USS Tesseract -- Bridge
The mood on the bridge was tense. Iden stood frowning at her console, surrounded by several other officers with expressions ranging from cautious concern to outright fear. As Icheb entered the room, she looked over at him, her azure features creased with fatigue and worry.
“Report, Lieutenant Nix?” he asked as he walked to her side and peered at the holographic display in front of her. “Where is the captain?” he added, glancing around at the bridge crew, currently made up of mostly junior officers. With much of the regular bridge staff injured or off ship, that left Icheb, Iden and Adrian Keller as the only senior staff on deck.
“She was in with Admiral Beckley,” Iden replied. “She’ll be here in a minute.” Icheb nodded in acknowledgment. “Look,” Iden said, pointing to the display. “During our last drop out of slipstream, long-range sensors picked this up. It’s right where the last secure transmission from the auxiliary ships came from. Does it look familiar to you?”
Icheb narrowed his eyes as he gazed at the display. He carefully reached past Iden to tap the controls and get a few different views. Grimly, he nodded and exchanged a glance with Iden. “Set a course for the perimeter of the subspace damage,” he told Adrian, who nodded, looking tight-lipped and pale. Icheb tapped his combadge. “Icheb to Security. Please escort Lakwa from diplomatic quarters to the bridge immediately.”
As security was acknowledging the order, the bridge doors parted again, this time admitting the captain. She looked like she was expecting the worst. “What’s going on?” she inquired, with a weary look in Icheb’s direction.
“Lieutenant Nix found an area of subspace damage in the vicinity of the last known position of our auxiliary vessels,” Icheb explained. “The damage is interfering with our sensors. It will be difficult to know what lies within that area until we are considerably closer to it.”
“Can you modify the Astrometrics sensors to get a better look?” Adele asked.
Icheb frowned slightly as he quickly considered the question. He shook his head. “As short-staffed as we are, by the time the modifications were complete, we would already be in range. I’ll have engineering send someone, but I don’t expect it will make a difference.” He quickly tapped his badge and passed the request along to Lieutenant Telek. “I’ve called Lakwa to the bridge,” he told Adele. “Perhaps she will have more insight into what we have found.”
As if on cue, the bridge doors slid open one more time, and the newly-minted leader of Resistance Vessel 1473 was escorted through by two heavily armed guards.
Icheb directed the cyborg’s attention to Iden’s display. “We are traveling toward this area of subspace damage at slipstream. I am hoping you can tell me what caused it.”
Lakwa gazed at the display quietly for a moment. “I can tell you precisely what happened,” she said. “One of our vessels was destroyed.”
“How can you tell?” Adele queried.
“The area and pattern of the subspace destruction is consistent with damage to the power core of one of our vessels. It rarely happens, but when it does, the damage is irregular and scattered like this. The detonation of one of our weapons would have been significantly more focused.”
“What about our ships?” Adrian Keller interrupted sharply from across the room. All eyes turned to look at the pilot, who had turned from his console to fix the resistance Borg with an angry glare. His face was flushed pink with worry and frustration. “What does the area and pattern of the subspace destruction tell you about our missing ships?”
Lakwa met his gaze without visible emotion. “Nothing,” she answered flatly. “However, if they were in close proximity to the vessel at the time of its destruction, it is likely that the damage was extreme.” She turned to Adele. “I am certain you will wish to investigate this matter at close range, but I recommend caution. It is possible there are other cloaked vessels in the area. It is likely they would see you as a threat. If you will permit me access to my vessel, I can use our sensors to scan for them.”
Adele shook her head. “No. I’m sorry. We’re not at that level of trust yet. Icheb,” she said, turning to her exec. “Can you interface with their vessel?”
Icheb shook his head. “No, Captain. But Malik did indicate that a device to allow me to do so could be integrated with my own implants relatively easily.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to go against his own instincts. “I had refused, but I’m willing to try if it helps retrieve our people safely.” He glanced at Lakwa questioningly. She nodded.
“The procedure is simple,” she said quietly. “It will take only minutes.”
Icheb looked over at Adele, who gave him a long, appraising look. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked him.
Icheb hesitated only a moment before nodding. “It’s the option that presents the least risk. This way, I can be the only one on the Resistance vessel. A minor medical procedure is an acceptable price to pay to gain sole access to their sensor technology.”
Adele held his gaze and nodded. “All right, Commander, Lakwa. Let’s do this, and quickly. The sooner we know what we’re headed for, the better.”
Resistance Vessel 1473 – inside docking bay, USS Tesseract
For a long, anxious moment, Icheb doubted his ability to succeed at this mission. As he activated his new neural link, a wave of dizziness took hold of him. He quickly grabbed the side of a nearby console to ensure he stayed upright.
It had been years since he had experienced such a comprehensive neural interface. The feeling of being one with the sophisticated technology that surrounded him was both surreal and somehow achingly familiar. He shoved aside his memories of the Collective and tried to focus on the task at hand. “Connection established,” he reported over the comm.. “I should have full access to the vessel’s systems.”
Full access to the vessel’s systems.
He was suddenly acutely aware he was in direct control of something so powerful the Federation had banned it at all costs. He could almost feel
Omega’s power, even though the containment chamber was on some sort of regeneration or standby mode, and the ship’s systems were running on auxiliary power provided via a hastily adapted tether to the Tesseract
. The temptation to activate the chamber with a simple thought, to experience particle 010 on a much deeper level, was huge. He managed to refrain from doing so. Still, the sensation of being so intimately connected with this ship was almost overwhelming.
“Acknowledged,” came the reply from Adele. “Can you activate the sensor grid?”
“I will attempt it,” Icheb replied. He mentally scanned the myriad systems until he found the one he needed. He unconsciously held his breath as he established a connection with the sensor array and commanded it to power up. He was again disoriented as data began pouring into his cortical array. Without a cortical node to process it properly, it was difficult to sort it quickly enough to comprehend. He consciously tried to slow the connection down, and met with limited success. He still had significant trouble assimilating the information, but at least it wasn’t making him so dizzy. He noticed that some of the visual/tactile displays had activated around the compact control chamber, and carefully walked over to one of them, finding that maintaining his balance required slight effort. “Sensor grid is online;” he told Adele, “however, there is more data coming in than I am capable of processing.”
On the bridge of the Tesseract
, Adele looked over at Lakwa. “Advice?” she asked the former drone.
“He is at a disadvantage,” Lakwa said quietly. “Most of the technology that would help him interface more efficiently with the vessel was extracted from his body. Instruct him to limit his access to one sensor type at a time. That may help him.”
Adele activated the comm. again. “Lakwa suggests you limit your interface to one sensor type at a time. Can you do that?”
Adele thought Icheb’s voice sounded slightly unsteady as he replied. “I will try,” he said. She could sense his shakiness. She hoped he would be all right. It made her nervous to think of the young ex-drone’s mind being directly tied into the systems of an unfamiliar and highly superior ship. She wondered if he was in danger, or if he could somehow put their ship at risk. At the same time, she wondered how much valuable information he would be able to provide them with when he finally disconnected.
“It’s working,” he reported a moment later, sounding noticeably steadier. “I’m connected to the subspace sensor array and attempting to calibrate the sensors.”
A moment later, the comm. activated once more. “I’m not picking up any Resistance vessels in the vicinity of the subspace damage. I am picking up a faint energy signature from within the damaged area. It appears to be Federation.”
“Just one?” Adele asked pointedly. She glanced over at Adrian Keller, who was doing an admirable job of continuing to control their flight while silently falling apart with worry for his wife and young children. He kept his eyes fixed on his display, but she could tell he was listening with anxious attention to every word exchanged.
“It’s difficult to tell,” Icheb admitted over the comm.. “This interface is unfamiliar, the energy signature is weak, and the subspace damage is interfering with these sensors, as well.”
“Can you activate their communications systems? Try to hail them? Look for a distress call?” Adele asked.
“Unknown,” Icheb replied. He sounded distracted. There was another pause, then he came back with, “Negative. The interference is too great.”
“Ask him if he can tell how deep inside of the damaged area the readings are coming from,” Lakwa interjected.
Adele nodded. “Icheb, Lakwa wants to know how far inside the damaged area those readings are coming from.”
There was a pause, and then the answer. “Approximately the center,” he answered, then delivered the bad news they had all instantly realized was coming. “Without the ability to travel at warp through that area, it will take more than a day to reach that location.”
For a long moment, no one said anything, then the comm. activated one more time. Adele could sense her exec’s wariness before he even spoke. “I have an idea,” Icheb said, “but I doubt you will approve.”
Adele sighed, feeling almost resigned. She activated her comm.. “Try me.”
USS Tesseract – Captain’s Ready Room
“I already told you. Absolutely not.” Adele was firm as she faced her slightly disheveled exec in the privacy of her ready room. He wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer, and it was beginning to make her more than irritated. It was starting to feel as if her entire senior staff had serious issues with insubordination.
“I can control the vessel,” he argued. “I’m certain of it. It is far more capable at high sublight speeds than our own. I can be there quickly, and report on the situation – even attempt a rescue, if necessary.”
“By yourself?” Adele was skeptical. “I didn’t even like you tying your brain into their systems to use their sensor array, and you want me to let you go off and be one with their whole ship – Omega and all – flying alone through uncharted, hostile space? I know we’ve had our differences, Commander, but I’m not ready to toss you out an airlock just yet,” she said wryly. “This entire idea sounds like a potential suicide mission to me, and I won’t let you do it. My intent is to save your life, not end it prematurely.”
Icheb’s usually neutral demeanor was starting to slip, and he was becoming as visibly frustrated as Adele could tell he felt. He leaned forward in earnest, his facial features tight with intensity, and continued to press his case. “The ship is designed to carry mostly cybernetic crew,” he explained. “In the event I am forced to use the vessel to evacuate our people, its life support resources will be strained enough without the addition of extraneous crewmembers.” His voice grew more urgent. “I believe I am capable of controlling the ship’s primary systems alone,” he pleaded. “You won’t be far behind me if I need you. But every hour counts, Captain. Please allow me to do this.”
Adele sighed. “Without a cortical node, you couldn’t even process all the sensor data properly,” she reminded him. “What if something goes wrong? What if you come under attack? How will you control an unfamiliar ship’s defensive and tactical systems while also controlling propulsion, maneuvering, and everything else? Not to mention, if something does go wrong, it won’t just be you we risk losing. If we’re anywhere near you, we’re at risk, as well. Icheb, I realize you want to assist our people more quickly, and so do I. But this is a bad idea and I’m saying no. Bring it up again and you’ll be spending some quality time in confinement for insubordination.”
Icheb wisely shut his mouth, but only for a moment. To Adele, it felt like his mind was in overdrive. She had ordered him to disconnect from the Resistance ship’s neural interface the second he had proposed his ill-advised plan, and ever since then, he had seemed strangely excited, almost manic. She suspected whatever information had been dumped into his head by the computer on that ship had simply been too much stimulation for her young exec to handle, and part of her was waiting for the inevitable crash after the high. She was torn between being grateful for the advantage his access to the more advanced ship gave them, and wondering if she should deny him that access in the future for his own safety and theirs.
“What about tying our own systems to their power source?” he suggested a moment later, changing tactics. “We can use the added power from the Omega particle to boost structural integrity and our impulse speed. We could reduce our transit time by several hours.”
Adele looked at him incredulously. “That power source shouldn’t even be
here,” she said levelly. “I’m not tying it into our systems on a whim. Besides, I can’t even imagine the modifications needed to make something like that work. Even if I gave the go-ahead, it would probably take Telek longer to figure how to make the modifications than it’s going to take us to reach our ships.”
“Telek doesn’t have to do the modifications. We can use Borg technology,” Icheb protested. “It wouldn’t be difficult. Any member of the Resistance could simply make the correct modifications by infusing the necessary systems with nanoprobes. It would take minutes instead of hours.”
“You want me to let the Resistance assimilate Engineering?!” Adele almost laughed aloud. “Report to sickbay,” she ordered him. “I want Doctor Bashir to take a look at you.”
“Captain --” Icheb started to protest, but he was cut off.
“I’m not kidding, Commander,” Adele said firmly. “Report to sickbay or I’ll have you taken there. Think about what you just asked me to do. I do believe in my position, you would share my concern.” She looked at him pointedly.
Icheb looked as if he would like to protest further, but he seemed to think better of it and headed for the door. “Very well, Captain,” he said politely, as he left the ready room.
Adele stared after him for a moment, then shook her head. “Dismissed,” she said quietly. She took a moment to collect her thoughts, then contacted engineering. She needed a second opinion. As worried as she was about her exec, she couldn’t simply ignore what he had suggested if there was any chance it would save lives.