through the claws of blazing light that rip at me and the void-black, green-glowing cube that hisses at me with the voice of death.

Ennui and entropy whisper through the silence, the cold voice of the uncaring stars. Over the ever-present voice —so welcoming! To lie down, give in, rest in the cradle of the universe! —the unforgiving mantra of the ones trying to destroy me beats against a skin that cannot hear.

The voice of the universe, the chant of the stars, wailing and trilling and rumbling so deep as to shake me in my flight, is gone. Where is it? I cannot hear…

Oh, the silence. Where is my universe? All I can hear is fire.

Fire lashes my flanks and burns deep within. The cries of my people grate upon my soul. I am doing all I can!

They scream at the universe and cool my wounds, renew my power and guide my hands to the kill. Oh, that the cube could bleed! Revenge is sweet, and phaser fire—my claws, my teeth, my knife and my sword—is anything but cold.

Courage and defiance is humanity's greatest force and flaw; to spit in the face of death and challenge him to come and fetch you. I am not human, my body is not in the image of my makers, but my heart is one of them, and they are me.

I burn; without, within, the howls of the inferno, the whisper of the void. I can hear the dark thoughts of the cube, reaching out to drag me in, make me a void that consumes everything.

I am a creature of the void, not emptiness itself. I fill the vacuum that nature abhors. You will not consume us!

Revenge, served cold, burns deep.

My world is an inferno, and it burns me with the cold.

I cannot go on this way. I bleed energy across the vacuum, and it is little consolation that a cube that was never designed to limp is faltering in its unyielding quest to squash the little firefly leaping into its path with an unexpected sting. And so there! But I bleed…

The damage within me is growing. In defying death I have risked everything, and I cannot, will not lose! Let it burn!

My crew, my children, try to stop the bleeding, repair the broken bones that bring my body collapsing from the inside. This is how it is then. I cannot feel. I am numb.

Where are the winds, to stroke my sides as I stroll through their breezes, the breath of countless stars? The warmth of suns, set out ages ago before my birth, to warm my void-chilled skin?

I can only throw myself against a wall of hunger, and hope that it does not consume me before we can fill it. Nature abhors a vacuum. We are the substance of which the universe of light and motion and spirit is made, and if to fill a vacuum we must die ourselves, so be it.

Feeling returns from within, death licks at my heels. They cannot face death with inaction, and I love them for it. Hands, soft to my duranium sides, repair and reroute and keep me together so that I might keep them alive.

The universe sings beneath the fire. I can rest. The fire will go out, and all will be quiet. At peace. I will no longer have to worry about the fragile life-forms that are my duty and my life.


…I owe them. No amount of protection can repay my people for the gift of my life, my self, the soul I cannot find. But it is all I can give them.

Whose voice, whose prayer? In the chaos, I cannot tell.

Hold together, girl.

I am more human than they know. My response and loudest thought is To hell with you!

And it is as if my words make it so. Oh, the power of that. Reality is what I wish it to be.

What have I set in motion? I already know. Before me, a mélange of startled cries in a single voice do not believe in defeat, do not believe in ending.

We know about ends. We know it will come for us one day. But it is all too human to choose the reason and day.

There are other feelings, other sights, other sounds, other places to go.

I have not repaid my debt.

But for now I can turn and leap with the last tatters of my strength to a safe distance, flames reaching for my back, but warm with the fires of victory.

My people are my world. All that I am, I owe to them. And so I will love them to the last of my strength.

I trust them.

And they trust me.

One with the other. Life calls to life.

Author's Note: The title may need a little explaining. In one of my TNG books (either Vendetta, Q-Squared, or Dark Mirror), in a conversation between Beverly and Deanna, one of them mentions a 'tissue-paper starship' and they conclude that it wouldn't be very useful, just pretty. Tissue paper, after all, is so fragile. It rips and tears very easily. Life is fragile; life is beautiful; life burns. Apparently life is very scattered, but I wrote as I thought. Ok, so the connection's flimsy, but it was the first thought I had when this struck in the middle of my Theology quiz. (Don't worry. Theology's my best class.)