Cybernetic Cadet 1: Entrance Exam

For the past two years, Lieutenant Morgan Verigman had been assigned to an uneventful post as a repair crew supervisor on Starbase 256. After what he’d seen during the Dominion War, he wasn’t inclined to complain about the tedium.

All the same, he had to admit that the opportunity to serve as a proctor during the annual Starfleet Academy entrance exam gave him a welcome break from his routine. Ambitious students made their way to the starbase from all the surrounding worlds, eager for exploration or war, depending on their particular temperaments. Starfleet had its uses for both types.

Verigman glanced at the next candidate’s data on the screen. Name, Daniel Wilcox. Age eighteen, a resident of the Palmyra Three colony, with a record of outstanding grades in science and mathematics. Species, Kazon, place of birth, Delta Quadrant.

No image of the candidate had been included with the application, which was somewhat unusual. Verigman wondered what a Kazon looked like. Well, he’d find out soon enough, he thought, as he called Wilcox’s name.

His office door opened, and a Borg drone in full armor walked in from the waiting area. Verigman flinched instinctively and then was furious with himself for the reaction, as the Borg stood at attention before his desk and saluted smartly.

“Candidate Daniel Wilcox reporting as ordered, sir.”

This had to be some sort of a prank, Verigman thought. Drones certainly didn’t apply to Starfleet Academy. Maybe one of the enlisted men in his repair crew had put the kid up to this. Yeah, that Borg getup was sure to be a costume, although he had to admit the cables and hoses on the kid’s bare grayish skull certainly looked as if they pierced both skin and bone. The sight left Verigman feeling suddenly queasy, which irritated him even further.

A heavyset, bearded human who had followed the kid into the room now spoke in an unusually deep voice. “I’m Hank Wilcox, Daniel’s foster father. Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant.”

Verigman slowly came to the realization that this wasn’t a prank after all.

“The application lists your species as Kazon,” he said to the Borg, his tone becoming accusatory. One dark eye glanced calmly back at him, and a light glowed on the visual machinery in the kid’s other eye socket.

“Yes, sir, that is correct. The directions for completing the application clearly state that the species question is to be answered on the basis of genetic composition, not physical appearance or cultural affinity.”

Yeah, I guess that’s right, Verigman thought. Although I still don’t like the smell of what’s going on here. He turned to face the bearded colonist standing beside the kid. “Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been harboring a Borg for the past five years and never saw fit to notify Starfleet?”

“I killed more than enough Cardassian boys during the war,” the deep bass voice rumbled. “Now I take care of orphans on Palmyra Three. Daniel was the only survivor of a Borg ship that crashed near the colony. Maybe some men would have thought they had a duty to hand over an injured, frightened thirteen-year-old so that he could be interrogated or dissected, but I’m not one of them. And anyone in Starfleet who has a problem with that can come and see me.”

I’m sure they will, Verigman thought. No doubt.

“Now, if you’ve finished questioning my loyalty, Lieutenant,” Hank Wilcox continued, “may I remind you that the Starfleet entrance examination is open to qualified candidates of all species and cultural origins. Including my son.”

That was true enough, and regulations were regulations, even though Starfleet hadn’t contemplated the possibility of Borg applicants. Something for the Academy to sort out later, and not his problem, Verigman concluded. He looked at the kid again.

“Why do you want to be a Starfleet officer?”

“To see more of what’s out there. Sir,” the Borg kid answered immediately, sounding just like any curious youngster from an isolated colony, eager for adventure.

“I see you’ve been recommended by Captain Chakotay.”

“He’s a friend of my father’s,” the kid explained.

From the Maquis, Verigman mentally filled in. That figured. The Maquis survivors had all been pardoned after Cardassia joined the Dominion, but every Starfleet officer with sense knew you could never really trust them.

And now a Maquis Borg. Just what Starfleet didn’t need. Verigman could think of a few potential uses for the drone, but none of them involved serving as an officer. Something more like biological experiment fodder, or live bait for a Borg trap. Yeah.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t his decision to make. Verigman administered the standard retinal scan to the kid’s one natural eye to verify his identity, although he didn’t expect any candidate would be remotely bold enough to send in a Borg ringer. No, this drone was the real applicant, as bizarre as the situation might be.

Then again, the psych test would probably weed him out; all Borg drones had to be crazy, after all. Verigman consoled himself with that thought as he escorted the kid to the testing room and gave him the instructions. Otherwise, with that computer implanted in the kid’s head, the other candidates might as well pack it up and go home before they ever got started.

That idea left Verigman gritting his teeth in disgust, wondering how humans ever qualified for the Academy these days, caught between the alien species with unfair mental advantages and the less qualified ones that got affirmative action preferences. He’d always considered himself as much in favor of racial tolerance as the next man, but you had to draw the line somewhere.

Somewhere before you let the Borg assimilate Starfleet without ever firing a shot.

Of course, not being a worthless Maquis, he intended to follow his orders regardless of his personal views. He sat back down at his desk and called in the next candidate.