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[2005: AUG-SEP] *WINNER* X Factors


Solan
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Call me X.

Just X.

X is it.

I’m X.

Have you got it yet? Good.

Once upon a time…er, no, scratch that. Too many stories begin with that phrase…In fact, the exact number of stories that begin with "once upon a time" is 9.5x10^84th. Trust me…I’ve read them all.

In any event, this is my story. I am X, as I said, I was once a member of a frightfully boring group called the Q Continuum. Everyone there was the same, from their annoying, boring habits to their names. They were all called Q. Yes. All of them. They all had the same name. It got so confusing…"Hi, Q, how are you?" "Oh, fine, Q! And how are you, and Q, and Q?" "Q’s good, but I hear Q’s in trouble for sneezing and blowing up another universe." Well, you get the general idea.

So I left.

That’s it…just up and walked out. I changed my name to something a little more…variable…and I’ve been on my own ever since.

X. Fascinating letter, isn’t it? Pity it’s used so little by most cultures. Why, those little ape-humans, with all of their languages, only use it in a total of 19,394 worlds. Waste of a good letter. By contrast, those boisterous Bolian buffoons use it in more than half their words! Bolians…now, there’s a intriguing culture. Did you know that they’re known by most cultures simply because of their plumbing prowess? Of course you didn’t. Now you do. Lucky you.

Er…Well, let’s get back to the story. So, approximately mole years ago (‘mole’…isn’t that a great number? Amazing that the humans came up with something like that on their own…) I put the Continuum behind me and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been spending the time since then sticking around with various lower species for as long as it strikes my fancy. I once spent a million years as a sentient pair of scissors…that was an experience, let me tell you!

I’d have to say the most interesting one so far, though, was life as a tribble. The Klingons have no idea how much the little furballs hate them. On the stroke of midnight in the tribble year Yarky-Mook-Pik, the tribbles plan to obliterate Qo’noS once and for all. They already have their giant ship of death moving into position, all ready to aim its planet-destroying laser down at Qo’noS. Ironically, the ship looks like a giant flying teddy bear…There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.

But for the past couple thousand years, I’ve lived on a little planet, far out in the arm of a galaxy called "Milky Way" (a rotten name, if you ask me; I would have named it L). I’ve watched the funny little apelike creatures go from scattered pockets of civilized beings who wanted to kill each other to…well…rather large bunches of civilized beings who wanted to kill each other in more technologically sophisticated ways. Of course, they’ll tell you that they’ve changed…"working to better humanity" and all that mumbo-jumbo.

But I know better.

I’ve been there for thousands of years, after all.

I even fancied myself a stage name, of sorts.

I called myself…the devil in the dark…

** ** **

For a while, when I first settled on Earth, I was obsessed with building things. I gave the backwards humans living on that otherwise-insignificant little island some anti-grav units and watched them go crazy at a place they called "Stonehenge." It still boggles the minds of the little modern-day apes how their ancestors did it. Personally, I don’t think they’ll ever figure it out.

From there, I took a stroll down to another little island in the middle of a big ocean. There, I found a tribe of the most amazing stone carvers…of the time, anyway. I ordered a few dozen likenesses of myself, which I planned to send back to Continuum as a joke gift. Unfortunately for them, the ungrateful little sculptors wouldn’t give them up willingly. So, I flattened them all…squashed ‘em, each with one of their own statues. I left the place, christening it "Christmas Island" because of the failed gift attempt. Funny how names have a way of being garbled on the way down…

I danced all over the world, overseeing building projects…temples in the rainforests, shrines to the northeast of the great mountains, pyramids in the deserts. I even ordered a new likeness of myself…and I got the sphinx. Want some advice? Never tell the Egyptians you want a realistic likeness of yourself. Because you won’t get it. Nope. No way.

** ** **

After a few hundred years, the humans were beginning to spread far and wide, so I decided to take a more…direct…approach to my involvement. The first time I did it, I fashioned myself a whole identity. To be honest, I wanted to see how much the little apefolks could take before they cracked. I came up with the name Julius…lovely name, really…and then, later, added the name Seizer. Of course, it was meant as a pun…I seized land, ha ha, but the humans took it seriously and dubbed me Julius "Caesar." Ignorant fools.

Well, as Julius Seizer, I expanded the Roman Empire quite a bit and did many other things which, frankly, aren’t that interesting when compared to my exploits as the sentient pair of scissors. It had to end sooner of later, of course…in this case, sooner, as I was murdered by a bunch of half-wits who thought I was getting too big for my tight-fitting dictatorial breeches (and they had no idea how right they were…).

After Seizer, I went on to create several other personas and live amongst the humans: Kangxi, Emperor of China; Alexander de Grat (another mistranslation…stupid humans); and Emperor Tsuchimikado of Japan, to name but a few. I even spent some time among the other sentient species of the planet; I had great success as Empress Squeak-Squeak-Click of the dolphins for a while in the fifteenth century.

But Earth got boring after a while. After all, when you look at the history of the little pink-skinned monkeys, how different is it, really? Like the Continuum, I simply left them to their own devices. I’d been there for thousands of years, and few things of note had taken place. I didn’t think the apes had it in them to do anything different. What a surprise I was in for…but I didn’t know it yet.

I took off for Vulcan, a planet made up entirely of party-poopers. For a while, I tried to antagonize them into doing something interesting…replaced those pointy ears of theirs with raspberry-flavored taffy ones, for example…but nothing worked. I mean, they wouldn’t even eat their own ears. They’d do their "live long and blah blah blah" greeting as they walked down the street, and say things like, "Greetings, T’Edious. Your ears still appear to be exhibiting signs of fruity eatableness." The other would respond, of course: "Indeed, T’Iresome. The affliction is most illogical." After a while, I just gave up…if turning all their clothing invisible didn’t work, nothing would.

I stopped off on Qo’noS to see the creatures the tribbles had been all worked up about. I wasn’t very impressed. They were almost the opposite of the Vulcans: loud, obstreperous jerks. I tried giving them British accents for a while; after all, it had worked to snooty-ify the humans. That worked for a while, and they even formed a democratic ruling council…but before I knew it, it was back to chugging bloodwine and hacking off their buddy’s limbs; the time of the British accent became known in Klingon history as "the Dark Time." In retrospect, I should have known that would happen…perhaps banishing all dentists from Qo’noS forevermore was taking it a bit far…

But I digress…

** ** **

And so I was off again, gallivanting around the universe, changing history where I saw fit, never showing myself, always the devil in the dark. Eventually, after a few thousand more years, I headed back towards Earth and the humans…only to discover that they were exploring the galaxy, too! They were doing it in pitifully slow ships (they thought ‘faster than light’ was an achievement, if you can believe that), but still, I was amazed. Give a species a few thousand years, and they go from muddy pig-farmers to spandex-wearing space explorers.

I had my fun with them a hundred years before any Q came along, and I preferred, again, to stay in the shadows. I became several captain, a couple of admirals, and a parrot; to this day, I still consider the parrot, nicknamed ‘the Great Bird of the Galaxy’, to be my greatest achievement.

But sitting around in spandex, pushing buttons and cataloging anomalies gets pretty boring after a while. I could have left again, but I decided against it…This time, I would introduce a few…X factors, shall we say?

** ** **

"Captain! The Cube is moving towards us!"

"New course: 243 mark 8.4. Go!" I called to the shell-shocked conn ensign.

"Aye," the ensign acknowledged automatically, hands flying over his console, his eyes still wide with fear.

The ship shook as the Borg fired again. A console in the back exploded, throwing sparks over everything. "Shields at 17%!" warned Ying, the tactical officer.

"Status of warp engine?"

"Off-line."

The ship shook even more violently. "It’s a cutting beam!" Ying bellowed.

This is not going well, I thought to myself. Maybe this particular element was a little too unstable. Time to add another X factor…

"Shields failing!" Ying cried. I nodded once to show that I understood…

The shaking suddenly stopped. The lights were still dimmed, and the alarm strobes continued to flash, but the bridge seemed deathly quiet.

"Report?" I demanded, feigning ignorance.

"The Borg are standing down!" exclaimed a surprised Ying.

"What’s going on?" asked my quintessential-yet-useless first officer.

"Unknown," Ying said. Then, a moment later, "The Borg are hailing."

"The Borg are hailing?" I repeated, trying to sound as shocked as I could. If ever there was an acting award for omnipotent beings, I would surely be in the running.

"Yes, Captain," Ying replied. "Open a channel?"

"Go ahead," I said.

The viewscreen changed to show the interior of the giant cube. I heard a few jaws hit the floor as I tried not to laugh too hard.

Three drones occupied the foreground of the bit of the cube we could see. Two of them were dressed in elaborate three-piece suits, complete with top hats and canes. The third was dressed in a magnificent voluminous evening gown and matching sunshine yellow bonnet. All three were waving gaily at the screen.

"Good day, good day," said the first. "We’re the Borg, m’dears…Pleased to meet you, I’m sure…"

"I say, old chap," chimed in the second, "would you mind terribly lowering your shields and surrendering your ships? We’d like to assimilate you, y’see."

"It’s not so bad," coaxed the third, smiling, her bonnet clashing horribly with the flashing ocular implant. "We’ll add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. It’s fun!"

"Everyone’s doing it!"

"I say, would you care for a spot of tea before we assimilate you?"

Behind me, I heard a thump; I turned around to see what it was and saw Ying, who had apparently just fainted and toppled to the floor. No replacement tactical officer took over, no medical techs ran forward…In fact, if everyone’s eyes popped out of their sockets right then, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

"We would be delighted," I responded, trying to sound nonchalant and only vaguely perturbed. "Nysim, Kanor, Liebritz…You’ll accompany me over to the cube."

"Splendid!" cried the first Borg, bowing so low to the view screen that his top hat nearly fell off. "We’ll send over transporter coordinates. You’ll bring the scones?"

"But of course," I assured him, and the viewscreen clicked off.

"Captain…What…?" started my first officer.

"Not now, Commander. For whatever reason, the Borg are offering us a diplomatic opportunity, so I think we should take advantage of it. Please tell Mr. Rork to send two dozen scones to Transporter Room Three." I was walking towards the turbolift as I talked, but I didn’t hear a response… "Is that understood, Commander?" I turned back towards him…only to find a scowling redhead in an admiral’s uniform facing me.

"Identify yourself," I barked out, unflappable as always.

"Oh, shut up, Q," the redhead said. "Or…Isn’t it ‘X’ now? Always were full of yourself."

"Oho! So it’s you, Q…" I said, eyeing the new arrival warily.

"Captain, what’s going on?" the first officer demanded.

The redheaded Q clapped once, and everyone on the bridge vanished in a flash of light. A moment later, so did we, only to appear on the bridge of the Borg ship.

"Q…" Q started patiently, then decided against it. "X. You’ve been away from the Continuum for a while now…But I would have thought even you wouldn’t have forgotten one of our most basic rules…"

Q leaned forward, her green eyes flashing dangerously. "Don’t disturb the Collective."

"Oh, come now, Q," I said flippantly, waving my hand as I turned away from her. "They’re naught but mortals…Powerful mortals, perhaps, but mortals all the same."

"Irrelevant," Q snapped. "Furthermore, the Continuum has decided that in light of your recent actions over the past few million years, you will return to the Continuum to stand trial."

"Ha! You can’t do that," I declared. "I’m no longer a member of the Continuum. I don’t have anything to do with you."

"Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. You may have left the Continuum…But you’re still one of us! You hide behind your new name and your alias…the ‘devil in the dark’…but you’re still a Q."

"Fine," I said with a sigh. "I’ll change the Borg back, if that’s what you want. If you ask me, it was too close to what I did to the Klingons, anyway…I should have turned them into a massive conga line…"

I turned to the Borg and nodded once. In a green, fiery explosion (I always did like the special effects), the Borg returned to their boring, soulless existence. The three drones that had so politely offered me tea only a few minutes ago advanced on me now, raising their arms, preparing to spike me with their assimilation tubules.

"Resistance is futile," said the closest one.

"You know, I liked you so much more before," I said sadly.

In the blink of an eye, a teapot appeared, hovering in midair next to my neck. The Borg’s assimilation tubules shot out, breaking through the patterned blue china and diving into the hot tea. A curious expression crossed over the drone’s face for a split second. I grinned at him…

"Come on," Q said roughly, grabbing me by the elbow. In a flash of light, we were gone.

I found myself floating over Stonehenge. I was momentarily surprised…how had I gotten here? Something touched my arm, and I twirled around. Q was floating there next to me, gazing down as well.

"Your doing," she said. It was not a question.

I answered anyway. "Yes."

And then we were off on a whirlwind tour: the pyramids, the temples, the shrines, the statues…even that disgraceful sphinx. And then we were off, flying all around the universe…visiting the tribbles, the Klingons, the Vulcans, the Bolians, the Norshk, the Yuznay, the Nyrians, and a thousand other species…

"Your doing," Q repeated.

"Yes," I said again, a note of pride in my voice now.

Q sighed. "I don’t suppose I could talk you out of interfering in the future?"

"No, I don’t suppose you could," I told her cheerfully.

"Watch yourself, X," she said finally, after a minute’s pause. "Because we’ll be watching you."

"I’ll keep that in mind," I promised, intending to do no such thing.

In a flash of light, Q was gone. A moment later, her voice echoed back to me, a creepy sound amongst the stars.

"We’ll be watching you," she repeated. "You’re not the only one who can interfere without being detected. Perhaps we’ll take a page out of your book…you devil in the dark…"

And with her laughter echoing after her, she was gone.

** ** **

After the Borg escapades, I decided to check in on the humans again. I’d modified some memories on my old ship so that no one would remember me; however, it did seem that some damage had been done…

"This is Ngeta Niranna, reporting for the Federation News Network…

"Startling reports have come in from the U.S.S. Quasar, a deep-space survey vessel. It reported contact with a Borg cube; amazingly, the ship was not immediately assimilated. The crew reports that several drones beamed aboard, but they did not attempt to assimilate the crew. Instead, the drones accessed the main computer. They did not access crew records, tactical reports, or any vital systems. It seems that the drones opened the culinary database and downloaded recipes for seventeen blends of tea, including chamomile, Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Earl Grey. Afterward, the crew discovered that several replicators were missing.

"The Quasar’s report definitely attests to the renewed presence of Borg in this region of space, but the odd behavior of the encountered ship indicates some new strategy. Admiral Morgan of Starfleet Tactical agreed to speak with us…"

I clicked the viewscreen on my small new shuttlecraft off and grinned down at it. It seems that the Borg had assimilated something that they liked for a change…What a pleasant surprise.

In any event, it seemed that I’d be sticking around a bit longer…

After all, I thought, what would they do without me…without some X factors?

What would they do…without their devil in the dark?

==================================================

Final draft below

Edited by Solan
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Guest kaldore1

Note: This is the same story, just with the proper words italicized...

X Factors

Call me X.

Just X.

X is it.

I’m X.

Have you got it yet? Good.

Once upon a time…er, no, scratch that. Too many stories begin with that phrase…In fact, the exact number of stories that begin with "once upon a time" is 9.5x10^84th. Trust me…I’ve read them all.

In any event, this is my story. I am X, as I said, I was once a member of a frightfully boring group called the Q Continuum. Everyone there was the same, from their annoying, boring habits to their names. They were all called Q. Yes. All of them. They all had the same name. It got so confusing…"Hi, Q, how are you?" "Oh, fine, Q! And how are you, and Q, and Q?" "Q’s good, but I hear Q’s in trouble for sneezing and blowing up another universe." Well, you get the general idea.

So I left.

That’s it…just up and walked out. I changed my name to something a little more…variable…and I’ve been on my own ever since.

X. Fascinating letter, isn’t it? Pity it’s used so little by most cultures. Why, those little ape-humans, with all of their languages, only use it in a total of 19,394 worlds. Waste of a good letter. By contrast, those boisterous Bolian buffoons use it in more than half their words! Bolians…now, there’s a intriguing culture. Did you know that they’re known by most cultures simply because of their plumbing prowess? Of course you didn’t. Now you do. Lucky you.

Er…Well, let’s get back to the story. So, approximately mole years ago (‘mole’…isn’t that a great number? Amazing that the humans came up with something like that on their own…) I put the Continuum behind me and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been spending the time since then sticking around with various lower species for as long as it strikes my fancy. I once spent a million years as a sentient pair of scissors…that was an experience, let me tell you!

I’d have to say the most interesting one so far, though, was life as a tribble. The Klingons have no idea how much the little furballs hate them. On the stroke of midnight in the tribble year Yarky-Mook-Pik, the tribbles plan to obliterate Qo’noS once and for all. They already have their giant ship of death moving into position, all ready to aim its planet-destroying laser down at Qo’noS. Ironically, the ship looks like a giant flying teddy bear…There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.

But for the past couple thousand years, I’ve lived on a little planet, far out in the arm of a galaxy called "Milky Way" (a rotten name, if you ask me; I would have named it L). I’ve watched the funny little apelike creatures go from scattered pockets of civilized beings who wanted to kill each other to…well…rather large bunches of civilized beings who wanted to kill each other in more technologically sophisticated ways. Of course, they’ll tell you that they’ve changed…"working to better humanity" and all that mumbo-jumbo.

But I know better.

I’ve been there for thousands of years, after all.

I even fancied myself a stage name, of sorts.

I called myself…the devil in the dark…

** ** **

For a while, when I first settled on Earth, I was obsessed with building things. I gave the backwards humans living on that otherwise-insignificant little island some anti-grav units and watched them go crazy at a place they called "Stonehenge." It still boggles the minds of the little modern-day apes how their ancestors did it. Personally, I don’t think they’ll ever figure it out.

From there, I took a stroll down to another little island in the middle of a big ocean. There, I found a tribe of the most amazing stone carvers…of the time, anyway. I ordered a few dozen likenesses of myself, which I planned to send back to Continuum as a joke gift. Unfortunately for them, the ungrateful little sculptors wouldn’t give them up willingly. So, I flattened them all…squashed ‘em, each with one of their own statues. I left the place, christening it "Christmas Island" because of the failed gift attempt. Funny how names have a way of being garbled on the way down…

I danced all over the world, overseeing building projects…temples in the rainforests, shrines to the northeast of the great mountains, pyramids in the deserts. I even ordered a new likeness of myself…and I got the sphinx. Want some advice? Never tell the Egyptians you want a realistic likeness of [iyourself. Because you won’t get it. Nope. No way.

** ** **

After a few hundred years, the humans were beginning to spread far and wide, so I decided to take a more…direct…approach to my involvement. The first time I did it, I fashioned myself a whole identity. To be honest, I wanted to see how much the little apefolks could take before they cracked. I came up with the name Julius…lovely name, really…and then, later, added the name Seizer. Of course, it was meant as a pun…I seized land, ha ha, but the humans took it seriously and dubbed me Julius "Caesar." Ignorant fools.

Well, as Julius Seizer, I expanded the Roman Empire quite a bit and did many other things which, frankly, aren’t that interesting when compared to my exploits as the sentient pair of scissors. It had to end sooner of later, of course…in this case, sooner, as I was murdered by a bunch of half-wits who thought I was getting too big for my tight-fitting dictatorial breeches (and they had no idea how right they were…).

After Seizer, I went on to create several other personas and live amongst the humans: Kangxi, Emperor of China; Alexander de Grat (another mistranslation…stupid humans); and Emperor Tsuchimikado of Japan, to name but a few. I even spent some time among the other sentient species of the planet; I had great success as Empress Squeak-Squeak-Click of the dolphins for a while in the fifteenth century.

But Earth got boring after a while. After all, when you look at the history of the little pink-skinned monkeys, how different is it, really? Like the Continuum, I simply left them to their own devices. I’d been there for thousands of years, and few things of note had taken place. I didn’t think the apes had it in them to do anything different. What a surprise I was in for…but I didn’t know it yet.

I took off for Vulcan, a planet made up entirely of party-poopers. For a while, I tried to antagonize them into doing something interesting…replaced those pointy ears of theirs with raspberry-flavored taffy ones, for example…but nothing worked. I mean, they wouldn’t even lick their own ears. They’d do their "live long and blah blah blah" greeting as they walked down the street, and say things like, "Greetings, T’Edious. Your ears still appear to be exhibiting signs of fruity eatableness." The other would respond, of course: "Indeed, T’Iresome. The affliction is most illogical." After a while, I just gave up…if turning all their clothing invisible didn’t work, nothing would.

I stopped off on Qo’noS to see the creatures the tribbles had been all worked up about. I wasn’t very impressed. They were almost the opposite of the Vulcans: loud, obstreperous jerks. I tried giving them British accents for a while; after all, it had worked to snooty-ify the humans. That worked for a while, and they even formed a democratic ruling council…but before I knew it, it was back to chugging bloodwine and hacking off their buddy’s limbs; the time of the British accent became known in Klingon history as "the Dark Time." In retrospect, I should have known that would happen…perhaps banishing all dentists from Qo’noS forevermore was taking it a bit far…

But I digress…

** ** **

And so I was off again, gallivanting around the universe, changing history where I saw fit, never showing myself, always the devil in the dark. Eventually, after a few thousand more years, I headed back towards Earth and the humans…only to discover that they were exploring the galaxy, too! They were doing it in pitifully slow ships (they thought ‘faster than light’ was an achievement, if you can believe that), but still, I was amazed. Give a species a few thousand years, and they go from muddy pig-farmers to spandex-wearing space explorers.

I had my fun with them a hundred years before any Q came along, and I preferred, again, to stay in the shadows. I became several captain, a couple of admirals, and a parrot; to this day, I still consider the parrot, nicknamed ‘the Great Bird of the Galaxy’, to be my greatest achievement.

But sitting around in spandex, pushing buttons and cataloging anomalies gets pretty boring after a while. I could have left again, but I decided against it…This time, I would introduce a few…X factors, shall we say?

** ** **

"Captain! The Cube is moving towards us!"

"New course: 243 mark 8.4. Go!" I called to the shell-shocked conn ensign.

"Aye," the ensign acknowledged automatically, hands flying over his console, his eyes still wide with fear.

The ship shook as the Borg fired again. A console in the back exploded, throwing sparks over everything. "Shields at 17%!" warned Ying, the tactical officer.

"Status of warp engine?"

"Off-line."

The ship shook even more violently. "It’s a cutting beam!" Ying bellowed.

This is not going well, I thought to myself. Maybe this particular element was a little too unstable. Time to add another X factor…

"Shields failing!" Ying cried. I nodded once to show that I understood…

The shaking suddenly stopped. The lights were still dimmed, and the alarm strobes continued to flash, but the bridge seemed deathly quiet.

"Report?" I demanded, feigning ignorance.

"The Borg are standing down!" exclaimed a surprised Ying.

"What’s going on?" asked my quintessential-yet-useless first officer.

"Unknown," Ying said. Then, a moment later, "The Borg are hailing."

"The Borg are hailing?" I repeated, trying to sound as shocked as I could. If ever there was an acting award for omnipotent beings, I would surely be in the running.

"Yes, Captain," Ying replied. "Open a channel?"

"Go ahead," I said.

The viewscreen changed to show the interior of the giant cube. I heard a few jaws hit the floor as I tried not to laugh too hard.

Three drones occupied the foreground of the bit of the cube we could see. Two of them were dressed in elaborate three-piece suits, complete with top hats and canes. The third was dressed in a magnificent voluminous evening gown and matching sunshine yellow bonnet. All three were waving gaily at the screen.

"Good day, good day," said the first. "We’re the Borg, m’dears…Pleased to meet you, I’m sure…"

"I say, old chap," chimed in the second, "would you mind terribly lowering your shields and surrendering your ships? We’d like to assimilate you, y’see."

"It’s not so bad," coaxed the third, smiling, her bonnet clashing horribly with the flashing ocular implant. "We’ll add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. It’s fun!"

"Everyone’s doing it!"

"I say, would you care for a spot of tea before we assimilate you?"

Behind me, I heard a thump; I turned around to see what it was and saw Ying, who had apparently just fainted and toppled to the floor. No replacement tactical officer took over, no medical techs ran forward…In fact, if everyone’s eyes popped out of their sockets right then, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

"We would be delighted," I responded, trying to sound nonchalant and only vaguely perturbed. "Nysim, Kanor, Liebritz…You’ll accompany me over to the cube."

"Splendid!" cried the first Borg, bowing so low to the view screen that his top hat nearly fell off. "We’ll send over transporter coordinates. You’ll bring the scones?"

"But of course," I assured him, and the viewscreen clicked off.

"Captain…What…?" started my first officer.

"Not now, Commander. For whatever reason, the Borg are offering us a diplomatic opportunity, so I think we should take advantage of it. Please tell Mr. Rork to send two dozen scones to Transporter Room Three." I was walking towards the turbolift as I talked, but I didn’t hear a response… "Is that understood, Commander?" I turned back towards him…only to find a scowling redhead in an admiral’s uniform facing me.

"Identify yourself," I barked out, always unflappable.

"Oh, shut up, Q," the redhead said. "Or…Isn’t it ‘X’ now? Always were full of yourself."

"Oho! So it’s you, Q…" I said, eyeing the new arrival warily.

"Captain, what’s going on?" the first officer demanded.

The redheaded Q clapped once, and everyone on the bridge vanished in a flash of light. A moment later, so did we, only to appear on the bridge of the Borg ship.

"Q…" Q started patiently, then decided against it. "X. You’ve been away from the Continuum for a while now…But I would have thought even you wouldn’t have forgotten one of our most basic rules…"

Q leaned forward, her green eyes flashing dangerously. "Don’t disturb the Collective."

"Oh, come now, Q," I said flippantly, waving my hand as I turned away from her. "There’re naught but mortals…Powerful mortals, perhaps, but mortals all the same."

"Irrelevant," Q snapped. "Furthermore, the Continuum has decided that in light of your recent actions over the past few million years, you will return to the Continuum to stand trial."

"Ha! You can’t do that," I declared. "I’m no longer a member of the Continuum. I don’t have anything to do with you."

"Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. You may have left the Continuum…But you’re still one of us! You hide behind your new name and your alias…the ‘devil in the dark’…but you’re still a Q."

"Fine," I said with a sigh. "I’ll change the Borg back, if that’s what you want. If you ask me, it was too close to what I did to the Klingons, anyway…I should have turned them into a massive conga line…"

I turned to the Borg and nodded once. In a green, fiery explosion (I always did like the special effects), the Borg returned to their boring, soulless existence. The three drones that had so politely offered me tea only a few minutes ago advanced on me now, raising their arms, preparing to spike me with their assimilation tubules.

"Resistance is futile," said the closest one.

"You know, I liked you so much more before," I said sadly.

In the blink of an eye, a teapot appeared, hovering in midair next to my neck. The Borg’s assimilation tubules shot out, breaking through the patterned blue china and diving into the hot tea. A curious expression crossed over the drone’s face for a split second. I grinned at him…

"Come on," Q said roughly, grabbing me by the elbow. In a flash of light, we were gone.

I found myself floating over Stonehenge. I was momentarily surprised…how had I gotten here? Something touched my arm, and I twirled around. Q was floating there next to me, gazing down as well.

"Your doing," she said. It was not a question.

I answered anyway. "Yes."

And then we were off on a whirlwind tour: the pyramids, the temples, the shrines, the statues…even that disgraceful sphinx. And then we were off, flying all around the universe…visiting the tribbles, the Klingons, the Vulcans, the Bolians, the Norshk, the Yuznay, the Nyrians, and a thousand other species…

"Your doing," Q repeated.

"Yes," I said again, a note of pride in my voice now.

Q sighed. "I don’t suppose I could talk you out of interfering in the future?"

"No, I don’t suppose you could," I told her cheerfully.

"Watch yourself, X," she said finally, after a minute’s pause. "Because we’ll be watching you."

"I’ll keep that in mind," I promised, intending to do no such thing.

In a flash of light, Q was gone. A moment later, her voice echoed back to me, a creepy sound amongst the stars.

"We’ll be watching you," she repeated. "You’re not the only one who can interfere without being detected. Perhaps we’ll take a page out of your book…you devil in the dark…"

And with her laughter echoing after her, she was gone.

** ** **

After the Borg escapades, I decided to check in on the humans again. I’d modified some memories on my old ship so that no one would remember me; however, it did seem that some damage had been done…

"This is Ngeta Niranna, reporting for the Federation News Network…

"Startling reports have come in from the U.S.S. Quasar, a deep-space survey vessel. It reported contact with a Borg cube; amazingly, the ship was not immediately assimilated. The crew reports that several drones beamed aboard, but they did not attempt to assimilate the crew. Instead, the drones accessed the main computer. They did not access crew records, tactical reports, or any vital systems. It seems that the drones opened the culinary database and downloaded recipes for seventeen blends of tea, including chamomile, Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Earl Grey. Afterward, the crew discovered that several replicators were missing.

"The Quasar’s report definitely attests to the renewed presence of Borg in this region of space, but the odd behavior of the encountered ship indicates some new strategy. Admiral Morgan of Starfleet Tactical agreed to speak with us…"

I clicked the viewscreen on my small new shuttlecraft off and grinned down at it. It seems that the Borg had assimilated something that they liked for a change…What a pleasant surprise.

In any event, it seemed that I’d be sticking around a bit longer…

After all, I thought, what would they do without me…without some X factors?

What would they do…without their devil in the dark?

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