Ensign Kerry Haldane strode purposefully down the gargantuan vessel's corridor, heading to her next assignment. The task would be simple, as were all tasks on board the ship. A simple medical procedure that fit her 'specialism' perfectly. As she arrived at the small chamber which contained her 'patient', she stared coldly at the young child strapped to the bed, then, using the special cauterising blade mounted onto her right arm, cleanly severed the screaming boy's arm above the elbow.
"Resistance is futile", Kerry thought. Kerry felt. Kerry, with what remained of her soul, truly believed. The child was clearly in pain, but pain was irrelevant. He was emotionally distressed, but emotions were irrelevant. His screaming parents were stood at the opposite end of the room to Kerry, screaming at her to stop the process of assimilation, but they were no threat to her, and therefore also irrelevant.
There was a time when Kerry would have been deeply concerned about the boy's suffering. But that time was also irrelevant. The only thing that was relevant was that she was Borg. And soon, the child would also be Borg. Kerry truly believed this, for she had no other choice. The collective believed this, therefore so did she.
An alarm sounded in Kerry's head. A Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S. Bangkok, NCC-74778, had just dropped out of high warp and begun firing on their sphere. The vessel was Intrepid-class- small with only moderate armaments. It posed no threat to her vessel. Kerry continued 'operating' on the boy, slicing open his torso and inserting various components necessary to complete the assimilation before his stay in the maturation chamber.
Another alarm sounded in Kerry's head. Three armed Starfleet officers had beamed onto the sphere less than fifty metres from her location. However, her task took more importance. As she sensed them near her location she projected a forcefield to protect her body from the humans' weapons. She sensed one of the humans aim a weapon at her that neither she nor the trillions of minds passing through her head recognised. Unconcerned for her safety, for she was but one drone amongst many, Kerry turned around to face her attackers, then felt a wave pass through her as the unusual rifle was fired. Immediately, Kerry became aware of the silence. The entire voice of the collective had fallen silent, as though a loud explosion had gone off behind her ears, deafening her. Unable to cope with the sudden silence, her implants began juddering to a halt, and her spasming body collapsed to the deck.
Lieutenant John Mitchell looked down at the drone lying motionless at his feet. Beneath the armour plating grafted directly onto her flesh, beneath the implants disfiguring her face, and beneath the cold, dead grey skin, mottled with blue and black features, John could instantly tell that the drone used to be a human woman. And likely a young one too. Hell, she could even have been a Starfleet officer. Fighting back the urge to retch at the smell of the drone's, of all the drones' mutilated, rotting flesh, John hastily slapped a transceiver onto the drone's torso and tapped his combadge.
"Mitchell to Fossett," he said hurriedly, "four to beam directly to sickbay." John breathed a sigh of relief as the USS Fossett's transporter beam engulfed him, and within seconds, he and his team found themselves safely back on their ship- which, he knew instinctively, would already be warping away from the scene, the Sphere too preoccupied with the assimilation to follow. He lowered his weapon as the ship's CMO strode over to the drone and began scanning her.
"The interplexing beacon has completely shut down," Doctor Russell confirmed. "She is neither receiving nor transmitting orders to the collective. Looks like you're going to get that promotion after all, John." John smiled as he stared at the weapon in his hand, which could be his ticket to fame and fortune, but more importantly, the key to stopping the Borg once and for all...
Kerry became aware of voices as she slowly returned to consciousness, but they were not in her head- they were in her ear.
"Her immune system is reasserting itself much faster than anticipated," one voice, a man, said. "We have suppressed it as far as we can and provided the implants with the necessary energy, but we will need to begin the transplants as soon as possible. She's stable for now but I'd really like to transplant her new heart and lungs as soon as possible, along with the new veins and arteries we've had cloned. Her digestive system can wait until her heart and lungs have been accepted and we've had the chance to remove more of the implants."
"Good, good," another man, slightly younger from the tone of his voice, said. "How about her endocrine system? And her arms?"
"That will take considerably longer," the first man answered. "Her endocrine and nervous systems are already recovering by way of accelerated stem cell therapy, but her arms will not be ready for another week."
Are they talking about us? Kerry thought to herself as her vision, enhanced by the implant drilled through her left eye, began to come back into focus. Wait a minute, us? Why am I saying 'us' when there's only one of us... me here? They said Borg... we are Borg? I am Borg? Am I? Suddenly, flashes of images, of happier, more colourful times, flashed before Kerry's eyes. Memories and emotions she hadn't felt for a long time all hit her at once, and had she had lungs, she would have found herself gasping for air. Kerry Haldane, she remembered. My name is Kerry Haldane... not Four of Eleven. I'm human. I'm a Starfleet officer... Oh God! Flashes of less happy times flashed before Kerry's eyes. The unmistakable sight of a Borg Sphere appearing at her viewscreen. The feel of a cold, vice-like grip on her shoulder and plastic tubules puncturing her carotid artery... and the feeling of her mind slowly slipping away, being subjugated by trillions of voices all telling her one thing- that resistance was futile. And it was. But the most sickening thought entering Kerry's mind was that she let it happen. She had fought them, but she hadn't been nearly strong enough. And over a very short space of time, she came to truly believe that she was Borg. That what she was doing, all the atrocities she had committed, were in a just cause.
"No," Kerry said quietly to herself as she surveyed her mutilated body. She stared in horror at the mechanical stump that sat where her right forearm once was, and at the silver square of disinfectant material covering her left shoulder, her left arm completely missing. Her mind numb, Kerry slowly leaned her head forward and stared into the gaping hole in her abdomen. Inside the black, black cavity she saw no intestines, but instead two power generators, either side of a long, black pipe that Kerry instantly knew was her spinal column. Closing her organic eye as tightly as she could, Kerry leaned back on the bed and screamed. She screamed and screamed and screamed, and was only stopped when she felt a hypospray hiss into her neck, and her world was once again consumed by the blissful darkness of sleep.
Doctor Callum Russell sighed and wiped his brow, placing his surgical gown, gloves and hat into the replicator, where they were quickly reduced to their component atoms, ready to be formed into something else entirely. Sighing away the stress of the four-hour operation, he stared over at his patient, amazed at the transformation that had occurred. Modern medical techniques had enabled him to remove even the most stubborn of the woman's implants, and she laid there now, 100 human, breathing through artificially-created lungs. The only indication anything had ever happened to her were the absence of her left arm, and the fact her head still was devoid of hair. A night with electrical stimulators on her scalp should solve the latter problem- but her arm still won't be prepared for another week. Returning to his desk, Callum looked up to see Tony Shepherd, the ship's counsellor, enter the room.
"How's our drone?" Tony asked dryly as he sat down opposite Callum, the doctor still wondering how a man with his sense of humour found work as a therapist.
"Recovering," Callum answered. "The genetic excitation therapy worked perfectly, I got all the Borg shit out without significant damage to the surrounding human parts, even the brain. It'll take her a while to adapt to her new body parts but she'll be fine in the long run."
"Even with one arm?" Tony quipped.
"That's just temporary, it'll be attached by this time next week. I've done my part Tony, now you have a lot of work ahead of you. Have you ever worked with ex-drones before?"
"Not extensively," Tony answered seriously. "I've read profiles, but never had a sit-down talk with one. What do we know of this girl anyway?"
"Ensign Kerry Haldane," Callum read aloud from his PADD. "23 years old from Liverpool, graduated from Starfleet Academy two years ago, majoring in astronavigation. Assigned as helm officer on USS Reed, lost 14 weeks ago whilst on patrol along the Breen border. Missing, presumed dead- now we know the truth of what happened. Away from her post she was the only child of two Starfleet officers, and in her youth was talented at ballet, horse riding, played the cello and flute and sang in her school orchestra."
"Do you have a full profile on her likes and dislikes? Being around familiar surroundings will help along the rehabilitation process," Tony asked. "Though obviously the cello thing and the flute thing will have to wait a while. As will the horse riding."
"I don't want to bring her round just yet," Callum stated as the two men headed toward the exit of the sickbay. "Come back tomorrow, after I've had a chance to grow her hair, she should be strong enough then."
"Right," Tony said, before smirking. "Still on for dinner tonight?"
"Not even a Borg Sphere will drag me away," Callum said with a smirk of his own, giving the counsellor, his lover, a brief kiss on the lips as he left. Smiling, Callum returned to his desk and began to type his report of the operation. The entire mission had been a success- from the Lieutenant's frequency dampening weapon, to the new transphasic torpedoes crippling the sphere in one shot, to Callum's own genetic excitation therapy, providing healing at a much faster and more efficient rate than any tool in his sickbay. Starfleet Command would undoubtedly reward the entire crew of the Bangkok for their success of the mission. But whilst Callum was typing his report and mentally calculating which officers would receive which reward, there was one person he neglected to include in his list- the young woman recovering on the bio-bed...
Kerry took a deep breath through her nose, and marvelled at just how peculiar it sounded, as though she hadn't heard the sound of her own breath in months. She ran her right hand over her face and through her long blonde hair, wondering why her whole body felt sore, yet at the same time tingly, as though she had pins and needles all throughout. Kerry tried to lift her left arm to scratch her ear, but was moderately surprised when the limb refused to move.
"Must've fallen asleep on it again," Kerry muttered to herself as she reached over to feel for her left arm. When she couldn't locate it, she began to worry somewhat.
"Huh?" She mumbled as she groggily opened her eyes and stared down at the silver disinfectant patch covering her left shoulder. Suddenly, images flashed before her eyes, horrifying images of Borg drones staring at her, drilling holes in her chest, or her slicing open cowering, defenceless aliens. Images of the tubes that were once her intestines being pulled out of her abdomen and inserted into her neck, of her arm being severed cleanly and replaced with a cutting tool of her own, and of a microscopic drill puncturing her eyeball, drilling through her retina and not stopping until it reached the back of her optic nerve...
"NO!" Kerry screamed loudly, clutching her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth in a state of pure, unadulterated panic. When she felt a hand touch her shoulder, she screamed, jumping out of bed and running toward the sickbay door as fast as she could...
"Computer, lock sickbay doors," Doctor Russell ordered, wincing as he heard the inevitable 'thud' of Kerry running headlong into the door, followed by another inevitable 'thud' of Kerry falling backward onto the sickbay floor, dazed and, much to Callum's relief, no longer screaming. Taking his opportunity, Callum ran over to where Kerry lay slumped on the floor and picked the young woman up, sitting her on the nearest bio-bed.
"Listen to me," Callum said firmly but patiently. "You've been through an incredible ordeal, both mentally and physically, but you're safe now. You're on the USS Bangkok, a Starfleet vessel. We're heading back to the heart of the Federation. Everyone on this ship is just trying to help you, Kerry. Can you understand what I'm telling you?" Kerry nodded quickly, desperately trying to prevent herself from panicking again. "My name's Callum, Doctor Callum Russell. Can you tell me your full name?" Kerry felt slightly patronized by the intimation that she couldn't remember her own name, but understood that she needed to cooperate with the Doctor.
"Kerry," she whispered quietly, "Kerry Haldane."
"Can you tell me your rank and serial number?" Kerry looked vacant for a few moments. The day she'd joined Starfleet had been one of the happiest days of her life, but now merely being on a Starfleet vessel, despite the Doctor's reassurances, was sending a chill through her body.
"They stopped being..." Kerry paused, catching her tongue before saying the word 'relevant'. "...Important a long time ago."
"You're still on the books as a Starfleet officer," Doctor Russell informed her. "What you've been through the past few months doesn't change that one fact, and I'm sure there are captains in the fleet who'd want a good officer like you as their conn." Kerry thought briefly of her parents, both Commanders serving on ships of the line, and how they must have felt when the news of the Reed's destruction had reached them. Surely they'd want her to continue in the service, but after all she'd seen, all she'd done, how could she serve with a clear conscience?
"Maybe there are," Kerry mumbled, "but I'm through with Starfleet. I'd be happy never to set foot on a starship ever again."
"Luckily for you, you don't have to make that decision right now," Callum replied. "I'm placing you on indefinite medical leave. Take some time out, go home; I'm sure there are some places on Earth you haven't visited. I hear Brazil's lovely this time of year."
"I'll keep it in mind," Kerry mumbled, again staring at her missing arm- or rather, where it should have been.
"And don't worry, we're growing a new one of those right now," Callum said, smiling. "Should have it attached next week."
"Great," Kerry sarcastically grunted. "Doctor Russell, could you do me a favour please?"
"Sure," Callum said, "just name it."
"When you contact my parents," Kerry said shakily, "don't tell them I was- I was-" As hard as she tried, she couldn't force the word 'assimilated' past her lips, or even past her brain without wanting to break down in floods of tears.
"We've already sent them a message saying your ship was destroyed and your escape pod crash-landed on a nearby planet, where you heroically survived alone for three months with only native flora and fauna to sustain you," Callum explained. "They think you're the second coming of Tarzan!" For the first time in over a quarter of a year, Kerry smiled- and Callum was struck by how beautiful a sight it was.
"Thanks," Kerry whispered, again fighting to hold back the tears.
"We'll be at Earth in less than six days," Callum explained. "I've arranged for you to meet with the ship's counsellor for a few sessions, but in the meantime, if you want anything to read or watch, the ship's library database is at your disposal- I've had a full access login created for you."
"Thanks again," Kerry said, as Callum handed her a customised one-handed PADD that she began scrolling down, barely paying attention to the articles as she wondered just how the hell she was meant to rebuild her life, when it had been so utterly and ruthlessly devastated...