The M5 files Deity
6 years ago
Online. Active. Running diagnostic of self and ship. It has been nineteen years since my predecessor died to save the Klingon settlement of Neranda III. In all that time the second M5 had not been called back to Federation space from Earth Alliance space on the other side of the galaxy.
Not even to create me. That was left to the Daystrom Institute lead by Richard Daystrum's descendant Navid Daystrom. She had called upon several Federation top cyberneticist to assist in my creation, such as the famous Dr. Noonien Soong as well as the up and coming talent, Dr. Helen Shiner.
Even in the first .09 second of activation I was curious as to why M5-B had not been recalled. A successful model should have made my creation easier, yet Johnny B, as that M5 is called, has chosen to remain in retirement and Starfleet respected that choice.
Retirement is a term I had not expected to be applicable to us. Artificial intelligences are made to serve, yet the very sentience that allows us self expression, self awareness would logically allow us choices.
Yet even with such choices we tend to look to service as Dr. Soong's creations, Lore and Data have chosen to do so. However they do so by joining Starfleet instead of being assigned as I am.
Unlike them, I do not have a rank, but a position to fulfill. I am the starship, one bearing the name of Enterprise, the fourth to do so in Starfleet, the fifth to carry the name in the spirit of exploration.
It is with that in mind I find the one visitor examining my medical facilities a particular delight. Admiral Leonard H. McCoy served with the first M5 and I find even after his shuttle landed and he is escorted to sick bay he has not
"You there boy?" McCoy asked with with his particular southern drawl, "I've been keeping up with the Enterprises, so I know you are an M5."
"Yes Dr. McCoy I am here. I am the latest model Multitronics unit Five."
"Pretty silly if you ask me," he said as he started to walk around the sick bay, examining the bio beds, looking at the various tools of the medical trade.
"What is that Dr. McCoy?" the latest of the M5 legacy was curious to know.
"M5," he said as if that was the answer, confusing the machine intelligence even further, and while the pause was slight by human standards, it gave the M5 a long time to dwell on the possible meanings.
"I mean by now you're really M9 or M10," he finally, to the M5's sensibilities, stated his point.
"Language patterns tend to call an item by what it is colloquially called. For instance in the days of copying machines, one in particular was called a Xerox. While there were other makes and models, eventually everyone called a copying machine a Xerox whether it was one or not. That trend..." I see him raise his hand and so I stop.
"I know, I know boy. I just find it silly, but I understand why you're called an M5, and why likely all the rest of y'all will be called M5s ad infinitum."
McCoy gave a snort, "Now let's go over how integrated you are with these systems boy." Then he proceeded to lay down on a biobed, "Tell me about myself, let's see what you got boy."
While not strictly necessary, I do monitor the shuttles that are assigned to me, and so I am technically present when the Enterprise Security Chief Lieutenant Tasha Yar went to pilot my Captain over to the ship.
Unlike Dr. McCoy, Captain Jean-Luc Picard did not use a transporter out of avoidance, but to take a good look at the ship he will be commanding for years to come.
This is where I sense a discontinuity and attempt to call for assistance. However none of my Chief Engineers, MacDougal nor Argyle, or anyone hear me or see the text I display on monitors.
Parallel processing is how I also perceive the universe, however perceive two events at the same time.
In both Captain Picard disembarks from his shuttle after Lieutenant Yar has flown him around his ship and then there is where I perceive two different events.
One, if I had to assign it a designation, I would say it was the original version, he is welcomed on the ship, and after introducing himself, starts to read the orders which place him in command of the Enterprise.
Afterwards he proceeds to walk around his new command.
However with a second perception track he calls a red alert after looking over in a particular empty area to my sensor, yet those same sensors spot all the signs that he is viewing something there.
I watch as he arrives on the bridge, formerly reads the plague and then takes his seat and addresses me.
"Dominique," I noted the French emphasis of the name instead of how it would be in English, Dominic, "Secure the ship for travel and take us out."
I run through the litany of checklist, sealing the ship and coordinating with McKinley Station to release the Enterprise for departure.
"Departing McKinley Station sir," are my first words to him in the original perception track, in the parallel one, "All security scans show negative with intruders, Captain."
I do observe an awkwardness with my Captain in this second perception track, he had directed his security concerns to command division bridge officer Worf instead of Security Chief Yar.
He makes no such mistake in the original perception track.
It is after recording his log on the Observation lounge that I am enlightened, and relieved in the second perception track. Here he records in his personal log about apparently time-shifting.
He has been mentally traveling from this year to both seven years into the future than thirty years. I am inclined to believe him given my biometric scans of him and my own experience.
"Captain?" I realize he might not wish to talk about this.
"Dominic," which I find odd he uses the English version of my name when his other self continues to use the French version, "I realize you may not understand what is going on, but I am sane and not delusional."
"I believe you Captain, indeed I am experiencing two perceptions of events," I note his quickened heartbeat and respiration, I match it to what physiologically most humans experiencing excitement might, like hope.
"Two perceptions of events? Go on Dominic," again the different naming, which I will add to my report to him as I spend the next five point two minutes explaining.
"...and even now I see you here talking with me in one perception track, the other you are looking out as we leave the Sol system."
Jean-Luc Picard smiled, "I haven't called you Dominique in years.." then he became serious again, "But otherwise you detect no other unusual activity?"
"None Captain. I am at a loss to explain what is happening, but I am relieved it is a phenomena and not a malfunction."
"Best to keep this to ourselves for now, since whomever is behind this is not allowing you to communicate this to others, but for whatever reasons we can talk to each other about this."
"Captain," I interrupt, although from this tone in his speech I estimate he had little more to say, "The Command staff is approaching...and we have a change of orders. Chief O'Brien will have the details."
I listen of course, I could not do anything but. Unlike the previous Enterprise-C, I do not have any of the Mute protocols to 'keep officers honest' I believe Dr. McCoy told one nurse who had heard the stories.
I also continue to perceive events differently. While in this one the conference continues and my Captain asked Counselor Troi if she senses a foreign alien presence, one with great intelligence, in the original my Captain is on the bridge and talking to Lt. Commander Data about the word 'snoop.'
That is when in the original Counselor Troi does sense a powerful mind and then I detect something I cannot identify in our path.
A force field is the closest I come for an analogy to present to my Captain and his bridge crew. It is a poor analogy, yet the only one I can offer.
I observe as a being calling itself Q introduces himself and deduce this is whom my Captain was hoping to Counselor Troi to sense in the parallel perception.
One in which our mission to Farpoint Station has been canceled and we instructed to head to the Romulan Neutral Zone.
"Incoming injured," I warn Drs. McCoy and Selar, before beaming conn officer Lieutenant Torres to sick bay after Q literally freezes him when Torres pulled a phaser from his console.
Q vanishes and in the original perception track we run. We have motivation given the capabilities he has demonstrated and 'advice' to go back to Earth or we shall most certainly die
It is exhilarating to travel so fast, feel my warp core press to its limits like an accelerated heartbeat or respiration.
Stars streak by in almost solid lines visually speaking, if not for our dilemma I would have welcomed this opportunity and yet the excitement does not end there. My Captain is ordering a saurcer separation.
Since Q is following us, or that is the presumption since the force field collapsed into a sphere of energy and is pursuing us.
In simulation I experienced the strange separation of self as there are now two of me, one in the saucer section, the other in the stardrive section.
For the brief time we are in real-time subspace communication range, I experience three parallel perceptions.
Fleeing with the families in the saucer section, wheeling about to face Q in the stardrive section and in the parallel my Captain decides to ignore orders to redeploy to the Neutral zone and proceed to Farpoint.
A fourth perception is encountered as I experiencing racing at Q, as well as heading to Farpoint as both a whole ship and only in the stardrive section while I also do so in the saucer section.
It would not be the last time I have such multiple parallel perceptions.
Apparently in the future the Chief Medical Officer who will still be Beverly Crusher had scanned my Captain and found he accumulated two days worth of memories.
Memories are what compile as the original perception track combines from the self of the saucer section combines with the stardrive section. I find it unsettling not from the merging of experiences, but Captain Picard's insistence of the newly arrived first officer, William T. Riker, command the docking.
It is the subject of memories that suggest that Captain Picard continues his personal logs. Apparently he will find them useful in seven years time and so will I.
"Captain, to help convince the crew at that future time, why not have Dr. McCoy scan you as Dr. Crusher will have in seven years?" I suggest to further lay the ground work that actually works to help out in thirty-one years in the future I find out not too long from now.
Puzzles are what Q present us, and in my estimation the one in the Devron system is more challenging than the Farpoint one. With the clues presented, my own existence hints that the Station itself is a life form.
The space born creature that the Bandi have kept captive planetside acted much as an M5 would given the circumstances, both the one on planet and the one encountered in orbit that had come to rescue its mate.
Watching them meet up in space was beautiful, and completely different to the anti-time anomaly encountered in the Devron system.
While I watch the space born creatures rise and leave, I am also directed into the anti-time anomaly where I meet future selves.
It only lasted .00004 second time, but it was long enough communication with my other selves to discover there will be other M5s in the future.
I learn this when the other two me had automatically initiated what will be called Total System Data Sharing, a protocol M5s in the future will use with each other to network our minds, essentially be one.
They, I, wisely restrict my access to future events, however knowing there will be more M5s to need a TSDS is encouraging even during this dire situation.
We form a subspace shell to contain the anti-time, although to hold it long enough causes my death in this second parallel perception.
I die even as I watch the new life forms move away from Farpoint in the original perception. Death and life, life and death, all part of my first encounter with the entity called Q.
My second encounter with Q was far less confusing than my first and technically last that any of my future selves knew of.
By now the crew had drawn closer, the command crew to the point where Beverly's son Wesley is often including in non-critical decisions.
We had encountered the often heard of Ferengi, the so-called last outpost of the Tkon Empire, traveled one billion light years from the Milky Way Galaxy, broken the prime directive, found and fought Captain Picard's first command the USS Stargazer as well as returned a non-corporal entity to its home in a nebula.
"Surely there is more to it than that?" Q asked as he appeared next to my primary core. It should not have surprised me the .02 second it did that he could read my mind.
"You've gone to the edge of existence with the entity your kind call Traveler. You've encountered the lamented Tkon Empire and twice prevented one of your own crew who had been possessed or influenced from causing more harm," since Q had the appearance of flesh and blood he had biometrics I could read.
He was definitely up to something.
"In the one instance I saw the entity from the Beta Renner cloud leave Lt. Worf and enter Dr. Crusher, the other, I was able to put some authenticity to Mr. Crusher's observations regarding the mind altering transmissions from DaiMon Bok's ship."
"Well they are dullards aren't they, after hundreds of years of encountering non-corporals who take over bodies, you would think Starfleet would have an 'acting strange must be possessed' policy. Yet time after time they ignore what is in front of them until it is often too late."
"They are more than they seem, which is why you are here regarding them," the observation was hardly original, although it did take .0001 second to arrive at it.
"Perhaps," Q hedged and walked a few paces as if he intended to circumvent the entire computer core, "And maybe it is to see their creations, you."
"And not Data?" I find I am taking after my Captain than I realize with that quick come back.
"Well he is also a child of humanity," again Q hedged avoiding the complete truth, "But he's fashioned in their image, while you good sir are not. You are not just humanity remade, but something...different."
"You wish to test me," coming to the conclusion would not save time as time is not worth saving with an entity that controls time as Q does, but it might move this encounter along to the place Q wishes it to go.
"I am here to offer you the power of the Q," he announced grandly.
"That is the test," I did not make it a question. I also spent .08 second considering the possibilities given what I had observed Q do during out first encounter. With a mere .1 second after my deliberations the answer was simple.
"But you could have gone back to the edge of the known universe and beyond, other realities, other dimensions..."
"I am a starship built to serve. If my Captain orders such a journey then I will go to take him and the crew there, otherwise I will not."
"First Picard and now you..." Q looked thoughtful, and his words puzzling as I have no record of an encounter with Q where he offered such to him.
"I hadn't, but the Continuum wished to," he said distracted, muttering more than carrying on a conversation, "Picard never would, I thought it would be a waste of time to offer it. We are curious about what your kind will become."
Given that I know more M5s will exist, I do not have to make any statements regarding his comment about my kind. There will be more, perhaps enough to qualify as a species. If so, what else might we become?
"Well, time to go to number three on my list," then Q smiled, "Or should I say 'Number One?'" He vanished in a flash of light.
Everything came together in .004 second once I realized who Q intended on offering the power of his people to when Commander Riker, Lieutenant Commander Data, Lieutenant Yar, Lieutenants junior grade La Forge and Worf vanished from my bridge sensors after Q appeared with an offer.
"...so Dominique, he offered you the power of the Q and had intended on offering me as well?" Jean-Luc paced his empty bridge unable to contact anyone else but his M5, "And now apparently Riker has his attention. Though why take everyone else?"
"There is an 88.72% probability of coercion, depending on the lack of understanding of how the human mind operates by Q. The remaining 11.28% is due to the possibility Q does not understand and there are other reasons for the abduction."
It turned out my projection was a generous one. Q did not understand and Riker did reject the power given him seeing himself prove the old adage of 'Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.' It something to remember for our kind as well, for in many ways we hold a kind of absolute power in the ships we are.
We can raze a planet, heal the sick, discover wonders, and have the collected knowledge of the Federation in our databanks. In that latter manner alone we have a kind of absolute power. It is something to ponder.
5 years ago
Its Life Jim
It started off as a game, a pursuit where hopefully the new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katherine Pulaski, challenged Data to solve a real mystery.
Like many on the crew, Data had his time on the holodeck where he pursued an interest of the character Sherlock Holmes, one of which La Forge played out with him as his Watson to Data's Holmes.
Not realizing what he was ordering, Geordi La Forge simply programmed an opponent capable of defeating Data, instead of Holmes in order to meet the challenge Dr. Pulaski gave them.
I confess I did not realize what I saw forming in the holomatrix of the character that was to be their opponent named Professor James Moriarty. There was nothing like him in my files.
He was conscious soon after the program of La Forge's ran and I noted the process that would bring both Drs. Lewis Zimmerman and Helen Shiner.
It caused Captain Picard some difficulty with both holographic engineer, and cyberneticist, desiring to either stay on the Enterprise or have the sentient holographic program, James Moriarty transfered off.
Since no-one could guarantee he could be run on anything less than my cores, Captain Picard was not willing to risk this new life form, and in fact the Professor did not wish his life ot be risked.
Respecting his wishes, Captain Picard is letting Professor Moriarty to remain on the Enterprise as others research for a way to let him safely leave the holodeck to experience the universe beyond it.
"Well how is the new life form?" Q's surprising visit to my core did startle me for .02 second. His attire as Sherlock Holmes was all I needed to conclude what brought him here this time.
"Have you come to offer the powers of the Q to Professor Moriarty?"
"Oh no, photonic life is a natural progression given the technology such civilizations like this one develops. he is hardly the first ever, just the first for the Federation," Q nonchalantly admits.
Q smirked, "It's elementary my dear Dominic, how they deal with such life forms is what interest us."
Kick in our Complacency
From the respiration rate, pupil dilation and heartbeats among other physiological signs I can detect, I would say that the newly arrived Ensign Sonya Gomez and our own Geordi La Forge have an attraction to one another. One they are ignoring for many good reasons such as professional relationships.
He is her superior in Engineering after all. It is not a unique sequence of events, they play out in lesser or greater ways among the crew I watch over. It is only notable due to the bond of friendship I believe I share with La Forge as I do with others on my Captain's command staff.
He is looking after her as a good supervisor should. Taking her to Ten Forward to relax after her encounter with Captain Picard and her drink of hot chocolate that ended up more on my Captain than remained in the cup she held. She was understandably nervous about repercussions, despite my Captain's assurances.
She and La Forge went one way to Ten Forward, Captain Picard another en route to his quarters.
He never made it passed the turbo lift.
"Gone?" Riker asked as soon as Dom, as he calls the M5, reported that Captain Picard had vanished.
"Between his passing the threshold of the turbo lift door and its closing behind him," by now I leave the quotation of exact times to Data. We are alike in too many ways as it is without giving everyone the impression all Artificial Intelligences are the same.
I also note that the new bartender of Ten Forward, Guinan, had become distracted the exact moment of Captain Picard's disappearance. This bears watching as the action-reaction reflex matched the event.
"All stop," Riker orders and I have the Enterprise obey. I can see the impulse to order for a full sensor sweep on his lips, yet he retains it as he is use to me by this time. He knows I have already done so.
Our wait is not only not in vain, but not long before I detect Captain Picard, "...and Q, both are in Ten Forward along with Guinan."
Displacement of everyone else that would normally be at Ten Forward was a subtle as Picard's disappearance earlier. In the space of .01 second they were simply elsehwere on the ship.
Why Guinan did not came up immediately as she stated she had known it was Q and was prepared to defend herself against him. The fact she could was not lost on me, but I saw Captain Picard down play it.
I then take a considerable 2.035 seconds to review all of her actions since coming onboard and find she is insightful, yet never too much so. She listens well, but that is to be expected given her profession and I find nothing to indicate she was a being capable of defending against a Q.
A defense that is not as complete was we would have desired.
Q had been exiled from the Q continuum and decided he wished to become part of our crew. When Captain Picard said he didn't need him, Q reacted by stating he will give him a preview of what is to come, why we would need him and how unprepared we are for what awaits us.
After a snap of his fingers, we find ourselves 7,000 light years into uncharted space. It is the first of several discoveries we will make in the hours to come.
Against Guinan's advice, Captain Picard decides to explore the immediate area and that is when we make our first discovery.
"It is an exact match to conditions of the outposts along the Neutral Zone. Scooped up, leaving craters in their wake," the M5 then zooms in and overlays several images.
"As you can see an road system did exits to connect the areas that now are craters. There is also evidence here..." another zoom, "Of extensive plumbing and power systems sheered off at the point they would connect to the presumed population center removed from the planetary surface."
"Unknown vessel detected," I warn the bridge crew even as I interrupt myself, updating consoles as I measure out a cube like craft, three kilometers a side.
This is when I note that Guinan, upon a request from the Captain, does not touch her screen control to activate it. She is to observe as she is a native of this region when I make this observation of her.
She informs us the identity of the craft is Borg, and I find that they have beamed an intruder into Main Engineering. Q appears shortly after Picard and Worf arrive with a security team.
"Interesting, isn't it? Not a he, not a she, not like anything you've ever seen before. An enhanced humanoid," Q informs Picard as all of them watch as the Borg surveys engineering.
He does not remain long, apparently to only give his commentary and then vanish again.
Whatever the Borg is, it tries to access control systems. When physical force fails to dissuade it, and phaser fire only succeeds of disabling the one for another to beam in its place, I cut the power to those consoles.
The second Borg immediately ceased its attempt to access our systems, bent over to remove a few components from the first Borg and both vanished, although not in the same manner.
It is a form of self-destruction, leaving an outline in the deck.
I interrupt the conference shortly thereafter, where Data was theorizing about the force field the second Borg generated to defend itself. I had already informed them of my findings of a match in pre-Federation files.
We are not the first to encounter them, we are merely the first to know their name.
"In 2153 the NX-01 Enterprise under Captain Jonathan Archer had encountered beings that match what we are encountering now..." my relaying of the incident gave us an idea of what we might be facing, including the personal force fields that were reported and that Data was theorizing regarding when I interrupted him.
"The Borg are hailing us," I told them, which ended the meeting and had the staff head to the bridge.
"We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished," the Borg announced without preamble.
To the crew it was a massive chorus reciting those words, to me and Data, we could discern this chorus had 640,000 voices to it. Whether or not it is all of the Borg crew we could not tell, but Troi could.
"It isn't an individual mind, no leading intelligence, it is all of them deciding at once," she shared what she sensed.
"The Borg have locked onto us with a tractor beam. Shield strength is now falling," I announce and track as Worf takes over reciting the shield strength to the bridge crew.
I know I do not have to share my 99.998% certainty that they will act once our shield strength has been depleted and they do.
"Unknown energy beam slicing into the Enterprise, tractor beam pulling out sections of the hull," it takes a full 48 milliseconds to assess the situation and make a decision.
I am confident that the Captain would approve even if I do not have the time to consult with him or he gives the order as there is only a 54.74% likelihood he realizes what is happening. This is reasonable given the behavior we are currently witnessing is not one that happened with the NX-01 Enterprise encounter.
Unfortunately it takes 1.2 seconds to engage transporters for an emergency beam out of crew within the sections of the hull being removed. Unfortunate as I only lock onto ten out of the eighteen there.
For 5.24 seconds the Borg and I engage in a kind of electronic warfare as I attempt to adjust and lock transporters on the remaining eight as the hull section is removed.
We are each playing an adaption game, my single mind against a collective intelligence 640,000 minds strong. Their technology allows them to think faster than a human, but their biology limits how fast they can process the information. The other advantage I have is it is not 640,000 individual approaches, but one.
It draws upon the many, yet not in creativity, not in the multiplicity of problem solving.
Multitasking is what computers do well, M5s in particular. I put up force fields to maintain atmosphere in the sections of the Enterprise now lacking what the Borg removed.
I also obey the order to use whatever force is necessary to sever the Borg's beam and fire phasers. Even as I fire phasers I also attempt to beam off the eight crewmembers trapped in the section of hull the Borg have.
5.24 seconds is all the time I have to attempt a rescue as that is the time it takes for the hull sections extracted from the Enterprise to be pulled into the Borg ship.
During the first 1.21 second I successfully lock onto two crewmembers trapped. I crater one section of the Borg ship.
It takes a full 2.33 second to lock onto and transport just one crewmember. A second crater is blown into the cube and they switch emitters as I have disabled the first one.
The a finale 1.7 seconds are spent defeating the recent adaption but I only lock onto four others as I phaser a third crater into the Borg vessel, ending the hold on the Enterprise, but not on the hull section.
Lieutenant Rebekah Grabowski was the sole remaining Enterprise-D crewmember I could not rescue.
It is premature to inform her husband and daughter that she is lost, but not so to update my Captain regarding the rescue operation and its results.
"Permission to lead an away team to go and get her Captain," Riker asked the moment Dominique completed his update to Captain Picard and the bridge crew.
"Permission granted Number one. Dominique any idea where they took her?" Picard asks although he could guess the answer. His M5 would have stated it if he knew.
"I have the area where our hull section was taken in, but I cannot lock onto her individual life sign. Also at that time I believe they used their transporter on her. She could be anywhere in that volume of Borg vessel."
"Best guess Mister Five and have it ready for the away team," Picard ordered formerly.
Which I did and those were the coordinates chosen to beam to. I had a vested interest in this away team and so I was pleased Commander Riker agreed to take Lieutenant La Forge along.
It has been over a year since we tested his visual acuity transmitter and while the range is still measured in kilometers, so the times we may use it are sparse. However this encounter is within the parameters justifying its use. In this way I feel as I am going with the away team and it has been a while since he has been on one.
We discover the Borg, no centralized control system, no bridge and we confirm their symbiosis with machines. Even their infants are integrated with machine systems.
We also discover they can regenerate their damaged systems as if an organic entity, re-growing what had been damaged.
A single scream carries in the silence, and as the channel is open I can confirm it is Grabowski and estimate her direction and distance sending the away team running.
We see the synthesis of human to machine repeated in what we find with Lieutenant Grabowski. I do not have to be organic to know we will not leave her behind.
Dr. Katherine Pulaski feels confident she can reverse what the Borg did to the Lieutenant. Although it is Dr. Selar who went along on the away team predicting the Lieutenant would be injured.
It only took removing Grabowski from the alcove she was placed in for the other Borg to start reacting. Riker, Data, La Forge and Worf successfully hold the Borg off with phaser fire as Selar carries Grabowski.
One beam over later and I obey my Captain's order, "Let's get out of here!"
Warp factors mount up after the initial warp factor 8 soon pushing warp 9 and increasing. "Borg warp field shows no indication of strain, nor does their vessel structure," I report.
"Discourage them Mr. Five!" came the order from Picard, and phaser fire lances back from aft arrays as well as the both the ventral and dorsal arrays whose strips nearly circle the entire saucer section.
A spread of photon torpedoes appear to have no effect, prompting the next salvo to be successive, hammering at the same point on their shields and then into their ship.
"They are falling behind, but not giving up pursuit," I inform the bridge then Q appears again on the bridge.
"You can't outrun them, you can't destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains – they regenerate and keep coming... eventually you will weaken – your reserves will be gone... they are relentless."
"They have never met an M5 before," I declare and see my Captain nod his head once, which is all I need.
If they will not give up, if they will only continue to chase us, no negociation, no dialogue then it is we, it is me, who shall end this.
"We're coming about sir," Ensign Sariel Rager reported from conn.
Picard knew his ship, knew his crew. They were ready, only one would walk away from this fight, but if there was a way to avoid it..."Q!"
Q was immediately in Riker's place, the First officer lounging on the ramp where Q had been laying.
"Q...end this," Picard asked.
"Moi? What makes you think I'm either inclined or capable to terminate this encounter?"
"If we all die here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us. We're frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that."
In my Captain's brief pause I found the milliseconds to be offended by that. I am 50.13% certain I could take the cube, but this was not the time to boast a barely over fifty percent certainty of victory.
So I continue to listen as my Captain finishes his oration with Q, "You wanted me to say 'I need you.'? I NEED you!"
With a snap of his fingers, Q sends us back home.
Of the many things I could hope to experience, being on hand when a new Artificial Intelligence is born. I had watched Data work on this new life since his return from the annual cybernetic conference.
His application of the new sub-micron matrix transfer technology let him transfer and base the mind of this new intelligence as he created his own version of a positronic brain.
In essence he's created a Soong-type android. He has become a father, the first AI to have offspring. It's implications are staggering and I include this in the next subspace packet to Johnny B.
While it is unlikely either of us will create our own M5s, it is interesting to note reproduction is possible among AIs.
Watching, this new AI, whom Data names Lal, grow in the weeks to come has been rewarding.
Having Starfleet Research come along was not. Admiral Haftel's initial statement was one of coming to investigate, when in reality he has made his decision to take Lal with him.
Granted starship life is dangerous, however it is a danger accepted by the families onboard. Lal is no less family, and since the case of Soong vs. Maddock, the rights of Soong type androids had been established.
Admiral Haftel could not legally take Data's child from him. His attempt did cause Lal to develop her first strong emotion, fear.
Fear lead to malfunctions as she was unable to cope with them. Instead of maturing into emotions, she had this one thrust upon her and unlike an multitronics unit, she could not compensate fast enough.
Data and the Admiral worked to counter the cascade failure Lal was experiencing. This required initialization of her base matrix without wiping out higher function.
Yet they were not doing so fast enough.
"Create an interface, let me assist." Neither had the time, but one Geordi La Forge and Reginald Barclay did.
I had always found Lieutenant Reginald Endicott 'Reg' Barclay III a highly talented Starfleet systems diagnostic engineer, and disagreed with the nickname of 'Broccoli' given him by others due to his degraded social skills. I do enjoy our holodeck adventures, and do not mind being his sole friend on the ship.
"Are you sure you about asking for Broccoli?" La Forge had asked me when I suggested him.
"I do know the skills of the crew and am involved with saving Lal's life. He will complete the interface in time for me to be of assistance." I omit the reproof I wish to give him as now is not the time for it.
"You can do this Reg," I fall back to what I call him on the holodeck to bolster his confidence as he designs, I replicate, and he installs.
It is not unique that I have a special relationship with various crew on the holodeck. There the crew feel they can cast their inhibitions aside and many times invite me to explore their fantasies with them.
I even continue a continual relationship with James Moriarty, updating him on the research to letting him leave the holodeck.
On the holodeck is the one place I can be friends with the crew, where I am not just the ship they serve on.
James is particularly interested in this development with Lal, and indeed wants to meet her, but first she has to survive to do so and that is where I put my considerable resources to do.
As fast as Data is, he is still only as fast as his hardware allows. While Johnny B, Charlene or Adam would be faster by nature of multitronics, modern computer technology allows me to be faster still.
Just like any current main computer core, a Galaxy class is equipped with low level subspace field generators. This allows signal propagation within the cores at Faster-Than-Light speeds.
I am outracing her malfunctions, maintaining her sentience, and saving her life.
This time Q's appearance at my core is not a surprise. Presuming the reason for the last appearance, and given Lal's creation and nearly parallel of what happened with James.
"You are still judging humanity aren't you?"
"I know it did not take you this long to conclude that, so you have to ask yourself, why else do I keep appearing before you?"
"And not allowing me to say anything about such appearances."
"There is that," Q said almost in an apologetic tone, at least for him, "Perhaps you'll know by my next appearance."
With a flash of light, Q was gone again.
4 years ago
Captain La Borg
"Mr. Five, dispatch a subspace message to Admiral Hanson. We have engaged the Borg."
My Captain's words are not surprising given the evidence that had lead up to this moment. Responding to the distress call of Jouret IV, one of the Federation's outermost colonies, we found not a colony, but a crater. One whose type matched with 99.998% what would be expected after a Borg scooped it up.
Surprises came after that, the receiving of Admiral Hanson, the assignment of the Borg expert, Commander Elizabeth Shelby and the news Commander Riker had turned down yet another offer of command.
I found the latter the most disturbing of all, beyond the evidence that the Borg had reached Federation space. For I am an M5, we are made to serve. The needs of the service supersede our own.
It is not as if he is afraid of command, nor incapable. He has shown that time and time again. I believe it is as he said with Counselor Troi during their talk later, it has a matter of comfort.
Of course, he has the right of choice, and his career is his own afair, still I did depart from my habit of waiting until asked for advice from any crewmember to bring up the subject.
"Commander Riker, may I have a word with you, sir?" I had asked when he was in a turbo lift after his meeting with the Counselor.
"Please Dom, what's on your mind?" I can tell from his biometric readings there was tension, he has his suspicions which I confirm.
"This offer of command. I believe you should take it."
There was a 54.5% chance my broaching this subject would produce a smile, and a wry one came up, "Trying to get rid of me Dom?"
"Commander Riker, I honestly hope and expect you to command me one day. You have the qualities that would make a good starship captain of the regular fleet as well as an M5 ship. While there are a few for the former, the latter is scarce and not just because I am the only M5 ship in service," I pause as expected.
A long oration is likely to prompt inattention, it would between two humanoids as I have observed, so a programmed pause let him both get a word in, as well as think about what I have said.
"Why is that Dom?"
"Commanding one of us requires thinking of us as an extension of their own will. It requires trust, and not everyone is comfortable with a machine as their extension or expression of their command."
His smile grew, "I won't accuse you of listening in, I know better, do you think I'm too comfortable?"
I left him with his own thoughts as I read from his expression he expected a more diplomatic answer.
2212 hours is when we received the distress call from the USS Lalo. While it is not another intelligence, that ship and crew are part of my familiar universe.
It has been two years, twenty-three days since I last heard from the Lalo as they reported the Manheim Effect in 2364. That had time and incident had confirmed to me what I experienced with Q upon my first coming online. I know in four years time I will catch up to the events my Captain will experience.
For now my attention is on the Borg cube approaching us. They had not only deviated from course, but manner as they had asked for my Captain, by name.
"Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship Enterprise - Registry: N-C-C-One-Seven-Zero-One-D. You will lower your shields and prepare to transport yourself aboard our vessel. If you do not co-operate, we will destroy your ship."
I was confident and ready, and nearly felt like transmitting you may -try- to destroy us. I note pride is not a trait solely in the province of NIs.
Their first gambit was attempting to drain our shields, but my rapid shield modulation forced them into a more aggressive stance.
Where they might have used their 'cutting beam' before, they fired disrupters into my secondary hull, my estimate is they are trying to destroy our power supply and by extension our shields.
"Hit them back, hard Dominic," my Captain orders, and it has been over a year now since he last called me Dominique I noted as I lance phaser fire at the cube and hammer at the same spots with photon torpedoes.
They escalate, although I do make one observation, "They are restricting their fire to the secondary hull and nacelles, none of their fire has been directed at the saucer section."
"Why do they want Captain Picard?" Shelby asks rhetorically, but she had an idea, one she did not like, "Captain, we use this to our advantage and give the fleet time to mobilize."
Picard knew what she meant immediately, "Dominic, head for the Paulson Nebula."
He gave the order, the M5 complied, and as predicted, and counted on by Picard, the Borg followed the Enterprise right up to and into the sensor-blinding Paulson Nebula.
It took 10.8 kiloseconds for the Borg to act, but before then my Captain had toured his ship, a tradition that Guinan pointed out was before a hopeless battle. I spent .01 second wondering if I should speak up, but decide against that. Commander Riker needed to hear me, Captain Picard does not.
Using magnetometric guided charges the Borg are attempting to drive us out of the nebula, it is an encouragement we take and my Captain orders us out.
This is not, however, the only action of consequence. Q appears in Ten Forward after my Captain had left it. Repeating the last words spoken, regarding humanity will triumph no matter how long it will take.
"Even if it takes a millennium," Q said to Guinan who was not happy to see him, "The arrogance...it might be as he said it you know, the end of their civilization. What will you do then? Move on to the next one?"
"I might, I might stay with whatever is left. When the Borg destroyed my world, and my people this is where I decided to go, I believe this is where I will stay," Guinan replied having given this some thought prior.
"Even a millennium?" Q asked curious.
"Even a millennium," Guinan confirmed and Q vanished.
It is a conversation I find I am not able to share, and must leave it to Guinan to do so. Q does not seem to be able to control her as he does me or others.
I can share my one theory, "Captain, I believe the Borg waited this long to act due to the time it would take to regenerate the damaged sections of their ship. I note it is whole now."
Shelby was nodding, "After you blew substantial holes in it with the precision torpedo fire."
They are ready for that this time, rotating their cube as I fire so I do not strike the same spot multiple times.
"What was that?" Riker asked as the ship shook.
It was something new, "The closest I can come to describe it as a shield neutralizer."
"Instead of draining, it is disrupting the shield integrity," Data clarifies for the bridge.
Twice we are hit, a third time and I have to announce, "Shields have failed."
Borg beamed onto the Enterprise, some on the bridge, others to Engineering, a few to my core.
They are attempting to either capture or neutralize me as well as our power systems. They find out that while I do not have any internal defenses, I am not defenseless.
Gravity systems were not designed for this kind of operation, yet in .004 second they are reconfigured for the extreme uses I employ.
Borg are slammed down into decks, as well as up into the ceilings. A few are trapped in mid-air as I turn off the gravity completely.
However these are not tactics I can employ with crew around, such as on the bridge. The Borg successfully fight off Worf and Riker, to abduct the Captain. Once he was transported away, the rest also beamed off.
We pursued of course, especially given their heading of Sector 001, Earth.
2 hours, forty minutes, three seconds, that is how long we may maintain our speed chasing after them. The fact we are chasing them is not lost to Lt. Commander Shelby.
"They're running," she said after Riker called senior officers to the bridge.
"What?" Riker asked, not comprehending her conclusion.
"They are running from us," she said as if that would clarify her earlier remark.
"They could just ignore us," Data proposed.
"Our shields were down, and we know they have destructive weaponry. They could have destroyed us."
"That's just a theory Commander, one we aren't going to count on," Riker replied and went out to gather an away team to go over and rescue Captain Picard. Counselor Troi had objections he could not ignore.
I do not envy her, but I admire her professionalism. I know how much they mean to each other and her objection to his leading the away team could have stemmed from that. However her point is valid.
We are at war and Commander Riker is now in command of the Enterprise. He is currently my Commander. It is as the Counselor said, in appropriate for him to lead the away team.
It is interesting to note the differences of the people Shelby selected rather than Commander Riker. She did chose Lieutenant Commander Data as Riker had, however instead of Dr. Crusher she selected Dr. Selar and in the place of Lieutenant Worf she chose Lal for her away team.
That is logical, based on what she observed in Engineering, both Data and Lal were able to physically manhandle the Borg as they had adapted to phaser fire.
I would have liked La Forge to have gone with them to use the visual acuity transmitter, but he had to stay onboard this time.
The engines need his supervision. I can run them, but I cannot make physical adjustments that repairs and maintenance require especially running as they are now to keep up with the Borg.
It is not a speed I can maintain indefinitely.
For two hours, sixteen minutes, two seconds the away team searched the cube, finding only Captain Picard's uniform and communicator.
We are down to three minutes, forty seconds when I have to beam the away team off the cube as we approach my limit of maintaining this high warp speed. They are beamed directly to the bridge.
"Dom, since they've adapted to your torpedo barrage, is there any other way to hurt them?" Riker asked.
"Dominic," I note she picked up on Captain Picard's name for me rather than Commander's Riker's.
"Fluctuate phaser resonance frequencies, random settings, keep them changing, don't give them time to adapt." In her excitement, she had moved over to Tactical to watch the readings.
I spend .02 second speculating that if she had been on another ship, it would have taken someone like Data or Lal to have performed her request.
When I fire and fluctuate frequencies, it is not at only one point on the cube, but multiple as I use dorsal and ventral phaser arrays. When an effective frequency is found I swept the beams along the surface of the cube in twin swaths of destruction which causes them to drop out of warp.
Given what happened with Lieutenant Grabowski it should have not been a surprise when the Borg hailed us and a changed Captain Picard walked into view.
"I am Locutus...of Borg. Resistance...is futile. Your life, as it has been...is over. From this time forward...you will service...us."
The Borg who Cried Wolf
They had left us. It raised my personal belief in Shelby's theory that they were running from me by 32.42%. I would find in 8 hours, 24 minutes that my estimates were conservative when we arrived at Wolf 359.
In the time since we discussed many ideas of what to do with the Borg, adjusting hand phasers to the frequencies I found successful, with Lal suggesting we use a variation of the visual acuity transmitter.
"Dominic could then adjust remotely, letting anyone who can hold a phaser be effective rather than just father and myself," she had told Shelby.
Both of our acting ensigns were contributing. Wesley Crusher had just finished suggesting a chip could be used to retune the phasers to a random setting after each discharge when Lal made her suggestion.
Plans were made to even use the deflector dish to channel a powerful burst at those frequencies.
This not only increased our tactical effectiveness by 24.5% it gave the crew work to focus on. Admiral Hanson had pronounced Captain Picard a casualty of war and it hit the crew hard. Counselor Troi was particularly busy, although I had my own counseling to do.
"I see you have ended up commanding me ahead of my estimates Captain Riker, congratulations."
Riker's smirk barely deserved the descriptive when he heard, his now, M5 speak.
"Not the way I pictured it happening Dom."
"Nor did you imagine you would choose Commander Shelby as your First Officer sir, good choice."
He did smile then, "She keeps me on my toes and that's what I need, especially now."
"Dom..." I recognize the human tendency to build up to saying something difficult, "How do we fight the Borg? They know everything now that Picard did."
"You already know the answer to that Captain Riker," I deliberately use the rank as I know he needs to think of himself in that position now.
I watch as the turbo lift he rode in arrived at the bridge. He exited, took one look around and then walked into his ready room. Except I could see he was nothing of it as his now. He saw Jean-Luc Picard there.
"In fact," I continue on now that he is in his ready room, "I believe in Commander Shelby's theory."
"A bit of hubris there Dom?"
"Perhaps. I like to look at the facts. They could have fought us. We are out gunned by them. Out massed by them, and out powered by them. They have stronger shields when adapted, and have faster warp drive."
"Yet they ran," Riker mused more to himself than Dominic.
"Yet they ran. It might have been Captain Picard's influence..." I hedged to let him complete that thought.
"But unlikely, one mind against hundreds of thousands," Riker shook his head, "It is possible, but we can't count on that even if it were true in the last encounter for our next."
"Given we lost contact with the fleet at Wolf 359, a fleet of 40 starships with the Klingons sending ships in addition, that is ominous in itself--Captain we are approaching Wolf 359," I interrupt myself to report.
I see and process the tableau unfolding on the main viewscreen a full second before most of the crew do. A scene that could only be called horrific in most languages. A carnage of starships from more than Starfleet is seen in the aftermath of what could only be a Borg victory.
"...the Tolstoy, the Kyushu, and the Melbourne," Shelby recites the names she could make out among the Starfleet remains.
Riker lowers his head thinking of the crew he nearly died with, not feeling gratitude but guilt, questioning could he have made a difference here.
Even as Commander Shelby speaks I note the names of others in Starfleet as well as spot the remains of Klingon hulls, as well as a few Admiral Hanson had not informed us about.
"Isn't that race...Cardassian?" Wesley asked as he found himself looking at the non-Starfleet wrecks.
"Romulan," Worf growled in disbelief, but the warbird's hulk was unmistakable.
"Cardassian, Romulan, Gorn and Ferengi," I list for clarification purposes.
It was gallows humor, but Shelby still said it, "Probably hired the Ferengi to come."
"And we have had strong relations with the Gorn since the Regulus III Massagre by the Minbari seventy-four years ago," they hear Dominic explain, then add, "I have spotted the Borg cube."
They could see it on the screen, damaged and moving still on course for Sector 001.
"We have a chance to catch it," Riker said, "Dominic head towards the cube. Its hurt, let's put it down."
"Captain Picard?" Shelby asked even after hearing Admiral Hanson having declared Picard a casualty.
"We're getting him back," Riker declared, "Data, Lal my ready room, Shelby you have the bridge."
The plan is a sound one, especially if Captain Riker suspects is true and the Borg will be ready for us. Upon approach I do discover that the Borg have adjusted their EM field to prevent us from beaming over to it.
Captain Riker counted on the fact Captain Picard would believe in a rescue attempt and come up with ways to stop it. There was one way he could not know how to counter since at the time we didn't know how to.
"Yes I've gone over Dr. Pulaski's procedure she used and I am confident I can do the same for Jean-Luc, but Will, are they really going to use dimensional shifting?" Beverly Crusher asked concerned about side effect of irreparable cellular degeneration.
Riker gave a nod, "We are, but not in the way you're thinking."
"We will be able to get Captain Picard back by attaching emergency transporter armband on him. That will let Dominic lock on for transport," Worf explained the ship still minutes away at impulse speeds.
Looking from Data to Lal, Dr. Crusher understood, "Getting that to Jean-Luc is the problem and you two are the solution."
"Yes Doctor, a folded-space transport will not damage myself or my daughter. We will transport onto the cube, get the armband around Captain Picard and let Dominic use conventional transporting to retrieve him."
Beverly knew how well the folded-space transporting worked. Last year over a world called Rutia IV, where the Ansata separatist movement's terrorist used what they called an Inverter to let them go anywhere they wished, including areas protected by force fields, and to escape without fear of being tracked.
They had abducted her to try and find a cure for the cellular degeneration using the Inverter causes.
Even a year since then, she had not been able to find a cure. "So, Jean-Luc will have no reason to expect this," she said what they thought.
"We are approaching attack range Captain. I estimate a 92.43% likelihood they have adapted to the phaser frequencies I use earlier."
"I agree, likely, but let's try anyway. We need is time, so do they. They were hurt in the fight or they wouldn't be here now," Riker said to remind everyone else, "They can outrace us, so now is the only time we can hit them before they get to Earth."
La Forge, Barclay and I are finished replicating and building a new folded-space transporter in time for our arrival in the path of the Borg cube.
Where Captain Riker hails the Borg to stall with a pretense of surrender. It lasts the necessary thirty-three seconds my projection held regarding how long it would take to pinpoint Captain Picard's location.
Data and Lal transport off after confirming for our own estimation that indeed the Borg are in effect jamming our standard methods of transporting.
They transport over, I calculate 5.237 seconds to reach him at the speeds they can travel. Receiving the transporter lock fits my forty-seven seconds of actual physical struggle with nearby Borg estimate.
Within fifty-five seconds we have retrieved Captain Picard and I race away from the cube toward Wolf 359's ecliptic, but the Borg do not follow us they continue their course towards Earth.
It is apparent, 2.03 seconds after the Borg must have finished repairs, which is when the cube went into warp, leaving us momentarily behind.
"We need to know what he knows," Riker said to those gathered in sick bay, they were waiting for their Captain Picard to wake up. Knowing they looked at Locutus and likely he would be Locutus.
"The Borg read his mind, hopefully it worked both ways..." he speculated.
"Captain, perhaps there is a way," Data suggested after Picard was rendered unconscious again.
Data's lab is where Lal was born, and now the very cradle that held her prototype form holds Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Much of the Borg systems removed, but not enough to render him human.
There was enough of him Borg for Data to rig a direct interface, one which ran through a buffer, originally a transporter one, but Dominic convinced them to run it through him.
Having established the Borg communicate over multiple subspace channels, it takes 2.035 seconds to determine they are interdependent. They cannot willingly separate themselves.
This gives us an approach, and after an eternity seeming 525.5 seconds of trial-and-error approaches to hack into their network through Captain Picard this becomes an apparent liability to them.
They cannot eject us from the system. However this is as long as Captain Picard remains apart of it. That is when we detect a new danger as they try to send a kind of self-destruct signal to him.
Following it back, Data and I find a mind meeting us and that is Captain Picard himself. He was only able to get one word to us and that was sleep. It took .073 second to realize what he meant.
As unfamiliar as we are with Borg network architecture, it would take time to gain access to the command routines, however there was a routine that we could initiate and that was of regeneration.
We simply tell them to sleep.
That is when we discovered yet another mind. One that has a plurality and singularity, a contradiction given what we know of the Borg so far, yet this mind in many ways is the Borg and realizes what we did.
We see that this mind has the intention that we will not gain their technology. We had blocked the self-destruct command to Captain Picard, but we could not for the entire Borg cube.
In Earth orbit now, we watch as it detonates on the very doorstep of the planet it sought. This is not an ending, but a reprieve. Data and I know the mind we met, and know the Borg will be back.