- Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Amadeus O'Reilly
Cooperation xB Societal Behavior | Assimilation Tubule Usage, "Tethering"
Regarding xB usage of the Borg-wide "Assimilation Tubule" phenomenon and their reclaimed usage therein
No doubt the reader is already aware of the Borg-wide “assimilation tubules” found within every drone, and is most likely also aware of how daunting the mere sight of them can be to those unfamiliar with the Collective. Slender limbs that allow for between-drone communication and direct technological interfacing, assimilation tubules are most commonly found on a single hand — erupting anywhere from the wrists, knuckles, distal joints, or fingertips — though they vary in location and amount per-drone by whatever assimilation template was enacted on them. In most circumstances, assimilation tubules are entirely irremovable, in part due to their deep integration within xB nervous systems and skeletal structures. If these tubules are damaged outside the body, the cybernetic limbs typically regenerate within 24 hours– making the labor of attempted surgical extractions even more difficult as a long-term excision. These augments, after all, are intended for “adaptation" and "the continued spread of Borg influence–" explaining both their durability and longevity.
The xBs of Ohniaka III have not only reckoned with this irremovable piece of technology, but have diversified the usage of the once-invasive limbs. Nullified by the Reclamation Project's Cybernetics Division to prevent excess nanoprobe reproduction in an organic subject or technological interface, tubules post-Reclamation formally serve as either physical linkages to computational hardware or emergency medical aid dosages that utilize nanoprobes’ reparative nature. They can also be used as unique identification methods when inserted to an xB user interface: the subject able to directly download programs and other digital information into their cybernetic matrixes. The hiss-like chirp of their deployment is not an uncommon sound to be heard, when wandering Ohniaka III's Capitol City; non-xB visitors should have no cause for concern if seeing a citizen's tubules deployed and connected to a public information kiosk or utilities terminal.
Beyond medical necessity and streamlining technological functionality, assimilation tubules' personal use within LBC culture also rekindles old links between themselves as fellow xBs. The act of “Tethering,” as it’s come to be called, is not dissimilar to the Vulcan mindmeld– though is not as profound or life-impacting as the trading and insertion of a Katra. Tethering has a wide variety of communication possibility between xBs, though there must be a certain level of trust and familiarity between the involved to permit such a connection in the first place (i.e.: unless an xB is a declared Medical or Cyberneticist member of the Reclamation Project, the act of an xB initiating a Tether with an xB unknown to them is extremely frowned upon and akin to physical assault). Tethering can also be used as a means of non-verbal, physical sensory communication: parties are able to exchange downloaded packets of information, share mental spaces, expand their consciousness, and may even Tether during copulation to enhance “pleasing” activities.
To quell the reader’s possible curiosity, it is possible for an xB to Tether to and with non-xBs (as well as provide regenerative medical dosages). But the connection duration before nanoprobes flood a subject’s system and spark Null Assimilation vary greatly, and these types of xB/non-xB Tetherings must be preceded with extreme caution.
Species-specific Cultural Incorporation
Outside the universal intents of Tethering, various galactic species and diaspora communities have begun to incorporate Tethering into their respective peoples' customs. Vulcan xBs utilize these tubules when initiating mindmelds in both diagnostic and cerebral contexts, Klingon xBs have been observed supplying fellow “warriors-in-arms” nanoprobe dosages to keep the other fighting in community combat sparrings, and Bajoran xB spaces participate in co-op meditations to Tether their Paghs between each other and to the Celestial Temple Prophets. As is with the newness of the LBC's culture, these species-specific traditions are being forged every day as localized diaspora numbers increase, and will no doubt expand and be documented overtime.
Testimony from Dr. Amadeus O'Reilly
In my youth, I was once stung by a jellyfish. Despite the highly unpleasant event, I can think of no better comparison for my experience with Tethering– sans all forms of pain or long-lasting neurological damage. As I wailed for an antivenom hypospray on the limestone beaches of Cornwall from my mothers, I felt what was the jellyfish’s venom traveling up my arm, through my veins and along my quickened pulse. Where as a child I felt pain, the experience of Tethering was far different– and as a non-xB, dare I say enrapturing. My Tethering initiator Junction Horus — co-author of this publication and my xenoanthropological host on Ohniaka III — had a voice clear as day as he held my forearm and reinforced the connection: the man suddenly so much closer in both body and mind. I could only remain Tethered for 21.18 seconds before a supervising Medical Relay had to administer a nanoprobe-nullifying hypospray, but the experience was near indescribable– especially to one such as myself, who will never know the billion-voiced presence of the Collective as wholly as xBs do.
My xB colleagues will often take long pauses searching for words by which to describe the world around them– now that they are free from the Collective to do so. After both observing and experiencing Tethering, I could hardly imagine, dream, or fathom what kind of words they go “looking for” when that deeper level of connection from a Tether is involved.
To lend further weight and proof to these former statements, I will recount the events that happened to Trill Starfleet Ensign ██████ in late 2390 (name censored for requested officer privacy)– whose actions may help the future development of Trill xB culture for generations to come.
The Tor Incident
Within the first three months of my stay on Ohniaka III and six months into the maiden voyage of Starfleet's USS Pharagodia, the exploration vessel's crew encountered wreckage between a Borg scout ship and a Federation science research vessel. Captain Roger Caldwell took the initiative to explore the debris– bringing along the starship’s xB Counselor for contextual familiarity, as well as an unjoined Trill Medical Ensign ██████ who had just graduated from the Academy with a thesis on cybernetics. Exploring the two mangled ships, the away team found a Trill DBD (Dormant Borg Drone) that carried an assimilated symbiont– the entity inside having its own, rapidly-fading lifesign. I am told that “with a fire in their eyes and desperation in their voice,” they pleaded with the team and their Captain that they take the DBD back and extract the dying symbiont inside– offering their own body as a sanctuary host. Relenting under the acute moral dilemma, Caldwell authorized the transfer– despite the unknowns of what the procedure may do to the Ensign and symbiont.
From there, the situation only grew more complex. The xB Counselor Lieutenant — a Progenitor and someone the Ensign visited quite often already — recommended the now-joined Trill be brought to Ohniaka III along with the salvage taken from the two ships' wreckage. Though it would not be Trill's Caves of Mak’ala, the Ensign would receive treatment from xBs who would know how to properly stabilize them and a now-severed symbiont. For as the days ticked by and the Pharagodia charted course for the Ohniakan system, it was discovered that the now-xB symbiont inside had begun to adapt and “Tether” assimilation tubules deeper into the Ensign’s body at symbiont integration points– slowly spreading its cybernetic influence into the non-xB Trill host.
Learned to be "Tor" with six previous hosts before their assimilation, the symbiont thankfully accepted the Ensign as a host– beginning the natural joining process post-operation. But Tor's past lives and memories had a difficult time integrating as the Ensign underwent a slow mental and physical transformation into that of an xB– even if the host never directly touched the Collective. While I will spare details from provided accounts, it would be shocking for anyone to experience the sudden eruption of a “spider web” cheek augment, feel bones and ligaments churning into cybernetic fixtures– much less sort through a symbiont's past lives versus the billions of voices that echo within the remnants of every xB. Thankfully, the xB Counselor was there to offer Tethering stabilization to the Ensign in turmoil, and is credited for both theirs and the symbiont's survivals.
Halfway into the Ohniakan-bound journey, the Trill Symbiont Commission contacted the Pharagodia and demanded the symbiont and their host be brought back to Trill first– lest xB doctors possibly “corrupt the symbiont further than what the Borg had already done” from outsider medical treatment. While the Cooperation is an ally of the Federation, the LBC is not a member as Trill is, and therefore the Commission held priority in determining the fates of one of its citizens– much less a symbiont. Rather than the hasty operation's authorization, Captain Caldwell had far more time to weigh these political ramifications after having witnessing the Ensign’s transformation firsthand– defying the Commission's request under the loophole "time-sensitive technological deliveries from the wreckage to Ohniaka III." I am also told the Ensign made a passionate case for themselves by storming onto the bridge and interrupting a call with a very prominent Trill politician– begging their's and their symbiont's autonomy to be seen and understood. By the time this week’s journey was complete and the Pharagodia arrived to offload its technological payload, the Ensign was in dire, patchwork straits– immediately entered into the Reclamation Project HQ's ICU.
It was here, finally, that the Ensign was able to fully recite their host's former names, and properly assume the surname of their symbiont.
I was fortunate enough to meet this Ensign on Ohniaka III before the Pharagodia departed to resume its mission. While Starfleet was "none too happy," as I heard from the disgruntled mutterings of Captain Caldwell, the crew I met told me that their spontaneous journey was worth it. The Ensign told me that, while they knew their treatment could mean incredible things for the future of a Trill xB community, all they knew for now was "at least the Pharagodia had another xB onboard so Lieutenant Ariadne wasn't so lonely."
“Now there's two of us. I guess technically three– depending on how you count us.”
AN: The tethering artwork was provided by Zoë / Indigo Allen Wickler (@indigoiseau)! Please find more of their work at zoeallenwickler.com or any other related social media!