USS Tesseract, Brig
As Adele entered the brig, she tried to hide her irritation that, of all moments, the resistance Borg called Lakwa had chosen this one to demand a face-to-face chat with the captain of the Tesseract
. Nine officers had just gone missing on the away mission to the resistance ship, another few hundred people were already missing, and she wasn’t optimistic this former drone was going to be any more helpful than the last one she’d spoken to. Something about the urgency of the request, though -- and the emotions she had sensed from Lakwa since their first meeting – told her to give this a chance.
Adele sensed an emotional depth to Lakwa that Malik lacked – that some of her own crew lacked, for that matter. It was almost enough to make her wonder if she had been from a telepathic species before her assimilation by the Borg. She also sensed an openness, a willingness to trust, that seemed utterly foreign to Malik. So while her remaining staff attempted to locate the away team and find out what was happening on the resistance ship, Adele had agreed to make a brief visit to the brig. If nothing else, it was worth a shot.
The officer on duty in the brig escorted her to the cell where Lakwa was being held. “Nine of my crew just went missing on your vessel,” Adele informed Lakwa without preface. Whatever you wish to discuss had better be related to that, or it’s going to have to wait.”
“You sent Malik to our vessel.” It was a statement, not a question, and it was delivered with palpable concern.
Adele nodded. “Yes, I did. And now I can’t reach any of my crew, and Malik refuses to respond to hails.”
Lakwa met Adele’s gaze with her single, pale blue eye and some sort of imaging implant that Adele assumed could probably see right through to her insides. “It was unwise of you to send him,” the cyborg said quietly. “He is not behaving rationally.”
Adele looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean he is a danger to your crew and mine,” she replied, and Adele could sense her sadness and deep conflict at the betrayal. “He desires your help, but he fears you will choose your own interests over ours and destroy all that we have worked for. I don’t know what he will do, but I know your people are not safe on our vessel, and Jeytl will not resist him. With your assistance, I can seize control of our vessel and neutralize the threat he poses. However, I will need your trust and assistance.”
“Are you saying you want me to help you lead a mutiny?” Adele asked, raising her eyebrows in surprise.
Lakwa hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “Yes,” she answered. “Please try to comprehend,” she added quickly, “Malik’s intentions are honorable and he has been a competent leader, but he lacks perspective and the capacity to process his emotions. He was very young when he was assimilated, and he did not have the benefit of the assistance your second-in-command received in making a transition from life in the Collective to life as an individual. He doesn’t recall his life before. He feels anger, and he doesn’t know what to do with it. He has become increasingly unstable, and my attempts to assist him have failed. Whatever has gone wrong on our vessel, it is the opportunity I need to take control – for all of us – and I assure you, I will have the support of the majority of our crew.”
According to Malik, Lakwa was the equivalent of a medical officer -- and she indeed sported a servo-armature full of medical equipment that would make any Starfleet doctor drool – but to Adele, she seemed to be functioning more like an XO. In the limited interactions she had shared with both of them since they had come aboard, Adele had sensed that Lakwa was the one Malik trusted, the one he looked to for advice and reassurance. And yet, here she was, telling Adele she wanted to lead a mutiny.
“I did not come to this decision lightly, Captain,” Lakwa added, before Adele could think of a reply. “Malik is a friend. I believe he needs assistance. Perhaps you will be willing to provide it in time. But first, I believe it is imperative we work together to prevent him from doing irreparable damage to the potential unity between our people.”
Adele’s jaw almost dropped. This Borg drone was talking like a diplomat. Ex-drone
, she reminded herself. She was still impressed. “What do you propose?”
Resistance Vessel 1473, Control Center
Icheb and Maren stared at the display in shock, then exchanged a glance as they both realized why Malik had contained them all behind force fields.
“This vessel is powered by particle 010,” the resistance Borg said, indicating the image on the screen – a live shot of what Icheb assumed was their engineering room, with a small spherical resonance chamber inside. “I believe you call it ‘Omega.’”
He was looking at Icheb for a reaction, but it was Maren who gave it to him. The engineer’s eyes were wide with wonder as she stared at the screen. “It’s stable?” she asked breathlessly.
Malik looked at her with mild surprise. “It was my understanding that knowledge of this particle within Federation Starfleet was limited to those with the rank of captain or above,” he said.
“I know a lot of things I shouldn’t,” Maren admitted, without taking her eyes off the display. “They did it,” she breathed in awe as she looked at the display. “I can’t believe they did it.”
“Yes, it is stable,” Malik confirmed. “You understand why I could not permit you to discover it without taking this precaution,” he said, gesturing toward the containment field she was stuck behind.
The seven Starfleet security officers who didn’t know what particle 010 or an ‘Omega’ was looked utterly perplexed. Jeytl, the Borg engineer, stood to the side, silent as ever as he watched the scene unfold.
Icheb glanced over at Maren, thankful she had been standing too close to him to be safely isolated in a separate containment field – although the rest of the team were all isolated, they shared the same makeshift “cell.” He glared at Malik from behind the containment field. Stable or not, Malik obviously knew Starfleet protocol about particle 010. Suddenly, his secrecy and evasion made perfect sense. “You turned it into a weapon,” he said coolly, recalling all the subspace destruction and Borg debris they had encountered in previous weeks.
“It’s more than a weapon,” Malik retorted. “It’s everything our alliance is built on. The Tyndorans perfected the technology as a power source. We convinced some of them to share that technology in the interest of stopping the Borg.”
“This is why you hid from us,” Icheb said. “You know we have to destroy it.”
“Destroying this vessel would be the stupidest thing you could do. We both know that,” Malik replied, staring him down.
Icheb held his gaze. “It’s not up to me.”
“Isn’t it?” Malik challenged him. “Your captain listens to you. You can recommend she disregard the protocols regarding 010.”
“The protocols regarding 010 are in place for a reason,” Icheb retorted. “You’ve been destroying subspace with your weapons. We’ve visited entire systems where warp travel is now impossible. You’re putting interstellar civilization at risk.”
Malik glared condescendingly at Icheb. “For a society that calls itself ‘peaceful,’ your Federation seems uniquely preoccupied with the destructive potential of particle 010. Weaponry is a small part of what we have been able to do with this particle. You were once Borg. Do you not remember the possibilities?”
“I remember perfectly,” Icheb replied coldly. “But even with the best intentions, Omega is highly dangerous. Millions of drones were destroyed in the failed pursuit to control it. It’s too unstable. In the Federation, we value lives more than progress.”
“If you value lives, you should welcome this technology,” said Malik. “We’ve protected your ‘interstellar civilization’ from the Borg for nine of your years with it,” he said. “They have failed to adapt to our weaponry, and they cannot penetrate our cloaking technology. Unfortunately, our numbers are far too small to keep them out of the Alpha Quadrant for much longer.”
“How many of these vessels are there?” Icheb asked, his mind reeling with the ramifications. If the Borg Resistance had particle 010 at their disposal, they were far more powerful than anyone had imagined … and potentially far more dangerous. He wondered what, other than destroying Borg, they had done with the technology.
“Less than five thousand,” Malik replied. “It took a considerable length of time to develop a way to mask the energy signature with cloaking technology. But we use the particle for everything. It is the power source for our colonies, and it is the only way we have been able to build alliances with other Delta Quadrant societies. When we offer the technology, they become much more willing to cooperate.”
“I bet,” murmured Maren, still staring forward at the live image of the ship’s Omega-powered energy core on the viewscreen.
Icheb shot her a silencing look, then frowned. “You should have simply told the captain when you had the chance. She’s not going to react well to your deception.”
“I’m prepared to hold you indefinitely to maintain control of my vessel. I don’t believe your captain will destroy her drone, her chief engineer, and her head of security, despite her threats.”
“That’s an unwise gamble,” Icheb replied. “She made her intentions clear in the transporter room. I assure you, she is prepared to destroy this vessel. The Tesseract
crew is made up of many talented people. I guarantee she would rather lose the nine of us than lose hundreds of them.”
Malik gestured toward the others. “They
may be replaceable, but you
are not,” he said. “It was clear during our discussions aboard your vessel that she looks to you as her primary source of information about the Borg, and she is well aware of your potential as a weapon.” He suddenly deactivated the display, eliciting a disappointed gasp from Maren, who had been staring at it with analytical eyes. “I meant what I said,” he continued. “I desire your assistance, and I do not wish this encounter to become hostile,” he said. “But I cannot allow my vessel to be destroyed, nor permit this technology to fall into Federation hands.”
“You share it all over the Delta Quadrant, but you don’t trust us
with it?” Maren interjected, sounding incredulous. Icheb wished she would stop talking. He gave her a look that said as much, and she reluctantly shut her mouth.
“We’re too powerful already,” he said quietly. In a way, he understood Malik’s concern. Malik’s distrust of the Federation was readily apparent, and no other ally the Resistance was likely to encounter had anywhere near the power and influence of the Federation, which governed almost a quarter of the galaxy -- the Borg had made sure of that. If the Borg were defeated, that would leave the Federation in a position to fill the power vacuum left behind in the Delta Quadrant, and that task would be made very easy by the almost limitless resources of Omega. Icheb didn’t believe the Federation had motives on conquering the Delta Quadrant, but Malik had no way of knowing that.
“You understand our concern,” Malik acknowledged him with a nod.
“I do,” said Icheb. “But holding us here isn’t the answer. You’ve only made it more probable that Captain Oyugo will destroy this vessel, with us on it.”
“As I said, I don’t believe she’ll do it. As long as I don’t fire on her vessel, I believe she will attempt a rescue before risking your destruction.”
“And if she does, what will you do?” Icheb asked.
“Whatever is necessary,” Malik replied. Icheb thought the lack of emotion with which he delivered the answer was more chilling than if he had actually tried to sound threatening.
As Malik spoke, with the enhanced peripheral vision provided by his ocular implant, Icheb suddenly noticed Maren nervously fingering her sidearm. She can’t possibly be thinking of shooting him. A phaser beam will never pass through this containment field,
he thought. He wished she had a neural transceiver of her own so he could remind her of that fact without calling her activities to Malik’s attention. Why must she be so tactically inefficient when she’s angry?
He glanced over at her, hoping to communicate what he was thinking with a simple look, but he was too late. In that instant, she pulled the phaser and took aim -- not at Malik, but at Icheb.
It was a simple calculation, really. Malik was still mostly Borg. That meant however unstable he seemed, there was still a system at work here -- Maren was sure of it. Malik’s mind would still organize things into a hierarchy and make every decision accordingly. All she needed to do to take control of that system was find its vulnerable point … what was at the top of Malik’s hierarchy of objectives?
In the hours since his arrival, Malik had told them a lot of horrible and moderately confusing things -- about the war, about the Resistance, and now about Omega – but the one thing that had been perfectly clear to Maren through all of it was how much Malik thought he needed Icheb -- how important Icheb seemed to be to him.
She was sure he wanted him for more than just his poisoned DNA, otherwise he wouldn’t have wasted so much time with arguments and persuasion – he would have simply forced the issue. He had taken him hostage not once, but twice now. He had tried to manipulate him openly during the conference on the Tesseract
, appealing to his sense of guilt over the destruction of so many Delta Quadrant worlds—worlds Malik implied could have been saved if only help had come sooner. Maren had somehow sensed he had been about to up the ante considerably when Adele had suddenly called a recess, and then a million things had happened and now, here they were, trapped behind a force field with an insane ex-Borg calling the shots.
Yes, Maren decided, Icheb definitely seemed to be holding the top spot on Malik’s current hierarchy of goals. So, with shaking hands, she pulled her phaser out and leveled it at her former fiancé’s cortical array. Two could play the hostage game.
“Forget Captain Oyugo,” she said, hoping her voice would stay steadier than her trembling hands. “She’s not here, but I am, and I’m telling you, release us now and let us contact the Tesseract
, or I will fire. Face it, he’s the whole reason you’re here -- you need
him. You’ve said it over and over again. And he’s no good to you dead.”
Icheb was looking at her with total surprise. She locked eyes with him for the briefest of instants before returning her gaze to Malik. She hoped he knew she wouldn’t do it -- couldn’t possibly do it -- but she didn’t dare offer him even the smallest look of reassurance, because she needed Malik to believe she would
“I don’t believe you’ll fire that weapon,” Malik said flatly.
Maren took another step forward, bringing the phaser’s aperture sickeningly closer to Icheb’s perfectly neat brown hair. She knew every cubic millimeter of his cortical array, or what was left of it, and she made a point of aiming at a particularly vulnerable spot. Icheb looked extremely concerned, but he didn’t move to stop her. She hoped that meant he trusted her enough to play along. If he tried to disarm her, it would be over -- there was no way she could compete with his faster reflexes and superior strength in her current condition. She felt dizzy and weak, and she could hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears. The head injury,
she thought. I’m not supposed to get my blood pressure up like this.
She tightened her grip on the phaser and tried to stay focused. Please God, don’t let me accidentally shoot him,
she silently prayed.
“Lieutenant O’Connor, lower your weapon immediately,” Ryzal ordered from behind her in a warning tone, but she didn’t bother to acknowledge the security chief. What could he do from behind a force field? There would be plenty of time to face the consequences for this later on. Right now she wanted only one thing, and that was the upper hand. This was the only way she could think of to gain control.
“Comply,” she demanded, still staring Malik down. “Drop the force fields and let me contact our ship, or I swear I will fire this weapon.”
For a moment, something resembling surprise was evident on Malik’s mottled gray-green face, but he quickly masked the emotion, returning his expression to its perfect Borg neutrality. “I believe Starfleet has regulations concerning the murder of one’s superior officer,” he said coldly.
“Starfleet has a lot of regulations,” Maren replied. “And one of them is that where Omega is involved, all the rest are suspended.” Spots passed in front of her eyes, and she blinked hard, trying to clear them. Icheb noticed this, and looked at her with concern, but given the fact that she was holding a phaser on him, she wasn’t surprised when he didn’t make a move to assist her. Just hold on to the phaser, keep looking at Malik and DON’T PRESS THE TRIGGER,
she told herself firmly. “Comply,” she repeated, trying her best to sound cold, calculating and maybe just a tiny bit unhinged – rather than like the scared, injured little girl she felt like inside. Her head was swimming. She tightened her grip on the phaser once more and fought to stay upright. When she spoke again, her voice was noticeably shakier. “You must comply.”