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Old August 8 2010, 06:45 PM   #61
kes7
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Location: Sector 001
Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER FOUR

USS Tesseract – Deck 8 Corridor


As Adele walked the deck 8 corridor on her way back to the bridge, she tried to sort her thoughts about everything that was happening around her. The missing Sol and Luna. The arguments she had heard during their initial meeting with Malik and the Borg Resistance. One of Fifteen’s emotional breakdown in sickbay. What to do about her first officer and chief engineer.

She also tried to keep an empathic read on her away team. She was thankful that they had only transported a few hundred meters -- close enough to allow her to sense them. She found the emotional wreck that was Maren O’Connor easiest to track, so she focused mainly on her, but she also found she had to try hard not to allow the young woman’s overwhelmed state of mind to overwhelm her, too. She wondered, not for the first time, if sending the young woman over to the resistance ship had been a bad idea. Adele was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice Admiral Shane Beckley walking briskly to catch up with her.

“Captain Oyugo, may I have a word?” he asked politely. Adele barely covered her surprise at his presence. Given her empathic senses, she wasn’t used to people being able to sneak up on her, but as usual, the admiral was an emotional blank to her – more like an android or a hologram than a human.

“With all due respect, Admiral, I’m a little busy right now,” Adele said. She tried hard to keep the irritated edge from creeping into her voice, but she failed.

They arrived at the doors to the bridge together. “I realize you’re very busy right now, Captain,” he replied. “I only need a few minutes.”

Adele looked at him warily. “We can talk in my ready room,” she assented.

“Thank you,” the admiral replied, apparently oblivious to her reluctance.

Inside Adele’s ready room, she sat down at her expansive desk and offered Admiral Beckley a seat, which he accepted with another of his cold, emotionless smiles. “I’ll make this short,” he said. “I wouldn’t dream of intruding like this if it weren’t important, but I just want to ensure you’re giving due thought to the course of action Mr. B’akhti has proposed, despite Commander Icheb’s reservations,” he said.

Adele narrowed her eyes. “Admiral, I don’t have enough information to make any kind of decision about that yet. All he said is that he wanted to combine Commander Icheb’s DNA with his technology to create a weapon. He refuses to elaborate on what that technology is, and Commander Icheb seems less than inclined to hand over his genetic material for experimentation. Frankly, I don’t blame him.”

Admiral Beckley seemed to consider this for a moment, then leaned in close – too close for Adele’s liking. She was thankful for the sheer surface area of the large wooden desk that prevented him from getting any closer. He dropped his voice. “I know I don’t need to tell you what an opportunity this is, Mrs. Oyugo,” he said, emphasizing her former marital status.

Adele’s blood ran cold. He was manipulating her in the most obvious way possible, she knew, but the problem was, on some level, it was working. The thought of bringing the Collective down once and for all was incredibly tempting to her in a very personal way, and Admiral Beckley obviously knew it.

“Any chance to bring down the Borg should be explored to the fullest. You can order him to submit to any test you like,” he continued. “It’s not as if he’ll be damaged. Are you really going to let this option remain unexplored because one officer is uncomfortable with it?”

Adele met the admiral’s gaze. “I just told you I haven’t made a decision yet,” she said levelly. She sighed heavily. “We’re all just reacting to this situation right now, Admiral. The commander was held hostage by Mr. B’akhti. It may take more than a few hours for him to recover emotionally from that. I plan to give him that opportunity before ordering him to do anything against his will.”

“That’s all well and good, Captain, but what if he says no?” Beckley asked, eyebrows raised slightly.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Adele replied calmly. She tried to turn the tables on him. “What does the rest of the advisory board think of all this?” she asked him.

The admiral leaned back in his chair like he was getting comfortable there. “Drare and Alvarez say they’re behind you 100%, whatever you decide … but if it were them, they’d take the chance to damage the Collective at just about any cost. As for Gentry, she doesn’t trust the Borg Resistance for a moment, but then again, she doesn’t trust your First, either. She’s also a lawyer, not a starship captain,” he added with an unfeeling, but almost conspiratorial smirk.

“What about you?” Adele interrupted before he could continue. “Do you trust the Borg Resistance?”

Beckley smiled, which Adele again found chilling and emotionless. “Of course not,” he replied calmly. “When you’ve spent as many years in SI as I have, it’s rare you trust anyone. But I think the potential gains outweigh any risk of working with them. What does Commander Icheb say?”

Adele sighed. “I’ve barely had three uninterrupted seconds to speak with him. He got back, we checked to make sure he was okay, we had our meeting, and then the Collective drone in sickbay had some sort of emotional meltdown and we had to deal with that. Then Lieutenant Nix reported we’d lost contact with the Sol and Luna and I sent Icheb and O’Connor over to the Resistance ship. So you know as much as I do about his opinion.”

“On the contrary, Captain,” Beckley protested. “You’re an empath. You know many things I don’t. What do you sense from him concerning the Resistance Borg?”

Adele hesitated for a moment. What she sensed was that Icheb was conflicted. She could tell he was holding something back, something important to him. She wasn’t sure what it was, though, and for all she knew, it might be the same thing he had been hiding since the beginning – the failure of his implants, which she hadn’t yet confronted him about. But she didn’t want to share any of what she was thinking with the admiral. Regardless of her current frustration with her exec, her first loyalty was to her crew, not this creepy, emotionless member of the advisory board.

“He’s difficult for me to read,” she finally lied.

The admiral quirked his eyebrows up slightly at this. “All the time?” he asked.

Adele deflected the question. “This mission is still new and I really haven’t been around him much, between my away mission and his abduction,” she said. “I don’t have the answers you’re looking for. I wish I did.”

Beckley looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. “Very well. Thank you for your -- ”

Adele didn’t listen to him finish his sentence. She was suddenly distracted by a marked change in Maren O’Connor’s mood. In an instant, the young woman’s emotional state had moved from tense anxiety to sudden shock and anger. Quickly, Adele tried to expand her read to the others, and realized that the entire group shared Maren’s alarm. Something’s wrong, she realized.

“Captain?” Beckley asked. “Is something wrong?”

Adele shook her head quickly. “No, sir. I just … felt something. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to check on the away team.”

“Of course,” the admiral replied.

Adele tapped her combadge. “Oyugo to Icheb.” When no response was forthcoming, she tapped her badge again. “Oyugo to O’Connor.” She and Beckley exchanged a glance as they were met with more silence.

*****

Resistance Vessel 1473 – Control Center


So far, so good,
Maren thought to herself as the odd mix of Starfleet officers and Resistance Borg materialized in the control center of Malik’s vessel. The beamout hadn’t killed them. That was one potential disaster avoided … now they just had a seemingly infinite number of unpleasant possibilities left to go before they could secure the resistance vessel and leave the nebula. As soon as the transport was complete, security immediately moved to take up positions around the room.

“Stay where you are. Touch nothing,” Malik protested sharply, before turning to the technical drone, Jeytl, standing beside him. The two appeared to communicate via neural link for a moment, while Icheb and Maren exchanged a glance.

“Unacceptable,” Icheb told Malik. He turned to Lieutenant Commander Ryzal. “You may continue.” Ryzal nodded and motioned his officers into place. “Our orders are to secure this vessel, with your assistance,” Icheb continued, turning back to Malik. “That is what we agreed upon. If you are unwilling to cooperate, I will have you transported back to the Tesseract and we will complete this assignment without you.”

Even as Icheb spoke to Malik, Maren couldn’t help but study their new surroundings with interest. It seemed that everything on the resistance vessel appeared exactly the same as the schematics on the data chip she had been studying for the past few days.

It was fascinating to see it in person, but there were really no surprises here … and yet the same question that had plagued her since they had decrypted the schematics kept running through her mind: How the hell do they power all of this?

No warp core. No fusion reactor. No obvious power cells. It had seemed to her like the ship in the diagrams ran on magic, and seeing it in person gave her the same feeling. The power reserves needed to run a ship this complex were incredible, yet even standing here on the bridge, she felt nothing – no throbbing hum of a propulsion system, no ultrasonic whine of an EPS … just cold stillness and silence. Without waiting for Malik to answer Icheb, she opened her engineering bag, still hanging from Icheb’s shoulder, and took out her tricorder. Without asking permission, she began scanning the room.

At the soft sound of the tricorder’s beep, Malik’s head snapped over in her direction.

“Put that away,” he demanded sharply.

Maren gave him an incredulous look. “Why?” she challenged him.

“Put it away,” Malik repeated, staring her down with all the intensity of a typical drone. Maren was unfazed. Malik terrified her for other reasons, but she found his glare rather unintimidating after five years spent associating with Seven of Nine.

She shot back a glare of her own, almost as intense. She hadn’t learned nothing from her years spent hanging out with a couple of ex-drones. “I will not comply,” she said coolly. She suspected she was pushing Malik’s buttons, and she didn’t care. She was tired, her head was pounding, she was worried about John and the other missing crewmembers, and she just wanted to get this over with -- quickly. Malik was the only thing standing in between them and going to find the Sol and Luna.

“No scans. No sensors. No tricorders, no coming over here without supervision,” she said, trying hard to keep her volume from increasing with her frustration. “Surely you don’t really think you’re going to be able to keep hiding whatever it is you want to hide?” she demanded incredulously. Malik didn’t immediately answer, so she continued, “Whatever it is, I assure you, we are going to find it – and quickly. And let me tell you, I know from personal experience that Captain Oyugo is not in the mood for surprises today. So if I were you, I would come clean, and the sooner, the better.”

“Lieutenant O’Connor is correct,” Icheb spoke up. He stepped forward slightly, putting himself in between Malik and Maren. “Our assignment is to ensure the safety of our vessel when we bring yours aboard. That means we will scan every system, and either deactivate it or secure it. We will not fail in that mission. If we have to do it without your assistance, we will. I can easily have you transported back to our brig.”

“You’re likely to destroy us all if you attempt to secure this vessel without our assistance,” said Malik.

“I’m willing to take that risk,” Icheb snapped. He tapped his combadge. “Icheb to Tesseract,” he said. “Lock on to the two resistance Borg and prepare to transport them to the brig on my mark.”

“Acknowledged, Commander,” came the quick reply, then after a moment, “We have a lock.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Malik interjected angrily. “I’ve already expressed my willingness to cooperate.”

“Excellent,” Icheb replied dryly. He tapped his combadge again. “Tesseract, maintain lock on resistance Borg. Stand by for further instructions.” He looked from Maren to Malik and back again. “Take Commander Ryzal and three security officers and go to engineering,” he instructed Maren. “You may take Jeytl if you wish.” Maren nodded and reached out to take her bag from Icheb.

Malik’s reaction was both predictable and prompt. “You will not enter any section of this vessel without my supervision,” the cyborg snapped, stepping forward as if to stop them. Maren froze despite herself and turned to look at the angry drone.

Icheb turned to face him, as well. “I thought you were willing to cooperate.”

“I am,” Malik said darkly. “You’ll get your opportunity to see everything.”

For a moment, Malik looked slightly distracted by something. Maren realized a moment too late what it was. “Icheb, he’s interfac -- ”

“ … -ing with the vessel,” Icheb finished in unison with Maren, sounding rather defeated as force fields went up around all around the Starfleet members of the away team.

I really should have seen this coming,
Maren thought to herself miserably. She shot a glance at Ryzal, the Saurian chief tactical officer, who looked as if he was thinking the same thing. Then she looked over at Icheb, whom, she realized, looked incredibly angry.

“What are you--” he started.

Malik cut him off. “It’s merely a precaution,” he said, sounding much calmer now that he clearly had the upper hand. “You will not be harmed. I have something to show you. It’s necessary that I have your undivided attention.”

Maren couldn’t stop herself from sniping back, “I think it’s pretty safe to say you’ve got it.”
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