USS Tesseract – Captain’s Ready Room
Adele sighed and rubbed her eyes as she finished the official captain’s log entry detailing the meeting she had just completed with Icheb and Lakwa. It had been a long day already, and it just kept getting longer. As the USS Tesseract
sped at slipstream velocity toward the last known location of the auxiliary ships Sol
, she sat alone in her ready room, taking a moment to compose a few brief log entries while Icheb escorted Lakwa to her heavily guarded quarters. With the official, “on-the-record” work completed, next up was her personal log. So much had happened today that she hoped it would help her order her thoughts to record it all – or at least help her not to forget any of it later.
Her replicated dinner sat untouched on her desk alongside a PADD filled with her own notes on everything she had learned about the conflict. She knew she should eat to keep her strength up, but her appetite was gone. Omega. A war. Mutiny among the Resistance. From what Lakwa said, hers was not the only ship experiencing conflict among the ranks. The more individuality the freed drones regained, the less often they agreed about tactics and objectives. Many were working together, but some stood apart, having either abandoned the fight completely or tried to win the war their own way, to varying results. There was no real rank structure, and most of the resistance drones came from completely different cultures and species. As far as Adele could tell, the Borg Resistance was an absolute mess, and Omega was their only tactical advantage.
Her own crew wasn’t much better off. Her chief engineer and chief tactical officer were both in sickbay recovering from the injuries they had suffered earlier that evening. Ryzal would be laid up at least a week, and how long Maren would be down for was anyone’s guess. Julian was confident that he had stopped the bleeding in her brain, but he had sedated her heavily to ensure she actually rested to full recovery this time. He was also pushing Adele to order her into counseling. She’s probably going to need it by the time I’m done with her
, Adele thought wryly. As soon as the young engineer was better, Adele would have to decide how best to deal with behavior so far during the mission. She had proven herself remarkably unstable during the multiple crises they had faced. Adele simply wasn’t sure she could trust her with command of engineering anymore, regardless of her intelligence and skill. It weighed heavy on her heart to think of cutting such a bright young talent off at the knees after she had achieved so much in her short career, but she was starting to feel she had no other choice … especially when she thought about the lies.
. Her first officer was dying, and she hadn’t even confronted him about it yet. She realized it had to happen, and soon. She found herself preoccupied by it, having to fight to control her anger at the young ex-drone’s dishonesty, as well as her worry and fear for him and what his loss would mean for the mission. But nothing weighed as heavy on her heart as the four hundred people, mostly civilians, who were currently missing on the Sol
. They had yet to find any sign of them. The leaden feeling in the pit of her belly grew worse every time she looked at the chronometer. The Advisory Board was hungry for answers she didn’t feel ready to give. No, Adele thought tiredly, today had not been a good day.
There had been a few bright spots, though. Lakwa and Jeytl had provided assistance at just the right moment. Even though their mutiny now served as a stark reminder of a larger systemic problem that would undoubtedly complicate relations with the Borg Resistance, Adele was grateful for the desperately needed ‘win’ they had provided her today. She also found Lakwa intriguing. Part drone, part doctor, part diplomat. It was an interesting dynamic, and the more she conversed with the ex-Borg, the more she found to like about her. Lakwa had opened up a bit during their conversation earlier, or at least as open as Adele had ever seen an ex-drone. It surprised her how easily they could relate to one another. Between Lakwa’s words and Adele’s own empathic senses, she had deduced that both of them had experienced loss courtesy of the Borg, both cared deeply for the people they were serving with, and both desperately wanted this alliance to work.
With a weary glance at her now-cold dinner, Adele decided to skip it completely and start in on her personal log entry. “Computer,” she said, “Record --”
The sound of the ready room door chime interrupted her. "Computer, cancel recording,” she said with a small sigh. “Come in,” she called out, as she stood and stretched. Her muscles ached after a day spent reacting to one crisis after another. The door slid open, and she saw that her first officer had completed his escort duties and returned as he had been instructed to do.
“Commander,” she greeted him.
“Captain,” Icheb nodded in reply, as he stepped into the spacious ready room. “I showed Lakwa and Jeytl to their quarters. They have been assigned continuous security and their rooms are equipped with communications dampening fields. I have also arranged for the replication of two portable regenerators to meet their energy needs.”
“Thank you,” Adele said sincerely. “I appreciate your handling that.” She picked up her uneaten dinner and turned to take it back to the replicator. “I’m going to have some tea,” she said. “Would you like anything?”
Icheb shook his head. “No, thank you,” he replied. Adele nodded and recycled her dinner, replicated herself a cup of Yridian tea, then sat back down at her desk and offered Icheb the seat across from hers.
“Please, sit down, Commander.”
Icheb complied with the request. “What did you wish to speak to me about?” he asked. “I have some thoughts I’d like to share concerning the Borg Resistance,” he added, as soon as he was seated.
“We’ll get to that,” Adele replied, sounding weary. “I need to discuss something else with you first.” She took a long sip of her tea, then set the steaming cup down on her expansive desk and gave her exec a long, searching look. “I have a serious problem, Commander,” she began softly, “a problem I need your help to fix.”
Icheb’s expression remained unchanged, but she could feel his wariness at the statement. “Elaborate,” he said in a careful tone.
Adele took a deep breath. “I realized something today,” she said. “I realized that after just a day of knowing Lakwa, she’s earned a fair amount of trust from me. I’m not going to hand her my command codes or anything, but I generally trust what she has to say and I feel like I’m beginning to understand her motivations.”
Icheb frowned. “I fail to see the problem.”
“The problem is you,” Adele said flatly. “It hit me as I was thinking about this that I don’t have that same trust in you that I have in a stranger. A Borg
stranger.” She sighed heavily. “I need to trust you, and right now, I don’t, Icheb. You’ve been lying to me since the day I met you. You lied to us all. As we face this Omega problem, this Borg civil war
together, I need to know I can count on you, but I don’t know that. You’re dying and you didn’t tell me.” Icheb tensed visibly at this, and she could feel his defenses going up. Nonetheless, she continued, “You put this entire mission at risk by lying about your condition, and today, when I needed you most, you were far too distracted by Lieutenant O’Connor to be of much use to anyone. I realize you’re in love with her --” at this, Icheb opened his mouth to protest, but Adele held a hand up to stop him.
“Stop. I’m an empath,” she reminded him. “You’re in love with her. It’s okay. You can’t control it. To ask you to control it would be to ask you to deny the individuality you’ve regained since leaving the Collective. But I can’t have you two constantly screwing up our operations with your preoccupation with each other. And I certainly can’t have you lying for each other.” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose with two fingers before continuing, “You two are a walking, talking security breach. In the face of Maren’s apparent familiarity with the Omega Directive, I can only assume you were the one who gave her that information. Information you
gained from the Borg Collective. Now, I understand that you possess information you shouldn’t because of your unique history. But I did not expect Miss O’Connor to have that information, as well. I want a list of potential security risks caused by your relationship with her on my desk tomorrow. Whatever you told her that she shouldn’t know, I need to know about it, for her safety and ours.”
Icheb nodded grimly. “Understood.”
Adele softened her tone considerably and asked, “Have you been to see her yet?”
Icheb slowly shook his head. “Not since Doctor Bashir had me removed from sickbay.”
“You were out of line,” Adele gently pointed out. They had gone briefly to sickbay to check in on Ryzal, Malik, Dena and Maren upon their return to the Tesseract
. If Adele had realized the extent of Maren’s injuries, she never would have let Icheb enter the room. He had panicked, in his controlled Borg manner, at the sight of the engineer lying on an operating table undergoing her second emergency brain surgery in a week. He had instantly begun asking too many demanding, rapid-fire questions, and Julian had swiftly kicked him out.
“Perhaps,” Icheb conceded with a small nod. “I was concerned for her safety.”
“Doctor Bashir and Doctor Marchenko are both excellent physicians,” Adele reminded him. “They were – and are – doing the best they can for her.”
Icheb said nothing. Adele assessed him carefully, unsure of what she could possibly say that he might find comforting. There was so much about her exec that she didn’t understand. His cybernetically augmented mind worked very differently than hers. The only thing she knew for sure was that he loved Maren with all the intensity she had once felt for her imzadi
. That much was clear. His emotions were more far stronger than she would have expected from an ex-drone, but then again, he was the only one she had ever spent much time with. She guessed that would be changing now, with the arrival of Dena and the Resistance Borg. She wondered how her understanding of all these former drones would develop as they got to know each other better. “Tell me your thoughts on Lakwa,” she requested, suddenly curious.
Icheb seemed grateful for the change in subject matter. “I agree with your assessment. I believe she is trustworthy. She was very kind to me while I was aboard their ship. She openly questioned Malik’s handling of the situation. She was the only one who did.”
“What do you mean, she was kind?”
“She treated my injuries, objected to Malik’s harsh treatment of me, urged him to apologize.”
“But she never gave you any indication she wanted to lead a mutiny?”
“No. She performed her function as a medical officer and nothing more.”
“Did the others seem loyal to Malik?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see them often. I was mainly kept behind a force field. The only time I was around most of the others was when we intercepted you in the nebula. They performed their tasks efficiently and spoke very little.”
“Sounds about right,” Adele replied wryly, recalling her experiences with the nearly silent Jeytl. They both fell quiet for a moment, Icheb seemingly lost in his memories of the experience while Adele subtly tried to read him. Finally, she sighed. Icheb looked at her, and she met his gaze.
“I want to trust you, Number One,” she said softly, with her eyes locked on his. “I felt like we were building that trust in the very beginning, but what Maren told me about the two of you set us back a long way. This isn’t her fault, though,” she quickly clarified. “Maren did the right thing telling me. Her biggest failure was not saying something sooner. But most of the responsibility for this rests on you. You applied for this mission. You went through the interview process. You were assigned executive officer of a seven-year mission to the Delta Quadrant – second-in-command of nearly 1500 people. And you did all this knowing you had a terminal condition you were refusing treatment for, and you didn’t say a word? I really have only one question for you. What were you thinking?”
Icheb stared back at her for a long moment. “I made a mistake,” he finally said quietly. “A very serious error. I was frightened of what experiments might be performed on me if I went to Starfleet Medical, but that doesn’t excuse my actions.”
Adele frowned. She still felt like he was holding something important back, but she decided to see where he planned to go with this. “Maren told me you were afraid of that. Something about Admiral Nechayev wanting to download your memory engrams?”
Icheb nodded. “She and several others at Starfleet Command made it very clear from the moment I arrived on Earth that they saw me as a source of intelligence and a potential weapon. I resisted that with Admiral Janeway’s help, but it was very difficult. After that, the only person I entrusted with my medical care was The Doctor.”
“Correct. When I first started experiencing difficulties with my implants, we hoped there would be a simple solution. As the problems got worse, he urged me to seek additional help – particularly from Seven of Nine. I refused. I realize now that both The Doctor and Maren could face serious consequences for helping me conceal this. I wish to do everything I can to take responsibility for it myself. They were merely honoring my wishes about my own medical care.”
Adele pinched the bridge of her nose again briefly and sighed. “I can tell you right now that there will be consequences for Maren. I can’t speak to what Command might do with the EMH. They’re unaware of all of this, for the moment. But he at least has doctor-patient confidentiality to stand behind. Maren doesn’t have that protection, nor should she. However, lying for you is really the least of the problems I have with her right now. She’s in enough trouble without bringing your medical issues into it.”
“Captain?” Icheb queried with a concerned look.
Adele sighed again. “We’ll have plenty of time to discuss Miss O’Connor’s behavior later, Commander. Right now she’s lying on a biobed recovering from her second brain surgery in a week. I don’t really feel like discussing her shortcomings or their possible consequences right now, and I can’t imagine you do, either.”
“I am the executive officer of this vessel,” Icheb retorted coolly. “If there is a problem with a member of the senior staff, would that not fall under my area of responsibility?”
“Indeed it does,” Adele shot back, matching his tone. “And trust me, we’ll be having that conversation. But for right now, let’s just let her recover.”
Icheb frowned, but reluctantly nodded his assent. Adele could feel his irritation at her unwillingness to share her thoughts on Maren, as well as his concern for her, from across the desk. She sighed. “Look,” she offered, “why don’t you go check in on things in sickbay? Check on Maren and Ryzal, and see if Doctor Bashir needs any help with that drone. I have some logs and reports to finish up here. I don’t have your perfect memory, so I need to get these things recorded while they’re still fresh,” she said with a wry smirk. “We’ll be caught up to the last known position of the auxiliary ships in a few hours. Make sure your own logs are complete by then, and we’ll meet to discuss everything first thing in the morning, when we’re all fresh and have had some time to think about things.”
Icheb nodded and stood up. “Very well, Captain,” he said, a little stiffly. “I’ll see you then.”
Adele nodded in reply. “You’re dismissed,” she said with a tired half-smile.
Icheb immediately turned and headed for the door, but just short of the sensor, he stopped and turned to face Adele again. “Captain?” he asked, his face pensive.
Adele looked up from her desk quizzically. “Yes, Commander?”
Icheb took a visible deep breath and said, “It was never my intent to make your job more difficult. I intend to do everything I can to resolve the problems I have caused.”
Adele raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to say you’re sorry?”
Icheb blushed slightly. “Yes,” he replied quickly. “I’m sorry.”
Adele nodded. “That’s a good start,” she said sincerely, then added, “I can think of a few other people who deserve to hear that from you right now, too.” She smiled at him wryly. “Lucky for you, they’re all in one place. Pretty convenient, if you ask me.”
Icheb looked back at her with an unreadable expression for a moment, then nodded slowly. “Thank you, Captain. I’ll be in sickbay.”