“O’Connor to Gopal, do you copy? Please lay in the test course I requested. Thrusters only.”
The Helmsman’s answer sounded impatient.
“I’ve laid it in three times now. The problem is down there.”
Chief Engineer Maren O'Connor sighed. “There’s something wrong with the relays. I’m not getting anything from the bridge controls and everything checks out here. I’ll have to go up there and check it out.”
Maren grabbed a PADD and a toolbag and walked over to the turbolift. Once inside, she gave her access code for the bridge. The lift rose so swiftly she felt dizzy. This is a big ship, I'll have to get used to that,
she thought to herself. When the doors slid open at her destination, she froze for a moment and took a deep breath. She never could help but be a little in awe of the place where all the decision making and first contacts were made. Engineering was her life, but she’d always had a soft spot for the Captain’s chair.
The ship was unlike any other in Starfleet history. For their mission to the Delta Quadrant, every scrap of future and alien technology that had come back with the USS Voyager
nearly eight years before had been analyzed, re-engineered and incorporated into the design of the largest ship the fleet had ever constructed.
More like a slipstream-ready, transwarp-capable floating city than a starship, the USS Tesseract
was the Federation’s answer to the Borg Cube. Six-sided, with each side being two kilometers high and two kilometers wide and covered in ablative armor, it was somewhat comparable in size and shape to the Borg vessel on which it was based, with a couple of important differences: One was the slipstream drive. As far as anyone in the Federation was aware, the Borg had yet to assimilate that technology and still relied on a limited number of transwarp hubs to move quickly around the galaxy. The other was the gigantic interior bay filled with smaller ships. Two Saber-class starships; six fighters and a dozen specialized runabouts were available to the crew for almost every conceivable mission. Of course, there was also another important difference -- there was only one USS Tesseract
, and untold thousands -- perhaps millions -- of Borg Cubes.
On the nearly empty bridge, Maren walked up next to the main viewscreen and leaned over Ensign Anit Gopal’s shoulder, tapping intently on the console in front of him as she tried to diagnose the problem. She suggested Ensign Gopal go take a break, and the bored junior officer eagerly complied. She then knelt down and pried off the panel below the console, pulled a flashlight out of her tool bag and peered at the pulsating maze of optic relays and gel packs. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes when she saw the cause of the problem.
“I hate these things,” she stated simply. A bank of bio-neural gel packs had failed. She tapped her communicator badge and requested the necessary replacements. Several minutes later, a different junior officer appeared with new gel packs, which Maren quickly installed in their proper location as she muttered under her breath, “Fantastic. The most advanced ship the fleet has ever known, paralyzed by a few bags of fluorescent goo.” She was exaggerating, of course, but she felt a little overwhelmed. Things would be much easier when her entire support staff had arrived on board, but for the next 72 hours, the pressure of maintaining the fleet's largest and most complex ship fell mostly on her shoulders. It was simultaneously thrilling and a bit much to handle.
At that moment, Captain Adele Oyugo walked up behind Maren and cleared her throat. Maren could see in her peripheral vision that the Captain wasn’t alone.
“Commander. I’d like you to meet Lieutenant Maren O’Connor, our Chief Engineer,” said Captain Oyugo. Maren quickly stood up and turned to face the Captain, a formidable coffee-skinned woman of about forty-five, who was standing with her First Officer -- a pale alien who looked like a human in his mid-to-late twenties but for a single smooth ridge running from the bridge of his nose up to his hairline, and a cybernetic implant above his left eye.
“Lieutenant O’Connor, I’d like you to meet Commander --“
“Icheb,” Maren exhaled sharply. The color had drained out of her face.
She fixed the ex-drone with a cold stare that she hoped covered up the fact that she felt like she was going to vomit.
“I see you two already know each other,” the Captain said with a quizzical look, but Icheb wasn’t listening. He was staring at Maren with a strange, intense expression on his face. An awkward silence followed, broken by Maren.
“We met at the Academy, ma’am,” she explained to Captain Oyugo, never taking her eyes off Icheb. “You’re looking well, Commander,” she added icily. Her gaze was hard, but her voice betrayed a curious mix of sadness and relief.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. As do you,” Icheb said quietly.
The odd stare down between the two officers was interrupted by the Captain’s brusque voice as she glanced from Maren to Icheb and back again. “Officers. If there’s some kind of history here, I don’t want to know the details. All I can say is that this is a seven-year mission, and I won’t put up with interpersonal drama before we’re even underway. If there’s going to be a problem with you two serving together, one of you is going to be sent back to Deep Space 5
on the next transport. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, ma’am. There won’t be a problem,” Maren mumbled quickly, finally shifting her gaze away from Icheb. Icheb nodded his assent.
“If you’ll excuse me, Captain, I have some diagnostics to complete in engineering,” said Maren to the captain, who nodded and replied “You’re dismissed.” Maren carefully edged past her superiors, exiting the bridge.
Captain Oyugo looked pointedly at Icheb. “You’re the senior officer. Whatever that’s about, I don’t need to tell you it’s your responsibility to keep things professional. You may have invaluable experience in the Delta Quadrant and with the Borg, but so do others on this ship. Lieutenant O’Connor is the best engineer we’ve got. Better than you, even. I need her. Understood?”
“Yes, captain,” said Icheb, although he got the distinct impression the Captain was bluffing.