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The Final Countdown - Part Two

Posted on Tue Jul 17th, 2018 @ 11:38am by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Captain Mrazak & Biynah & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander Kiril Nevin & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Nevada McKay M.D. & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Kazyah Linn & Lieutenant Isaiah Zelaney
Edited on on Tue Jul 17th, 2018 @ 12:14pm

Mission: S1E1: Bynars Be Bygones
Location: Federation Embassy, Bynaus
Timeline: MD 7; 00:40

By the time both teams at last accessed the secure turbolifts, they arrived down in the sub-basement tram level at approximately the same time. The doors parted before Akiva as he stood crowded next to Bao, Biynah, Kazyah, Storr, and Isaiah. As he stepped out into the dimly lit expanse (a far cry from the brightly illuminated corridors in the upper levels), he saw Mrazak, Nevin, Nevada, and Rodi exit an adjacent turbolift. Mrazak held up a data chit in triumph.

"We've got it!"

Akiva couldn't hold back the whoop of victory that escaped him. The tension had hit an all-time high, what with everything having gone wrong that could go wrong. It was a relief to see that key to victory in Mrazak's upheld hand. He then turned to Biynah.

"Yediydah, can you access the tram?"

The android walked up to Mrazak and accepted the ambassador's personal chit from him. Her internal sensors reached out through the molecular motors within her synth-flesh and analyzed the chit, seeking for its authorization protocol. The variable inversions slid in place as she calculated them one by one, guided by intuition as much as logic. Her advanced heuristics were made for just such a puzzle.

"Yes," she answered at length. She walked the several steps across the open area to the tram platform and summoned its secure console from a recessed floor panel beside the monorail. Clearly without the proper authorization, it would be impossible to even get to the console. "Through the Special Access Program, I have direct control." A low whirring beneath their feet precipitated the descent of a trolley car from above. "It runs in a circuit," Biynah explained, "like a pulley system. We can ride this same car back through the upper return level, but there will be other cars that will take us to other sites."

"How primitive," Isaiah said, his nose upturned at the idea.

"On the face of it," Biynah said. "But the central mainframe is encased by a warp field. This car and others like it in the shielded tram system are the only way inside."

It seemed simple enough, and sometimes the most inelegant ideas were the easiest to implement. At least, so it seemed to Storr. He just hoped that their luck would continue to hold as it had managed to up until this point. Of course, hope was not a strategy (as he so often told others) and the thought sent a shiver down his spine. Audaces fortuna iuvat.

Biynah offered the data chit back to Mrazak, its hardware now unnecessary to her.

The Vulcan took it back and pocketed it for later study. While it was doubtful Hannok's access would grant him anything particularly interesting that he could not already access on his own, there was still the principle of never wasting information. "Thank you, android," he said awkwardly. Though he had talked to flesh-and-blood beings as well as computers his entire life, talking to something that was both would take some adjustment.

"All right, everybody find a seat. It should be easy from here on out."

A swoosh came from the turbolifts across the tramway platform. A dozen armed Ferengi Marauders filed out and took up offensive positions. The last one swaggered forward a few steps and presented himself. "I don't think you're supposed to be here," he said.

"That's DaiMon Nudd," Akiva said loud enough for everyone to hear. "I saw him murder two Bynars in Hannok's office."

"Hardly his only offense," Kaz said under his breath to Akiva.

Nudd cackled through his crooked fangs. "That was just in the past day. Those critters are not very cooperative. They need a firm hand." He tucked his fingers into his belt. "Now you all been poking your noses where they don't belong. I don't presume you're going to stand down and surrender, are you?" He eyed his dozen or so Marauders charging their plasma weapons and energy whips. "The Black Nagus can be merciful, even generous, under the right circumstances. All it takes is doing the smart thing."

While the DaiMon was talking, Mrazak had subtly signaled for everyone to get onto the tram. "Actually," he said, holding up a pontificating finger, "I have another proposal for your consideration." He whirled around and shouted, "Run!"

Garlake's earlier implore concerning boldness was cast aside as he turned and pushed the two nearest figures towards the tram, hoping that their legs would keep up with his steady forward prompting.

Akiva grabbed Biynah and beat feet onto the tram car beside Mrazak.

"Shit," Nevin said, launching himself in the same direction as the group.

Around them, the Ferengi began to take fire, their disruptor shots missing everyone as they ran towards the tram car. As Kaz pulled Storr and Bao onto the car with him, a thud sounded.

Glancing back, Nevin saw Isaiah laying on the ground, the silver briefcase and small PADD a few feet from him.

"No no no," Isaiah mumbled as he scrambled away from the tram towards the objects.

"Zelany, get back here!" Nevin called out as the tram doors began to close. He quickly glanced around him and then ran out of the car towards the fallen Lieutenant. "Hold the doors!"

Storr and Kaz did as they were told, physically blocking the doors from closing as the tram began to inch forward. The Afrikaner felt like Sampson in the Philistine temple while he and Kaz watched as the two men continued to race towards them.

As he ran towards Isaiah, Nevin was glad that the Ferengi considered the two of them to be lesser targets than the others on the tram. He reached Isaiah, who had grabbed the two items and held them closely, and helped the man to his feet. "Let's go."

The tram began to accelerate as the two men raced towards the still open door. Storr's hand held out, waiting to help the two men onto the car.

Throwing himself through the doorway, Isaiah toppled over but was safely inside the contraption.

Behind him, Nevin reached out, grabbing hold of Storr's hand as the large Marine began to pull him in. But before he was safely inside, a disruptor pulse landed squarely on the man's shoulder and he screamed out in pain as he was pulled inside of the tram.

"Which one of you is the Doctor!" Kaz yelled out as they moved Nevin farther into the tram car, finally allowing the doors to close.

"That would be me, you idiot," Nevin screamed through gritted teeth, as he cradled his shoulder.

"Doctor Whoever, help me with this one!" Mrazak shouted at Nevada. Looking to Biynah, he said, "Now or never, android! Get us inside that mainframe!"

Rodi, leaving his covering position came next to Nevin. Two clicks and a heavy thud meant that his medkit was off his back. He quickly pulled it open and grabbed into it for the familiar hypospray kit. Meanwhile his other hand grabbed Nevin's chin roughly and forced eyecontact, checking for any facial reactions. "Conscious." He stated loudly before letting the chin go again and loading the spray. "Painkiller." He told Nevin as he pressed the injector on his throat to pump the medication in.

"Pain killers and Protoplaser Regeneration for Distruptors," Nevada Snapped as she sorted through the Medkit.

Biynah bowed her head in concentration. Her face remained dispassionate, belying the effort she took to speed the tram along to their destination. Several G's pulled against them as she pushed the car along faster than its recommended speed.

"We'll cross the warp field in just a moment," she said, eyes still closed. "All communication with the outside world will be cut off. The mainframe runs on its own local area network that is above and beyond the Praxis. And the Black Nagus Marauders have access to it."

"Has the virus reached critical levels then?" Akiva asked. "Perhaps you can deactivate the tram system so those guys back there can't pursue us."

"No, on both counts," Biynah said. "Their access is utilized through Ambassador Hannok's Special Access Program just as mine is. I cannot lock them out without doing so to us."

"So the cyber-team will have enemies within the closed server on top of the Ferengi already on our tail?" Akiva slumped his shoulders at the hopelessness of the situation.

Isaiah walked towards the android, opening the silver briefcase to take out the headgear within. "You're going to need backup," he said to her as he pulled the equipment onto his head. "Can you pull me in with you?"

"Not until we cross the threshold," Biynah said. "And then I will accept all the help I can get." Her disposition often oscillated between that of a stalwart wunderkind and a small, timid girl. It was the second that reflected in her face in that moment.

To be honest, Storr really had no clue what any of this would mean other than he would need to continue to run a physical security perimeter around the group. "SSDD" he let slip, albeit whispered. Bucking up, he shook his head and swung the rifle from his back to his hands and held it at the low ready. Now was not the time to be cynical. It was time to protect and serve.

In a moment, the tram car seemed to freeze in time, hanging suspended in an eternal instant, before the inertial coefficient returned with a slight shift to what it had been before. Akiva felt his stomach lurch, so he clutched a handrail for dear life. Mrazak had left Nevin to the ministrations of Nevada and Rodi, and so he stepped up to join Akiva near the front next to Biynah.

"Are you ready for what comes next, ben-Avram?"

Akiva regarded Mrazak with an odd combination of contempt and hope. "As ready as I ever will be. Time runs against us."

"So it does," Mrazak agreed. As the car came to a gradual halt, he shifted his weight. "My team will run interference against whatever is waiting inside the Praxis. You just bring your... daughter... to the source code. Don't worry about anything else."

The look on Akiva's face was rather bitter. "I hadn't planned to."

Mrazak considered that for a moment, then shrugged his acquiescence.

When the car came to a complete stop, the doors opened on their own accord, revealing rows upon rows of shielded mainframes the size of buildings. They were suspended in a honeycomb configuration high into the air. Electricity arced between them like neural synaptic activity. The frigid air snapped from the hot ionization.

"I didn't realize how cold it would be out there," Mrazak muttered. "Couldn't we just do this from inside the car?"

Biynah shook her head. "No. I need to establish a hard connection to the mainframe. Everyone else can access remotely through their headsets or other means." She spared a look for Bao and his cybertronic familiar Sunny. "I will need an escort."

"Of course," Akiva said without hesitation.

"Not you, abba. You handled yourself well inside the Praxis already, and the others will need you to lead them there."

"I'll do it," Mrazak said.

Akiva scowled at the mere thought of it. "Mrazak..."

"I did a tour in Ops and Communications," Mrazak said. "I can see this done."

The two men stared eye to eye before shaking hands.

Mrazak turned to the rest of the group. "All right, team. The time to make our final stand is here. Our cyber team will need cover from the Marauders who will show up at any minute. Everybody pair up, and... well, someone with tactical know-how can figure it out from there. Just stay alive."

As Mrazak spoke, Akiva took the second headband from Isaiah's briefcase and slipped it around the crown of his head. "Let's do this."

Isaiah nodded to the man as he flicked his headset online.

"I'm not letting you take Biynah alone," Kaz said, stepping towards Mrazak. From his boot, he pulled the blade he always kept with him, his one and only weapon he trusted. "I'm going with you."

Mrazak and Akiva both looked at each other, and were surprised to find another point of mutual agreement.

"I suggest we go straight up the middle," Mrazak said. "We hit reset and get out. We'll have to race to get out before a security detail arrives as it is."

Bao had stayed silent, but he had set his own familiar to work. As soon as they passed the warp field, he had sent Sunny out to connect with Biynah. ~Lieutenant Qiao wishes me to accompany you digitally,~ said the cheery looking avatar when acknowledged. ~He assumes I will be better able to aid you directly while he monitors the situation. That, and he does not trust the, as he calls him, pointy-eared sociopathic bastard.~

The real world faded to gray with a new layer of perception thrown against it. Those flesh-and-blood people who had stood around Akiva just a moment now stood out only as silhouettes, save Biynah, giving way to the bright illumination of the master computer. From within the Praxis, the honeycombed databanks of the master computer shone with the brightness of suns. Biynah appeared as herself, though less child-like than her physical appearance.

"Biynah? Can you hear me?" Akiva asked.

With as focused as she was, it was impossible to tell if she had heard him or if she simply spared no time to respond. Soon other silhouettes began winking into crystal clarity as they began accessing the Praxis as well.

"Eyes sharp," Akiva said to his cyber team. "Things can happen very quickly in the Praxis."

"Right behind you," Isaiah said, his body appearing directly beside Akiva's.

Bao materialized near them. "I will cover our rear."

As Biynah walked a sublime stride with two shadowy escorts that Akiva knew were Mrazak and Kazyah, his Praxis interface alerted him to movement on an upper level mainframe. A Ferengi clad in some bizarre sort of ceremonial armor raised two hands at him, which then metamorphosed into gatling guns that would have weighed more than he did in the physical world.

Akiva's first thought was to hide. The first tracer round flashed through the computer mainframe like a hologram and still winged him. There was no wound, or even any physical sign at all. The automatic fire simply--then it dawned on him. The access operated on some sort of intuitive interface, so with all hardware being equal, the conflict seemed to translate into a contest of wills between two opposing users. Akiva jumped up, extended his hand with palm out, and a defensive field appeared before him. But the perched Ferengi had taken sight of others in the Praxis, and began laying down suppressive fire on them as well. Further up the ascending series of catwalks toward the computer core, Akiva saw other Ferengi laying down barriers of some kind.

"Somebody take him out!" Akiva said. "We're no good to the others from back here!"

Bao moved forward, past Akiva, moving into his opening stance as he wove a barrier of constant motion in front of himself that swept fire away from him and anyone near enough to him. The Tao counseled one to let reality be, and that by flowing naturally success could be achieved. He wondered how good the Ferengi were at that. He stepped sideways around his own barrier as he swept through another series of motions sending the next barrier he created flying at the Ferengi using gattling guns, catching him off guard with the manipulation and focusing his attention towards the Lagashi, who continued to move and weave, treating the energies as if they were water. "I believe the expression is, I got this, if you can press forward" he said simply as he caused what appeared to be a very large bottle rocket to appear.

Isaiah used the distraction to slide between the two men, right down the middle. Throwing his forearms up in front of him, a shield extended that covered himself as he slid along the floor. "I'm going in close," he said, pushing up off the ground into a run. He flicked his hand, his mind racing to decide what would be best in this sort of situation. There really were very few rules in this fight, and physics paid little mind here in the Praxis. And then it occurred to him. His left arm swung forward, a large shield hoisted along the wrist, as a thin, long blade extended from his right hand.

"Move in!" he yelled to the two behind him as he came closer, drawing more of the Ferengi's fire to himself. By positioning himself as a major threat, the man became slightly confused by focused solely on the man before him. As bullets pelted the shield, he pushed against them, coming even closer.

Meanwhile, out in terra firma, Mrazak tried to hurry Biynah toward the computer core.

"Running would be better than walking," Mrazak said, yarding her along by the hand.

"I'm still configuring the firmware integration sequence," Biynah said. "It would go faster if you didn't distract me."

Mrazak glanced at Kaz. "Stay vigilant, Lieutenant."

Rodi had positioned himself as the forward guard. His bullpop phaser rifle was perfectly suited for close range engagements in tight quarters as these. With most of his gear left near the cyber team, the marine moved lightly and quietly. He once again lamented this assignment and the lack of proper support.

The roar of an impending car came rushing down the tram tunnel. It came to a screeching crash in the back of the first car. Mrazak paused only to note that it had been a good idea indeed to vacate it. A few Ferengi came stumbling out of the wreckage, shaken but nonetheless armed. One pointed up the escalating catwalk to his position. The others, as they pulled themselves free, took up their plasma weapons.

"We need to hurry," Mrazak said to Biynah and Kaz.

With a few quick steps, Rodi repositioned himself so he could see them. Making himself small near catwalk, his rifle produced a lethal nadion pulse, hitting the pointing man dead in the chest. Some psychiatric officers would probably worry at the lack of emotion Rodi felt from this action, but he himself was glad he didn't feel anything from it. He took aim and shot again, taking a stumbling Ferengi down before a third and a fourth stabilized themselves long enough to push Rodi into cover.

Storr took up Tail-End-Charlie thinking it to be their weakest position and as the Ferengi's tram crashed into their recently occupied one, he felt vindicated. Rhodi engaged the group and while the two had not set fields of fire or sectors, Lt Col Garlake felt comfortable enough with the young marine's marksmanship to bound closer to the marauders. Watching as the first and then second Ferengi fell, Storr continued to flank the remaining enemy until he had them in a 90-degree crossfire. Standing and rushing forward, he fired two, three, then four times into their weak concealment as he advanced (Rhodi having stopped firing after hearding the Afrikaner yelled "Moving!"), their complete surprise etched into their faces. The poor lobed-ones didn't stand a chance; they were both heavily stunned before he could even arrive at their position to engage in hand-to-hand combat. *Pity,* he thought, turning them both over and quickly searching them before attaching one of their energy whips to his belt.

The distinctive sound of a transporter whine caused the Commandant to quirk his brow and look up, disbelieving what he was seeing. Twelve transporter beams were attempting to move Ferengi from some other location to INSIDE the Praxis. What could be so valuable that they were willing to sacrifice their own people to stop?!

The sound was off, though, and while Storr wasn't an engineer he knew enough that annular confinement beams did not play nice with warp displacement fields. Slowly backing away, he watched in horror as two Ferengi materialized in...what was not anatomically correct order. Garlake felt bile rise in his throat as the first...thing hopped on one misshapen leg, the other splayed to the rear and then falling on its face, which was a mishmash of flesh, bone and sickening sinew. The second wasn't even upright, as the legs seemed to have been halfway materialized in the ground and one arm was partially jutting from where the lower ribcage should be, a sickening gurgle-bound scream wretching from a not-fully-formed throat.

Before Garlake could take in the sight (and allow his lunch to completely break free of his insides), two other transporter beams flickered bright as lightning and exploded, sending the Marine skidding back fifteen feet. Dazed, he shook his head at watched as most of the other beams managed to disgorge healthy Ferengi. While he had sympathy for those sickeningly malformed, it didn't keep him from cursing the fact that all the others were not.

"Frack!" he yelled, scrambling for the nearest cover. While the newest Black Nagus force was down to eight, it still meant that the team had little time no matter how good a shot Storr and Rodi were. "We've got company...let's hurry this up!"

Rodi's head banged against a server, turning the lights off for a few moments before coming back. The marine crouched up again, instinct and training not allowing him to really think about the situation but forcing him to fight again. In a disjointed way his medical training started taking notes of his own injuries. "Colonel! On me!" Rodi shouted as he stood up and fired his rifle, the muzzle never leaving the target he had chosen. Slowly but surely he moved towards Garlake, taking down Ferengi that were closing in on the cyber team

Sparks flew off the console Rodi moved in front of as a disruptor bolt tore into it. Two of the Black Nagus agents had moved besides Rodi, possibly trying to flank him or trying to take out the cyber team. With a grimace Rodi stood up, putting himself as a possible target, "Colonel! Cover me!" He shouted as he took aim. His phaser emitted two bursts of nadion particles at a lethal intensity. The first tore through the chest of the most forward of the two Feregi, the second in the latter. The latter had turned around, and Rodi recognized the face of Nudd, the DaiMon in charge. Both Ferengi slumped meters away from the other members of Rodi's team, while the marine ducked behind cover again.

Taking the opening Isaiah gave him, Akiva darted forward through the kill-zone of the Ferengi hackers-turned-gunners. As he ran, his mind shot forward in a telescopic view of Biynah walking ever so slowly. Further ahead and above her path Akiva saw a glowing net, seemingly made from the same arced plasma as the Ferengi energy whips. The realization that Biynah could be ensnared by it made his heart jump into his throat. His feet picked up the pace, but even so there was no way he could get there fast enough.

An epiphany struck his brain. Though he was not fleet of foot, Akiva was swift of mind. He slid to a halt and bowed his head in concentration, giving every ounce of focus to the Praxis interface. As a result, he felt his point of view jump ahead beyond his physical location toward the digital snare and the encoders behind it. Akiva landed between two Black Nagus operatives, with each one holding controller units for the digital snare. And he froze.


Not quite on demand, a glow of zeroes and ones appeared next to Akiva before solidifying into a moderately talled, middle-aged Asian woman surrounded in a glow. "How quaint," she said looking at the Ferengi's digital snare. She looked at Akiva. "You know the problem with nets, Commander?" she asked before disappearing and reappearing standing atop its center. "They still have holes you can fit through," she finished as she motioned her hands, causing the visual representation to fray and unravel before motioning to both sides, reforming two new nets that began attempting to wrap themselves around the operatives. "Perhaps you should should help the others. I will allow no electronic interference with Ms. Biynah."

Akiva blinked at the clever maneuver, then nodded in acknowledgement. The glowing woman seemed to have everything in hand near the computer core. He let his mind snap back to his physical orientation.

Meanwhile, back towards the entrance, Bao continued to play a game of deflection and counter. He did not have Sunny's speed or knowledge of computer systems to fall back on, and had to depend on simply being more comfortable and intuitive than the Ferengi. He was certainly holding firm, but he could not gain an advantage against multiple ones at once, especially not when trying to cover other team members. "Lieutenant Zelaney, this is not the time for shell-shock," he quipped as he spun a quick lotus blossom into the way of another round of "bullets". "Though at least they haven't tried shooting us with real phasers yet."

The distraction from hearing his name called made Isaiah look back, his arm still ready to swing forward with the blade. Without realizing it, his shield dropped, ever so slightly, creating an opening in his defense. The Ferengi used this opportunity, sending another volley of fire towards the man's direction. While most were deflected off of the shield, two energy bursts connected with the man's neck and chest. The impact caused him to drop the shield as his body fell to the floor.

Akiva severed his Praxis connection with a swipe of his headband and rushed to Isaiah's side. The man's uniform was burned, charred in both places where he sustained injuries. Though unconscious, the man was clearly in pain. Despite Storr and Rodi putting up a hell of a conventional fight, the Black Nagus operatives were relentless. An exit strategy started to sound really good.

"Lieutenant... Doctor!" Akiva struggled to remember the names of either one. "We have another wounded. Find us an exit, stat!" Without waiting for a reply, he reactivated his headband and jumped back into the fray next to Bao.

Nevin stumbled forward, still not exactly right from his own injury. But now was not the time to sit back in pain. With his good arm, he began to scan the man who lay unconscious before him. "He'll be fine," he said, though he wasn't sure if anyone was paying attention. "Major injuries, but he'll live. I can take care of him."

Mrazak hadn't climbed so many stairs since his adolescent days on Trilan. Though he had run up and down the monastery steps as a boy, he found himself very nearly winded now. And still the android was dragging her feet.

"What's the hold up?" Mrazak saw they had approached the final flight of stairs -- above them in all its cybertronic glory was the computer core in a persistent electromagnetic suspension. So close...

"I'm missing something," Biynah said.

Mrazak groaned in aggravation. "Oh, and you remembered it just now?"

She shook her head. "I've been trying to work around it, but there is no other way. I need permission."

"You mean you can't access it? Oh my stars, what was I thinking..." Mrazak turned incredulous. For one brief instant, he felt panicked by the thought that they were all going to die because he had been fool enough to let an android boldly lead them into the cybernetic heart of where no one had gone before.

"I need father's blessing," Biynah said. "My directives prevent me from doing now what I must. I need him to grant me permission."

Mrazak's eyes bulged in aggravation at the stress of the moment. "Khrikha-pekh! Blind man, go get your compatriot and drag him up here on the double! I'll take her the rest of the way."

Kaz shook his head, "There's no time," he said. "He's dealing with a crisis with your computer nerd." Taking a step forward, Kaz looked at Biynah in the eyes. "I need you to trust me," he said. "I'm your father's best friend. And I would never hurt either of you." He took a deep breath. "Show me where your moral governance subroutines are held and tell me where I can sever the connection." Lifting his leg slightly, Kaz pulled the ceremonial Romulan blade from his boot, the only weapon he ever fully trusted.

Biynah shook her head. "My subroutines are contained within my positronic net, and they're self-correcting."

Mrazak balked at Kaz's flourish of his knife. "Are you insane? You can't solve every problem by stabbing at it, you Romulan cur!" He grabbed Kaz's knife arm with both of his and pulled, sending them both off balance and tumbling down the cat walk.

Sounds of battle raged all around, both inside the Praxis and in the material world of flesh and blood. Biynah pushed it all away, preparing to step aside from both worlds. The slow walk to the computer core had carried with it a battle all of her own. Her preparation of the integration sequence for the computer core's new firmware was complete. Now was the moment of truth – in more ways than one.

Biynah raised her hand, triggering a rapid onset of her synth-flesh's molecular motors to form a covalent bond with the computer core. Once initiated, that bond would merge her hardware with that of the master computer, and the rest would be history. As would she. There was just the one final obstacle.

Abba,” she whispered, tapping into the Praxis and speaking to Akiva through his headband interface. “Tell me to do this. Tell me it is right.”

Even after everything from the past week, Akiva could still barely believe the situation in which he found himself—fighting an inglorious battle in the bowels of a cyberpunk world on the verge of collapse. What's more was time stood against them. “What's the problem, Biynah?”

“I need you to tell me to do this,” Biynah said. “I cannot violate my directives.”

“What?” Akiva asked, turning his gaze toward Biynah standing beneath the suspended computer core at the heart of the honeycomb of mainframes. “Your directives are to learn and to honor me. How are they prohibiting you from installing the quantum upgrade?”

Abba, I am not just providing an upgrade to the master computer system. I am the upgrade. By merging with it, my quantum neural net will alter the system forever. I will never be the same. I... will not be.”

Akiva stopped cold. As sure and certain as Biynah had been up till this point, he had never considered that her action would be fatal. He had been too focused on keeping her alive up until this point. “Biynah... you don't have to do this. You... you... we'll find another way.”

“No, abba. This is why I came to Bynaus. Every step after I first encountered the Black Nagus virus on the Bynar vessel has led me here. Free me to do this. It has to be at your word, or I may induce a cascade failure into the entire network.”

Yediydah...” Akiva bit back his grief. “N...”

Before he could say the word, Biynah pressed him, her voice echoing in his ear. “Abba... I choose this. The life you gave me is mine to give – one life as as a ransom for many.” Her voice fell to pleading. “All I want is to honor you, abba, and I can think of no greater way. Tell me to do it.”

“That's what we came here to do,” Akiva said, looking up to her through the Praxis, her glowing form reaching out to the computer core. The next words shattered his heart into a thousand pieces.

“Do it.”

Integration didn't take long. Once the first molecules were exchanged, Biynah felt her consciousness snap from her quantum subprocessor like a string. She screamed in a harmonic resonance beyond the human vocal range, and then fell still. The synthetic body of an adolescent girl lay sprawled out below the towering computer core.

“Biynah?” Akiva hesitated but a moment before dashing up the final catwalk to the computer core. He slid to his knees and grasped Biynah up in his arms from her lawn. “Biynah! Wake up! Oh, no, please Ha'Shem, no!” He dropped his head down onto her shoulder and wailed into her lifeless body.

Climbing back up the walkway, Kaz fell to his knees next to Akiva, putting an arm around his shoulders. He wanted to say something, but knew there was nothing to say. He could feel the combat behind them coming to an end, as the last remaining Ferengi were killed. Now was time to pick of the pieces of what they had left.


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