USS Tesseract - Sickbay
The release of the hypospray burned cold against Icheb’s neck, in marked contrast to Julian Bashir’s warm hand holding him steady on the other side. “This is the scan Lieutenant O’Connor took of you earlier,” the doctor said, pointing to a graphic on the biobed display, “and this is the scan we took just now.” Icheb compared the two screens. The most recent scan showed a dramatic increase in synaptic activity. “Your synaptic pathways are showing signs of hyperstimulation, and I’m concerned about the extra stress on your cortical implants,” Julian said. “I recommend you limit your time spent interfacing with their ship.”
The doctor continued to speak, but Icheb was barely listening. His mind was going ten thousand directions at once. It was strangely exhilarating. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been able to think so widely and clearly about so many things. He also felt strongly agitated. His best friend and hundreds of others were in grave danger, and all of his good ideas to help them had been carelessly rejected by his captain. His mind sorted frantically through the data he had downloaded from the Resistance vessel’s computer core, formulating plan after backup plan. If they would only listen to him …
Within seconds, the drug Julian had injected started to take effect. The soaring feeling rapidly diminished, and his head started to ache – badly. Without warning, Julian pressed the hypo to his neck again. “That’s for the headache,” he said, as the small device delivered its payload. Icheb looked at him as if noticing him for the first time. “Thank you,” he said, but he couldn’t hide his irritated tone.
“Did you hear a word I just said?” Julian asked, looking at Icheb with concern.
“My synaptic pathways are showing signs of hyperstimulation, and you’re concerned about the extra stress on my cortical implants. You want me to limit my time spent interfacing with their ship.”
Julian gave him a bemused smirk. “Wonderful. Did you hear what I said after
that?” he asked.
Icheb frowned. “No,” he admitted. He had been too distracted by his own thoughts, which was unusual for him, to say the least – in fact, he couldn’t remember it ever having happened before.
Julian seemed unsurprised. “I said, ‘Try to avoid connecting to their ship at all until I get a better look at these scans I took,” he repeated. “It’s possible we’ll need to remove that new implant.”
Icheb shook his head. “I’m fine. I simply need time to adapt. I’ll avoid any further interface with their vessel if that’s your recommendation, but I see no reason to remove the device. It could prove useful when we get closer to the auxiliary ships.”
Julian sighed. “Very well,” he conceded, “but I’m concerned about you. Please
tell me if you feel anything different than usual. Lingering headache, vision changes, psychological symptoms, strange feelings. I can’t believe the captain let you go ahead with this in the first place,” he admitted. “And I’m honestly surprised you’d want to.”
Icheb frowned. “It wasn’t my first choice,” he said, “but it gave us a needed advantage in locating the evacuees. It would have been selfish to refuse for personal reasons. The alteration to my cortical array was minor and temporary. I can set aside my personal discomfort.”
“It seems you have,” Julian said lightly, and his tone seemed to imply that he thought there was more to it than that. Icheb blushed slightly, but did not respond. “Come here,” said Julian suddenly. “I want you to take a look at something.”
Icheb obediently slid off the edge of the biobed and followed the doctor over to Dena’s highly secured bedside. “I’m going to need your assistance in navigating some of these cybernetics,” Julian said, gesturing toward the woman’s still partially-opened skull, which exposed a section of her cortical array behind a sterile containment field. “I have the notes Voyager
’s EMH recorded concerning the removal of Annika Hansen’s implants, along with yours and the other children you were rescued with, but each of your physiologies are unique. It seems that every time the Collective builds a drone, it’s a little bit differently than the last.”
Icheb nodded, staring down at the unconscious alien woman. Many of her bulky external implants had already been removed, leaving wounds to heal and additional technology to remove or neutralize beneath what was left of her skin. He thought of his own extensive scars after The Doctor had removed most of his implants, and the many months of regenerative treatments it had taken for them to heal completely. Even now, a few remained, the only spots on his body that were completely absent of freckles, slightly shiny compared to the surrounding skin. They, along with a few remaining visible stubs of implants, were the reason he almost always wore long sleeves and pants, even in hot climates. The woman in front of him was sure to have an even longer recovery period than he had, considering how much more extensive her implants had been.
“Perhaps you should wait and let her decide how best to proceed,” Icheb said quietly. “It’s possible that if she considers her situation carefully, she may desire to retain some of her more useful components.”
Julian looked at Icheb in surprise and gave him a questioning look. “Why do I think you’re not talking about Dena right now?” he asked.
Icheb refused to meet his gaze. “I simply mean that given the choice, she may wish to have greater control over the implants that remain. It is unlikely you will be able to remove them all,” he pointed out. He suddenly shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he apologized abruptly. “You’re right, I’m not feeling … like myself.” He suddenly glanced over at the door to Maren’s room. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to spend a couple of minutes with her while I’m here.”
Julian looked concerned, but nodded and gestured toward the door. “By all means.” Icheb noticed he kept an eye on him as he walked over to Maren’s door and entered her room.
Inside, he pulled a visitor’s chair next to her bedside and sat down in it, hard. He grabbed Maren’s hand in his own and held it tight. It felt cold to the touch. He looked at her sleeping face and suddenly felt very emotional. “I’m so sorry for everything,” he whispered to her. He leaned forward and brushed her cheek softly with his lips, then settled back into his chair, lost in thought. His mind was racing again, filled with thoughts of Maren, the missing ships, the Resistance, the Collective and everything else – only rather than feeling exhilarated this time, he felt weighed down by it all, and utterly exhausted. Within minutes, he was sound asleep.
USS Tesseract – Main Engineering
“Absolutely not!” Telek nearly shouted. His antennae danced animatedly above his face, which was suddenly flushed a blue so intense it rivaled the swirling contents of the intermix chamber behind him. “With all due respect, sir, this is as insane as O’Connor’s plan to save those drones was. We know nothing
about this technology. Our systems aren’t remotely compatible. And you want me risk a catastrophic overload of our power grid and a real chance of blowing us all to hell just to break regs and get to our destination a few hours faster?”
Adele regarded Telek calmly. His blunt Andorian directness aside, she certainly understood his hesitation. Nonetheless, she pressed on. “Commander Icheb believes this will work,” she said. “Every hour counts, and while you
may not be familiar with this technology, Lakwa and her people, and to a lesser degree, Commander Icheb, most certainly are. They can provide you with the necessary instruction and supplies. Need I remind you,” she added, “that four hundred people are missing, most of them civilians?”
Telek glared down at his commanding officer, his antennae pointed straight at her. “You need remind me of nothing,” he replied hotly. “I am well aware of the situation. But with O’Connor in sickbay, it’s my responsibility to keep this vessel in one piece. As acting chief engineer, I strongly
advise against this course of action. I’ve barely learned Omega exists
, and you want me to use it to dump more power into this ship’s structural and propulsion systems than it was ever designed to take? It’s dangerous. Four hundred missing is four hundred missing, but there are another eleven hundred on this ship who stand a good chance of ending up dead
if we attempt this. And then what good are we to the missing? That’s before I even get started
on the insanity of the method you want me to use to make the modifications. I realize this ship carries a lot of Borg technology already, but using nanoprobes to alter the fundamental operations of this vessel is a step too far. I don’t care how much time it saves. Even O’Connor would say no to that one.”
Adele sighed and locked eyes with the tall Andorian. “Thank you, Lieutenant,” she said sincerely. “I agree with you completely.”
Telek looked surprised. “Captain?”
“I said, I agree with you,” Adele said. She sighed. “I wish there was a way to make this work. But I agree that the risks are simply too great to try this in the time we have left. I just needed a second opinion.”
“Captain, there may be another option,” Telek spoke up.
Adele raised her eyebrows. “I’m all ears.”