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kes7 June 20 2010 11:17 PM

Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
<<<Link to Part One>>>

Here we go -- Part II. A little bit delayed by real life ... so thanks for your patience!

I'm starting a new thread because the other was so huge. Part One is linked above, if you want to refresh your memory, or just missed it the first time around.

I'm posting the Prologue only for now, while I edit the next few chapters. Kind of a tease, I know; sorry. ;) More to come later this week, though! Thanks for reading!



Delta Quadrant, near the border of the Beta Quadrant
Uncharted Protostellar Nebula
USS Tesseract, NX-81261-- Sickbay

One of Fifteen, primary adjunct of bimatrix 247. That was this drone’s designation. The individual whose memories were contained in the engrams within her malfunctioning cortical array no longer existed. Dena no longer existed. We are Borg, she told herself, over and over again. Where are the others?

She looked at herself in panic, aware for the first time of how small her body really was. Without the Collective in her mind, she felt small. Alone. And the memories … they were terrifying.

The night air was damp and cold. Dena carried her youngling, Pilae, through the dense vegetation in the nature preserve at the heart of the city of Lenaris. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. She saw the ships high above the city, some caught in tractor beams, some exploding as they were hit by powerful disruptors. She held Pilae close, shushed her as the little girl whimpered with fear. There was nowhere to hide. She held her breath as she saw a red beam of light cut through the wispy ground fog. It had to be one of them.

Inside the containment field on the Federation vessel, One of Fifteen paced back and forth, eyeing the exoplating on the body that had once been Dena’s. She fought the sudden urge to scream.

Not ‘them,’ she told herself, trying to stay calm. Us. The Collective. We are as one. We are Borg.

The memories still plagued her.

“Mommy. Mommy, I’m frightened,” Pilae whispered. Dena shushed her again, held her closer. She tried not to think about Feranir, or what was left of him. Those creatures – a ghastly combination of death-pale flesh and intricate machinery – had injected him with their technology before her very eyes. She knew what would happen next. By now, everyone had heard the stories from the neighboring traders. The man she loved was gone – soon, he would be one of them.

She wanted to go back for him, everything within her screamed at her to go back for him, but she knew she had to run, so she did. She scooped up their daughter and ran as fast as her feet would take her, three squares from the crowded pathway outside their residential tower to the nature preserve. Now, she stood frozen with fear, momentarily unable to move or even scream as the drone stepped out of the haze and looked directly at her and her daughter.

Pilae had no such trouble. The tiny girl wailed loudly and thrashed in Dena’s grasp as the grotesque figure came into view. It was exactly what Dena needed to snap her out of her trance. She spun around and ran as fast as she could through the slick vines and weeds, occasionally getting caught up in the tangled grasses. She put everything she had into not falling down. If she fell down, she knew it would be over.

She didn’t know where she would go. There was no escape; everyone knew there was no escape. The massive cube in the sky would consume or destroy all in its path, and there was no stopping it. But the survival instinct was strong in her people, and so they fought. And Dena ran.

One of Fifteen could sense her respiration speeding up and her pulse rate increasing. Her nanoprobes quickly compensated, but not before she recognized the physiological reaction she was having. It was fear. Fear just like she had felt when … No, she stopped herself. Dena no longer exists. We are Borg.

Error, she thought … or was that her Borg programming? She was having trouble separating her own thoughts from those of – “No!” she cried aloud, eliciting a wary glance from the guard outside the containment field. Her own voice sounded strange to her. No, not my own. Ours. Our thoughts are one. We are Borg.

She looked down at her body once more, and started to shake as she remembered what had happened next. She remembered the pain the nanoprobes had caused as they restructured her anatomy down to its very DNA. She remembered Pilae’s terrified shrieks as they ripped her away and injected her with their technology, too. She remembered it all, in excruciating detail, and this time, she couldn’t stop the screaming.

With a sharp cry, she threw herself against the containment field, ignoring the safety protocols flashing through her cortical array. “Where is my daughter?” she demanded, in Federation Standard. The Starfleet security officer assigned to monitor her raised his phaser rifle and pointed it at her.

“Step away from the containment field,” he said threateningly. The technology in her brain constantly feeding her enhanced information about everything around her allowed her to recognize his species as 6961 – Ktarian, from the Alpha Quadrant.

“Where is my daughter?” Dena screamed. “What have they done to us?” She tore desperately at the cybernetic implants on her body, wondering if there was anything left of her underneath. Her cortical array was feeding her warning after warning, but she ignored it and kept trying to remove the technology that suddenly felt like it was suffocating her. She tried once more to breach the containment field, but it was futile. The alien standing on the other side tapped a small device on his chest, still using one hand to aim his weapon at her.

“Sickbay to Doctor Bashir,” he said, just as she succeeded in ripping the first implant out of her forearm -- a small control panel for the array of equipment integrated into her left hand. She stared at the device for a moment, then violently threw it away from her. It bounced off the containment field and fell to the floor.

She was bleeding now, but she didn’t care. Whatever the Borg had done to her, she was determined to undo it. Then, she was going to find her daughter.

CeJay June 21 2010 05:48 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
No. You couldn't possible be implying that those mean, heartless Borg killer drones could have had a much more joyful and innocent life once? What are you trying to do here, make me feel compassion for the Borg? Well it worked.

Nice to have Tesseract back. It's been a minute.

mirandafave June 21 2010 06:08 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
As CeJay says, it's nice to have Tesseract back!

From Ad Astra:
Wow. What a beginning! Book One ending with a big finish and it asked the question what was going to come next and how would Book Two open. With so many questions from the last time it would have been tempting to give us some answers. Instead, you throttle us with this dark and chilling opening.
Scary Chilling Emotional Stark
I recall one of Fifteen [here after 1/15 ] whispering Dena and the hairs on my neck were raised for some reason. Something truly horrifying about the prospect of Assimilation - worse than death - but maybe worse still is this living hell of realising that you are trapped, confined, assimilated, part of the Collective that has destroyed your world, your life, your family.
This is a gut wrenching chapter. With 1/15 reliving her futile attempt to flee assimilation. It only gets more intense that the perspective is that of a mother running not just for her life but that of her child. It is a very primal fear and you nail that. Tapping into that emotional thrust adds layers to this Dena stroke 1/15 character. An aside, I can only but hope that she survives this and becomes a character in this volume. There's so much potential to her! On top of which is the contrast with Dena's memories with that of the 1/15 drone self combating the emotional responses of the memories and computing them as an error. It adds to the horror of the scene.
This opener adds an emotional punch to things early on. It is a frightful and dark opener. Very ominous and actually a clever move because it shows just what is at stake for our heroes too. Tackling the Borg as your enemy in any writing now is almost a death cue for the author. Why? Because the Borg and Assimilation feel diluted by so much over use and the inclination to go epic in using them. At the end of the day, the most frightening aspect to the Borg is their relentless nature and their fate worse than death weapon and method of conquering - assimilation.
Assimilation: what with the First Contact movie, Voyager and its numerous uses of the Borg but especially the series ending with Endgame, not to mention the number of persons now rescued from the Collective [Picard, Seven, Icheb, the various other drones in Voyager], and the massive Borg onslaught in the novels means the Borg are almost an overkill - so many clichés surround them and it seems that resistance is not so futile and their evil and horror is diluted. So to make their assimilation scary again and have a feeling of real consequence and horror is a skill.
I'm happy to report that you do that here. Full whack scary stuff. You convey the horrific horror of someone trapped within their Borg drone body and their literal desire to rip the 'Borg' out of their body. Might I add, a clever device too to show what exactly our heroes are facing and the fate that may await them or the Alpha Quadrant. Gripping stuff if I say so myself. Loved this.

Gibraltar June 21 2010 07:06 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
What an agonizing opener! :eek: A first-hand view of an assimilated drone in the greater Collective and the horror that accompanied her capture and transformation. You manage to convey an amazing amount of emotion in a short prologue that promises more excellence to follow. I find myself almost hoping the Borg programming reasserts itself, if only to spare the woman that used to be Dena the unimaginable personal loss that would accompany any rediscovery of self.

Great. Work.

ares93 June 21 2010 11:38 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
bookmarked. seconded what CeJay said. compassion for the borg? i though it was impossible. guess not

tau136 June 22 2010 06:53 AM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
Hello, it wasn't such a wait for me; I found Tesseract by chance the weekend before and read it all in the one weekend — then joined the forum to catch the sequal. :whistle:

Part Two is every bit as strong as Part One. The opening draws in new and old readership, no need for backstory to be grabbed by this. At the same time there is a neat loop for the established fan base as the first arc closed with Anneka Harrison a deassimilated drone and the second arc opens with an Anneka Harrison in potentia. Typically, it showcases one of your strongest features and a leitmotif of your style ... the swift vignette.

CaptainSarine June 22 2010 12:16 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
From Ad Astra:

Wow. Wow. Wow!

What an amazing prologue and tease for book two.

First of all, so great to have you back, I have so missed Tesseract! You've done an amazing job here, introducing us to Dena and a brand new permutation in the story. In a short space, you have made us care about this woman and her situation.

Enthralling as usual. Can't wait for Chapter 1!

kes7 June 23 2010 02:37 AM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
Wow! I have been having a crapfest of a month or two (hence the delay on part II) and what a wonderful way to jump back into writing, with such a positive response to this opener! Thank you all so much for that, it really made my day. So with apologies for the overly cheerful tone here (like I said, you all made my day!):

CeJay -- Glad to see you back here for round two. Thanks for the review, and sorry if I made you feel dirty or anything like that by having compassion for the Borg. :borg: ;)

MirandaFave -- I've answered you (at length -- bring snacks or something ;)) over at Ad Astra, but I'll say here, thank you so much for the awesome review. Always thorough, always 100% appreciated. :bolian:

Gibraltar -- Thanks so much for reviewing. We'll see what happens with Dena. You're right, she's got the worst of all worlds right now -- the Collective seems almost merciful compared to her reality. But it's kind of the "Matrix" question, isn't it? If everything you know is a lie, but you're happy that way, would you choose to live the truth, no matter how ugly? We'll see how it plays out for her. Thanks for reading.

ares93 -- Yay, a new reader! :D Always nice to see! (Did you know there's a 130,000-word monster of a first part to this story? It's linked above. If you haven't read it, you might want to start with that. There are some tangled subplots we'll be revisiting in part II that might be better understood with part I under your belt.) Anyway, that's just a friendly suggestion; of course it's up to you! Either way: Welcome, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for bookmarking! :bolian:

-- Yay, another new reader! :D I'm so glad you enjoyed the first part of this story, and doubly pleased you liked it enough to want more. I hope you continue to enjoy it! Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful review.

Capt. Sarine -- It's good to see YOU here, too! That's partly because I'm selfishly hoping for more Restoration, but also because I love that you loved this chapter. Thanks so much for the kind comments. :)

ares93 June 23 2010 10:09 AM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

kes7 wrote: (Post 4186806)

ares93 -- Yay, a new reader! :D Always nice to see! (Did you know there's a 130,000-word monster of a first part to this story? It's linked above. If you haven't read it, you might want to start with that. There are some tangled subplots we'll be revisiting in part II that might be better understood with part I under your belt.) Anyway, that's just a friendly suggestion; of course it's up to you! Either way: Welcome, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for bookmarking! :bolian:

thanks and you're welcome :)
havent read part one yet but i liked the beginning. :drool:
i'm going to spend the summer without internet so i copy pasted (only half way there though.) the entire part 1 into a word document to be able to read it offline. cant wait for part two. :techman:

kes7 June 23 2010 03:36 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
^^^ Ad Astra has saved you the trouble of doing all that.

If you click on the little printer button next to the review count and star rating, you'll get the entire story in printable format. You can either print it (if you have a ream of paper available ... it's long!) or save it as an offline web page to look at later.

I hope this will save you some time, and that you enjoy the story. :bolian:

ares93 June 23 2010 04:52 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

kes7 wrote: (Post 4187946)
^^^ Ad Astra has saved you the trouble of doing all that.

If you click on the little printer button next to the review count and star rating, you'll get the entire story in printable format. You can either print it (if you have a ream of paper available ... it's long!) or save it as an offline web page to look at later.

I hope this will save you some time, and that you enjoy the story. :bolian:

dear lord. i'm really blind... thanks, you did save me a lot of work. and if it continues like it started i'll most definatly enjoy it. :techman:

milo bloom June 24 2010 09:22 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
Great start, can't wait to get back into this little slice of the galaxy.

KimMH June 24 2010 09:40 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
wow!!! More wrenching than all the assimilation scenes I've ever watched. Impossible to know what those people are thinking and feeling and are aware of - this makes it much scarier than I'd bothered to think about before.

I'm so glad you're back - this is about the extent of trek lit I'll have time for this summer and I greatly appreciate the time and craft you are sharing with us *KES7*!!!!!!!!!!!!!

kes7 June 28 2010 04:04 AM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II
Milo Bloom and Oldstredshrtevr, thanks, and I'm so glad to see you both back here. :) I hope Part II is enjoyable for you both!

Chapter one will be up tomorrow.

kes7 June 28 2010 03:39 PM

Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

USS Tesseract – Captain’s Ready Room

Adele Oyugo’s head was pounding. The 44-year-old captain and commanding officer of the USS Tesseract stood trembling at the sink in her ready room lavatory, thanking the four deities she had requested water instead of sonic for all of her personal facilities. The cold water she splashed across her high, dark cheekbones distracted her senses, which helped to clear her mind … a mind now painfully crowded with the emotions of other people.

Her senior staff, the mission advisory board, the Borg Resistance … her psyche reverberated with the echoes of all that she had felt from them during the chaos of the last few hours. Her own emotions fought for attention in the mental din. There is a galactic war happening, and it is up to you to stop it. It is up to you to stop the Borg. Apprehension didn’t begin to describe the feeling.

As she replicated a fresh towel and patted her face dry, she thought that in some small way, her position on this mission seemed like poetic justice. Eighteen years prior, the Borg had killed her husband, her Imzadi. Now, she had the chance to make them pay for it. She forced herself to put the thought aside.

This was unlike her -- she was normally a peaceful person, a diplomat by nature and training, not given to revenge fantasies or rash unilateral actions of any kind. But the cybernetic pseudo-race called the Borg had more than earned an exception -- not just by killing her husband, but by their remorseless conquering and destruction of countless lives and cultures throughout the galaxy.

Adele had always been one to follow her instincts, enhanced as they were by the partially Betazoid genetics that allowed her to constantly feel what those around her were feeling. Right now, her instincts were telling her to listen to Malik, the Borg Resistance leader currently being held in diplomatic quarters behind a level ten force field. He wanted to destroy the Borg Collective at any cost. She tended to agree.

Certain members of her senior staff, however – including her second-in-command, Commander Icheb – had other ideas. Icheb, like Malik, had once been Borg. He had his own opinions about how best to proceed, and since he was the weapon Malik wanted to use, she couldn’t ignore his perspective. The ensuing discussion had gotten so heated that Adele had called a recess.

Now she stood quietly in front of the small mirror in the lavatory, trying to shut off the flow of emotions she was experiencing and sort out which belonged to her, and which belonged to the people beyond the bulkheads. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, focusing. Her focus was broken by the sound of her combadge.

“Sickbay to the captain.” The voice was unfamiliar to her, likely one of the hundreds of enlisted crewmen or a medic she hadn’t had the chance to meet yet, less than two weeks into their mission.
“This is Captain Oyugo. Go ahead,” she said.

“The drone is … uh, flipping out, sir. Doctor Bashir is on his way, but he told me to get you.”

Adele frowned. The female Borg drone in the Tesseract’s sickbay had been seriously injured by her assistant chief engineer almost three days before when the Borg had attempted to assimilate the vessel. Thanks to Julian Bashir’s surgical skill and Borg adaptivity, she had survived and seemed to be recovering quickly, but Adele hadn’t yet decided what to do with their single remaining Borg prisoner. The drone’s three companions had been killed – the first one during the attack, the other two in what should have been the safety of the Tesseract’s brig. That there was a murderer on board was just one among many problems Adele had to deal with now, and one of those problems was this drone – One of Fifteen … who was now apparently “flipping out.”

“I’ll be right down,” she assured the crewman. She walked back into her ready room and activated her desk comm.. If she was going to have to handle an unstable Borg drone, she wanted the assistance of her two experts on the Borg, her exec and her chief engineer. She was still furious at both of them, but she had a feeling they would know what to do.


USS Tesseract -- Bridge

Lieutenant Iden Nix sped through the deck 8 corridor, eager to check in on the communications console on the Tesseract’s spacious bridge. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust her officers to do a good job in her absence, but she was concerned that in the several hours they had been inside the nebula, they had heard nothing from the USS Sol and Luna, the two auxiliary ships on which they had evacuated the civilians. She needed to see if she could find out why.

It had been her idea to send them away in the first place, and even though it had been the captain’s call, Iden felt somehow responsible for their safety. So she rushed onto the bridge, her attractive blue Bolian features tight with concern, and joined the Bajoran ensign standing at the comm. console.

“Still nothing?” she asked tersely of the young woman.

“No, sir. It’s possible the interference from the nebula is preventing the data signal from reaching our transceivers.”

Iden squinted at the display, then tapped at it a few times to bring up a view of the transceiver array. With a few quick strokes, she increased power to the array, eliciting a curious look from Ensign Alex Slidell at ops.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

Iden pressed her lips together and shook her head. “We’ve heard nothing from the Sol or Luna in three hours. They’re supposed to be sending out periodic pings to let us know they’re all right. I’m going to try and clean up some of the data the transceiver’s picked up and see if maybe it’s just too corrupted to be immediately identifiable, but really, I think we need to get out of this nebula.”

“Agreed,” interjected Lieutenant Commander Adrian Keller from the flight control console. The human pilot’s voice was hoarse with fatigue, and his face was creased with worry. Iden knew his family – a wife and two small children – were on the Sol, and he had been working to hold both the Tesseract and the Borg resistance ship they were tractoring steady in the turbulent nebula for hours now. He should have been taking a break, but Iden was coming to realize that like most of the senior staff, Adrian preferred to do things himself when it really mattered.

“I’ll talk to the captain,” Iden volunteered. “Keep scanning,” she ordered the ensign, as she left the bridge.


USS Tesseract -- Sickbay

The first thing Adele noticed as she approached the doors to sickbay was the emotion. The terror and anger and anguish emanating from the drone at the rear of the medical bay was like a physical wave, and it slammed against Adele with shocking force as she stepped into the spacious chamber. She could hear someone screaming – or what she took to be screaming. The voice was strangely modulated and artificial-sounding. The drone, she realized. Adele took a deep breath and paused, momentarily reaching out to steady herself against a nearby console before walking back toward the containment field and her CMO, Dr. Julian Bashir. She was stunned at what she saw there.

“How long has she been like this?” she asked Julian. She had to raise her voice to a near-shout to be heard over One of Fifteen’s screams. The drone was hysterical, standing behind her biobed shaking uncontrollably, shrieking as she pulled pieces of Borg technology violently off of her body. There was quite a bit of blood – blood Adele knew was swimming with nanoprobes programmed for assimilation.

Julian shook his head, his expression troubled. “Only a few minutes. She’s done a tremendous amount of damage in a very short time. I haven’t been able to get close enough to try and sedate her,” he said, shooting an irritated glance at the Ktarian security guard standing beside the containment field controls.

“What have they done to us? Get these things off of me! Where is my daughter?” the drone demanded. She repeated her queries over and over again, but she didn’t really appear to be waiting for an answer. She just kept screaming and prying at her implants with bloodied cybernetic fingers, looking past the small group of Starfleet officers as if they were not even there.

Before Adele could say another word, her ex-Borg first officer, Commander Icheb, walked into sickbay with the injured chief engineer, Lieutenant Maren O’Connor, at his side. Adele could sense both young officers’ reactions to the scene in front of them – both horror and a strange sense of familiarity. Maren visibly flinched as the drone tore at yet another implant.

“I need you to tell me how to safely get Doctor Bashir close enough to sedate her,” Adele told the young engineer. Just days before, in a matter of minutes, Maren had neutralized four drones simultaneously, using nothing more than available technology and her own engineering genius to overload the drones’ neural transceivers with a kedion pulse. She hadn’t quite finished before this very drone had seriously injured her, but in the end, it had worked. Adele was hoping she could think of a way to do something similar here.

Icheb had other plans. The former drone took only seconds to analyze the situation before taking action. Without a word, he pushed past Adele, Julian and the security officer and deactivated the containment field, as Maren looked on in panic. “What are you doing?”

“Sir -- ” the security guard moved to impede his progress, but it was too late -- Icheb was already halfway to the drone. Within seconds, he had used his own nanoprobe-enhanced strength to grab One of Fifteen, immobilizing her. Then, he tackled her to the floor and pinned her there.

“Assist me,” he said tersely, looking up at Julian as he struggled to maintain his hold on the writhing drone. The doctor didn’t miss a beat, rushing forward with a hypospray and sedating One of Fifteen while Icheb kept her as still as possible. A moment later, it was over, as the frightened Borg stopped struggling and slipped into a deep coma.

As soon as she stopped moving, Icheb stood up, his uniform streaked with the drone’s blood. He looked over at Adele almost apologetically. “She was going to kill herself if she continued, sir,” he explained.

Adele stared down at One of Fifteen’s damaged body for a moment, feeling a rush of relief at the sudden absence of the drone’s strong emotions. She was grateful to her exec for stepping in, but slightly irritated at his seeming impulsivity – although it occurred to her that what seemed impulsive to her might not be for the ex-drone, whose mind no doubt worked much faster. “I understand,” she told him, then added, “but when you deactivated that force field you put us all at risk. I sincerely hope there wasn’t any question in your mind as to whether you could take her down when you decided to press that button.”

“Based on her size, injuries and emotional state, I calculated a 93.4% chance of success,” Icheb assured her.

Adele sighed, giving her exec a slightly bemused look, then turned to Julian, who was still bent over the drone, assessing the damage.

“How bad is it?” she asked.

Julian looked up from his medical tricorder. “Bad enough,” he replied. “I say we continue what she started. I could put her back together, but why? Why help the Collective maintain their hold on another drone?”

Adele sighed. “There’s no easy answer to that, Doctor.” She thought of the advisory board, waiting to judge her every decision, then shoved the thought aside. What they thought was irrelevant. It was up to her to decide what was best for this … prisoner? Refugee? Extreme threat to mission security? What did one properly call a drone removed from the Collective? She quickly decided the drone was a little bit of each.

“I think she made her wishes as a patient pretty clear just now,” Maren O’Connor spoke up softly behind her. Adele turned to look at the chief engineer, standing there in civilian clothing with visible bruises on her own head – the fading evidence of serious injuries the drone now lying on the floor had given her just days before. “I think we should give her what she asked for.” The reed-thin young woman met her captain’s gaze head on. She looked resigned to the argument she seemed to be expecting to come her way, yet completely unafraid of it.

Adele immediately glanced over at Icheb, the only one of the collected senior staff who hadn’t weighed in, and the one whose opinion she found most relevant. “I agree,” he said, looking at Maren. He turned to Adele. “I believe the damage to her cortical array has compromised her Borg programming and allowed her to access her individual memory engrams. She remembers who she is.”

“And her daughter,” Maren said. “She remembers her daughter.” She frowned, then added quietly, “I bet her daughter was on the cube.” She didn’t specify, but they all knew which cube she was talking about – the one Malik B’akhti had blown up back in the Beta Quadrant just days before.

Adele sighed and looked down at One of Fifteen. If they tried this, no matter how much they were able to do to help, this was going to be a long, difficult road for her; that much was clear. “Can you do this on your own?” she asked Julian. Two of the top doctors on the Tesseract, Sheila Duggal and Sarik, were gone, having been assigned to the Sol and Luna, respectively. Adele knew removal of a drone’s implants was grueling work even for a full team of surgeons – let alone the understaffed sickbay they currently faced.

Julian nodded. “I’ve got Doctor Marchenko to help me,” he said, “and I’ll break it up into stages. If I can borrow these two for their cybernetic expertise,” he added, gesturing toward Icheb and Maren, “it will go even faster.”

Adele looked over at Maren, who in turn looked warily at the drone for a long moment before nodding her consent. Icheb quickly followed suit.

Adele nodded. “Very well,” she said, “you may proceed. But --”

“Captain?” The sickbay intercom activated and Iden Nix’s voice came over the speaker, cutting Adele off. “Doctor Bashir? Can I come in? I need to speak to Captain Oyugo; it’s urgent.” Adele realized her chief comm. officer couldn’t get in, with sickbay still on lockdown because of the drone. Iden’s name was not on the approved list for unrestricted access.

“Open,” Adele called out, and as the computer recognized her voiceprint, the doors slid open to allow Iden entrance.

“Thanks,” the willowy Bolian said. “Sorry to interrupt,” she added, glancing around at the group of officers. “Oh, wow,” she said breathlessly, as she saw the drone lying on the floor. Her eyes widened.

“What is it, Lieutenant?” Adele asked, a little impatiently. She could feel Iden force herself to focus.

“Can I talk to you alone for a second, sir?”

Adele nodded, picking up on the anxiety Iden was feeling – anxiety she was sure had nothing to do with the current situation in sickbay. Her own stomach tightened in response. She walked with the younger woman across sickbay until they were just outside of easy hearing range from the others.

Iden dropped her voice to a murmur. “I was just on the bridge,” she said. “We’ve heard nothing from the Sol or Luna in over three hours. It’s impossible to determine if it’s the nebula interfering with communications, but Lieutenant Commander Keller and I strongly feel it would be best for us to leave the nebula as soon as possible.”

Adele frowned. “We’ve been in the nebula for longer than that. Did you have communication before?”

Iden nodded. “It’s possible they’ve just gotten out of range of what we can pick up from inside the nebula. But there’s no way to check without leaving.”

“What about sending out a probe?” Adele asked.

Iden shook her head. “To prepare a probe would take more time than I think is wise to spend. It’s likely this is just a comms failure, but if it’s not …” she trailed off.

“Better to know sooner than later,” Adele replied with a terse nod. “Go inform the bridge crew, I want us ready to leave within the hour.” Iden nodded and hurried out. Adele pinched the bridge of her nose for a moment, thinking, before walking over to Icheb and Maren.

“You two can help here later,” she told them. “We’re leaving the nebula. We need to secure that resistance ship, and you two are going to be the ones to do it. Take a security team and meet me in transporter room one in twenty minutes. I’ll go get Malik.” She had a feeling the Resistance leader would put up a fight, but she didn’t intend to give him any alternative. Right now, control of Malik’s ship was the only advantage she had – and at least for now, she planned to keep it that way.

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