On board the Sol,
the mood was subdued as the ship headed slowly back toward the Tesseract
. Inside the captain’s ready room, Icheb sat analyzing the data their sensors had collected at the site of the explosion. He kept going back to the data from the tactical console, specifically the unknown weapons signature John thought he had found. His headache was growing worse by the minute and he was worried he was making errors in his analysis. He recalled the old Terran proverb “Two heads are better than one
,” and called John into the ready room.
John looked over Icheb’s shoulder at the display sitting on the small desk as they analyzed the data together and tried to figure it out.
“The hull fragments are definitely Borg,” said Icheb, once again pinching his nose ridge as the throbbing pain behind his eyes increased. “But the weapons signature, if
that’s what it is, is much more ambiguous.” He briefly rested his head on his hand and squeezed his eyes shut.
John looked at him with concern. “You okay?” he asked. Icheb forced his eyes back open and sat up straight again.
“Fine. I just need to regenerate,” replied Icheb in a tone that he hoped discouraged further questioning. “Look at this,” he said, indicating a data point on the display.
John leaned in closer. “It’s too close to call. It looks more Borg than anything else in the database, but not quite. And I’ve never heard of the Borg using subspace weaponry.”
“It could be something they assimilated. As for the energy signature, it’s impossible to tell how the Collective might have changed in the last eight years. We weren’t even sure it had survived.”
“Well, I guess all those little Borg pieces sitting in the cargo bay are a pretty conclusive answer to that question.”
“Not necessarily,” answered Icheb. “We have pieces of a ship, or perhaps several ships. We don’t have any conclusive evidence that it was manned at the time of its destruction, nor do we know with any level of certainty what destroyed it.”
John opened his mouth to argue, but quickly shut it when he realized that, as usual, Icheb was correct, and resistance was futile. John might prefer to operate on quick analyses and gut instincts, but Icheb would require all the facts before coming to any conclusion.
“I don’t think we’re going to figure this out, just the two of us sitting here in your ready room,” said John as he absentmindedly scratched his head, mussing his sandy blond hair. “I’d like to see what Maren has to say about some of the data from the debris field, and I’d like to hear the Captain’s thoughts on all of this, as well. There are a bunch of people in Astrometrics who will probably have some ideas about that subspace tear, too.”
Icheb nodded. “Agreed,” he said. “You’re dismissed. I’ll be back on the bridge in a minute; I have a couple of things I want to finish up here.”
John stood up and walked toward the door, but when he reached it, he hesitated. Icheb looked up.
“Was there something else, Lieutenant?”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?” John asked formally.
Icheb looked surprised. “Of course,” he replied.
“I mean, about personal matters,” John cautioned him.
Icheb sighed. “You mean about Maren?”
John nodded. “I saw her after you ran into her on the bridge yesterday. She was pretty shaken up.”
Icheb nodded in reply. “I went to see her right before we got sent on this mission,” he said. John looked surprised at his candor.
“What happened?” he asked, sitting down in a visitor’s chair.
Icheb left out the part about kissing Maren and getting slapped for it. “We talked. I asked for her assistance in keeping our interactions professional. I don’t know if she’s going to cooperate.”
“That’s it?” asked John. “You didn’t discuss your relationship at all?”
“There is no relationship,” Icheb replied quickly, rubbing his forehead. He added, “I don’t see how this is any of your business.”
“Come on, Icheb. We’ve been friends for seven years. Maren may not be ready to put the past behind her, but you and I don’t have that kind of history.” He paused, then decided to ask the obvious question. “You don’t have to answer this, but I have to at least ask -- what happened between you two back on Earth? I mean, you asked me to stand up for you at your wedding, and then suddenly you were gone and Maren was a total wreck for months. She would never tell me what happened, and you weren’t exactly responding to transmissions about the subject, either.”
“John, it’s between Maren and me,” Icheb replied with a slight edge to his voice.
John knew better than to keep pushing, and tried to lighten the mood. “Okay. But when you two decide to kiss and make
up -- ”
“That’s enough, Lieutenant,” Icheb said sharply, pulling rank. He was surprised at himself. He had always strived to avoid using his position to influence personal relationships. He realized his need to regenerate must be starting to affect his behavior. He quickly apologized. “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate. We were speaking as friends.”
John quickly covered the hurt expression on his face with one of his signature carefree grins and gave what he hoped was a good-natured shrug. “Hey, what good is having the rank of Commander if you don’t use it? You just better hope I never outrank you,” he threatened Icheb playfully.
“That’s unlikely at best. Probably closer to impossible,” Icheb teased back with a slight smile. The smile quickly turned into a grimace as he doubled over in pain, clutching at the back of his head. John lunged to grab him before he fell out of his chair.
Supporting Icheb with one arm, John tapped his comm. badge. “Quigley to Sickbay,” he said urgently, “Medical emergency, commander’s ready room.”
“On my way,” Dr. Duggal replied over the comm.
Icheb, wincing, protested through his pain. “I’m fine. I’m just overdue for regeneration. As soon as we get back to the Tesseract
, I’ll rest in my alcove, and I’ll be fine.”
“Bullshit,” John retorted. “I’ve seen you go days without regenerating before and you never came close to keeling over. We’re almost a day away from the Tesseract
with our current flight plan, and that’s assuming we’re able to jump to slipstream when we’re supposed to. That’s too long to let you go like this -- you’re going to sickbay if I have to drag you there myself.”
Before Icheb could open his mouth to protest, John cut him off, continuing: “You pulled rank on me, don’t make me return the favor -- as the ranking security officer on the Sol
, I can have you removed if I think you’re a threat to the mission.”
Icheb realized he was in no position to argue. “Fine. I’ll go,” he agreed reluctantly. “But you don’t need to drag me anywhere. I'm perfectly capable of walking. Help me up.” John, who was still crouched next to Icheb’s chair, stood and took Icheb’s arm. With John’s assistance, Icheb pulled himself to a standing position. The room faded in and out, first blurry, then clear again. The pain in his head was now sharp and stabbing, and nearly unbearable.
The door chime sounded. T’Pring’s voice came over the intercom. “Do you require assistance, Commander? Dr. Duggal is here and she says Lieutenant Quigley -- ” John toggled the manual release for the door before T’Pring could finish or Icheb could answer. The door slid open to reveal T’Pring’s questioning face, and Sheila Duggal standing behind her holding a medical bag.
“I’m fine, Lieutenant. Thank you for your concern,” Icheb said weakly, gripping the edge of the desk to assist his stability. “Doctor Duggal, please accompany me to Sickbay.” He slowly stepped onto the bridge, and announced to the remaining bridge crew, “I’m temporarily relieving myself of command. It’s Lieutenant Quigley’s mission, now.” He turned to John. “Just get us back to the Tesseract
safely. I’ll be fine.” John nodded solemnly at his friend, and Icheb turned to leave the bridge, with Sheila close behind.