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©00 The Media Desk and the USS RAVEN (IFT) Crew

Wolf 359

        The USS FREEDOM shuddered under yet another blast from the cube.
        "Helm, give us some maneuvering room." The captain ordered.
        "Starboard shields down! Backups down! Switching life support to auxiliary power. Hull breach on deck seven." Commander Kramer said coughing the acrid smoke out of his lungs from a control panel that had blown out nearby. "Fire suppression systems activated all over the ship.
        "Returning fire. No effect." Lieutenant Randolph repeated. "Photons launched." He sighed, "Nothing."
        The view screen showed yet another Federation ship exploding in a beautifully deadly ball of fire.
        "That was the MELBOURNE." Somebody said.
        Captain Lukas was standing beside the weapons station, "Keep doing it." Randolph fired again.
        The ship rocked violently and lurched out of control, alarms competed for attention.
        Ensign Waters struggled with the helm, shaking his head the whole time, "Helm's dead sir."
        A roaring blast knocked the captain flat. The bridge was shaking, lit only by the panels and displays that still worked. Somebody was screaming. He smelled the fire control chemical.
        Lukas got to his hands and knees surprised he could still move. He looked around. Randolph was on the floor beating his fist uselessly against the phaser controls. Ensign Waters lay on the deck holding his side, a dark stain spreading across his tunic. He heard the hiss of escaping air.
        "Don. Status." The captain said staggering to his feet. "Commander Kramer." He turned towards the side of the bridge.
        A third of the bridge was gone.
        The tactical station was in ruins, the engineering station was a mess of optical cables and broken displays.
        Lukas jumped over the railing and crouched next to the body that used to be Commander Kramer.
        "Don." He said.
        One of the man's eyes opened and focused, but he couldn't speak. Then the eye closed.
           The view screen was shifting wildly as the ship spun out of control through space. Every second or so a dark mass was visible finishing off the remaining fleet with sharp bursts of energy.
        "Sir?" Randolph said. "There are others still alive on the ship."
        "Yeah. We're done." He laid his friend on the deck and stood up. "Abandon ship." He said quietly, then he repeated it with his full command voice.
        Randolph touched his communicator, "Bridge to all hands. Abandon ship." He repeated it a couple of times, then he ran to the escape pod door. It took some yelling and kicking to get the door to open. Then he went back and helped Waters to the pod. The other two bridge officers limped toward the door.
        "Damnit. They've won." Ensign Li said through burned and bleeding lips.
        "Not yet." Randolph muttered sourly throwing one last look at the twisting screen. The cube was almost done with its destruction and going back to its course to sector 001, a course which would bring it right toward them.
        Lukas walked slowly to the escape pod. The dying ship behind him groaning in its death throes.
        As the captain stepped into the pod Randolph hit the escape button and the pod launched itself into space.
        "Goodbye old friend." The captain said staring out the small window.
        The FREEDOM danced its dance against the background of stars as the pod's small thrusters carried it to safety.
        Captain Lukas didn't even see the massive black structure closing on them.
        Suddenly the sky was filled with a blinding light.
        The cube, seeing the FREEDOM as nothing more than a navigational hazard which happened to be in the way had blasted it to dust.
        Lukas was temporarly blinded by the glare.
        "Are you OK Captain?" Randolph asked him. "You're bleeding." He ran a small scanner over the side of the captain's neck and head. "I'll get to you as soon as I finish with the others."
        He nodded but didn't speak.
        Through eyes full of tears and pain he looked back out the portal. The Borg ship had already plowed through what was left of his starship. Leaving a swirling cloud of small glowing particles and still burning pieces of wreckage.
        The cube began to glow as it powered up its warp field.
        "If it takes the rest of my life. I will destroy the Borg. They will be extinct by my hand."
        The Borg were gone.
        Captain Lukas stood at the door staring out at the wreckage of the fleet for a long time. Then Randolph wanted him to come sit on the circular bench so he could tend to him.
        He couldn't bear the eyes of Li and the others after the Lieutenant closed the cuts on his face and neck so he turned away and stared at the small com panel, waiting to be rescued.
        Captain Lukas couldn't believe that in one stroke he had his first command shot out from under him and had lost his best friend.
        "A ship." Randolph said from the window.

Starfleet Command

        It was a long three months.
        The surviving captains and a few others from the interception fleet were put together on a board to evaluate the battle with the Borg, and come up with suggestions and policies to use, the next time.
        Lukas's heart wasn't in it.
        "To beat the Borg, we have to BE the Borg." He had said more than once.
        To some degree his suggestion was incorporated into the final report. More study, more knowledge, a science ship was dispatched to an area of known Borg operations to learn what they could. A group of engineers was assembled to analyze the Borg weapons to see if any of them could be adapted for their use.
        But the panel came up with some of the same things the last panel had. Better shields, rotating frequency phasers, particle beam weapons of greater range and power.
        Captain Lukas thought they were wasting their time while the Borg adapted and regrouped for the next time.
        When he wasn't in meetings Lukas worked with an acquaintance of his at the space dock putting a new Nebula class ship through some test runs. This was far more satisfying and rewarding than anything the committee had done.
        He wore the medal he had gotten for the action as a memorial to Commander Kramer and the rest of the FREEDOM's crew to every meeting and panel. But after three months of meetings and discussion groups and panels Lukas tried to resign from the Borg Committee.
        "Its open."
        "Admiral Harte wishes to see you sir." Some nameless lieutenant commander said as the door opened.
        Lukas didn't move or react. He had expected it, but it had come sooner than he had expected.
        "Now sir."
        Lukas sat his glass down and stood up, adjusting his uniform. "OK."
        They walked out of the officers quarters and across the academy campus. Lukas returned some of the salutes from cadets, others he just nodded to.
        "Sir?" The lieutenant commander said.
        Lukas hadn't realized he had stopped walking to stare up at the huge command building.
        "OK, let's do it."
        They took the lift far into the building. He was handed off to another lower ranking officer who said he was an aide to the admiral. Lukas followed him down a long hallway.
        The aide stopped at a door and just stood there. Soon a female voice asked them to come in.
        "Admiral Harte, Commodore Barrows. Mister DeFaala. Captain Lukas." The aid announced.
        "Yes. How nice to meet you." The admiral said.
        "Admiral." He nodded. "Commodore, I thought you had gone back to Mars."
        "My plans changed at the last minute."
        The admiral gestured to the civilian, "Mister DeFaala is from Utopia Planitia. He is part of our advanced ship design team."
        Lukas's heart fluttered at the name of the shipyard. They had built the ship he had been working with Barrows on. For a spilt second he thought maybe he had done something wrong.
        "Please sit down Captain." The admiral said. He did. She continued, "So tell me what you think about the new NEBULA design."
        "Just spit it out Brian." The commodore smiled at him.
        Lukas took a deep breath. He nodded. "It's a good ship. But the design had some problems. The warp field wasn't stable, the structural integrity field wasn't strong enough. The engines had too steep of an acceleration curve for that size ship. I felt the weaponry was under powered, not enough punch, there were no quantum torpedo capable launchers facing toward the stern." The designer nodded at each point. The captain continued. "I didn't like the ready room at all, it looked like it was laid out to host a tea party instead of command a starship. But more seriously, the auxiliary bridge didn't even have a minimal science station, plus the access panels to the nacelles couldn't be removed while under warp. The metaphasic shielding was prone to failures. It just had some serious, and not so serious, shortcomings."
        "But it's a good ship..." The admiral said.
        "Yeah. We've corrected a lot of those problems. They're installing a phaser pulse system in addition to the regular guns. And the rear quantum launcher is on order."
        "Did you redo the ready room?" She asked him.
        "Maybe you should."
        It took him a minute to realize what she was suggesting.
        "We're commissioning her the day after tomorrow." The Commodore said.
        "But admiral." Lukas said not sure of what he was going to say next.
        "The fleet is a little short of ships right now. We need everything in space that can fly. This NEBULA is going to be it for her class, we're shelving the project for right now in order to rebuild the fleet with proven designs. We don't have time to work the bugs out of a new design. You're as familiar with this ship as anyone, and you hate sitting in a conference room. So, it's logical."
        Lukas grinned, "You don't look Vulcan."
        The admiral laughed.
        Mister DeFaala spoke up. "We suspected some of those problems. But there is still a big difference between a simulator and an actual ship in space. Your contribution to making the NX16 a go has been remarkable. Without your input, the prototype may have been scraped to make room in the dock for a Borg damaged ship."
        "I agree. The ship is yours." She stood and extended her hand to Lukas, "I would suggest you find some decorations to put in your ready room."
        "But what about the rest of the retrofitting it needs?" He said standing and taking her hand.
        "You can pick up the quantum torpedo launcher at Starbase 112, the battle bridge's science station will be sent aboard before you leave, you can install it as you go. The rest may have to wait." Barrows said. He stood and shook the Captain's hand.
        DeFaala bowed then took his hand as well. "We can consider this an extended test flight."
        "Yes sir." Lukas said.
        "Now about your crew." The admiral said. "We're a little limited on experienced officers. And most of your old crew has already been reassigned."
        "I have a few people in mind."
        "Give me their names and we'll cut through some red tape." Admiral Harte said.
        Lukas smiled broadly and thanked the admiral again.
        He was almost dancing as he returned to his quarters to pack.
        "It's open." He said as the door chimed, it opened.
        "Captain?" A voice said into the room.
        "Ellingsworth?" Lukas answered. "Come in. I didn't know you were still on Earth."
        "Yes sir. I've been filling in at Fleet Com."
        "And you're here to hitch a ride off world."
        "Yes sir. Would you know of any new ships that need a communications officer?"
        "I might. You still play a mean game of Fratto?"
        "Yes sir."
        "Well. Excellent. As my first crewman, can you do something for me?"
        "Name it sir."
        "Get this made up for the commissioning ceremony." He handed Ellingsworth a pad.
        "Already on it sir. I'll bring it to the shuttle pad first thing in the morning."
        "You know when I'm leaving for the ship?"
        "It's my job to know sir." Ellingsworth saluted and left with the data pad.
        For the first time since he had watched the FREEDOM explode, Lukas felt that his life was getting back on track. A track that would bring him face to face with his destiny.


        The shuttle paused at the space doors of the stardock. Then when clearance came it ventured in.         The dock was crowded with ships. Many still showing scars from the effort against the Borg. Others were elderly craft long since decommissioned being brought up to date to replace those lost in the battle, now refitted with technology not even dreamed of when they were built.
        "They even found two CONSTELLATION class hulls somewhere." Lukas said to Ellingsworth.
        "Those ships are over a hundred years old."
        "They'll be back in space in a month. They won't see action at the neutral zone, but they'll be fit for supply detail and space lane patrol." The captain said looking at the classic ships.
        As the shuttle swung around a GALAXY class ship Captain Lukas got a good look as his new ship.
        All he had eyes for were the newly inscribed designation numbers and name.
        "Nevermore." He said under his breath as they passed the saucer section.
        Ellingsworth handed him a paper-wrapped object.
        Then something else caught his eye on the ship. "They got it done."
        "A surprise for somebody."
        The communications officer followed the captain's eyes to the dorsal pod on the ship. At first glance it seemed to be a standard removable cargo pod found on the majority of the original NEBULA class ships. But closer inspection revealed it not to be. Ellingsworth didn't ask any more questions about it.
        Lukas stood and looked at the ship silently, then as the shuttle turned toward the landing bay he moved away from the window and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, clutching the package tightly.
        The shuttle sat down and the few people on the ship waited impatiently for the signal to open the doors.
        Inside the shuttle, Captain Lukas seemed to have all the time in the world. And for the next few minutes, he did. There was nothing he could do to get His Ship ready until he was actually on board.
        The light flashed, the shuttle bay was repressurized. His reprieve was over, now it was time to work.
        Outside the shuttle the traditional bos'ns whistle piped him aboard.
        "Sir. Welcome back to the RAVEN." The ranking officer said with a sharp salute.
        Even though the ship was not officially named yet, Captain Lukas didn't correct the man. He nodded and returned the salute.
        "Chief Rhoades, have this installed at the main entrance to the bridge, I want everyone to see it as a reminder." He handed the package to the chief of operations.
        She opened it and saw the one word engraved deeply into the brass.
        "Nevermore." She read out loud.
        "Poe sir?" The engineer asked.
        The captain nodded, "A warning to the Borg." He turned to those around him. "I'm going to the bridge. Then we're going to test every system on this ship. After tomorrow's ceremony, we're getting to work. Dismissed."
        The rest of the day, and all night as well, the hand picked crew came aboard. There was an urgency to them. Most did not unpack their personal items, some did not even change into a standard uniform, they got right to their assignments. Putting in new equipment, testing old equipment. The prevailing attitude was that somewhere out 'There' a Borg ship was waiting on them, and they were going to go find it.
        Captain Lukas inspected every inch of his ship, down to putting on a metallic jumpsuit and crawling inside the impulse engine exhaust tubes to check for stress fissures in the bondings. Finally he was satisfied and fell into an uneasy sleep in a chair in the captain's quarters. The bed was covered with his stuff from Earth.

        "Admiral DETong Sir!"
        "Admiral Harte Sir!"
        "Commodore Barrows Sir!"
        As each flag level officer was introduced Captain Lukas saluted them and welcomed them aboard.
        There was quite the entourage for the commissioning of the first post-Wolf 359 ship. However the service was brief and to the point. Admiral Gleason turned over the flag of the ship to Captain Lukas and he graciously accepted the new starship.
        Captain Lukas handed the flag to Chief Rhoades then turned to the gathering. "Ladies and gentleman. I thank you and look forward to working with you. From now until this ship is scraped, it has one mission. Nevermore." He looked at them. "Nevermore."
        There was a moment of silence. Then applause.
        The captain saluted the gathered brass and then the crew. "Dismissed to stations. We have a job waiting for us."
        In a very few minutes the admirals and company were walking down the gangway back to the space station and the RAVEN was preparing for whatever awaited it outside.
        Communication Chief John Ellingsworth turned toward the captain, "Sir. We have clearance to depart. Space doors are opening."
        The captain stood in the middle of the bridge. He looked around at the stations.
        "Tactical on line and ready sir." Lieutenant Ryan said first.
        "Helm answering sir. All systems go." Lieutenant Flip Richards said as the captain met his eyes.
        "Ops standing by. All systems good." Rhoades said with a smile.
        Ellingsworth was last in line, "Comm is perfect, awaiting your orders."
        Captain Lukas nodded to them, "Let's go. Comm notify dock control we're leaving and thank them for their hospitality. Helm, do it."
        The ship backed away from the docking facilities. Several of the other ships in dock saluted their departing comrade by blinking their running lights several times.
        As the RAVEN slipped into the eternal night of space her engines came to full power and she assumed her own orbit around Earth for a moment.
        "All stations, all sections report." Captain Lukas said loudly.
        It took a few minutes, but there were no problems.
        "Attention all hands. This is the captain. I am happy to report this fine ship is space worthy and we are leaving orbit."
        The crew cheered.
        "Helm. We have the rest of our crew waiting on us at Starbase 217 on New Delaware. Set course, best speed. Let's see how she handles."
        "Aye sir." Lt. Richards answered.
        The ship left orbit and made for open space.
        Captain Lukas finally took his seat.
        Before long they were going to warp, the crew was notified, everybody braced themselves, some crossed their fingers. But the test runs had paid off. The warp field modifications held the ship was at warp three and cruising steadily.
        "Warp four." Richards said. "Five."
        "Hold her at warp six." Lukas ordered. "Engineering, full drive diagnostic."
        "Warp six and holding."
        "One diagnostic coming up." Chief Engineer Barnhart answered.
        The engineering staff went over everything.
        "Sir. The only problem we've found is that the drive plasma is a little hot per the specs, but still in normal range, otherwise everything is excellent."
        "Keep it that way. Warp seven Mister Richards."
        "Answering warp seven sir."
        Below decks the ship's sound continued to change as more power was applied.
        "Now this is more like it." Barnhart said.
        "Run her up, Warp eight." Lukas ordered.
        The warp core was a solid tower of light. The ship actually hummed with power.
        "Sitting at warp eight." Richards said.
        "Engineering, report."
        "Plasma temperature steady, power usage good, warp field stable."
        "Clear for warp nine?" Lukas ordered.
        "Looks good from here."
        "Helm, you heard the man."
        "Going to warp nine sir."
        There was tension in the ship. Everybody on the bridge was looking at the helmsman.
        "Warp eight two. Three. Warp eight point five." He stared at the display. "Eight seven."
        The ship stormed through subspace. The engines alive with power.
        "Eight. Eight Nine." Richards took a quick breath. "Warp Nine Point Zero Two. Sir."
        "Engineering. Warp nine. You still with us?"
        "Clean and green across the board. We're a real starship sir."
        Lukas let the congratulations flow for a minute. "Helm, reduce speed to warp five. All stations, make sure everything's still kosher. Maintain course for New Delaware. Comm, notify Starbase 217 of our revised arrival time. I'll be redecorating my ready room."
        "Aye sir."

The Scout

        Captain Lukas was pondering the remaining vacant position in his command staff. He was up to his elbows in Lieutenants, but nobody above that rank. He needed a first officer, and he wanted a second officer/XO. Plus he had to decide the other bridge duty arrangements like firming down which officer was the chief helmsman and which was the navigator, even though both Lapinski and Richards were both equally competent, the roster required the positions be assigned.
        As he thought about it, he took down the pastel and cream colored abstract wall hanging on his ready room wall and had the two posture assisting chairs removed and recycled. He was about to order a can of wood stain replicated for his egg shell colored desktop when the com beeped.
        "Sir, we have a priority message coming in from a transport."
        "What is it?"
        "They have been hailed by the Borg."
        Captain Lukas' blood froze in his veins.
        "Change course to intercept the transport. Maximum warp. Red Alert."
        The claxon blared, the lights took on a red tint, Lukas stepped onto the bridge and looked at his new crew.
        The RAVEN roared into the system the transport had been in. There was no trace of the ship.
        "Scan for anything."
        "Nothing so far sir."
        "Mister Ellingsworth, monitor all known Borg communications channels."
        "Already doing it sir. So far everything is quiet."
        "Debris sir. Near an asteroid field. I'm showing weapon signatures."
        "Working on it."
        It was a tense minute.
        "Borg sir."
        "OK, they're here. Find them." Lukas ordered with a voice straight from Hades.
        Nothing happened for a few long minutes.
        A small Borg scout ship was on the screen. "We Are The Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ship. We will add your bio ..."
        "SHUT THAT OFF!" Lukas shouted. "Where did they come from?"
        "They just appeared. There was nothing there a second ago, we just swept that area."
        Lukas shook it off. "Lock onto that ship with everything we've got. One shot. OK?" He looked at his officers. "Here we go. Open hailing frequencies."
        "... is Futile." The Borg finished their speech.
        "Attention Borg Vessel." Lukas shouted. He didn't wait for an answer. He looked at Lieutenant Ryan at tactical. He nodded. "Nevermore." He whispered.
        The RAVEN let loose an unbelievable blast of destructive force. The Borg ship shuddered on the screen. Then a bright reddish-orange fireball erupted from one side of it.
        "Their shields are down. They're trying to get their engines on line."
        "I'm still showing live Borg on board. Not many, but a few of them survived."
        "Tractor beam. Pull it into the shuttle bay two. Use a level ten force field to contain the damaged portion of the ship. All hands. Everybody not otherwise committed report to the shuttle bay in full combat gear. Call New Delaware, tell them we've got prisoners and they may want to send some more ships into this area in case they're not by themselves."
        "Shuttle bay two ready to receive enemy ship." Rhoades said.
        Lukas nodded, "Ryan, the bridge is yours, I'll be down there."
        The turbo lift door closed behind him.
        "Wow." Ellingsworth said.
        "Yeah." Rhoades agreed.
        "Keep scanning, I've never heard of that small of a ship being out on its own." Ryan said to Richards.
        "I think I've figured out where they were hiding. Just before they hailed us there was a burst of high warp energy. They may have been using a transwarp bubble as a cloak."
        "It worked." Ryan said. "Send your info to Starfleet command."
        "Aye sir."
        In the shuttle bay the battered small scout ship settled to the floor. It was obvious about half the ship was missing, destroyed in the attack.
        "Sir, it's still active, they're trying to regenerate it."
        "Let'em. Let's go." Lukas closed the visor of his helmet. A dozen people in full body armor and carrying heavy phaser rifles approached the ship. "Open a com line to the bridge."
        The door wouldn't open, but it didn't matter, two huge gaping holes served just as well.
        Inside the ship it was pitch black. Ruptured conduit lines and cables hung from walls and ceiling.
        "This is different." Lukas said into his communicator.
        "Yeah." Somebody replied.
        The floor, ceiling and walls had control panels, work stations, walkways, and displays on them. There was no up or down on the ship. The regenerative niches were placed almost at random in the ship, wherever there was room.
        Lt. Lapinski looked at a buckled floor plate, then at an identical panel on the wall, "There's no gravity netting installed, this is a zero-G ship."
        "Add that to our report." Lukas said.
        "But it is a most efficient design. They haven't wasted a single square millimeter of this ship." The engineer said.
        "It explains why there were more life signs than we expected for that size of ship." Rhoades said from the bridge.
        "There." One of the armored humans said pointing to an alcove on the floor, the unit's controls blinked and changed.
        A Borg was in it.
        "Another one." Lukas said. This Borg was upside down in a wall unit, except its monitor panels were dark.
        "There." Another Borg was down the passage, its alcove was functioning.
        "Fan out, see how many there are that are still alive."
        In the end, there were only five Borg still alive on what was left of the ship.
        "Sir. We're reading an energy buildup on the scout." Rhoades said from the com. "It look's like a self-destruct sequence."
        "How do we shut it down?"
        "I don't know."
        "Where's the buildup?"
        "Just aft of your position. It's a maneuvering thruster."
        Lukas looked around, evidently that thruster was all that was left of the ship with enough energy to destroy the ship. "I've got an idea. Tell me when I'm there." He ran through the ship.
        "OK, it should be above you."
        Lukas looked around, there was nothing that looked like it was the controls for the thruster. "You're sure this is it?" Lukas said.
        "Yes sir. It's building up slowly, but its going to blow eventually."
        Lukas aimed his rifle at the ceiling and fired. The covering panel blew off to reveal inner workings of the ship. He fired again.
        A Borg nearby opened its eyes and stepped from its alcove.
        "SIR!" Somebody shouted. Then a phaser beam struck the Borg full in its back. It staggered.
        Lukas aimed at it as well. The Borg spun around, but it was still moving.
        Two more blasts and the Borg dropped, stunned but not dead.
        "Take it to sickbay." Lukas said. He aimed at the ceiling and fired again.
        This time he was rewarded with a chain of small violent explosions that rocked the disabled ship.
        "That was it. The thruster is off line. The remaining power on board the ship is dropping."
        "Sir! The rest of the Borg just died. Their alcoves shut down and they are not showing any life signs."
        They went through the scout ship again. Every remaining Borg on the ship was as dead as their ship. Their scans of the ship revealed no energy at all, it was a pile of dead scrap metal.
        In sickbay the Borg drone was lost and confused. It walked repeatedly into the containment field, then it beat it's prosthetic arm against the walls, then it would walk into the field again.
        Captain Lukas looked at Doctor Geena. "Well?"
        "It's human under there. And from the readings I can get through all the hardware, it's a fairly recent convert."
        "Who was it?"
        "We're still running the facial features through the database. But I can tell you it was a male in his thirties to maybe forty some. He was in pretty good shape. My bet, a Star Fleet officer."
        The ship suddenly came to Red Alert around them, the Borg stopped running into the walls and stood at attention. "Battle Stations." It said through an expressionless face half covered with Borg sensors.
        "Captain Lukas to the bridge. All hands to battle stations." Lieutenant Ryan shouted through the intercom.
        "Lukas here, what's going on?"
        "A Borg cube just entered this system. And another scout just popped out of transwarp and is trying to cut off our escape."
        "Throw everything we got at the scout and get us out of here. Maximum warp." Lukas started for the door. "Doctor, they're tracking him. If you can't cut his link to the collective. Kill him."
        "Yes sir."
        The ship screamed with power, the weapons were firing.
        Then there was a surge of acceleration that made it hard for Lukas to get inside the turbolift.
        The bridge was chaos. "The cube is still after us." Ryan shouted to him.
        Other officers were yelling information to each other over the computer voice and alarms. "They're trying to lock on a tractor beam."
        "Another scout, directly ahead." Richards said.
        "Evasive..." The ship lurched, "Maneuvers. Thank you helm." Lukas finished as the ship veered off to one side.
        "The cube is gaining." Ryan said.
        "Engineering, give me full metaphasic shields. Helm set course directly for the star."
        "Full shields." Lt. Lapinskii said from the engineering station.
        "Sir?" Richards said then he looked over his shoulder, the captain nodded. "Laying in serpentine course for the star."
        "Sir, sickbay reports the drone's link is down and that there is an ID match on him." Ellingsworth said.
        "Belay that." Lukas said. "Let's go."
        The ship described a wild spiraling course toward the star. The scout ships close behind, then the giant black cube bringing up the rear.
        "Shields full up, we're already getting solar turbulence." Richards said.
        "Hull heating, still in normal range."
        "Belay that too, keep going. When they break off pursuit take us around the corona then back out at full warp."
        "Aye." Richards said with an evil grin.
        Rhoades smiled as well, "I guess this is our shield test."
        Lukas nodded, "We've got to get that ship back to Starfleet. Evidently the Borg have improved some things, and they need to know about it."
        The ship was bucking the solar wind fiercely, but the shields held, mostly.
        "Shields holding, but we've got four borderline generators." Lapinskii reported.
        "They've stopped pursuit, one of the scout ships is drifting, it's shields are down." Ryan looked at the captain. "It just exploded. The cube is holding position."
        "Take us around the star to its south pole. Then out. As soon as you can, make maximum warp for the nearest star base."
        "Setting course. It's going to be a rough ride."
        "It already is." Lukas said as the ship shuddered from the turbulence.
        The RAVEN fought its way through the leaping energy of the star, then as they neared the magnetic pole, the ship began to alter its course to make their escape.
        "Clearing the corona, warp in fifteen seconds... ten..." Richards counted down, then the stars shifted and they were at warp.
        "No sign of pursuit." Lieutenant Ryan announced.
        "On course for star base 14." Richards said.
        Rhoades was next. "Minimal damage, control parties already on it."
        "Engineering to bridge. We lost two shield generators, but it worked." Barnhart said from the com.
        "Full reports. I'll be in sick bay."

The Drone

        "I went through the information on the other drones. One of them was a Ferringi, a couple were human, the others are new species as far as I could tell." Doctor Geena said as soon as the captain walked in, "They're all dead."
        "What about ours?"
        "Commander Jeffery Dean." The doctor gestured to the prone figure on the surgical bed. "His ship was reported lost last year. Star fleet thought it was destroyed. Evidently it wasn't."
        "How much of him is left?"
        "A lot. He wasn't fully assimilated until a few months ago. Evidently he was on a work detail that didn't require full outfitting. There's even a human hand under this." The doctor raised the prosthetic arm. "This is a temporary add on until his body accepts the spinal implants to control a full cyborg attachment."
        "Can you change him back?"
        "Here? Now? No. But once we reach a starbase, we can do it."
        "We'll be there tomorrow. Get him ready."
        "Doctor." The orderly said. "He's coming around."
        They went to the head of the bed. The man's human eye was open and focusing.
        "Jeff?" The doctor said. "Can you hear me?"
        "I. We. I. Hear you." He blinked. "You are not Borg."
        "You are on board a Federation ship, you're link to the collective has been severed."
        "Fifteen of fifteen to three of fifteen." The drone said. "Direct."
        "They can't hear you." Lukas said.
        "They are not here."
        "You are human again." The doctor said. "Rest."
        "Direction." The drone said. "Rest." It closed its eye and relaxed.
        "Chief Engineer to captain."
        "Go ahead."
        "I've got some info from the Borg ship we captured."
        "I'm on my way."
        "What?" Lukas stopped and turned around. "Who called me?"
        "He did." The doctor nodded towards his patient.
        Lukas walked up to the Borg and looked at him.
        "Sir." He said with effort.
        "Take your time."
        "Our ship. The crew."
        "They attacked and destroyed a transport, we engaged the scout ship and destroyed it, you are the only survivor."
        "No sir. Not... Probe six of nine. Bornoba." The breath was deep and ragged, "The USS BORNOBA."
        "That's the ship that was reported lost." The doctor added.
        A tear was in the all too human eye, "We were surrounded by three Borgs, two cubes and something else. I don't remember anything else really." He gasped, "It hurts..."
        The doctor scanned the man, "Some of his implants are turning against him."
        "Do what you can for him doctor." Lukas ordered unnecessarily.
        The captain watched for a few minutes, then went to the shuttle bay.
        "This is a Borg network connector. It acts as a relay between all their units in a large area. Essentially a subspace repeater."
        "Can you make it work?"
        "No doubt." Lt. Barnhart said.
        "Will the Borg know about it?"
        "Not right away if they ever do."
        "Put it together with everything else we've got to turn over to star fleet."
        "You're going back out after them again?"
        "I've got another reason now." The captain looked at the wrecked scout ship, "The USS BORNOBA. Nevermore." He turned and walked out.

Starbase 14

        "That's all we're doing, dropping off the scout and continuing to New Delaware."
        "What about the drone?"
        "What about him?"
        "We understood he was coming here for medical treatment."
        Captain Lukas nodded at the screen, "He was, but our plans changed. He began rejecting his newer implants and needed surgery before we got here. He's almost human now and is asking to stay aboard for awhile."
        "When you get here I want him to be fully debriefed, he was with the Borg for some time, even though as you say, he wasn't a full Borg until recently."
        "I'm sure he will help any way he can."
        "I'm sure. See you soon. Star base fourteen out."
        Captain Lukas looked around his ready room. It was starting to show some of his touches, but he still didn't like the lighting. He decided to raid the supply room at the star base to what they might have lying around unclaimed.
        "Standard docking helm." Lukas ordered as he walked onto the bridge.
        "Standard docking aye." Lieutenant Lapinski answered.
        "Good. I was just going to tell you how I've broken down the assignments."
        "She gets the helm and I'm the navigator." Richards commented.
        "No. She gets the helm and you're the sanitation officer." Lukas deadpanned to him for stealing his thunder.
        "Told you. Garbage is your middle name." Lapinski laughed.
        "Just dock the ship so I can get away from you people." He looked at the bridge crew as they laughed. He could see the question in their eyes. "No, I haven't picked a first officer yet. I was hoping Spock of Vulcan would come out of retirement."
        "Illogical. A three hundred year old first officer." Ryan said in his best Vulcan voice.
        "Approach control to RAVEN, we're ready for handover." The Comm said.
        "You got it control." Lukas said nodding to Lapinski.
        There was the barest vibration through the ship as they slowly bumped into the docking arm of the star base.
        "OK, first things first. Repairs, supplies, a case of Ardrian red wine, and Commander Dean to medical." Captain Lukas said. "Then shore leave rotations."
        "In that order?" Ellingsworth said.
        "More or less."
        "Doctor Geena to Captain Lukas. We are ready to take Mister Dean to Star Base Medical."
        "On my way."
        "Miss Rhoades, take care of the rotation. I'll be at medical."
        Three hours or eternity. Captain Lukas couldn't say which. During that time they; scanned Dean from head to toe and back again, removed most of the Borg implants, debriefed him within an inch of his life, and made a full holographic reference of him before and after. But the only thing they didn't do was answer his questions.
        "Sirs. All I ask is to be able to stay on board the RAVEN and work with them in their crusade. I'd like to repay them a little for rescuing me and giving me back my life." Commander Dean said.
        The base commander looked at the vice admiral who looked at the Borg specialist who looked at the star fleet security officer who looked at the base commander who looked at Captain Lukas.
        "I'd like to have him as my first officer." He said to the base commander who said it to the vice admiral who...
        "He doesn't know any more about the Borg and their plans than we do. The ship you captured has provided ten times the information he has." The security man said.
        The Borg expert nodded. "He was never actually in the collective, he was still in a specialized sub-group for training. Other than some general impressions he hasn't been a lot of help."
        The admiral nodded. "I've got no problems with it. As long as you take reasonable precautions in case there are any residual effects."
        Captain Lukas looked at Dean, "You try to rejoin the collective I'll shoot you myself."
        "Yes captain."
        The base commander shook Dean's hand, "Congratulations commander, I've seen some fantastic stunts pulled to snag a good position, but this one takes the cake."
        Commander Dean almost, almost, smiled.
        "Computer, reinstate Jeffery Dean to full commander, show his current assignment as the first officer of the RAVEN, Brian Lukas, Captain. Effective immediately." The admiral said with great authority.
        "Commander Dean is registered as the first officer of the USS RAVEN." The computer replied.
        Six hours later the RAVEN was warping toward New Delaware where they would pick up the rest of their crew.

The Stowaway

        "Captain Lukas, report to Starview." Ryan's voice said over the comm.
        "Now what?" Lukas said. He had just gotten relaxed in his quarters.
        "We have a stowaway."
        Lukas had heard the word before, but never used aboard a ship he was on. "On my way."
        Starview was the RAVEN's smaller version of the famous Ten Forward aboard GALAXY class ships. Lukas had been in there a lot during their pre-commissioning checks, they always sat around the same table and had a drink and compared notes on the ship's progress, he hadn't even thought about the place since they had launched their mission. The room had been designed to be cozy and not remind you that you were on a state-of-the-art starship. There was real wood in the tabletops and the paneling. The windows looked out at the void without noticeable intrusion by the structural members of the hull. The bar/serving area was small but efficient in design and was rumored to actually work, although nobody had tried it out yet, preferring to use the replicators.
        Captain Lukas was still adjusting his uniform when he ran into the room.
        He had expected some alien barricaded behind an overturned table with a phaser rifle aimed his way, maybe holding a hostage or two.
        What he found was an overweight bearded human behind the bar making drinks and telling a funny story about an Andorian and a vacuum-operated toilet to the security detail.
        "Captain Lukas. A pleasure to meet you sir." The man said.
        "What? Who? Where..."
        "Sorry about the disturbance sir. See, I wasn't supposed to catch up to you until New Delaware, but, I heard you were at fourteen, so I had Captain Griffin make a side trip. I barely made it before you pulled out."
        "Captain Lukas, this is Mister Kada, a well, I'm not sure what he is. He has all sorts of Star Fleet clearances, and he is on the transfer list for New Delaware." Ryan said holding out a handful of data pads and paper, yes paper, documents.
        "I'm going to document your voyage. I hear it's called a Crusade now."
        Lukas stood there. He had heard about people like this. Warp age drifters that earned their keep between real assignments by acting as mission historians or even teachers.
        "So anyway, this two hundred kilo Andorian pushed the 'expel' button while he was sitting on the toilet instead of getting up and closing the lid, and the vacuum kicked in and he was stuck! Boy could he scream! He could swear in five languages that I recognized. It took two engineering teams three hours to relieve the vacuum and pull him off once we landed." Kada finished the story. "Meanwhile everybody on the transport tried to keep from laughing too much because you know how Andorians are when they're embarrassed. His two friends were sitting there turning the most remarkable shades of blue."
        Even Captain Lukas laughed.
        "You weren't actually on that transport were you? I've heard that story before." One of the security guards said.
        "Row nine, seat three. Starbase 109 to Baltog 4." Kada said.
        "Never a Betazoid around when you need one." Ryan said.
        Lukas looked through the stuff Ryan had given him. The man in half civilian clothes and half outdated Star Fleet uniform carried the rank of Lieutenant in the Special Services branch. His listing was, of all things, Media Consultant. His orders assigning him to the RAVEN were the most convoluted Lukas had ever seen, but they were in order.
        "So, Captain. Where's my duty station?"
        "Right here." Ryan said, "Out of the way but where I can keep an eye on you."
        The captain agreed that that sounded like a good idea to him.
        "I was hoping for say, the science station, or maybe the back up comm officer." He smiled.
        "Bartender. Morale officer. Historian. AND substitute teacher if we get any kids on board."
        Kada nodded. "No bridge openings huh? I knew I should'a caught that Rutman shuttle last month. Well. OK, you got a deal? What'cha have?" He wiped at the bar with a polish rag.
        Lukas laughed again. The man was something else.

New Delaware

        For a small planet with an off the beaten path starbase, New Delaware and Starbase 217 had a little bit of everything.
        The RAVEN assumed standard orbit around the planet and began to make ready for the rest of the crew to board.
        "Ensign James Zizileuskas reporting for duty sir." He saluted the Captain.
        "Welcome aboard."
        The ensign picked up what used to be called a 'seabag' and walked over to stand behind the ops officer.
        "Private Meade. Reporting. Sir." The man saluted stiffly.
        "Private?" Lukas said looking at his roster. "Oh, equivalency rank. Midshipman grade common spacer." He nodded at Ryan with a grin.
        "Ship Systems Service Specialist. Sir." Meade saluted Ryan.
        "Relax private, you'll be assigned to Lieutenant Rhoades' detail."
        "Gentleman, Lieutenant Rhoades will show you to your quarters now."
        The group walked out, Meade was stepping so smartly he was almost marching.
        "That's five. Only another hundred or so to go." Ryan said.
        "We're not going to be fully staffed for a long time. Star Fleet is a little short help right now."
        Two cadets beamed aboard in the next group. They were doing a deep space duty tour as part of an academy assignment. Sisters, and apparently telepathic with each other, they had a bad habit of answering questions for each other.
        With nowhere else to assign them, the Captain pulled medical duty out of the hat for them.
        The next group beamed aboard, "Ensign Hackett Sir. Dwight Hackett sir. When are we going after the Borg sir?"
        "I'm captain Lukas Ensign."
        "Of Course Sir." He turned toward the captain and saluted.
        "What's your trade ensign?" Ryan asked the man.
        "Weapons technician sir. Directed energy beams my specialty sir."
        "You ever deal with a phaser pulse cannon?"
        "Rapid fire or sustained burst emitter sir?"
        "Both ensign." Lukas said slowly.
        A broad smile crept across Hackett's face.
        "I slept with a model of the type I emitter in tech school."
        "Yeah, no problem. We'll get you bridge rated for the weapons station."
        "Sir. With all due respect sir, I would much rather be assigned to the weapons pod."
        "For awhile you'll do double duty. We're a little short right now."
        That made Hackett's day.
        After the weapon's tech left Lukas looked down the list then at Ryan, "An interesting assortment we've got."
        "Sir. Mister Kada is ready to beam back aboard sir."
        "I didn't know he beamed down."
        "He left as soon as we got here, he said he had supplies to get."
        "Bring him aboard." Lukas sighed.
        "Sir, there's a lot of bulk items around him."
        Ryan nodded, "All of it."
        What materialized on the transporter was enough to give the Captain bad dreams for months. Boxes and bags and cases of all sorts of stuff. Some of it had a powerful odor about it.
        "Things we'll need sir." The ship's historian said.
        "Barrachin cheese. Great!" Ryan smiled as he picked up the box.
        "And sir, Ardrian wine, I heard you had trouble finding it." The man tapped a large case with his foot and grinned at the captain.
        "Terrific. Where are you going to store this mess?"
        "I found an empty storeroom on deck 29 and..."
        "Whatever. As long as it's out of my sight."
        "What's that?" Ryan said pointing to a small robot that was moving the stuff to the edge of the platform.
        "Oh, that's Grunt." He nodded at the rolling box with arms. "Grunt, say 'hello' to the gentlemen."
        The box lived up to its name, it simply made a low noise that could pass for a grunt.
        Captain Lukas sighed.

The Crew

        Captain Lukas stood in front of the main viewscreen on the bridge, everybody on board the ship watched on various view screens and displays. He gestured to one side, a tall thin officer stood at attention nearby. He still bore a few light thin scars from his most recent surgery.
        "Most of you have met Commander Dean. He is the first officer and acting XO of this ship. I look forward to working closely with him."
        The commander nodded and smiled briefly.
        "Of course you all know Lieutenant Lapinski, our lead helm officer."
        The young lady waved to them.
        "Mister Ellingsworth, our communications officer. And Chief Engineer Barnhart back there. With his assistant Ensign Zizileuskas."
        The group nodded almost as one to the viewer.
        "Lieutenant Rhoades is our chief of ops. It's her fault the replicators can't make a glass of ice water without freezing it solid."
        They laughed.
        "We've worked that out." She said. Nodding to Ensign Meade standing next to her.
        "Flip Richards is our navigator. And Chief of Security Lieutenant Robert Ryan."
        Ryan bowed slightly to the group.
        "Ensign Hackett is going to fill in as our weapons officer for the time being."
        Hackett jumped to attention and saluted.
        "Now, ladies and gentlemen. There have been reports of Borg activity in the Kelruni Two system. It's gonna take us two weeks to just get there. We have that long to get to know each other and learn all there is to know about this ship. Including battle station and damage control drills." His face became hard, "And I do not intend to be assimilated. Several of the officers have already been given access to a special computer program, if the Borg board this ship and begin to do to us what they did to Mister Dean, we'll self-destruct, and hopefully take them with us."
        He let that sink in.
        "If any of you, any of you, don't wish to take this risk, now is the time to say so and we'll beam you right back down to the star base."
        Nobody said a word.
        "In case you haven't figured it out, I think everybody on board has a personal grudge against the Borg and are willing to go to this length to turn them back to where they came from. Ladies and Gentlemen of the RAVEN, I salute you." He saluted and took a deep breath. "NEVERMORE!" He shouted.
        The crew echoed the word with every bit as much emotion.
        "Lieutenant Richards, set course for Kelruni Two. Helm, Warp five." He walked back to his chair and nodded to them.
        "Ready sir." The helm and navigator said together.
        "Do it."

Kelruni Two

        The Borg weren't trying to hide at all. Five cubes were sitting linked together around a large central bulbous structure in the middle of the system.
        As soon as the RAVEN dropped out of warp they were in a running fight against several smaller ships. They ended up hiding in the atmosphere of a gas giant and regrouping while they worked on a strategy.
        "I hate this plan." Ryan said.
        "It'll work." Commander Dean said.
        "If it doesn't..."
        The first officer looked across the table at the engineer. "If it doesn't we'll end up in another fight like we just were."
        "It's worth a shot." Captain Lukas said. "How fast can we get out of here after we launch the torpedoes?"
        "How fast do we have to get out of here?" Lieutenant Lapinski asked.
        "Four quantum torpedoes detonating at once, fast."
        "Not to mention all that Borg garbage blowing up."
        "Have we figured out what that central structure is?" Ellingsworth asked.
        "No. But I feel it is a refueling base or something similar." Dean said.
        "Whatever it is, it's important to the Borg, that makes it important to us, and I intend to blow it up." Lukas said.
        "So we all get to play Borg for a Day." Ryan said with a frown. "More likely to be Borg for a Lifetime."
        "I want a failsafe in case that happens. Three designated people, bridge, auxiliary control, engineering. IF things go sour, they hit the button." Lukas said.
        "I'll be in auxiliary control." Ryan said, "With security shields up and a disrupter rifle on my knee."
        "I expect nothing less." Lukas said. "Let's get to our makeup."
        Eight hours later the RAVEN emerged from the gas giant.
        Commander Dean, in full Borg regalia hailed everything in range on a Borg frequency on one of the transmitters they had removed from the scout. "Twelve of nineteen reporting successful assimilation of the Federation ship. Minimal damage to the vessel. Proceeding to previously ordered position." He said as mechanically as possible.
        What the Borg saw was one Borg drone standing in the center of the bridge lit by battle lights with a smoky haze drifting around, several other Borg were manning the essential stations.
        "Escort." Came the reply.
        Three of the small Borg ships assumed position around the RAVEN. A Borg helmsman pushed a button and the convoy proceeded quickly toward the cubes and their central hub.
        "Twelve of nineteen. Restate designation." A new Borg voice came over the comm. "Telemetry is incomplete."
        "This drone sustained damage during the assimilation process, several of the humans resisted. Regeneration is required."
        Dean looked over at Lukas, also in Borg costume, "That's only going to buy us a minute or two." He whispered.
        "Scanning unassimilated humans on board USS RAVEN." The Borg said.
        "Borg control the ship, some humans still resist."
        "Assimilation will be completed." The Borg said. "Resistance is futile."
        At the weapons station, Drone Hackett used a passive optical scan to target his quantum torpedoes on the hub as they approached it. He nodded when he had a lock.
        "Hold position, await instructions." The Borg ordered.
        Dean let the ship move a little closer before he answered. "Holding position."
        Hackett nodded, "point blank." He whispered.
        "Sheilds?" Lukas said quietly as he walked stiffly to the weapons station.
        Richards shook his head.
        "Lock in your course, maximum warp. One shot. Ensign, fire, helm, do it."
        A huge jolt rocked the ship as four screaming masses of destruction flung themselves from the weapons pod, then the ship seemed to stand on end as they jumped from a standstill to warp nine.
        Even from hundreds of light years away, the disturbance in space could be seen and felt.
        The first two torpedoes detonated on impact with the central hub, the next two never got close to the structure because it was no longer there, but they exploded anyway. Then three of the cubes joined the fiery burst of death. The other cube started to pull away, but the sphere of doom partially engulfed it, it spun on its axis and exploded into its own ball of destruction.
        Several of the smaller ships attempted to avoid their fate, but most joined their kin in whatever the Borg have as an afterlife.

The Toast

        The crowd in Starview was shoulder to shoulder.
        "To the RAVEN." Captain Lukas lifted his glass of Ardrian wine.
        "And to the Borg, may they all soon feel the RAVEN's claws." Somebody from the back of the room said.
        "The RAVEN." The group answered.
        They drank.
        The crowd dissipated slowly.
        "Starfleet reports no further Borg sightings anywhere near Kelruni Two. But there seems to be a lot of junk drifting around." Ellingsworth said.
        "Scrap, radiation, little pieces of Borg ships and drones." Ryan smiled.
        "It worked once. I don't think that plan will ever work again." Dean said.
        "We'll come up with another one. Next time." Captain Lukas said.
        "Next time?" Rhoades asked. "What have you heard?"
        "A science ship reported what scanned as a spherical shaped vessel moving at warp in the Aluvian corridor." Lukas said thoughtfully.
        Richards stood up and drained his glass.
        "Where are you going?" Rhoades asked him.
        "To lay in a course for the Aluvian corridor. If I remember right, that's another long haul from here."
        Lukas nodded. "It is."
        Commander Dean stood up, "Well. Let's get to it." He said as Richards walked out.
        Lukas lifted his glass, "To the Borg we haven't met yet."

The Crusade Continues.

[This story carries the copyright of The Media Desk, 2000, and the USS RAVEN (IFT). Author retains all rights, including the right of approval for publication. STAR TREK, and all images and situations affiliated with STAR TREK are owned and copyrighted by PARAMOUNT STUDIOS. They are used in this story without intent to harm or otherwise defame PARAMOUNT or the estate of Gene Roddenberry. The Media Desk is not in any way affiliated with PARAMOUNT. For information contact Levite. Email- , or surface mail to: The Media Desk, PO Box 1276, Dover, DE 19903]

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