LAST EDITED ON Jun-27-14 AT 04:53 PM (EDT)|
Friday, August 1, 2408
Mancunium (Vega V)
Crown Colony Commonwealth
Vega sector, United Federation of Planets
IPS Valiant arrived to find a quiet Friday afternoon (Galactic Standard Time) in progress on Mancunium, the third-most-populous world of the Crown Colony Commonwealth. This was the ship's third visit in as many years; Port Hodgson, the capital, was one of the regular stops on Art of Noise tours. Despite the system's proximity to the Earth Alliance (Vega being a mere 25 light-years from Sol), nothing much ever tended to happen there.
Captain Utena Tenjou sat casually in her command seat, already civvied up in preparation for her evening in town with the rest of the gang, and had just finished logging the ship's safe arrival in standard orbit when she realized that this visit was going to be different.
As was his habit, Kyouichi Saionji had one of the speakers at his communications station tuned to the system's open ATC channel, the volume turned down low, so that he could listen with half an ear to the near-subliminal buzz of the local airspace while he busied himself closing the ship's flight plan and filing the appropriate status updates with IPSF Fleetcom at Babylon 6. Utena, too, was not really listening to it, but receiving it, all the same; and so she sensed rather than heard the sudden shift in tone. She stopped her thumb just short of the intercom key that would have called down to the Lido Deck and turned instead to face Saionji.
"Do you - " she began, but he was already turning up the volume, a quizzical frown on his face. The traffic was overlapping now, hard to pick a coherent message out of, but the agitation in the voices was plain. Somebody at Mancunium Control was picking up something that he (from the sound) didn't like the looks of, and other stations on the network were agreeing with him.
"Hmm," Utena mused; then she turned to the science station and said, "Swede, any ideas?"
The young Starfleet officer at that station, one of several aboard the Valiant for this summer's tour, had already bent to her viewscope, her right hand making deft, delicate adjustments to the sensor matrix. "One second, Captain," she replied, her voice much brisker than usual as she, too picked up on the note of urgency in the air.
Tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and laid-back, Lt. Olivia Andersson was a fisherman's daughter from Malmö and almost perfectly inhabited her inevitable nickname... almost, except for the fact that she was by genetic heritage not a Swede at all, but in fact a Vulcan. Utena was fuzzy on how she'd come to be raised by a Swedish fisherman and his wife, but the fact was that she'd never been to Vulcan, nor did she have any particular interest in it. She didn't speak the language or know any of the customs; she didn't even like the food.
Apart from what she described as "the science nerd gene," in fact, Swede Andersson shared virtually no features of personality with the stereotypical Vulcan space officer. In the two months she'd been aboard, she'd earned a reputation as a person who didn't sweat the small stuff and didn't think the universe contained a lot of big stuff, but in moments like this she was all business. She fit the Valiant's unusual mold so well, Utena was seriously considering an attempt to poach her outright from Starfleet when her hitch was up.
Now, still looking into the scope, she reported crisply, "Transwarp conduit forming, bearing 349 mark 24 relative," sounding as Vulcan as Utena had ever heard her sound.
Utena's puzzlement deepened. "Transwarp conduit? Who the hell uses transwarp drive any more?"
Swede looked up from the scope long enough to make eye contact with the captain and shrug, then returned her attention to the scope. "Search me, boss," she replied, sounding much more like herself. "I can't make head or tail out of the meson signature, and the computer's no help." She looked up again, a wry smile on her face, and added, "It's returning code 429, which is EPIC for 'I got nothin', maybe it's the Breen.'"
In spite of the sudden tension, Utena chuckled; she shared Andersson's less-than-entirely-glowing regard for the Energy Pattern Interpretation Computer's competence.
"At any rate," Swede went on, "it's big, and whatever's coming through it will be here in eight seconds... mark."
"Yellow alert," said Utena, facing front once more. As the alarm bonged and the trim stripe on the walls lit up in the appropriate color, she went on, "Shields up, weapons to prestage. Swede, get me a visual."
Kozue Kaoru had just enough time to configure the ship accordingly and report, "All stations report ready, we're at Condition Two," before the viewer filled with... something. She wasn't really sure what. It wasn't anything she would call a ship; for one thing, it was enormous, bigger than any starship she'd ever seen or heard of, and for another, it was... well, it was a cube, which was a damned strange shape for a vehicle. It didn't even really appear to have a hull, as such. It was just a gigantic, geometrically regular agglomeration of pipes and conduits and... and stuff, like the work of that Mondasian artist whose name she couldn't think of right now, who made all his pieces out of scrap electronics and right angles.
Behind Kozue's station, Utena got to her feet and stood looking at this strange apparition, hanging in the sky above Mancunium like a super-low-resolution moon, for a second before saying in a flat voice,
A moment later, the viewer fuzzed to static. When it cleared again, the visual feed had been replaced by a view of a large room that seemed to have been decorated by the same person who designed the outside of the cube. It looked to Utena like someone had turned the Pompidou Centre in Paris inside-out and then converted it into a nightclub, with pulsing lights tending toward the yellow-green part of the spectrum and an artful roll of heavy-metal mist across the dance floor.
And it apparently was a dance floor, too. There were perhaps two dozen humanoid life forms of some kind in view, comprehensively getting down to the thumpy electronic music that now came pumping out of the overhead speakers./* The Crystal Method
Vegas (1997) */
"Uh, is this... ?" she wondered, gesturing.
Saionji nodded. "Transmission from the, uh, whatever that is," he said, consulting his panel. "They're using the standard Goldfish Warning protocol."
Utena walked closer to the screen, her face falling into a deeply puzzled frown; Kozue and Swede flanked her, their own expressions similarly puzzled. In the background, they could hear all hell breaking loose on the ATC freq that Saionji still had open in a side speaker, but all were too fascinated by the bizarrely festive scene that confronted them on the viewer to pay it much mind.
A moment later, they were all startled by the sudden appearance of another figure, who abruptly popped up from somewhere below the camera's field of view. All three woman uttered a small sound of surprise and took an involuntary half-step back, then glanced at each other with nearly identical looks of slight sheepishness before returning their attention to the screen.
The newly appeared figure was much closer to the camera than the dancers, so that those watching on the Valiant's bridge (and, Utena presumed, elsewhere) could get a good look at him. He was a man, evidently human or close to it, but he had pasty grey-white skin of a decidedly unhealthy texture and his body was covered in cybernetic attachments that looked like he might've made them himself, possibly without actually looking at them. Staring into the camera, he spoke; when he did, he sounded like not one man, but hundreds, possibly thousands of people all speaking in eerie, mechanical unison:
"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your chips. We will add your mixological and culinary distinctiveness to our own. From this time forward, your salsa con queso will adapt to service us." Then, with a grin that revealed a row of bright blue LEDs where his teeth belonged, he threw the horns with one mechanized hand and added, "Resistance is futile."
Scowling, Utena put her hands on her hips and took another step forward, jerking her head toward the screen so Saionji would know she wanted to speak to the cyborg. Then, when he'd given her the you're-on high sign, she said severely,
"Dammit, Dave! You bozos scared these people half to death jumping in out of nowhere like that!"
Dave of Borg blinked as if surprised to be addressed directly by someone in his unwitting "viewing audience"; then, recognizing Utena, he grinned even more widely. "Hey!" he said in a markedly less terrifyingly polyphonic, but still weirdly filtered, voice. "You guys beat us here. Solid! I told 6 of 1 the Valiant was faster than she thought." With a singsong note of triumph in his voice, he added, "Somebody owes Dave a bliiiiniiii."
"Blini is plural, you dork," said Kozue, rolling her eyes.
"Speaking of which," said Utena, "I thought you guys weren't allowed to have FTL any more after that fiasco with the Corellians."
Dave's non-robotic eye winked. "The Federation Supreme Court overturned that order," he said, and then went on in the Voice of All Borg, "The Roaming Party must roam! That is the Law. So we're here for the show tonight!"
Utena facepalmed. "Wonderful," she said. "Well, listen, I have to go and explain to the governor of Mancunium that this is not, in fact, the end of the world. Hopefully it's not too late to stop all of Starfleet and the Commonwealth Defence Force from gangrushing the Vega system."
"That'd be a major bummer," Dave agreed with a sage nod. "Say hi to the governor for us! See you tonight. All snack foods will be assimilated."
Kozue stood looking at the screen for a second or so after it switched back to the view of the cube, then turned to Utena and said matter-of-factly, "Utena, I have to go lie down now."
Utena nodded and patted her on the shoulder; Kozue turned without another word and left the bridge.
"Uh... what just happened?" Swede wondered as she followed Utena aft to the situation table at the back of the bridge. "Who was that?"
"That," said Utena with a touch of weariness, "was the Right Honorable David Bowie McMenahan-Chiang, former Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the United Galactica Assembly from the Republic of Bodacious Vee, Speaker for the Totally Radical Borg Collective." Then, picking up the telephone handset from its cradle at the situation table's end, she said, "Your Excellency? Utena Tenjou here. No, everything's OK, you can stand down the missiles. There's no emergency. It's only the Borg."
"No Emergency" - A Symphony No. 3 Micro-Story by Benjamin D. Hutchins
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