Ashleigh slowly opened her eyes and gazed up at the ceiling. She blinked a few times then sat upright and surveyed her surroundings. Her uniform from last shift lay haphazardly on the floor where she’d thrown it and the room was a mess. She’d been on duty for the last nineteen hours as Ensigns Loretta and Michaels had contracted the Denobulan flu and security had been short-staffed as a result. She rubbed her eyes, hauled herself off her bed and stumbled clumsily to the bathroom.
‘Lights,’ she croaked. The room instantly filled with a soft illumination and Ashleigh examined herself in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy and had dark bags under them. Her usually tightly wound blonde bun was in complete disarray and had collapsed somewhat under her weight.
‘Shower, on.’ She began slowly pulling off her top, not wanting to get it stuck in her curby-grips and, gingerly stepped into the sonic shower. She stood with her eyes closed while the gentle glow and soft whispering of the machine began its cycle. It had been a hard shift. Two of the visitors from Lae'nas had gotten themselves embroiled in a bitter disagreement over who had started the Breen war that had resulted in arms, legs and disruptor pistols. Ashleigh sighed heavily and pulled out what remained of her bun, letting her soft blonde hair flow down her back. Eyes still closed, she switched off the shower and reached out for a towel, wrapping it around herself as she stepped out.
Ten minutes later she was fully dressed again, perfect bun and all, and was grabbing a cup of coffee from the replicator as she stepped out onto the busy corridor of deck 3.
‘Alright Ashleigh?’ Ashleigh looked up from her coffee to see Marko walking towards her, PADD in hand.
‘You know better than to ask that question,’ she sighed and tried to give him a smile.
‘Cheer up,’ Marko replied brightly, ‘another fine day at the controls of one of the Federation’s most advanced ships.’
‘Can’t anything dampen your spirits?’ Ashleigh snapped bitterly.
‘Not likely,’ he gave her a playful nudge and they fell into step together.
‘What you got there?’ She asked, trying to change the subject.
‘Tactical reports of the Raveh sector. Riveting stuff. Want a copy?’
‘I’ll pass,’ she smirked. They were coming up to the mess hall. ‘Pancakes for breakfast today, I think. Topped with banana.'
‘With toffee sauce!’
‘Mmm,’ Ashleigh closed her eyes and imagined the taste. She hadn’t really eaten anything of substance for the last twenty-four hours, being too busy to have had anything but a couple of protein bars and about a gallon of coffee. She took another swig from the mug in her hand. ‘I’m looking forward to this.’
‘Think I’ll join-,’ he was cut off.
The corridor dulled and red strip-lights began flashing on and off. A klaxon wailed. Ashleigh shot a significant glance at Marko.
‘Guess the pancakes will need to wait.’ Both turned on their heel and walked quickly to the nearest turbo lift.
‘Bridge,’ She snapped. The doors closed and the turbolift hurtled upwards. Within seconds, the doors slid open again and they stepped out onto a bridge bustling with activity. Ashleigh turned right and headed up behind the captain’s chair to the security station while Marko headed left and took a seat next to the Conn, replacing a relieved young Ensign who looked as though he couldn’t get out the chair fast enough. She turned her attention to the view-screen and had to grab the edge of the console for support. To her horror and surprise a large green cuboid loomed ominously in space.
‘Alert Starfleet Command. Confirmed Borg sighting in orbit near Rigellous Four.’ Captain Mara Cross was standing in the middle of the bridge next to Commander Lyle Lon-Korvin, first officer.
‘Long range sensors are picking up additional Borg contacts in the Darnak system,’ reported Marko.
‘Both systems are inhabited Mara,’ Lon-Korvin gave Captain Cross a long hard look.
‘This is Captain Mara Cross of the Federation starship Valkyrie. You are trespassing in Federa-.’
‘We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.’
‘Well I can see that this conversation is going to go well. Close the channel.’ Captain Cross strode across the bridge and sat down firmly in her seat. Ashleigh watched with quiet fascination. ‘Shields up, target their weapons.’
‘Weapons systems targeted,’ chirped Marko although Ashleigh could hear a subtle edge to his voice.
‘Open fire.’ Ashleigh watched as a barrage of orange-red beams shot through space, only to dissipate onto the green shimmering shields of the Borg cube.
‘Cycle Phaser frequencies and fire again. Load photon torpedo bays one through eight and launch when ready.’ Lon-Korvin spoke with authority and confidence. Ashleigh watched again as another barrage of phaser fire, followed by eight balls of intense orange light hurtled their way towards the cube. These too impacted on the shields. In response this time, a jet of green light shot out towards them.
‘Brace for impact.’
Ashleigh gripped onto her console as the ship lurched violently to the left. A power relay behind her exploded and a shower of sparks burst out over the deck.
‘Shields at 45 per cent. That was some hit.’
‘Attack pattern Omega-3.’
‘Aye, aye.’ Another exchange of fire. Another impact on the Borg’s shields. Another violent lurch.
‘Starboard shields at 7 per cent.’ Ashleigh’s console lit up like a Christmas tree.
‘We’ve got boarders. Borg drones on decks three, nine and fourteen. Raising force-fields.’ Ashleigh went into full automatic, fingers flying across her console like a crazed pianist, sending orders to her security teams.
‘Lock down those decks. Return fire. Bring us about,’ Cross was out of her seat now and was striding about the bridge. ‘Lyle, hail Starfleet. Send them our position. Attack pattern-.’ The ship suddenly heaved to the right and Cross lost her footing and slammed headfirst into a bulkhead. She slid down and then lay still. Several consoles exploded sending hot metal and glass into the air, their operators rag-dolling across the deck.
‘Shields down. Significant damage to decks two, nine and twelve. Torpedo bays three through five have been destroyed.’
Ashleigh pulled out her emergency medical kit from underneath her console and rushed to Cross. As she approached, she knew immediately it was no good. There were large cuts to her face and her eyes were wide and staring. Ashleigh knelt down beside her and saw that there was a hole where one of Cross’ pointed, Vulcan ears should have been. She stood up and crossed to another downed officer, this one still moving.
‘The Captain’s dead sir,’ she said almost emotionlessly. How could everything have gone to hell so quickly? The Borg cube loomed out the view screen and continued advancing towards them.
‘Full reverse, set in warp co-ordinates. Get us out over here,’ Lon-Korvin snapped. Just as he finished his sentence several shimmering, green lights appeared on the bridge. Ashleigh instinctively went for her waist and pulled out a phaser pistol. She began to fire just as the first Borg materialized.
‘Security to the Bridge.’
A drone advanced towards Ashleigh. She fired, it fell in a heap on the ground. She turned around just in time to see Lon-Korvin disappear in a green shimmering light, accompanied by a Borg drone with it’s medical implant clamped around his neck. Marko had fled his console and was backing into a wall, firing his phaser into the shield of an assault drone. It was complete chaos. There were Borg all over the bridge and crew fighting to stay alive. Ashleigh let off a few quick rounds and raced towards the closest drone, launching herself off the ground and slamming into it headfirst, pulling out a short combat knife from her belt. She plunged it straight into the neck of the drone and scrambled to her feet again. There was no saving the bridge.
‘Computer, activate emergency transport protocol Alpha Three,’ she shrieked. Just as she de-materialized she watched Marko run towards the turbolift, just to be lifted and thrown across the bridge as it arrived, by one of the four drones that emerged.
She re-appeared on a much smaller bridge that was practically empty save for a few very visibly frightened Ensigns. Hesitating slightly, she made her way to the Captain’s chair.
‘All crew, this is Acting Captain Ashleigh Delanno. The Valkyrie is lost. Abandon ship,’ her voice cracked. Was she prepared to do what she was about to? ‘In approximately two minutes I am going to set the Valkyrie on a collision course with the Borg cube. I repeat, abandon ship.’
Ashleigh turned to one of the Ensigns, ‘I need you to arm a tri-cobalt device from the Aquarius’ armory and transport it to the warp core of the Valkyrie.’ She then turned to the viewscreen. ‘Computer, set Valkyrie on a collision course with the Borg cube then, begin separation sequence.’
The computer beeped its acknowledgement and Ashleigh set to work guiding the Aquarius escort out the rear of the limping Valkyrie. As they backed away, the extent of the damage became clear. The starboard warp pilot and nacelle had been ripped from the ship and was floating nearby. There were holes through several decks and a great gaping pit had been bored through the fore-saucer section. Fires were burning all over the ship, and still the Borg were firing.
‘Have you prepared that torpedo yet?’ Ashleigh snapped into her com-badge. A pause then a crackled response.
‘Just about, we’re ready for transport Commander.’
‘Do it.’ Ashleigh returned to her panel and watched the view-screen out of the corner of her eye. ‘Status of Darnak?’
‘A general distress call is still broadcasting. Long range sensors show two cubes in orbit of the planet.’
‘Nearest Starfleet vessel?’
‘Eight hours away.’
‘Damn.’ Ashleigh was fighting to contain her the panic rising up from her chest. She watched as the Valkyrie cruised towards the cube.
‘Transport complete.’ Ashleigh turned back to her panel and hit a sequence of buttons. The ship on the view-screen accelerated drastically and began careening into the side of the cube.
‘Detonate the tri-cobalt device.’
A huge fireball erupted out port side of the hull section, followed swiftly by a massive warp core explosion. The Aquarius escort rocked uncontrollably for about thirty seconds then came to a sudden stop.
‘Shields are holding. There is no sign of the Borg cube or the Valkyrie on sensors.’
Ashleigh scanned the view-screen, ‘how many escape pods?’
There was a long pause and then, ‘only six…’
‘Begin recovery operations,’ she said quietly. There was a deathly silence across the bridge. ‘Then set a course for Deep Space Nine, maximum warp.’
‘But Ma’am, what about Darnak?’
Ashleigh sat quietly for a few seconds. All eyes were on her.
‘We can’t help them. Recover the pods, then go to warp.’