Miss this story? So did I. So I wrote a chapter. I'd like to get back into this. It has been a crazy year with tremendous ups and downs. Through it all, I've really missed the Tesseract universe. Here's hoping you all do, too.
A warp coast was a tricky maneuver. The acceleration, the cutoff, the trajectory … everything had to be just right. Sensor readings, good ones, were a must.
Unfortunately, the sensor readings emanating from the destroyed region of subspace just ahead of the Tesseract
were an absolute mess. Adele briefly weighed the possibility of hooking Icheb up to the resistance ship again to get a better look, but decided it would be better to use the data he’d downloaded the first time. The last time she had seen her first officer, he had been out cold in Maren O’Connor’s room in sickbay. With both troubled officers unconscious, Adele’s mind felt clearer than it had in days. She had decided to let him sleep.
The bridge was cleared of all non-essential personnel, which basically meant it had been cleared of everyone Adele didn’t want with her right now. There wasn’t a Borg implant to be seen on the bridge, nor a single member of the advisory board. It was just Adele, her helmsman, and her communications officer. Iden kept an open comm. link to Telek in engineering.
Adrian Keller drummed his fingers nervously on the edge of his console. The pilot looked as if he could use a nap, himself. Adele tried to block the overwhelming worry she felt coming off of him in waves, and said a quick prayer that his family would be all right … that everyone would be all right. The prayer felt hollow, as did her stomach. Deep down, she was not optimistic about what they were going to find inside the subspace rupture.
At her command, Telek fired up the warp drive. “Give me 125 percent power,” she ordered. She felt the enormous force of the reaction building. It resonated through the deck plating, first a slow throb, then increasing in speed until it was a frenetic vibration that slightly distorted the sound of her voice as she said, “Execute warp coast maneuver, now.”
The stars around them stretched and snapped out of view. Telek cut power to the engines. In three minutes, they would know if their aim was true. All they could do now was wait.
All John could think is that he should have told her. As he sat on the floor of the wrecked engineering chamber of the USS Sol
, feeling his skin blister beneath his EV suit and trying not to vomit, all he could think is that he should have told Maren O’Connor he loved her when he had the chance.
He knew it was his imagination, but he could still taste their drunken kiss on his lips. He could feel her body, warm and close next to his as she cried over their best friend.
He wondered if he was dying.
He fought the thought. At twenty-seven, he wasn’t ready to die. There had to be about a million ways out of this situation.
But he was tired, and sweaty and sick. He wasn’t sure he could make it back to the decontaminated area to request a beamout if he tried.
“Warning. Radiation at critical levels. Evacuate immediately,” said the computer, for approximately the three billionth time.
“Fuck you,” he replied.
No matter what he did, the computer wouldn’t stop blasting its warnings. Apparently these words of caution were too important to obey his “cancel audio” order. If he’d known something more about engineering, he might have known which plasma conduit to take out with his phaser to shut it up, but as it was, his mind was fuzzier than usual anyway.
He wondered about the Kellers, Claire and Lucy, whether they were still alive. He wondered if the Luna
would make it back to the Tesseract
. He wondered if Icheb had made it back unharmed. He wondered a lot of things, and the more he wondered, the more certain he was he would never know the answers to any of it.
He wondered if Maren missed him.
He was doing this for her. Only for her. He had decided the moment the thought entered his mind that there was no way he could self-destruct the Sol
and face Maren afterward. Someone had to make sure she got this pile of damaged equipment back, so she could fix it. They only had three slipstream drives, one of them was on this ship, and there was no way they could safely mine enough resources to build a new ship in the middle of a war zone.
If he could just hold on long enough, someone would come for them. He would hang on until the bitter end, if that was what it took.
It was starting to look like that was exactly what it would take.
“Lieutenant Quigley.” T’Pring’s voice sounded strange, faraway over the suit comm. He thought he detected a hint of worry, but decided that was stupid. Vulcans didn’t worry.
“I’m here, T’Pring,” he said.
“You must move to where the radiation interference is less so we can beam you out. Do it now. Radiation levels are critical.”
“T’Pring, I’m not going anywhere. I can hang for a while. Gotta hold the ship together, you know.”
“Lieutenant.” Now she did sound worried. He was sure of it. “There’s nothing left of the ship. Evacuate now, while you’re still conscious.”
“No.” His answer was short, as he silenced his comm. to hide a coughing jag that threatened to force the contents of his stomach into his helmet.
He was being stupid, he knew. T’Pring was right, there was almost nothing left of the ship. If he blew it up, she’d back him up when they returned to the Tesseract
. If they returned. No one would blame him. Hell, he’d probably get a medal when this was all over.
“A posthumous medal,” he snarked aloud, choking on a bitter laugh. He could hardly breathe.
“Lieutenant, I didn’t copy your last. Say again?”
John frowned. He knew his comm. was inactive. He switched it back on. “Nothing to copy, sir,” he said, his voice raspy. “I’m staying –“ He stopped as he realized she hadn’t been talking to him. He could hear a voice in the background of the transmission. It sounded like Iden Nix.
There was a crackle and then, “ -- to Sol
. Do you read?” It was definitely Iden. She sounded scared to death.
Was he hallucinating? He had to be.
“Iden? That you?” He knew she couldn’t hear him. “It’s about fucking time,” he muttered.
His world blurred around the edges, then went dark.
“Do you have them?” Adele leaned breathlessly over Iden’s shoulder, trying desperately to hear whatever the Bolian was hearing. Iden’s ears were incredibly sensitive, much more sensitive than anyone else’s on the bridge.
Iden shushed the captain, and gave her a quick nod. “I can hear T’Pring,” she said. She frowned. “The interference is horrible. If I’m hearing her right, everyone but John Quigley is on the Luna
, and she lost contact with Quigley a few minutes ago.”
Adele paused a moment as the implications of that set in. The Sol
was almost certainly a total loss if they’d evacuated everyone to the Luna
. And if Quigley was in command of the Sol
, that meant Borux was incapacitated or dead. She swallowed the lump that rose in her throat at the thought.
One thing that didn’t seem to be affected by the subspace damage or radiation levels was her empathic senses, which still seemed stronger than ever. They were a little too far away for her to make out individual emotions, but a pervasive sense of terror and loss emanated from the broken ships ahead of them. It had overcome her the moment they had coasted into the subspace breach. She kept a stone face, not wanting to upset Adrian Keller any more than he already was.
The man was performing admirably under sickening circumstances, but she could feel his fear drowning out every other emotion on the bridge. “Take us closer,” she ordered him.
Julian watched on a monitor in sickbay as the Tesseract
approached the broken ships. Irina Marchenko stood beside him, stone faced.
“Bozhe moi,” she whispered. In the quiet of sickbay, he could hear her draw in a breath and hold it as she examined the image on the screen.
“Get everyone with medical training in here now,” he said. “We’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“What can I do?” a voice asked behind him. He turned around to find a disheveled-looking Icheb standing there. The younger man’s usually impeccable hair was tousled, and his usually pale face flushed. “I have extensive training,” he said.
Julian recalled from his personnel files that Icheb was not exaggerating. He had completed most of a medical degree at the Academy while studying genetics. He nodded at the younger officer. “Do what you can,” he said. He retrieved a medical tricorder and handed it to Icheb. “How are you feeling?” he asked him.
Icheb set his thin lips in a straight line, his expression unreadable. He nodded once. “Fine,” he said. “I feel fine.” Julian thought Icheb was a rather poor liar, but chose not to call him on it. He seemed functional enough, and when survivors started swarming sickbay, he really would need the extra help. Still, he gave Icheb a quick scan with his own tricorder, and didn’t like what he saw.
“You can help here,” he told Icheb, “but I’m keeping you for observation, too. You’re still showing signs of neural overstimulation and your implants aren’t handling it well. I want you to spend some time regenerating as soon as possible.”
Icheb frowned, but nodded his assent and walked away, fiddling with the tricorder.
Julian turned his attention to the door, where medics were beginning to file in. He glanced over at the Borg woman, who had suddenly become an afterthought. He tapped his combadge and called security. “I think we’re going to need more guards,” he told them. There was no telling how the civilian patients would react to the presence of a drone. He stroked his beard anxiously and looked at the monitor again. They were almost on top of the ships, now. A tractor beam shot out from the Tesseract
’s open hangar bay and locked on to both ships. His combadge chirped.
“Oyugo to Bashir,” Adele’s voice came over the link. “Prepare to receive survivors.”
T’Pring’s face was smeared with dried green blood. That was the first thing Adele noticed as she rushed into sickbay. The second was John Quigley. The young man was unconscious. The medics were pulling off his EV suit helmet. She could see his face was red and covered in blisters.
All around her, people looked like that. She did her best to block out their misery. “T’Pring,” she addressed the officer who seemed in the best shape to give her a report. “What happened here?” Icheb appeared beside her at that moment. She saw his eyes widen and felt his concern as he took in the sight of John Quigley, but he quickly returned his focus to T’Pring.
“We were attacked,” T’Pring told them flatly, as Icheb began scanning her with a medical tricorder. “A single cloaked ship with formidable weaponry. We were able to destroy their vessel with a triphasic torpedo, but the resulting explosion disabled our ships and appears to have damaged subspace over a significant area.”
“Were you able to identify the ship that fired on you?” Icheb asked, still scanning her.
“Negative,” she replied.
“We have reason to believe it was a Resistance Borg ship,” Adele said, “based on the physical evidence from the explosion. What we don’t yet know is why.”
T’Pring said nothing. Seemingly satisfied with his scan, Icheb dosed her with a painkiller and closed the gash on her forehead. He quickly moved over to where John Quigley was being worked on by an anxious-looking Sheila Duggal. The young doctor was covered in blisters of her own. Adele joined Icheb beside her.
“Is he going to be all right?” Adele asked. Sheila ignored her for a moment and turned to retrieve a hypospray from a nearby medic, which she used to inject John. Only then did she look up from her patient.
“I hope so,” she said. “He stayed aboard the Sol
after everyone else left. We tried to get him to come to the Luna
, but he wouldn’t do it. He just kept saying he couldn’t let the ship be destroyed. Like it wasn’t already.” She shook her head. “He saved so many lives today. I can’t believe he’d just throw away his own.”
Icheb frowned down at his friend and moved to take over for Sheila. “You’re also ill,” he told her. “You require treatment.”
“So treat me,” Sheila replied. “But I’m not done here.” Icheb looked like he might protest, but then turned his tricorder on Sheila instead.
Adele looked around the rest of the crowded sickbay until her eyes fell on Julian. He looked sickened. As she looked at him, he glanced up from his patient and locked eyes with her. She was instantly hit with a feeling of anguish.
She looked down at the patient he was treating. It was Claire Keller. On the biobed beside them, little Bennett Keller was being scanned by Irina Marchenko. Both Claire and Bennett were unconscious.
Beyond them, on yet another biobed, lay an even smaller body covered with a sheet.
Lucy Keller was dead.