Yawning, Lieutenant Commander Adrian Keller rubbed his eyes and set his comm. badge back down on the nightstand. He sat up, then leaned over and kissed his sleeping wife, who forced her eyes open to look at him.
“Claire, honey, I have to report to the hangar deck. There’s been a distress call at Aris 4.”
“What happened?” she mumbled, still half-asleep.
“I don’t know. But don’t worry about it, darling, with the slipstream drive, I’ll probably be back before breakfast,” he reassured her in his clipped London accent. He kissed her one more time, got up and dressed quickly, then ran out the door without replicating his morning cup of tea.
By the time Adrian arrived in the docking bay eight minutes later, most of the Tactical and Rescue Team had already assembled. A surprisingly young-looking officer with an unfamiliar nose ridge, some kind of metal implant on his face, and three pips on his collar was standing in the middle of a small crowd of about thirty people, holding a PADD and giving orders. Ah,
thought Adrian. The infamous Borg First Officer. This should be interesting.
He walked up to the group so he could hear Commander Icheb. “The report we received from Aris 4 is sketchy. They sent out a distress call 45 minutes ago, but the transmission was too degraded to be of much use and either they’ve stopped transmitting or something is blocking it. The only hard information we’ve received is that there was a massive explosion either at the colony or near it. The Tesseract
was asked to respond, but since she's still waiting for additional crew and isn't quite ready for launch, Captain Oyugo ordered our team to take one of the auxiliary ships to investigate.”
Icheb turned to a tall Lieutenant, every bit as young as he, who was standing at the back of the group so as not to block anyone’s view with his 6’4” frame. “John -- Lieutenant Quigley,” Icheb quickly corrected himself, “You’re with me on the bridge of the Sol
," he said, indicating one of the two small Saber-class starships docked in the hangar bay behind him. "I may need your tactical expertise. Lieutenant Commander Keller, are you here?” he asked, looking over the group. Adrian stepped forward and raised his hand. Icheb nodded at him. “Good. You’ll be at the helm of the Sol.
I’m told you’re the best pilot on the Tesseract
,” Icheb said with a small smile.
“Yes, sir.” Adrian could not suppress a satisfied smile of his own as he nodded at the friendly, efficient young Commander. It was hard not to take an instant liking to him, all antipathy for the Borg aside. He had a feeling a lot of people’s preconceptions about the Borg were about to be challenged by this charming kid.
“Lieutenant T’Pring, you and Ensign Par Renn will be on the bridge with me,” Icheb continued, nodding at the Vulcan and Bajoran, respectively. The rest of you, take the default positions you were assigned before you arrived on the Tesseract
. I’ll relay further instructions once we’re on board. Let’s go.”
Adrian wasted no time jogging over to the transport pads. There were two pads, each capable of beaming five people at a time. It took less than two minutes to get the entire group into their assigned locations.
Aboard the Saber-class Sol
, Icheb took command of the bridge and sat down in the Captain’s chair. John Quigley took up his post behind Icheb at the tactical console, and Adrian sat down at the helm. Lieutenant T’Pring and Ensign Par rounded out the bridge crew at science and ops.
“Commander Icheb to Sickbay -- report,” Icheb said over the comm. Given the fact that only 28 of the 40 away team members had yet been on board the Tesseract
when they received the distress call, he wanted to be sure they had someone on board capable of treating any injuries.
“We’re ready,” came the slightly accented reply. Icheb vaguely recognized the voice, and with the assistance of the Borg computers integrated with his brain, endlessly cataloging his every experience, it took him only a fraction of a second to recall the associated name: Sheila Duggal, the young Indian doctor he had met the previous morning.
“Thank you, Doctor Duggal,” he replied. He checked in with Engineering next. “Engineering, report.”
“We’re missing a few people down here, Commander. We should be okay, though. Just try not to bust the slipstream drive or we’ll be stuck at traditional warp. None of us here are cleared to fix that thing unsupervised.”
John Quigley let out an amused snicker. “That’s just great. Where’s Maren when you need her, eh?” Icheb turned around and gave him an irritated glance, and John shrugged and looked back down at his console.
Adrian chimed in, “Aris 4 is only nine light years away. The chap in Engineering is right, we’d be okay without slipstream.”
Icheb quickly shut him down. “We don’t know what we’re going to find there. The data on the explosion indicate it was massive. It’s likely that it was a natural phenomenon, but if it wasn’t, we shouldn’t be caught unprepared to fight or
evade an enemy capable of that kind of destruction.”
“Icheb to Tesseract
,” he said over the comm. “We need someone qualified on slipstream to take over our Engineering, now. We’re missing our Chief.”
“O’Connor’s all I’ve got at the moment and I can’t spare her,” came the reply from Captain Oyugo. “You’re well-versed in slipstream technology, Commander. If it breaks, you should be quite capable of fixing it.”
“Understood, Captain,” Icheb replied tersely, pinching his nose ridge between two fingers. He felt on the verge of developing a headache, and realized he was overdue for regeneration. It would have to wait. He sincerely hoped he wouldn’t have to try to command the mission and work in engineering simultaneously. He looked around the Bridge for a long moment before activating the Sol
’s ship-wide communications system.
“All hands, this is Commander Icheb. Prepare for departure.” Ready or not, here we come,
he thought to himself, paraphrasing a line from an Earth children’s game he’d learned years ago from Maren’s little cousins. His usual confidence was diminished under the less-than ideal conditions. He may have been separated from the Collective, but the Borg hardware in his brain still sounded the alarm whenever conditions were less than optimal for success. As far as he was concerned, this sudden, premature activation of the Tactical and Rescue team coupled with the absence of more than a quarter of their number was certainly less than optimal.
Adrian entered the sequence for release from the hangar bay and requested clearance, which was granted. With one more push of a button, the enormous bay doors slowly slid open, revealing the blackness of space.