Author's note: I'm sorry for taking so long to upload the next chapter. I had pretty much given up on writing this story in favor of spending more time on SG-20, but my muse decided to come back and finish this story.


The torpedo launcher under the Pittsburgh's engineering hull exploded, tearing the navigational deflector to shreds and flinging the pieces across space. The forward part of the saucer, no longer connected, drifted away from the burning engineering hull. But still it persisted, a stubborn ship unwilling to die.

Them another beam lanced out, touching the underside of the engineering hull. The beam tore through the side of the warp core, and the great fires that once fueled the Pittsburg now claimed the ship.

The Pittsburgh's remaining escort ship, a small freedom-class frigate, was caught in the explosion. The shockwave passed, leaving it spinning through space, it's hull punctured at a hundred different points. Only seconds later, it, too, vanished silently, as it's antimatter fuel igniting in a massive detonation.

For a long moment, Jill did nothing but stare at the screen in shock. She had watched more than just a Starfleet ship with a few hundred people aboard be destroyed. The admiral had been a great friend and advisor, as most grandfathers are to their grandchildren. And now he was dead, thanks to the heartless fury of a Borg cubeship. For a long moment, Jill wavered between sorrow and anger.

A captain doesn't break down crying in front of her crew. A captain doesn't break down crying in front of her crew. A captain doesn't-

"Sir, Pittsburg has been destroyed. The Keppler was caught in the explosion and suffered a warp core breech." The report broke through her thoughts, turning her attention from the battle raging outside, away from the one raging within. Anger claimed the victory over sorrow.

"I know!" Jill snarled at the startled officer. "I just watched it happen!"

"Do we have any weapons online yet?" she demanded.

"I'm trying, Captain, but all the EPS feeds on the ship are fried!"

"Uzil, take about, two one six, mark three," Jill ordered. "Engineering, prepare to jettison the warp core."

"Captain, if we lose the warp core, we won't be able to use the warp drive! We'll be sitting ducks!" Dan stated.

"If we can launch it through their shields, it won't matter!"

"Their shields have resisted the combined detonation of two larger warp cores. What makes you think that ours will be any different?" Dan almost-yelled back.

"Captain, your first duty is to the crew of this ship! You need to get out of here, not risk their lives on a plan that won't work!" R'eth yelled. "And if you don't, I will have to declare you unfit for command!"

As if to emphasize her words, the Saber, the Declaration's sister ship, took a cutting beam to the port nacelle. The tiny ship spun out, spiraling to its death on the Borg shields.

Jill paused, and then looked up from the console. Slowly, she said "Fine. Helm, get us out of here, best possible speed."

Slowly, the Declaration spun away from the Borg cube, limping out of the fight. Behind them, the cubeship sprang forward, then shot away at warp. Seconds later, the few surviving federation starships followed it.

The Declaration was left floating among the rubble of a few dozen disabled, damaged, and destroyed starships.

"Engineering, get to work on repairs." Jill stated. "Ops, begin scanning for survivors. We may not have been able to bring down the cube, but we can rescue the survivors. If anyone needs me, I'll be in my quarters." She added, walking to the turbolift.

As the doors closed, she heard Dan say "What caused that?" in a befuddled tone of voice.

"I do not understand it." R'eth stated. "She is acting as if she was very upset."

"She did." Uzil said. "Admiral Hayes was a relative of hers-I believe you humans call them "grandfathers"?"

"That would explain it." Dan said. "We'd better- "

"Sir, I'm getting some odd readings up here." The operations officer reported. "The internal sensors in the cargo bay sensors look a little funny."

Dan stood up and strode over to the operations console. "That's not right. We must have damaged the environmental sensors along with everything else."

He slapped his combadge."Commander Kendrick to-" he was interrupted by the computer stating "Internal communications are offline."

"The public address system is out too, sir. Internal communications are completely down."

"Well, if that register is true, the fluorine gas content of the atmosphere just shot up ten percent." Dan noted "If it gets much higher, it'll reach poisonous levels."

"I can't reach any of the damage-control teams." R'eth said, looking up from the small monitor panel near her station. "We'll have to send someone from the bridge."

Dan glanced around, looking for some unfortunate officer to send. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to be in the middle of important looking work at the minute.

"Guess I get to go. Ops, you have the con." Dan said

"Aye, sir." The operations officer stated.

"R'eth, you're the only other person here who doesn't have much anything useful to do. You're with me." Dan added, heading for the turbolift. R'eth muttered something under her breath, but got up and followed Dan to the turbolift.

The secondary hull seemed almost abandoned. Here and there, a panel spat out sparks, or smoke bellowed from a blown conduit, but overall, these decks had largely escaped any major damage.

Captain Jill Woodward wandered through them, not really heading anywhere, just wandering the halls of her crippled starship, without thought or care to where she was heading. Her mind was filled to overflowing with questions, her heart overloaded with grief.

Perhaps that was why she unknowingly walked into a nightmare.

She had just turned the corner into the narrow hallway above the cargo bay. The gray hall paneling and occasional exposed beam of the federation starship abruptly ended, and were replaced with the sickly green glow of Borg equipment. Through the window, she could see down into the tiny cargo bay. Clusters of Borg drones moved about in mechanically-perfect harmony, steadily converting the familiar Starfleet equipment into Borg technology. Along one wall, a row of regeneration alcoves had grown out of the wall paneling. The cargo transporter had remained intact, but its controls were now lost in a morass of Borg machinery.

"You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

Jill spun. A Borg drone was standing not two feet behind her, it's right arm raised toward her. Two long metal tubes, each ending in a vicious- looking needle, extended from a piece of metal on its arm. She guessed they were what was called 'assimilation tubules', devices used to inject nano-robots into the bloodstream of their victims. The nanites would then convert the unfortunate person into a mindless drone, a servant of the Borg collective.

Jill's hand shot to the phaser hanging from her uniform belt, drawing and firing in one smooth motion. However, the drone's personal shields easily repelled the burst.

The drone advanced slowly, it's shields deflecting two more rounds before it knocked the weapon from Jill's now-shaking hand. It raised it's assimilation implant toward her neck.

Author's Note: You don't need to tell me. I already know I use way too many cliffhangers in my writing.

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