Star Trek: Defiant

"Til All Are One" - Part Two

Written by John Hardin


"Did you really think
you could call up the
Devil and then ask him
to behave?"
-David Duchovny

"You Romulan scum," K'larn said. They were at the conference room table, with the Romulan stranger sitting at the end of the table opposite Captain Bridges. Both Barak and Maerret were present, and they looked at each other in light of K'larn's remark. "Only one of your kind would be so dishonorable."

"Hold your tongue, Klingon," the Romulan said casually. "Your people would have been one of the first to fall. Your tempers will be your undoing."

K'larn rose from the table, preparing to leap at the Romulan and slit his throat when Bridges ordered him to sit, and he felt Matute's hand on his shoulder. He took his seat again, all the while keeping his eyes on the Romulan.

"So you created these nanites in the aftermath of the Borg's earth invasion?" Bridges said.

"Yes, that was the beginning of it," he said. "It was an easy sell, you see. The coming of the Borg and the slaughter at Wolf 359 left many higher-ups with the feeling that Starfleet was shall I say...Militaristic enough. So all I had to do was wait until someone who was greedy enough to want to control the Federation showed themself, and sure enough your Admiral Schell soon came to my attention. With his assistance of Federation supplies and equipment, Romulan scientists bred a unique breed of nanites. They have but one reason to exist: to make more of themselves. To this end, they'll obliterate anything which is not of their own. 'Til All Are One' is thier primary command."

"What do they do?" Matute asked. "What are they capable of?"

"They make more of themselves," the Romulan said. "And to do it, they require raw materials. These can come from almost any source of metallic material...the hull of a starship, for example."

"The shimmering on the hulls of those vessels," Hardin said.

The Romulan nodded. "But they aren't restricted to solely mechanical purposes," he went on. "They are capable of biological activity; they can infiltrate a body and take it over. The person is killed, of course. The heart is stopped and the brain is useless once the nanites have taken the information from them. But the body itself provides an excellent shell for the nanites to work in."

"Like assimilation," Bridges said. "Like the Borg."

"No," the Romulan said. "Not like the Borg. Better than the Borg. The Borg feel the need to integrate the flesh with the mechanical. Our nanites exist on a much higher level. They are both at once. They ARE the technology; in a very real sense those vessels you encountered were alive themselves. So much of those ships are actually the nanites that were you to somehow destroy the nanites, what is left would be little more than a space-faring trash can. Add to that the fact that the nanites use human bodies as hosts to man critical systems aboard these vessels, and well..." the Romulan held his hands, palms upward, towards the celing in a "what do you do?" manner.

"How did this get out of your hands?" Hardin asked.

"A shuttle which must have been contaminated itself, was bringing the nanites to me at starbase 3. Apparently the nanites which overrun the shuttle also overrun the starbase, and every vessel there, which then left and of course spread the nanites to every other vessel which IT came into contact with.",p> "Confirm what he told us about Sector 001," Bridges ordered Myah and Lebin after several minutes of silence hung over the table. "In the meantime, I think we'd better see how Bishop is doing."

"Another one of your charming crew that I've yet to meet?" the Romulan said, looking straight at K'larn.

"Bishop is one of our security people," Bridges said. "He was with John on board that ship that attacked you."

The Romulan suddenly paled. "What? You were ON BOARD that freighter?" Hardin nodded. "You fools! What have you done!!!" The Romulan stood up from the table and backed away from them all. "You've killed us all! They're already on board! They'll take all of you, and ME!" Then Rael was beside him, hypospray in hand, and with a hiss the Romulan sagged toward the floor.

"Say Doc," Hardin said, "I think maybe you'd better have a look at me, to make sure-"

Suddenly the red-alert klaxons began sounding. "Commander!" a voice shouted over Bedard's communicator. "Sir! It's Bishop! He's-AIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" The communication suddenly ended.

"Computer, what is the location of Bishop?" Bridges said.

No response.

"Engineering, go," Bridges said, and the whole lot of them began to run. K'larn paused over the unconscious Romulan and gave him a kick.

"When the time comes, I WILL kill you," he promised the unhearing Romulan, then ran after the others.

* * *

There was a crowd of engineering personell outside of the closed doors to main engineering. Some were tending to wounded, others were covering the dead. Bridges noticed the burn marks on several bodies and recognized them as coming from Bishop's distinctive weaponry.

"He was going towards the core," someone said, and Bedard lunged forward.

"We have to stop him," he told Bridges, who nodded. Hardin reach for the door pad, then stopped, staring at his hand.

"What is it?" Bridges asked. Hardin held his hands up in front of them, and they all watched as the skin began to crawl...not the skin itself, but something underneath it...or inside of it.

"Rael!" Bridges shouted to the doctor, who was crouched over a woman lying behind them.

"No, not now," Hardin said. "Stop Bishop first. The rest of you go to the bridge & secure it...find out about sector 001 and see who you can contact." They stood there, looking at him.

"Do it," Bridges said, and they all moved off. As Rael called for more medical staff, Bridges, Hardin, Bedard and K'larn entered main engineering.

"Why would he come down here?" Bedard asked. "Do they need to feed on the warp core or something?"

"No," Hardin said assuredly. "No, they don't like being down here...they ESPECIALLY don't like it near the core." He could feel things moving around inside him. He casually noticed that a blood stain was spreading on his left shoulder, and imagined a wound was opening there beneath his uniform. "That's part of why they take over biological hosts," Hardin said. "They need them to get near the core if there're any engineering problems."

"You mean they can't stand to be near the core? Can it somehow destroy them?" Bridges asked. They turned the corner, and saw Bishop lying in the middle of the floor facing the warp conduits. A panel was taken off, as if he had been trying to modify something.

"I...I don't know," Hardin said. They came upon Bishop's body, and Bedard lifted him to a semi-sitting position.

"Cleansing," Bishop muttered.

"What is he-" Bridges began, but suddenly the room was filled with red flashing light and walls began to lower from the ceiling.

"Coolant leak!" Bedard yelled. "We've got to get out of here! K'Larn and I might be able to prevent a breach from the bridge station!"

"Come on," Bridges said. But Hardin didn't move.

"My God," Hardin said. He was standing with his eyes closed. "They're here...ALL of them. They're all here, in main engineering. They never bothered to take any more human one else is infected. They don't do that until they've got the ship. They're afraid we're going to do something, so they've ALL come down here. That's why they've started the coolant leak...they want us to leave."

"Then let's not disappoint them!" Bridges yelled. "COME ON!" He looked at the wall that was descending from the ceiling, how it was only about four and a half feet off the ground now, and if they didn't want to be cut off in here, they'd have to go now.

Hardin nodded slowly, and bent to pick up Bishop's feet. "Grab his arms," Hardin said, and Bridges did. He backed up, ducking under the door, and Hardin dropped the Borg's feet. Bridges pulled fast; the door was only about two and a half feet off the ground, and Hardin would have to drop and roll to get underneath it if he...

Bridges looked and saw Hardin standing, looking at him through the glass wall that was lowered. "No," Bridges said. "COME ON! NOW! That's an order!" But Hardin made no effort to drop and roll under the closing wall. He stood there, and when Bridges moved to go under the wall and pull Hardin back himself, he found that Bishop was staggering to his feet, and was holing him back.

With a loud thud, the door banged closed.

"They are all in there with him," Bishop said. "Even those that were within me. Strange, with me they did not enter any biological system; they confined themselves to the mechanical. In him they had no choice."

Hardin moved away from the wall and was fiddling with the control panel. Bridges watched through the glass as blood began to trickle from Hardin's ear, then open sores began to erupt on his hands and face.

"They are trying to stop him," Bishop said. "But they are too late...he has finished what I began."

Hardin put in the last isolinear chip, and then a bright green orb of light grew out of the warp core. It spread throughout the entire room in the span of a few seconds, and then vanished. Bridges recognized it as a tight-tachyon wave, the kind that was used on new starship warp-cores for cleansing purposes. Like the beams used to cleans the hulls of ships, this one would keep the matter/antimatter chamber free of roaming particles. Bridges realized that Hardin and Bishop had reprogrammed the beam so that it encompassed all of engineering.

The red-lights ceased, and so did the klaxons. Over the comm, Bedard reported, "Sir, Warp core breach averted. It's the damndest thing; it just shut down on its own. Is everything okay down there?"

The glass wall in front of him slowly raised into the celing, and Bridges looked at his first officer.

"No," he said lowly. "It's not." He tapped the communicator on his chest, shutting it off. Bridges walked over to Hardin, who was lying on his chest, still facing the exposed panel. Bridges pulled him back, almost gasping at the horror Hardin's face had become. His left eye had ruptured, and everywhere the skin on him seemed to be sagging. Hardin's right eye rolled up to look at Bridges.

"You were right," Hardin said lowly, smiling weakly. Blood ran from the corners of his mouth in thin streams. The nanites had destroyed everything inside him. "It's more fun to participate than..." He exhaled once, and then John Hardin died.

For a moment neither Bishop nor Bridges spoke. There was only the hum of the warp engines, now totally back on-line and running smoothly.

And then the reports started to come in.


"We few, we happy few, we band
of brothers. For he today that
sheds his blood with me shall
be my brother."
-William Shakespeare

Captain Bridges entered the bridge of the U.S.S. Defiant. No one said anything. No one knew what TO say. Bridges looked for a moment at the empty chair beside his own seat, then turned to the viewscreen.

"The Romulan's story has been confirmed, sir," Lebin said. "What's left of the Federation fleet has assembled at Deep Space Nine. We should be within visual range now."

"On screen," Bridges said lowly.

On the screen, the blackness of space was suddenly filled by thirty or forty Federation starships. They were orbiting the Deep Space Nine space station at defensive intervals. And hanging above the station itself was a vessel that looked remarkably familiar. Were it not for the black lettering on the hull identifying it as the U.S.S. Enterprise, it could have been the Defiant.

This is where it would start, Bridges thought, looking at the fleet building here on the frontier. The battle had just begun.

* * *


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