Astro hugged his brother Cobalt and accepted a kiss from his sister Uran. He hugged his parents, and gave his baby brother Chi-tan a kiss on the check. As his family walked away and waved goodbye, he rode the elevator up to the top of the gantry tower, towards the top of the rocket. Astro closed the hatch to the cockpit, and strapped himself into the padded seat.
The countdown commenced, and reached zero. The engines on the rocket started and the ship slowly rose skyward. Astro felt the G forces rise as the vehicle passed through 'max Q' and the sound barrier. Through the porthole window, Astro saw the sky turn first a dark violet, and then an inky black as the rocket left the Earth's atmosphere behind. The main engines shut down as the ship entered orbit. Now weightless, Astro felt himself floating in the cockpit. He checked his instrumentation, and started the timer for the next ignition of the ship's engines that would propel the rocket out of Earth orbit, and towards the sun.
Astro set the dials on the radio, and issued a call blindly towards the fleet of spaceships now in solar orbit that carried the masses of humankind that had fled the Earth when the sun had heated up. “Ochanomizo Hakase”, Astro called, “do you copy me?”
At first the only response he got was static, but he readjusted the frequency and tried again. This time he heard the professors reply, weak but readable. “Atomu! Yes I copy,” Ochanomizu replied.
“Hakase!,” Astro answered. “I'm now in Earth orbit, and will soon be heading towards the sun. I have an anti-neutrino bomb that I hope will reverse the sun's runaway cycle. If it works, everyone will be able to return home!”
“That's good news!”, the professor said. “But it sounds dangerous. If you activate the tracker I installed inside of you, I will be able to send a rescue rocket for you after the device is activated, should the need arise.”
“Hai, Hakase!”, Astro agreed. He opened his chest panel and found the device that the professor had left there, and turned it on.
“I'm receiving your tracking signal, Astro,” Ochanomize said. “Good luck, I'll be watching!”
The second countdown timer reached zero and the rocket's engines fired again. The ship accelerated from orbit and plunged inward toward the sun. Astro felt the G forces rise as his velocity increased. He kept track of the distance, as the ship approached the orbit of Venus.
Professor Ochanomizo watched the track of Astro's spaceship on the computer radar screen. “Good luck Astro,” he muttered under his breath, “Good luck to all of us!”
The rocket kept accelerating as the sun's gravity pulled it inward. The ship passed by the planet Mercury. Astro could feel the temperature rising inside the cockpit as the sun got closer. It now filled the viewscreen. Astro donned protective goggles to shield his eyes from the glare of the star. He watched the track of his course on the computer radar, and noted that he was now just minutes from the release point. He threw the necessary switches to unlock the payload from the nose of the rocket and prepared to jettison the anti-neutrino bomb. The computer radar showed the countdown to release on his monitor screen. The count reached zero and Astro pulled the handle to send the device on its way.
He looked through the forward periscope and watched the bomb drift away from his rocket towards the sun. With anguish Astro then spotted the previously unknown asteroid belt inside of Mercury's orbit. The bomb impacted on one of the rocky bodies, its forward velocity halted.
Astro grabbed the ships controls and tried to head inward, but the ship would not respond. He watched as the rocket sped away from the device, and quickly realized he had only one chance to save the mission. Astro cracked the cockpit hatch open and jumped out into the void. He used his leg rockets to propel himself towards the asteroid, and the bomb. The boy robot grabbed hold of the device and propelled it and himself away from the planetoid, and towards the sun.
“Sorry, Hakase,” he thought to himself, “I guess I won't be coming home after all.” He felt the sun's heat increasing, and realized that it wouldn't be long before he'd begin to melt. But first, he had to make sure that the anti-neutrino bomb activated close enough to the star to do its work. Astro pulled open a panel on the surface of the device and felt inside of it. His fingers found the detonation switch, and he snapped it into the active position. He watched as a timer display inside of the bomb started to countdown the seconds till detonation. When the display reached ten seconds he gave the bomb a final shove inwards toward the sun and released it. Astro watched as the device entered the star's coronasphere. The anti-neutrino detonated, and Astro lost conciseness.
At first, nothing seemed to change. The bomb's blast was nothing compared to the sun's might. Yet, deep within the sun's core the thermonuclear reactions had started to change. The bomb had sent a surge of anti-neutrinos into the sun's interior, and the near massless particles, traveling at relativistic speed, quickly reacted with the fusion of Hydrogen atoms. The runaway core of the star slowed down, and its output of high energy photons reduced. From the vantage point of the fleet of spaceships that was now humanity's home, it was obvious that the Earth would soon return to normal.
But the excess energy had to go somewhere, and it did as the sun spat out one final burst of high energy plasma. The beam of energy it released blasted out into space towards the galaxy's Delta quadrant, which briefly opened up a wormhole. The lifeless body of the boy robot fell into that wormhole, disappearing from the solar system only to reappear millions of light years away.
On his computer radar screen, Professor Ochanomizo saw Astro's tracking signature wink out. “Atomu!” the old man sobbed, for he knew that his best friend had given his life to save humankind.
The huge cube shaped starship moved effortlessly through the void between star systems. Moving at high warp speed, the Borg craft's sensors were fine tuned to capture the signature of any biological or cybernetic intelligence within a range of at least 100 parsics of the ships current position.
Most of the ships crew were currently in regeneration mode. The ship itself was busy repairing the damage it had suffered from the space battle they had just barely managed to survive. While the Borg crew hibernated in their recharging booths, the ships own mind kept watch.
The sound of a klaxon alarm sounded, as the Borg cube dropped out of warp. A dozen or so of the ship's drone complement woke up, and left their regeneration booths, and headed for the ship's bridge. Something had captured the Borg's attention, and the drones scanned the sensor log to determine just what the ship had found. They were still many parsics away from any system, and not even the faint warp trail of a passing starship had been detected.
A drone with the designation of 'Eight of Ten' inserted his right index finger into the ship's computer interface socket on the bridge control panel. Now directly patched into the ship's main computer, he assessed the most recent sensor log file. Now that he knew the reason for the ship's drop to sub-light speed, 'Eight' made the decision to alert the hive queen.
The Borg Queen's head opened her eyes at the call for her awakening from regeneration. The ship's machinery carried her to a waiting body, and lowered her spinal column between the bipedal body's shoulders. Clamps secured her neck to her other half, and the color of her skin became less pale as she became completely activated. “Let me see what you have found,” The queen asked. Eight of Ten activated the forward viewing screen.
Floating in front of the cube shaped starship was the slightly deformed shape of a small humanoid being. The ship's sensor's quickly analyzed it as a cybernetic being.
“Origin?”, the queen asked.
“Unknown,” Eight of Ten answered. “My best guess is that it is not from this quadrant.”
“Beam it on board,” the queen said. “Perhaps we can download the information we need from its computer brain.”
Astro lay on his back, his lifeless eyes closed. Eight of Ten examined him with an electromagnetic probe, and then used an x ray imager to study his internal construction. “This is a rather unusual cybernetic being,” he explained to the Borg Queen who was watching over the ships internal video link. “While it is somewhat primitive compared to our own superior design, it does have some rather unique systems.”
“We will assimilate it into the collective,” the Queen replied, “but first we will download its memory.”
“I've already taken care of that,” Eight of Ten replied. “From the data that I've been able to recover from the beings memory, it appears that it was built by a race of human biologics in the Alpha quadrant.”
“From which system?”, the queen asked.
“From the Sol system, third planet,” Eight replied.
“Species 5618, the queen smiled, now we know their home planet. Once you have revived the being we've recovered and finished its assimilation, we will set a course for the Sol system.”
“We should have other ships of the collective join us,” Eight of Ten suggested.
“Of course,” the queen agreed. “Make it so.”
The medical machinery in the cube ship's rejuvenation bay probed Astro's internal mechanisms. It analyzed his construction and determined which of his systems were critically substandard according to established Borg criteria, and then prioritized which of his systems should be updated.
The repair operations commenced first. The areas of Astro's skin that had been melted by the sun's heat were replaced with a tougher Borg alloy. One of Astro's eyes was found to have been damaged by excessive photon flux, and was replaced by a Borg implant with superior spectrum response and wider range focus. His ears audio sensors were upgraded with Borg units providing extended response in the subsonic and supersonic spectrum, and sensitivity of 100 times greater than what he had previously. Astro's chemically fueled leg rockets were removed and he was upgraded with miniature anti-matter powered impulse engines. Finally, his electronic brain's damaged sub-processors were repaired, and a new sub-processor to provide a connection to the collective was added. The regeneration cycle was then started, with Astro's internal power supply being gradually recharged.
Slowly Astro regained conciseness. At first all he could see were a dim blurry haze of flashing lights. Gradually, the images sharpened, and he could make out the details of the regeneration chamber that he was standing inside of. As his power levels rose, he began to sense his surroundings. He could here the buzzing of the machinery, and could feel the static discharges from the high voltage cables connected at various places to his body. He could also taste the ozone in the air.
Astro also heard a calming voice in his head. “Welcome to the collective. You have been assimilated and your excellence will be added to ours, as ours is now part of you.”
The Borg cube came out of hyperspace just outside of the heliosphere of the star Sol. They were quickly joined by a dozen other cube ships of the collective. “The armada is ready to attack”, Eight of Ten reported. “Our first target?”
The Borg Queen smiled. “Have we been detected?”
“Not yet,” replied the drone monitoring the ship's sensors.
“Scan the system,” the queen suggested. “We will begin by assimilating the inhabitants of some minor outpost.”
“I'd suggest the large moon of the sixth planet,” Eight of Ten said. “There appears to be a large Helium mining outpost there, and a substantial supporting settlement as well.”
“Yes, that would make a good target, but I'd prefer something a bit further out from the home world for our first attack.”
“There is an outpost on the large moon of the eighth planet, it appears to be a listening post for the human federation,” the drone at the sensor station suggested.
“Yes, that will be our first target,” the queen replied. “Set our course.”
Lieutenant Commander Data looked up from his station and addressed Captain Picard, “Captain, I'm receiving an urgent distress message from the Sol station on Triton.”
“That's the early warning station for Earth, isn't it Sir,” Lieutenant Commander Worf spoke up.
“That's correct commander,” Picard replied. “Data, what's the nature of the distress message?”
“They are under attack sir,” Data answered, “They reported that several cube shaped ships suddenly appeared in orbit around the eighth planet, and then moved towards the large moon that the base is located on.”
“The Borg are in the Sol Earth system?,” Commander Riker broke in, “Why haven't we heard from Star Fleet?”
“Perhaps we are the first ship to pick up the distress call,” Data suggested.
“I don't know if the Enterprise is the closest ship to the Sol system, but we will be the first to respond!,” Picard exclaimed. “Worf, plot us a maximum warp course towards the Sol system and execute at once!”