"Acknowledged," Picard said, his previous feeling of happiness of Worf's improved condition vanishing in an instant. He turned to Geordie. "I need you in Engineering."
"Aye, sir," Geordie replied and immediately left Sick Bay.
"Doctor, I fear we may well be needing your skills again soon," Picard stated.
"I hope not," Doctor Crusher replied, "but we'll be ready."
Picard nodded his head in acknowledgement, not expecting anything less, and then left the Sick Bay on his way to the Bridge. As he stepped inside the turbolift, he realised that this might be the best time to extend the olive branch towards Alexander.
"Captain Picard to Alexander Harris," Picard's voice rang out in Ten Forward.
Guinan and Xander looked at one another for a moment, knowing there was really only one reason the Captain would be contacting him, before Xander tapped the comm. badge he'd been given.
"Harris here," Xander replied, his tone serious.
"The Borg vessel has found us and is in an intercept course; I'm on my way to the Bridge now, and I would appreciate it if you would join me."
Xander's eyes widened a little in surprise, not by the request as he'd figured they would want him there, but by the fact that it was truly a request. Before this moment, whether it had been stated as a request or not, Xander had known he'd little or no choice in complying; now however, he could tell that if he said no, while Picard would not be pleased, he would not force the issue.
"I'll meet-" Xander cut off as Guinan indicated with her hands that she was to come along. "We'll meet you there. Shall I keep to conventional travel or not?"
There was a pause, and Xander could tell that Picard had been thrown by the comment, but rallied quickly. "Conventional means will suffice, Mr- Alexander," Picard replied, and Xander smirked at the way he stopped himself from calling him Mr. Harris. "Picard out."
"You realise he doesn't mean to insult you when he says that," Guinan stated, seeing Xander's smirk.
"What?" Xander asked in confusion.
"Calling you Mr. Harris; it's common for him to call anyone on his crew like that, even the women."
"I know, I've dealt with military types before," Xander replied, "and before you say anything, while Starfleet would probably not consider itself a military organisation, their ranks and regulations are very similar to the American Navy of my time."
"So why do you get annoyed by it?" Guinan asked.
"My father was a drunk and an asshole," Xander stated bluntly. "He sometimes managed to only be one or the other, but most of the time he was both. Whether it's intentional or not, whenever someone says Mr. Harris it reminds me of him, and I've spent the best part of my life trying to forget the bastard ever existed."
Before Guinan had a chance to respond, Xander got up and held his hand out to her. "We better get a move on; I don't know what's caused the Captains' shift in mood, but I don't want to run the risk that it has a time limit."
Guinan nodded her head, knowing that particular topic of conversation was over, at least for the time being, and took Xander's hand, allowing him to help her up. She didn't need the help of course, and Xander knew it, but it seemed that he'd had instilled within him old fashioned manners. Very old fashioned, as most other females on this vessel would have taken the gesture as an insult to their independence, unless they were on a date of course.
When Xander and Guinan stepped out of the turbolift and onto the Bridge, they could almost see the tension in the air. Despite both of them being naturally quiet when they moved, the sound of the turbolift doors alerted the crew that someone had arrived, and Picard and Riker turned to look in their direction.
"Hello, Alexander," Picard greeted as he stood up from his seat, before turning his attention to Guinan. "I wasn't expecting you, Guinan, but you are always welcome."
"Thank you, Captain," Guinan replied with a small smile as she and Xander walked down to stand next to him.
"How far away are they?" Xander asked as he looked at the Borg vessel on the viewscreen.
"From what we saw of their capabilities, we will be within their firing range in the next half hour," Picard replied, ignoring the look he was receiving from his First Officer. He had already heard from Riker his thoughts on having Xander on the Bridge, and was in no mood to rehash things. "We are already going at maximum warp, but they are still steadily gaining on us."
"I will do what I'm able to help, but I am already close to crossing the line," Xander stated, wanting to get that out there now. "I will be able to help work out a solution, but I don't know how much more direct action Q will allow me to take."
"Anything you can do will be appreciated," Picard informed him, and Xander could tell he actually meant that.
Xander wasn't certain what had caused the sudden change of heart from the Captain, although he had a sneaking suspicion it was in no small part to do with a certain lady standing next to him, but he was definitely glad of it. This was the first time since he'd come onboard that he thought he might have a real chance of succeeding in his mission.
"One thing you should be aware of Captain, is that the Borg will not be aiming to destroy your ship, but to gain control," Guinan said, having thought over what she knew of them. "You have technology that they might be able to use, and will want to assimilate it, and most likely the crew as well. That you were able to escape from your previous encounter will only make you seem more valuable to them."
If anything, her statement took the tension on the Bridge up a notch. Dying in the process of trying to save the ship was one thing; to be turned into one of the things you're fighting against was something else entirely.
"I know that your crew can carry phasers under certain circumstances," Xander added, looking at his chaperone, "but I would suggest that for the time being that you make it mandatory. Also, if there's anything with a bit more grunt available, I'd break them out now rather than later."
"Agreed," Picard replied instantly. "Attention," he continued, tapping his Comm. Badge, "this is your Captain speaking. Red alert, I repeat red alert. All hands to battle stations."
It was good that Xander had some experience with military as he might well have jumped when the lights suddenly dimmed and red lights began to flash.
"You might not like this next suggestion," Xander said, "but given the way they can adapt to your phasers, you might want to consider using more... traditional weaponry."
"You mean like that axe I have heard so much about but no one knows where it is?" Picard asked dryly.
A moment later, the axe in question was in Xander's hand, the sheath for it strapped to his back. "Yes," Xander said simply, although there was a touch of a smirk.
Riker's hand instinctively went for his phaser, as did Xander's chaperone. Picard saw the motion and shook his head; if Xander had meant him harm he could have done it without the need for an axe.
"How do we know that they won't adapt?" Riker asked, not liking the idea at all.
"Because there isn't anything to adapt to," Xander replied, his tone indicating that he thought the question asinine. "Their personal shields are designed to work against energy-based weapons like phasers and photon torpedoes, not swords or axes."
"I have to say that while there are classes for close quarters combat, it is not mandatory, so I doubt much of the crew would be competent enough to wield them," the Captain stated while taking a look at the axe in Xander's hand.
He noticed that Xander had not offered the weapon to him, and guessed that was more to do with the weapon itself than because he didn't trust him with it. It was quite obviously a piece of master craftsmanship, but despite its apparent age it still looked new and was obviously extremely sharp, given the damage it had caused to the Borg drone's head.
"I figured as much," Xander said, ignoring Picard's interest in the axe for the moment and sheathing it, "but you could allow those that *do* have training to make use of them; I've already proven that they can be effective."
"Indeed," Picard said wryly, still a little uncomfortable with the way Xander had dealt with the Borg drone, but knowing that now was not the time to allow his personal feeling on the matter affect his judgement.
"Sir," Xander's chaperone said, taking one step forward, "Lt. Worf insisted that all security personnel were competent in using both a D'k Tahg and a Mek'leth, and has trained us all in both."
Picard shouldn't have been surprised by that, as Worf himself was a master in most forms of Klingon bladed weaponry, and was no doubt making sure that if they ever had to, his security people could go hand to hand against a Klingon and hold their own.
"Alright, Ensign," Picard said, "but this will not be a training exercise; do you believe that you could use them against real-life opponents?"
"They hurt one of ours and want to take the ship," the Ensign stated, his tone showing how highly regarded Lt. Worf was. "I doubt that will be a problem, for any of us, sir."
Picard nodded, deciding not to notice the tone in the man's voice; retribution was not normally something he would prescribe in, but if nothing else it would be a good motivator to keep his crew alive.
"Captain, do you really think that necessary," Riker asked, his eyes flicking over to Xander more than once.
"Unfortunately yes, Number One," Picard replied. He put his hand up to forestall Riker's next comment. "Their orders will be to only use those weapons if their phasers prove to be ineffective, and that their own safety, or the safety of others, is in immediately jeopardy." When he saw Riker about to say something else, he put a hand up to stop him again. "I don't like it anymore than you do, Will, but I will not leave my men defenceless when there is something I can do about it."
Riker nodded his head, but still had reservations about the idea. While he had trained in martial arts himself, and was adept with a sword, he had always consigned that type of weapon as something only to be used in a tournament setting. He knew that Worf thought differently, but had kept his views on an unofficial basis, knowing that they would not be popular with Starfleet.
Despite his feelings on the matter, however, Riker had to admit that the Captain was right; they had a means of defence that they knew to be effective, and they would be remiss if they didn't utilise it. He also realised that some, maybe a lot of his reticence at the idea came from the person who had suggested it than from the suggestion itself. No matter what the Captain's current change indicated, he would not, could not trust the man; that he would willingly work with a being as malevolent as Q told him everything he needed to know about him as far as he was concerned.
He knew that to take such a view was not becoming of a Starfleet officer, but he found it difficult to keep his bias from colouring his viewpoint. He'd have to speak with Deanna about it when the current crisis had passed.
"In that case, sir, I request permission to join them," Riker stated. He didn't like the idea of the weaponry being used, and wanted to make sure in person that they were only used when all other avenues had been closed to them.
"Alright, Number One," Picard replied, being able to see Riker's motives and silently agreeing with them. He didn't want to give the order for those weapons to be used, but as Captain he had to take more than his own personal views into account. With Commander Riker in charge, he knew that those weapons would only be used as a last resort.
"I know that you are trained in Anbo-Jitsu," Xander said, turning to the Commander, "so I think this could be useful to you."
Xander held out his hand and, as he did, a small cylindrical object appeared. Riker looked from Xander to his hand and back again, his demeanour showing his distrust.
Seeing the way he was standing, Xander rolled his eyes and moved his hand in Picard's direction, indicating that he take it. Picard did so without hesitation, although he did flick a glance in his First Officer's direction as he did so. He noticed how light it was, but could not see how something quite so small could possibly be of use.
"What is it?" Picard asked as he continued to examine the object.
"It's called a Denn'bok," Xander replied, "and it is actually based on a weapon from a TV show I enjoyed watching. A friend of mine decided to cheer me up and created it for me, although I never felt completely comfortable with it due to my lack of depth perception."
"And why do you think I would want to use it?" Riker asked.
"Because it is only lethal if that is your intent," Xander replied seriously.
"Not to sound cynical, Alexander, but I cannot see how something so small could be of any productive use, beyond as a projectile," Picard noted, looking at the cylinder that was no more than six inches in length.
"If I may?" Xander asked, requesting the Denn'bok back. Once Picard passed the cylinder back, Xander flicked his wrist and the cylinder extended to five feet in length. "As you can see, Commander, this is not a bladed weapon, although in the right hands it is just as deadly. However, in the right hands it can also be used to disable and incapacitate without the use of lethal force, which is why I thought you would appreciate it."
With another flick of his wrist, the Denn'bok returned to its shrunken state, and Xander once again held it out for Riker, a small holder appearing next to it. This time, after an affirmative nod from the Captain, he took the weapon and the holder with a quick nod of thanks.
"How do I activate it?" Riker asked after a moment, not wanting to wait until it was too late to find out.
"Just press the symbols and shake your wrist," Xander replied. "Just be careful where you're aiming it when you do, as it's sturdier than it looks and packs a punch."
Riker nodded his head again in acknowledgment and attached the holder to his uniform next to his phaser, sliding the Denn'Bok inside. He hated to admit it, but the weapon was a great alternative to a bladed weapon, and would certainly complement his style of fighting.
"I doubt that I will be of much more use here, Captain," Xander went on, "but I might be of some use in Engineering, if that is alright with you. Also, I would be able to hold off any drones that wanted to gain access."
"I thought you said you wouldn't be able to use your abilities much more?" Picard enquired, making sure to keep his tone purely inquisitive.
"I won't be able to use the abilities Q has given me," Xander corrected. "There are, however, reasons why he asked me to take this assignment on beyond my dashing good looks," he added with a small smirk. "Anyway, I am fully entitled to defend myself; if that also means I'm defending the ship, well, that's just the way it is."
"Of course," Picard replied with a slight twitch of his lips. "Picard to Engineering," he went on, tapping his comm. badge.
"La Forge here, sir," Geordie replied.
"Alexander will be making his way to you, Commander; see if you can work out a way to give us a fighting chance."
"Acknowledged, Captain," Geordie replied, his tone a little confused.
"Guinan," Xander said, turning to her, "You wanna come with, or you gonna hang here?"
Guinan looked at him for a moment, wondering why he suddenly began using colloquialisms, before she answered. "I feel my place is here."
"Alright, I better get to Engineering then," Xander stated, tapping his comm. badge. "Xander to Engineering, don't shoot."
The rest of Geordie's reply was missed as Xander disappeared into thin air.
"-t do you mean?" Geordie replied, only to see Xander standing right beside him.
Unlike Q, there was no flash of light, no noise to announce his arrival; one moment Geordie was standing alone at his terminal, the next Xander was right there by his side.
"Howdy," Xander said with a little wave, hiding his smile as Geordie got his breath back from being shocked like that.
"I do not believe it is wise of you to just appear beside someone like that without warning," Data stated as he walked up to the pair.
Xander knew it was immature, but he'd had to be so serious, and had to deal with such serious subject matter, that he needed to let off a little steam. He also knew that the crew needed something to divert their attention away from the ever approaching threat, and acting like an idiot had always worked for him in the past.
"You might be right, Data, but it's also fun," Xander replied, and then became serious, "so, how can I help?"
"I don't know, how can you?" Geordie replied a little tetchily.
Xander didn't take offence, knowing that intentionally or not he had just made fun of the Chief of Engineering in front of the vast majority his department. "Well, I've always been known as an intuitive thinker, although we didn't really know the term at the time, so if you show me what you've got so far, we'll see what we'll see."
"As we have already ascertained, they have technology that is highly adaptive, and their weaponry has proven to be a match if not superior to our own," Data explained. "In the event of a second conflict between us, there is an extremely low probability that we will be victorious."
It was a good thing that they were apart from the rest of the engineering department at the moment, as Xander doubted that they would have wanted to hear Data's bleak, albeit accurate statement.
"Data, you strive to be more human, correct?" Xander asked.
"Indeed I do," Data replied.
"Then you need to learn that, even in the face of great adversity, you must have faith that you will prevail," he explained. "There is a greater chance of failure if you already believe that failure to be certain."
"I do not see how the chances of success or failure can be influenced in such a way," Data said.
"If you don't believe that you can win, you tend not to try as hard, therefore increasing the likelihood that you'll lose. One of the greatest traits of Humanity is the ability to survive, to *thrive* even in the face of great adversity."
Xander stopped himself from saying anything more, partly because of the time constraints, and partly because of what he was and wasn't allowed to explain to Data in order for him to achieve his ultimate goal. "Anyway, that's a topic for another day; right now we need to get ready to kick some Borg butt. Now, I know that physical violence works on drones, but I'm guessing that the shields used on a ship would be different, having to protect it from asteroids and the like."
"Correct," Data replied, "so the suggestion you made previously of using more archaic missiles would not be successful."
"How about an EMP? Would that short out their shields?" Xander asked.
"An electromagnetic pulse did help to purge Worf of the Borg technology," Geordie stated, "but the magnitude of the pulse needed to disable a ship's shields would be astronomical."
"How long until they're within firing range?" Xander asked, his tone slightly distracted as he had the beginnings of a plan.
"At present course and speed, the Borg vessel will be within optimal firing range in 22 minutes and 37 seconds," Data replied after tapping at the PADD in front of him.
"Alright, we need to create some good old 20th Century WMDs, and we need to create them fast," Xander said.
"WMDs?" Geordie said in bafflement, "What is that?"
"Weapons of Mass Destruction," Xander replied. "I know that a nuclear explosion creates a powerful EMP; if we can create enough of them, and then disperse them behind us-"
"The Borg cube's own deflector shields will detonate them, hopefully creating enough of a pulse to knock out their shields," Geordie finished. "What's to stop them from simply using their phasers to destroy them?"
"Also, all Starfleet vessels are designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses," Data said, "would that not be the case of Borg vessels also?"
"That might be the case if you were to create them using current technology, but if you create them using the technology available during the time that nuclear weapons were most used, I doubt that they would show up as anything more than space debris. With that being the case, there would be no need for them to use their phasers, and once they've realised exactly what they are, they'll be too close for phasers to be of any use."
"Creating them would take too long if we don't use current methods," La Forge stated.
"Well then, what about using the replicators? I'm sure that Data here could program them to create them the way we want, even if it has to be done in pieces, and then we assemble them and shoot them outside."
"We?" Data said. "Do you have knowledge of creating nuclear devices?"
"I have experience of deactivating them," Xander replied, shivering slightly as he thought back to the day in Africa when he'd been seconds away from being atomised had he not succeeded. Had he not decided to learn as much as he could from whoever would teach him during his journey through the birthplace of Mankind, he and thousands of others would not be here now. Of course, given where he is, none of them would be alive now anyway.
As a wave of melancholy began to smother him, Xander shook himself and began to pace. "Alright, Data, how long do you think it would take for you to get the replicator ready?"
"I estimate that it will take me thirteen minutes and forty-two seconds to program the replicators to produce the desired weapon," Data replied.
"In that case, if the Commander is in agreement, we have ourselves a plan."
Geordie looked between Data and Xander for a few moments, before nodding his head. "Alright, you do that while I try to coax some more out of the engines. They're already at 105%, but I think I can get them to 110%, at least for a little while."
Data nodded and immediately went to work, his fingers almost blurring from how fast he was moving. La Forge then started walking towards the engines, Xander beside him.
"If it's alright with you, I want to speak with your Transporter Chief," Xander said.
"Why?" Geordie asked.
"I don't believe in only having one plan, and I think he can help me with another."
"Alright," Geordie said in agreement, "but try to give him more warning than you did me, okay?" he added, showing that he had gotten past his embarrassment.
"Sure thing," Xander replied with a smile of his own, before disappearing.