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Old October 27 2010, 11:55 PM   #120
kes7
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Location: Sector 001
Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER EIGHT

Resistance Ship 1473 – Control Chamber

As the force field dropped, Icheb reacted instinctively, lifting Maren’s weapon to defend them against Jeytl, the silent Borg engineer. He was quick, but not as quick as Jeytl, who easily dodged his first shot and then grabbed Icheb’s arm, dispassionately twisting it and holding it in a position that prevented Icheb getting a clear shot at anything but himself. His strength was far superior to Icheb’s own, even with his remaining Borg enhancements. Maren went to grab Icheb’s sidearm, but a warning glance from Jeytl stopped her short. With his augmented hearing, Icheb could actually hear her heart pounding in her chest.

The resistance Borg finally broke his interminable silence. “In approximately ninety seconds, your captain will transport into this chamber,” he said flatly. “Assist me in subduing Malik.”

Icheb looked over at Maren, who looked as visibly shocked as he felt. Despite their shared confusion, now was not the time for questions. Icheb quickly nodded at Jeytl, who released his arm. As he did, the displays in the control chamber started to flicker and change.

“Lakwa is overriding Malik’s link with the vessel,” Jeytl explained. “She is accompanying your captain. Assist me,” he repeated.

Icheb didn’t need to be asked a third time. He sprinted to the center of the chamber, where a badly injured Ryzal was still struggling to subdue Malik, who was also in less-than-optimal condition. Jeytl followed close behind. The two former drones pulled Ryzal off of Malik and used their combined strength to pin Malik to the deck. Icheb looked back at Maren for assistance in enacting a more long-term solution, only to realize she seemed frozen in place, looking disturbingly unfocused. As five additional figures materialized in the control chamber, she finally collapsed onto the cold deck plating, unconscious.

*****

USS Sol – Shuttle Bay

“You must evacuate the Sol.” T’Pring’s voice was even more no-nonsense than usual as she spoke to John. “We can no longer hold you in our tractor beam. The power drain is too severe. If we release your vessel, we can make further repairs to our own. Perhaps we can escape this damaged area of subspace and re-establish contact with the Tesseract.”

Back inside the shuttle he had sought out as a quiet place to communicate with the commanding officer of the Luna, John sighed. “Where are we going to put a hundred-sixty-eight more people on the Luna? Your systems are already compromised and you’re at near maximum evacuation capacity already.”

“We have no choice,” T’Pring said calmly. “The passengers of both vessels stand a better chance of survival on a partially repaired Luna than they do split between two disabled ships. You have no engineering crew left, no one to effect repairs. By my calculations, in seventeen minutes, the power cell you used to bring limited systems back online will be exhausted.”

“Fifteen,” John muttered quietly. He wasn’t looking forward to returning to the house of horrors that was engineering to insert another cell. Not to mention he didn’t know if he could handle seeing Herk again. Every death on this ship since he had taken command felt like a failure, and it was starting to take its toll. He tried to block out his worries about Claire and Lucy Keller. They needed surgery, or stasis, and the Sol had the power for neither. Their survival was looking unlikelier by the minute.

“Neither ship has transporters operational,” he pointed out, sounding pessimistic. “How are we going to –“ T’Pring lifted an eyebrow, and John trailed off. “Of course,” he said, blushing. “The shuttle transporters.” T’Pring nodded. John hesitated. “So … we just abandon the Sol?”

T’Pring nodded again. “Unless you have a better idea,” she said coolly.

John frowned and dragged a hand down his face, tiredly. He was a tactical officer. His tactical training told him abandoning a ship full of cutting-edge, experimental technology in the middle of an unfamiliar and apparently hostile area of space was a really bad idea. Then again, scuttling the ship felt like a bad idea, too. He sighed heavily.

“The civilians,” he said. “We’ll send the civilians, and injured crew, and our doctor. I want to keep a skeleton crew here to maybe try and repair something. If you can spare an engineer to send over here, that would help. And if something goes wrong and we have to scuttle, we still have the escape pods.”

“If something goes wrong and you have to scuttle the ship, I doubt the escape pods will offer much meaningful protection,” T’Pring replied.

“Maybe not, but there are hundreds of people on the Tesseract who are going to need what’s left of this ship. I think it’s worth doing everything we can to save it.”

T’Pring inclined her head ever so slightly and nodded. “Very well … we are in agreement. I will arrange for the transport of one engineering officer. We should commence evacuation at once.”

John nodded his assent and cut the visual link. Before exiting the shuttle, he put his helmet back on and re-sealed his EV-suit. The walk from the shuttle bay to the cargo bay was a short one, but he knew he couldn’t afford any more radiation exposure. The EV-suits only offered so much protection, and he had been wandering the halls of the heavily contaminated Sol for hours now. He didn’t know whether it was nerves or something worse, but he was starting to feel sick to his stomach. He shoved the concern aside and forced himself to think of something else -- like what the chances were they would be able to fix anything on the debilitated Sol. He looked down the dim, empty corridor outside the cargo bay and swallowed back the bile rising in his throat. He was in over his head, and he knew it. It wasn’t a good feeling.

He re-entered the noisy, crowded cargo bay and removed his helmet again, automatically switching off the independent life support in his suit. “Renn,” he said loudly, over the din.

The Bajoran ops officer looked up from the console he was busily manipulating and automatically launched into a status report. “Sir, we’re down to our last few minutes on that power cell --” he started.

“I know,” John cut him off. “We’ll worry about that in a minute. We’re evacuating the civilians and injured crewmen to the Luna using the shuttle transporters. I need you to start organizing people into groups of six. We’ll transport injured first.”

“Understood,” Renn replied. He hesitated a moment. “Sir?” John glanced at him. “You look a little pale, sir. Are you all right?”

John nodded, tight-lipped. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Just do me a favor and get environmental control up and running in this whole section to facilitate moving people to the shuttle bay safely. We don’t need the doors or the lights or the comm. system anymore, so take power from that if you need to. I’m going to go insert another power cell.”

“Why not send someone else?” Renn asked. “Don’t you want to supervise the evacuation?”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” John assured him. “It’s just that I did it before, so I know where it is and what to do, and … well, you didn’t see it down there, Renn. I really don’t want anybody else to have to see that.”

“You could take Anit with you,” Renn suggested. “He’s seen it.”

John glanced over at the young pilot, who was clumsily closing a laceration on a young Trill child’s face with a dermal regenerator. He shook his head. “No. He’s more useful here. Just start organizing people. I’ll be back in a few.”

As Renn set about the task of prioritizing and sorting the Sol’s human cargo, John took a deep breath and looked around the cargo bay for a long moment. He saw Sheila Duggal and a few medics working feverishly to save the most critically injured patients. He saw frightened and bruised civilians, faces taut with worry. For what seemed like the thousandth time in an hour, he put his helmet back on and reactivated his EV-suit before heading back to engineering.

*****

Adele materialized alongside Lakwa and three security officers in the control center of the resistance vessel, all but Lakwa holding phaser rifles at the ready. Lakwa had helped them to modify the weapons for use against her own commanding officer, but Adele was relieved to see it appeared they wouldn’t actually have to use them. Jeytl had clearly done his part. Propulsion was offline, her people had been released, and Malik was now behind a containment field, in surprisingly poor condition.

He wasn’t the only casualty. Ryzal was lying on the deck nearby, visibly burned and being tended to by two of his security officers, and Maren O’Connor was unconscious. Her first officer was bent over the young woman’s slight frame. With Maren’s overwhelming emotions silenced for the moment, it was easy for Adele to feel the concern he had for her.

“You betrayed us,” Malik said weakly from his spot behind the force field, where the remaining security officers had taken up position around him. He was staring straight at Lakwa. The Borg woman stiffened almost imperceptibly, then took a breath and turned to face him.

Adele watched curiously as Lakwa slowly walked up to the force field, until her ocular implant was almost touching it. “I saved us,” she said quietly. “You’ve grown too paranoid, distrustful. These people are our allies. It’s time we act like it.”

“They can’t be trusted,” Malik said, giving Lakwa a darkly disapproving look.

Lakwa held his gaze. “For the moment, neither can you,” she said quietly, then turned away. “With your permission, I would like to assist your injured officers,” she said to Adele.

Adele hesitated, then nodded. “Start with him,” she said, pointing to her security chief. Lakwa nodded in reply and headed for Ryzal.

Adele strode over to Icheb. “Is she all right?” she asked him, then added, “Are you?” The play-by-play of the situation that Lakwa had provided, based on Jeytl’s reports via their secure neural link, had shocked her, but it had also matched her own impressions of the emotional state of the away team perfectly. She looked down at the unconscious engineer with a troubled expression and couldn’t help but ask, “She actually threatened to shoot you?”

“I’m fine,” Icheb replied, looking up from where he was cradling Maren with one arm and checking her vitals with the other. “She needs immediate medical assistance. I’ll explain her actions later.”

Adele could sense his fear at seeing his former fiancée in this vulnerable state. She nodded and tapped her combadge. “Oyugo to Tesseract. She waited for confirmation that communications had been restored, and when she heard the reply, she said "Beam O’Connor directly to sickbay.”

Icheb reluctantly and carefully laid Maren down on the cold floor and took a step backward, allowing her to shimmer away and back to the relative safety of the Tesseract. As soon as she was gone, he took a small breath and looked over at Adele.

“There is a reason Malik did what he did,” he said. “This ship and the entire Borg Resistance are powered by Particle 010. He is as aware of the Omega Directive as I am. As your first officer, I’m recommending you disregard the Directive and bring this vessel aboard our own, without a crew.”

Adele quickly opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak, Icheb was already pressing on with his argument. “The potential intelligence gains outweigh any risk,” he said. “The destruction of a single vessel won’t make a difference anyway. The Tyndorans stabilized Omega. It’s all over the quadrant, and it’s all that’s kept the Federation from being overrun by Borg so far. Lock Malik in the brig and deny him access, but I strongly urge you not to destroy this vessel.”

Adele met the ex-drone’s pleading gaze and held it. “Lakwa already informed me that their ship is powered by Omega,” she informed him.

Icheb took this in and looked at her expectantly. “What do you intend to do?”

Adele took a deep breath. Ever since Lakwa had revealed the truth of the awesome power that fueled the Resistance Borg ship, she had struggled with how to react to the news. Her primary concern had been getting her people off the vessel, but now that they had retaken control and her people were seemingly safe, she had to make a real decision. Would she follow Starfleet’s strictest rule and destroy Omega, or capitalize on the potential advantage and hope the Advisory Board didn’t strip her of command – or worse?

Then there was the bigger question – whether it was an acceptable safety risk to bring Omega aboard, stabilized or not. She simultaneously wondered if they could afford not to. It was clear that understanding this technology would be crucial to surviving any future confrontations with the Borg Resistance.

What Icheb said made sense to her. If the entire Borg Resistance did indeed run on Omega, the destruction of one ship wouldn’t matter. But taking it aboard could open up a universe of possibilities for the Federation – as well as violate the one command that overrode all others.

She sighed heavily and forced herself to make the call. Slowly, she nodded. “All right,” she said quietly, hoping she was making the right choice. “Secure the vessel. At least for now, we’ll bring it with us.”
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