"How could this have happened?" Captain William T. Riker whispered as he stared out into the dusty panorama.
The sun hung low in the sky, shining a deep blood red, obscured by the dust in the atmosphere. Riker stood on the rocky outcrop, overlooking the barren wasteland of rock and sand. Off in the distance, hanging in tatters over the churning waters were the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel that had lasted almost five centuries. It had survived countless earthquakes, storms, and terrorist threats in its long history, but in the end, like everything else, the Borg had destroyed it. A few hundred feet away within the bay itself, the shattered remains of an Ambassador-class starship jutted out of the water, choking beneath the still smoldering fires that dotted the empty metal shell.
It was hard to believe he was looking at San Francisco, the home of Starfleet Academy and the planetwide defenses. Gone were the majestic buildings that rose from the shores of San Francisco Harbor. Gone were the rolling hills with the antique residential neighbourhoods. Instead, there were only large craters, the remnants of the Borg tractor beams that sliced up the surface of the Earth and sucked up the pieces into the waiting Borg vessels. Some rubble had loosened from the enormous scoops that the Borg had carved out, and fell down to the scarred land below.
The wind kicked up again, howling and stinging Riker's eyes with needlepoints of sand. He sheltered his eyes by raising his hand to his head. According to LaForge, the enormous ecological upheaval that the Borg inflicted had destabilized the atmosphere, creating large storm centres which blew the dust into large swirling vortices that covered several hundred square miles. "Will," a voice behind him said, "I never thought that I would see this day."
"Neither did I, Deanna. Neither did I," Riker answered, turning to Counselor Troi, "everything's gone..."
Riker looked to the faces of his landing party, each of them grieving in their own manner at the panorama of destruction laid out before them. Worf, who had lived on Earth for most of his life, and whose adopted parents lived in a quiet rural home, had an expression of grim hostility on his face as he planned his revenge for the family blood that had been spilled. The blind Chief of Engineering Geordi LaForge scanned the landscape through his VISOR, only to see the pervading low level radiation levels left behind by the Borg tractor beams, instead of the subtle shadings and hues of electromagnetic radiation that he was used to seeing when he visited Earth. Troi, who was half-human and half-Betazoid, could feel not only her own, but also the sense of loss that her companions tried deeply to suppress amidst the bleakness they found themselves in. And then there was Data, the android who was spared the trauma of emotions by design. But Riker was sure that he too was reacting to the situation in his own unique manner.
There was a loud crash which caught the attention of the away team. A large section of the Golden Gate Bridge broke free from the rest of the structure, splashing into the water below. It sank almost instantly. The rest of the bridge creaked and groaned, mourning the loss of yet another part of itself. It would only be a matter of time before the rest succumbed to the same fate.
"Do you detect any life signs Mr. Data?" Riker asked.
The yellow-skinned synthetic being studied the readings on his tricorder and answered, "There are no discernible life signs for a one hundred kilometer radius, however, the dust storms and residual radiation are impairing the ability for the tricorders to provide accurate readings."
There weren't any life signs, Riker thought. No point in pursuing the matter any further. The Earth was dead. Everyone that he knew on Earth was dead. The Borg had left no survivors.
Riker tapped his comm badge and said, "Riker to Transporter Room."
"O'Brien here," a voice answered.
"There's nothing left down here. Five to beam up," Riker said.
"Aye aye, sir," the transporter chief said.
The flowing grey-metal elegance of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701D cleared the murky nebula, accelerating to warp factor nine, an incomprehensible velocity that exceeded that of light by a thousand times. Not far behind it was the less elegant cubical Borg vessel, which silently drifted at a matching velocity to its prey. "Borg tractor beam attempting to lock on," Lieutenant Worf said.
Below the Klingon's tactical station sat the older Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the younger First Officer Commander Riker. "Fire at will," Captain Picard ordered, "Continue rotating shield frequencies."
Rotating shield frequencies were the only means that they knew of to slow down the steady drain that the Borg would inflict on their defensive grid. By changing the shield harmonics every few milliseconds, it forced the Borg to readjust the frequency of their energy weapons, resulting in a short reprieve for the shields. Worf continued pressing the buttons on his control panel, but to no avail. "Shields failing," he reported.
Suddenly, the Enterprise lurched violently as the Borg grabbed hold of the Enterprise. "Tractor beam has locked on," Worf said.
With the shields of the Enterprise down, it was vulnerable not only to attack, but a boarding party from the enemy vessel, who could transport over. A faint green glow appeared by the Captain's ready-room entrance at the front of the bridge. Gradually, a Borg foot-soldier took form. Worf's Klingon warrior instincts took over as he pulled out his phaser from his belt holster and fired at the interloper. The Borg unit fell to the floor as its chest exploded with a bright flash. A second Borg then appeared at the other side of the bridge and Worf fired his phaser again. This time, however, a shield appeared directly in front of the Borg. "It's no use," Commander Riker said, "they have already adapted to the new frequency."
Riker rushed at the Borg but the more powerful Borg pushed him away. Worf jumped over the railing to rush the Borg, but he too was thrown aside. A third Borg then appeared beside the captain. Before he could react, the Borg unit placed an appliance on its arm onto Picard's neck. Within seconds of contact of the device to Picard's neck, he was knocked unconscious. Then the Borg and Captain Picard vanished in a greenish glow.
Worf picked himself off the floor of the bridge and looked around quickly. Noticing that the captain was missing, he ran back to his tactical station. At the same time, Ensign Peters helped Commander Riker to his feet. Looking a bit disheveled, Commander Riker wandered slowly back to the centre of the bridge.
Being first officer, the captain's safety was of the utmost importance to Riker. Even though he was feeling groggy from the Borg assault, he managed to collect his thoughts. He had to try and get Captain Picard back as soon as possible...
It was then that the Borg vessel fired its cutting beam. The intense white beam made a direct hit on the starboard nacelle and sliced through the multi-layered alloy and polymer hull as though it were merely paper. The impact was felt throughout the whole ship. A rupture bled open on the nacelle and highly energized plasma began to seep out into the cold vacuum of space. Directional stability was momentarily lost as the Enterprise began spinning from the unevenly distributed warp field. Wesley quickly compensated the navigational controls to bring the Enterprise back under control. Gradually, the spinning subsided and the Enterprise was able to return to its original heading. By then, however, the Borg vessel had already sped away, barely a speck on the main viewer.
With Captain Picard in their custody.
"The Borg vessel is changing course. The new heading is sector 0,0,1," Worf said.
"Earth," Riker said as he collected his thoughts, "O'Brien, can you get a lock on the captain?"
O'Brien, the transporter chief in the main transporter room a few decks below the bridge, answered, "We're beyond transporter range, sir. We'll have to get closer."
The Borg vessel zoomed out of view and disappeared, leaving the Enterprise on its own.
"Follow them, Ensign Crusher," Riker ordered.
"Engineering to bridge," the voice of Lieutenant Commander LaForge said, "We've sustained heavy damage to the starboard nacelle. I can only give you impulse right now."
"How long will it take to repair the damage?" Riker asked tensely.
LaForge examined the schematic of the warp drive system from his engineering station and shook his head. "It's pretty bad," LaForge answered, "The plasma flow regulator is shot... and there are several plasma discharges all along the nacelle... I estimate at least 28 hours if we work round-the-clock."
"There won't be a Federation left in 28 hours," Riker said gravely.
"Understood. Engineering out," LaForge said.