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Old August 27 2009, 02:48 AM   #151
PSGarak
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Diogenes wrote: View Post
I have to admit, I come onto here just about every day to see if Kes7 has posted something new... What's the Admiral up to today, I wonder.

As for the schemers, PSGarak, I highly recommend the latest Trek book to hit the shelves, "STAR TREK DEEP SPACE 9: The Never Ending Sacrifice." It's got Cardassians galore (I think that's almost a pun on "Galor," a class of Cardassian warship!), even with a dash of the one, the only, the best spook ever, Elim Garak.

The book made me think of Kes7 the whole time, because I cared about every character.
Ooooh. Thanks bery, bery much much for the recommendation. I will most surely be checking that out.
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Old August 27 2009, 03:29 AM   #152
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

“Ensign Gopal, evasive maneuvers!” The order was technically impossible, given the absence of a sentient enemy to evade, but Ensign Anit Gopal knew exactly what Lieutenant Commander Borux meant. As the USS Tesseract unexpectedly dropped out of slipstream 24,000 light years short of the Delta Quadrant and uncomfortably close to a very large asteroid, Anit’s fingers flew across the helm control console, guiding the massive ship away from the hurtling space rock with only thrusters and residual momentum. The inertial dampers whined with the effort of keeping the crew from becoming mere stains on the bulkheads under the tremendous g forces.

Bridge to engineering, report,” Borux said over the comm.

“I’m not sure what happened, Commander, the drive checks out fine,” came the reply from Lieutenant Loren Daniels, the officer in charge of Beta shift in engineering. Lieutenant T’Pring, standing at the science station, and Ensign Par Renn, standing at ops, exchanged a brief look of wary recognition.

“Bring impulse engines online,” Borux ordered.

“Aye, sir.”

Borux’s communicator chirped, and he heard the captain’s concerned voice. “Status report, Commander?”

“Uncertain, Captain. We dropped out of slipstream, but engineering reports the drive is functioning normally. We’re bringing impulse engines online while we assess the situation.”

“Notify me when you have more information,” Adele replied. “Oyugo out.”

“Commander?” T’Pring spoke up from the back of the bridge. “This is not unlike what happened at Aris 4 prior to launching this mission.” She eyed the console in front of her. “Our sensors are indicating multiple subspace ruptures, however, I am not detecting any ships, debris, or energy signatures.”

“How extensive is the damage to subspace?” asked Borux.

T’Pring tapped at her console a few times. “It will take us three days to get past the area at impulse, sir. We’ll also have to completely shut down the warp core and activate the multiphasic shielding in order to protect it.”

“Understood. I’ll notify the captain and instruct engineering. You have the bridge, Lieutenant.” T’Pring nodded as Borux left to spread the word.

“What do the humans call it? Déjà vu?” Renn whispered to T’Pring nervously, when Borux had gone.

T’Pring replied in her perpetually unaffected tone, “There are some similarities between this occurrence and the situation we encountered at Aris 4. However, there are also many differences, most notably the absence of any discernible debris or energy signatures. I do not believe your anxiety is warranted, Ensign.”

Renn looked unconvinced by the Vulcan’s attempt at reassurance, and eyed the viewscreen as if expecting a Borg transwarp conduit -- or something worse -- to appear there at any moment.

Inside her quarters, Maren was curled up on her small sofa, wrapped in a soft blanket and staring at a PADD. She had just started getting into the novel she had downloaded from the ship’s database when she heard the inertial dampers start to whine, yanking her out of the story. “Computer, display external viewer,” she said aloud, and the small viewscreen on her wall lit up with a field of stars instead of the blue glow she had become so familiar with over the past few days.

Keeping her blanket wrapped tightly around her, she set down the PADD, walked over to her nightstand and grabbed her combadge. “O’Connor to Daniels, what’s going on?” She waited a few moments for a reply. No doubt the bridge had called asking Loren the same thing. After a minute, Loren’s voice came over the comm., “We lost the slipstream, but the drive looks okay. I don’t know what just happened, but I could probably use your help down here if you’re not doing anything else.”

“On my way,” replied Maren, reluctantly draping the blanket over the back of her desk chair and shivering as the cool air touched her bare legs beneath her nightshirt. With practiced speed, she changed into her uniform, neatened her hair and headed out the door.

As she bounded into the corridor, she literally ran into Icheb, nearly crashing to the floor from the impact. He quickly caught her by the arm and steadied her. When she regained her balance, it was a long moment before he let go. “Sorry, Commander,” Maren said, flustered, as she smoothed out her uniform. “I didn’t expect you to be standing there.” She couldn’t resist adding snottily, “Again.”

“I was coming to see you,” Icheb replied. Maren looked at him warily.

“I’m not even going to ask you why you would want to subject yourself to that a second time,” she said coolly.

Before Icheb could answer her, both officers’ combadges chirped simultaneously. Adele’s voice came over the comm., “All senior staff officers, report to the conference room on deck eight.”

Maren sighed and tapped her own combadge. “O’Connor to Daniels, the captain’s calling. You’re on your own for now.”

“Acknowledged,” came the reply from Loren.

Assiduously ignoring Icheb, Maren started walking in the direction of the turbolift. Icheb jogged to catch up. “I’ll walk with you,” he said.

Maren suppressed a sigh. “Obviously, I can’t stop you,” she replied, almost under her breath, without looking at him.

Icheb acted as if he had not heard her, though Maren knew that with his enhanced hearing, he definitely had. “We need to talk,” he said, as they walked toward the turbolift.

Maren turned her head to meet his gaze. “What is it now, sir? Have you come to make another futile attempt at professionalism?” She regretted the words the instant they left her mouth, and wondered if she could bring herself to apologize for them. What is wrong with me? Why is it so hard to just be civil to him? she asked herself, appalled by her own rude behavior.

“Maren, stop it! Listen to me,” Icheb said, seizing her arm and forcing her to face him. Maren stopped in her tracks at the physical contact and the intensity in his voice. She sighed and forced herself to make eye contact.

“I’m sorry, that was out of line,” she said in a carefully level tone. “I’m listening,” she added, “so talk.”

Icheb shook his head. “Not here. First we report to the captain; then we can go somewhere and talk. There are a lot of things we need to discuss, and I’m not going to do it in a public corridor.”

Maren raised her eyebrows, but made no reply. She wasn’t sure she was ready to have a discussion with him without losing control of her emotions like she had during their last encounter in her quarters. She resumed walking toward the turbolift, and he followed, half a step behind. They rode the lift in silence to deck eight. When they emerged moments later in the conference room, the captain displayed no visible reaction to seeing the two enter together. Maren took a seat at the far end of the conference table, while Icheb sat down in the spot Adele had reserved for him next to her and picked up the PADD that was waiting for him. Within minutes, the entire senior staff had assembled, and Adele began the briefing.

“We’ve run into an area of subspace damage similar to what the away team encountered at Aris 4,” Adele began. At the mention of the away mission, Maren glanced at the modified cortical monitor she had seen peeking out of the neckline of Icheb’s uniform. She was comforted to see the device glowing faintly around the edges, indicating it was connected and working. She realized Icheb must have been wondering the same thing she was, because he suddenly reached up and touched the small piece of technology briefly, as if making sure it was still there.

“We’ve picked up no indication of ships or debris in the vicinity, but I’d like you to recalibrate our sensors, T’Pring,” Adele addressed the Vulcan science officer. “Increase the resolution and sensitivity to analyze for smaller particles. Most of the debris particles at Aris 4 were under a meter in size. It’s possible there could still be some sort of clue as to what happened here drifting around out there.” T’Pring nodded, quickly tucked a stray piece of black hair behind a pointed ear, and entered a few notes into her PADD.

“Don’t forget about the Astrometrics lab,” Icheb interjected. “This is exactly the kind of thing its sensors were designed for.” Maren couldn't suppress a small smile at this. That lab was his baby, the fulfillment of almost every wish he’d had as a kid practically living in the Astrometrics lab on Voyager. She was sure he would go down there personally after the briefing and run scans for hours, especially if she succeeded in escaping after the meeting without actually talking to him -- which was exactly what she hoped to do.

Adele glanced at her first officer and nodded in acknowledgment. “Of course, Commander,” she said. “I’ll let you instruct the staff there.” This was the first ship Adele had commanded that actually had a real Astrometrics lab instead of a Stellar Cartography department, and she had to admit it wasn’t yet natural for her to think of utilizing the expanded technology. She had managed fine during her twenty-six years in Starfleet using standard sensor arrays, and hadn’t yet spent much time in the Borg-inspired mess of an interactive star chart on deck three that Commander Icheb had helped design as a fourth-year cadet. To her, it looked like Stellar Cartography with a side helping of Borg nanoprobes, but then again, her own specialties were diplomacy and linguistics. Strangely enough for a starship captain, astrophysics left her cold. She was in this line of work for the people: First contact, new cultures, alien languages. The stars were just the background scenery.

“Captain, is there any sign of a weapons signature?” asked Lieutenant Commander Ryzal, the Saurian chief tactical officer.

“Not that we’ve picked up on sensors,” Adele replied. “So far, the only thing we know with any certainty is that something ripped up subspace in this area. We don't know what it was, and we don't know when it happened.”

“Is there any way to go around the damaged area? I mean really try to avoid it completely?” Maren asked. “I know we have the multiphasic shielding, but I still hate the idea of dragging our warp cores between multiple subspace ruptures for days on end if we can possibly get around it.”

“T’Pring and I looked at that just before you arrived, Lieutenant,” Adele said. “The slipstream dropped us well inside the damaged area. To continue straight across in the direction of the Delta Quadrant is a three day trip, maybe four, allowing for course corrections to avoid the larger tears. To get out of the damaged area in the shortest possible time is a two day journey in the opposite direction. Besides, if at all possible, I’d like to know more about what happened out there. So, although I understand your concern, in this case I’m going to have to say no.”

Maren nodded in understanding. While she was looking in his direction, she stole another quick glance at Icheb, who was alternately squinting at a PADD and glancing up to follow the discussion. It was slightly surreal to see the boy she’d fallen in love with at the Academy seven years ago settling into his role as first officer of their enormous ship, with partial responsibility for well over a thousand lives. She thought of her own weighty responsibilities to the crew of the Tesseract, and wondered at what point during the last seven years the two of them had become adults ... and why it seemed so impossible for her to act like one in his presence.

T’Pring, who had been analyzing the data she’d brought with her from the science console, spoke up. “Captain, we are on the outer edge of a large star system. There is an M-class planet further into the system, not far beyond the area of subspace damage. If it is inhabited, perhaps those people can explain what happened here.”

“It’s certainly worth a visit,” said Adele. “Have Ensign Gopal plot our course accordingly, Commander Borux,” she said to the Denobulan officer who would resume command of the bridge at the end of the briefing. He nodded.

As the senior staff accepted the prospect of being stuck at impulse for a few days, they tossed around a few ideas for training exercises to help pass the time and rearranged the holodeck schedule to accommodate a few simulations. As soon as the briefing adjourned, Maren grabbed her PADD and hurriedly exited the conference room. Icheb moved swiftly to catch up, intercepting her just outside the door.

“We need to talk,” he reminded her as he caught her arm and held it, impeding her transit toward the turbolift. Maren sighed and turned around to face him. Her cowardly last-ditch attempt to avoid another confrontation had failed.

“What do you want from me, Icheb?” she asked quietly.

“I just want to talk to you, alone,” he answered. “Please just come to my quarters with me,” he pleaded, exasperated by her refusal to communicate.

Maren couldn’t express with a mere roll of the eyes how terrible an idea she thought that was, but she attempted it nonetheless. “Absolutely not,” she replied, adding in a tone much more spiteful than she had actually intended, “that would hardly be professional, now, would it?” She flushed with embarrassment at her failure to control her turbulent emotions, but she couldn’t bring herself to apologize.

“Where do you propose we have a private conversation, then?” Icheb asked, irritated by her obnoxious tone and feeling far less optimistic than he had after his dinner conversation with the captain.

“I’m not the one who wants a private conversation. Whatever you have to say, I suggest you say it to me here.”

“Maren, you’re being ridiculous. I am not having a conversation about the last two years in the middle of a public corridor.”

“What makes you think I want to have a conversation about the last two years?” Maren hissed quietly through clenched teeth, trying to wrench her arm out of his persistent grasp and hoping the few people scattered throughout the corridor couldn’t hear her. “You may be my commanding officer, but you can’t order me to talk to you about this. I’m not going to your quarters, so, with your permission, I’d like to get down to engineering and check on things, sir.”

“Fine,” said Icheb, releasing her arm and backing off. Maren glared at him and stalked off down the hallway toward the turbolift. That went well, Icheb thought sarcastically. Frustrated, he headed for Astrometrics, in hopes that a thorough analysis of surrounding space would help him order his thoughts.

The state-of-the-art Astrometrics lab was beyond anything he had ever dreamed of on Voyager. In contrast to the fairly restricted resources Voyager had been able to devote to their small lab, no expense had been spared in the design and implementation of the Tesseract’s. He actually thought it was better than anything the Borg used. Both he and Seven had contributed to the design process, she as an official advisor, and he as one of his two senior projects (one for each major).

In Icheb's estimation, the interface they had developed was a thing of beauty. The spherical chamber gave the effect of standing in space, with a holographic display that was fully interactive. In a sense, you could literally reach out and touch the stars. If you wanted a closer look at something, rather than tapping on a console and zooming in on it while standing a few meters away, you could walk over to it, pick it up, increase its size, spin it around, and really examine it. Whatever couldn’t be controlled by interactive touch could be controlled by voice. If you held a planet in your hands and wanted to look at the seismic faults, you said so. If you were within close enough sensor range of the planet, you could even display the current atmospheric conditions.

Of course, there were still a few standard consoles for running large-scale scans and communicating with other parts of the ship, and this was where Icheb was headed at the moment. As he settled in behind an empty console, he greeted the two sensor analysts already working in the lab and explained what he was looking for. As they started scanning for small debris particles, he tried not to think about his disastrous interaction with Maren. Her capacity for passion and strong feeling was one of the things that had attracted him to her in the first place, but she was much more emotional right now than he knew how to deal with. He wondered for a moment if John would be able to give him advice, despite the fact that he usually wanted their occasionally meddlesome friend to stay out of their relationship. He finally decided he would attempt to contact him when he was done with the scan, if nothing of interest turned up.

That plan was quickly abandoned when nine minutes and thirty two seconds into the scan, Icheb found the first small fragment of a Borg hull drifting 170,000 kilometers from their position. By the time their scan of the sector was finished two hours later, the three analysts in the Astrometrics lab believed they had found the widely scattered remains of a Borg tactical cube, reduced to not much more than space dust.

Last edited by kes7; August 27 2009 at 06:11 AM.
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Old August 27 2009, 07:11 AM   #153
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Icheb and Maren are two senior officers aboard the most advanced starship the Federation Starfleet has ever fielded, and both are acting like 17-year olds in regards to their personal situation.

I do, however, understand Maren’s hesitancy. Which Icheb wants to talk with her? Her ex-boyfriend, or her superior officer? Granted, though he wants to discuss their former relationship, the fact that he’s of higher rank adds a compulsory undertone to any request for conversation with her. And Icheb could have handled his ‘request’ much better, rather than resorting to an angrily-hissed exchange in a corridor.

Ultimately, these are both proud, headstrong young people who have spent so much of their lives in school and focused on their respective careers that they seem to be lacking the emotional maturity they should have accrued by this age.

As for the region of subspace disruptions… oops. Borg again.

This. Can. Not. Be. Good.
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Old August 27 2009, 07:19 AM   #154
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Adele should sit them both down with the counsellor and maybe John, and talk things out otherwise... hey wait a sec, bring them to that training room for some... "sparring" That should help them work things out.


Or maybe some pong, yes a game of pong with Q as ref should suffice in settling their relationship. Sadly, I could see Q doing that to them. The Delancie(sp?) Q, not Icheb's Q friend. XD


The borg... I think the Borg have a part to play... wonder why that is?

Keep it coming kes!
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Old August 27 2009, 08:24 AM   #155
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Pong. Now there's a plan. It might even work! Though somehow a video game sounds more like a Q Junior thing to me than an original Q thing. (They're both technically DeLancie Q -- John's son Keegan played the teenaged Q on VOY.)

Seriously, as Gibraltar noted, both Icheb and Maren are tragic victims of the "geniuses sometimes lack emotional intelligence" phenomenon. Of course, there's a whole other layer to their separation that explains some of why they're so angsty, but it hasn't been explored too much yet.

The question of why there are little bits of Borg floating all over the far side of the AQ is going to be answered at some point, I promise.

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Old August 27 2009, 08:30 AM   #156
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Or have both Q's appear cause Q has to watch over... Q... XD

Can't wait for Chapter 19, kes.
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Old August 27 2009, 10:37 AM   #157
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Oh an intriguing find at the end ... we were expecting more troubling signs of whatever is going on and with more subspace ruptures and Borg fragments we've got them.

Yeah the Icheb / Maren relationship is a landmine of trouble for command situations. Both are exceedingly dim of heart it appears. But hey the fun will be seeing where this will go between the two of them.

The astrometics lab sounds fantastic - I'd love to see onscreeen. Very good and makes sense that Icheb and Seven would have a hand to play in its development.

I also loved the description Adele gave about herself - that she was about the people and the stars merely the background - it is refreshing and different. Nicely done.
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Old August 27 2009, 02:19 PM   #158
tenmei
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Keep up the good work, Kes! Nice to see the mystery beginning to deepen some more. Can't wait to see where this is going.
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Old August 27 2009, 03:55 PM   #159
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hi Kes,

I have just signed on to the forum today, but have been reading Tesseract for the past few days and just have to say, I am in awe of your skills!! This is fantastic, I can't wait for the rest. I'm working on my own fanfic at the moment, and am just in total respect of what you have done here.

Great characters, interesting ship, intriguing plot... So impressed.

Can't wait for more.

Joel
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Old August 27 2009, 04:45 PM   #160
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Joel/Capt. Sarine -- Wow, thank you so much for the very high praise! Oh, and welcome to the forum. I'm so glad you're enjoying the story, and I hope to see some of your work posted soon!

Miranda Fave -- As cool as it would be to see the lab on screen, I'd rather play with it for real. Thanks for the review here and at Ad Astra.


TenMei -- Thanks for the comment! I'm liking your story, too!
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Old August 28 2009, 09:08 AM   #161
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

kes7 wrote: View Post
Joel/Capt. Sarine -- Wow, thank you so much for the very high praise! Oh, and welcome to the forum. I'm so glad you're enjoying the story, and I hope to see some of your work posted soon!
Hi Kes! Well, its praise well deserved so no thanks required!

Thanks for the welcome.

I'm hoping to have some of Star Trek : Restoration posted this weekend or early next week. I'll let you know.

Joel
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Old August 28 2009, 07:04 PM   #162
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Just been catching up on this great story. Mostly this is thanks to the terrific characters you've created. The Icheb/O'Conner relationship is the most prominent parring here at the moment and you've done a great job of developing this conflict between two of the most important and prominent people on this ship. It's making this story an unmissable space opera you just can't stop reading because you gotta find out what happens next.

The damaged subspace and the Borg involvement make for a fascinating mystery which is bound to cause problems for this crew and for Icheb in particular. Like the poor guy needs more trouble at the moment.

Riveting.
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Old August 29 2009, 03:17 PM   #163
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Thank you very much, CeJay! I'm glad you found the time to catch up.

Working on the next installment ... should be up sometime over the weekend. Maybe even two chapters since it's a long weekend.

Thanks everyone, for reading and commenting!
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Old August 29 2009, 09:51 PM   #164
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

kes7 wrote: View Post
Thank you very much, CeJay! I'm glad you found the time to catch up.

Working on the next installment ... should be up sometime over the weekend. Maybe even two chapters since it's a long weekend.

Thanks everyone, for reading and commenting!
Hello there Kes7. I meant to say something after your last chapter. As always, great stuff. Thanks for doing what amounts to work over this weekend so that we can be entertained! You KNOW I'm looking forward to the next chapter.

By the way, does the Tesseract have a motto? You know, for the dedication plaque.

Have a great weekend!
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Old August 31 2009, 01:52 AM   #165
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Adele stood quietly beside Icheb in the middle of the Astrometrics lab, observing as the ex-drone used the holographic imaging system to render a complicated jigsaw puzzle of damaged Borg hull fragments into something resembling a cohesive whole. By the time the computer completed the reconstruction, there was no mistaking the finished product as anything other than an armored Borg tactical cube. Icheb reached out and pushed a corner of the hologram, causing it to spin slowly in the center of the imaging chamber. Adele could see that many parts were missing, apparently having drifted beyond the range of their sensors, and the bits they had been able to find and display appeared badly mangled.

“What happened to it?” Adele breathed in bewilderment, almost to herself. She remembered the destruction a lesser cube than this one had wrought at Wolf 359, and shuddered at the thought of a weapon powerful enough to utterly decimate such a seemingly unstoppable enemy. If only we’d had access to whatever did this ... she quickly pushed the dark thought aside.

Icheb, tired and distracted, didn’t notice the question she had whispered was largely rhetorical. When Adele had come in, he had relieved the two sensor analysts so he could discuss his thoughts privately with the captain. “Computer,” he said, “lock doors and deactivate all internal sensors within this chamber. Authorization Icheb Alpha one.”

“Voiceprint confirmed. Room is sealed. Internal sensors are deactivated,” the computer responded. Adele looked at him in surprise.

“Okay, you’ve got my attention,” she said, “what is this about?”

“I’m trying to follow protocol,” Icheb explained. “I don’t know what happened to this cube, but I can think of only two strong possibilities, and one of them is that the Borg have been experimenting further with Particle 010.” Icheb said. Adele looked at her first officer sharply.

“Particle 010 ... are you referring to Omega?” she asked. Icheb nodded in the affirmative, and Adele couldn’t hide her surprise. That certainly explained why he had locked them in and shut down the sensors. The dangerous particle’s very existence was highly classified, certainly higher than Icheb’s security clearance as executive officer could possibly allow for. Suddenly, it dawned on her. Of course, she thought, the Collective.

“The Borg assimilated Starfleet captains. I know some of what they knew,” he explained, confirming her suspicion. “Since I was never fully assimilated, my knowledge is incomplete,” he added quickly, almost as if apologizing.

Adele wondered what else Icheb knew that he probably shouldn’t. She shook her head dismissively. “If it was Omega, sensors would have detected it,” she said.

“Not if it was completely destroyed before we arrived here,” Icheb pointed out.

“But why would the Borg be experimenting with it in the Alpha Quadrant?” she asked. “And even if it’s too late for our sensors to pick it up here, surely we would have found some evidence at Aris 4?”

Icheb narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at the image of the obliterated cube. “I think it’s unlikely that any of this was caused by Omega,” he admitted, “but I had to at least raise the possibility. The Borg wouldn’t normally be experimenting with the particle on a tactical cube, so it’s much more likely that the cube was destroyed by other means. But it’s difficult to imagine anything else that could cause this level of damage to an armored Borg tactical vessel, unless it was a self-destruct order, and a self-destructing cube wouldn’t damage subspace."

“So, what’s your best guess, Commander?” Adele asked, fairly certain she knew what he was going to say.

“The subspace ruptures, plus the energy signature we found at Aris 4, lead me to believe the damage was caused by a weapon not previously encountered by the Federation or the Borg. However, I’m not aware of any known species in the Alpha Quadrant possessing destructive capabilities on this level.”

That was what Adele had thought he was going to say, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear it. She looked at the image of what was left of the cube and sighed. “Whatever happened here, we’d best be extra careful that we don’t let it happen to us. Have engineering alter our energy signatures by any means possible to make it quite clear that we aren’t the Borg. I have to say that this is one instance in which flying around in a reverse-engineered cube is not doing us any favors.”

Icheb nodded. “Yes, Captain.”

“Also, Icheb?” Adele looked critically at her first officer, who looked paler than he had at dinner, and very tired. “Get some rest tonight. That’s an order. Do you ever stop working when you’re off duty? Even at dinner you were reviewing department reports. You worked Alpha shift, you worked through dinner, and here you are at 2230 hours, still working with no end in sight.”

“I enjoy my work, and strive to be efficient,” Icheb explained, a little defensively.

“We all enjoy our work, or we wouldn’t be here,” Adele countered, “and your efficiency is not in question. But you can’t work eighteen hour days all the time. As soon as you’ve notified engineering of their orders, I want you to quit for the day. Not another second behind a console, in a lab, talking about work or thinking about work. Tired officers make mistakes. Let Gamma shift handle any further analysis of this data. Understood?”

Icheb nodded. “Yes, Captain.”

Adele addressed the computer. “Computer, unlock doors and reactivate internal sensors, authorization Oyugo Alpha two.”

“Voiceprint confirmed ...” Adele walked out of Astrometrics before the computer finished its automatic response, finding herself haunted by the image of the shattered Borg cube, and along with it, the eighteen-year-old memory of her Imzadi, bloodied and broken, so suddenly void of life or emotion.

Icheb notified the sensor analysts that they could resume their shift, and asked them to begin comparing all the data they had collected during their scan with the data they had found at Aris 4. He really wanted to stay and supervise, but he knew Adele was right -- tired officers make mistakes. For Icheb, it was even truer -- he felt worse with every passing minute as he got further away from his last regeneration cycle. As soon as he notified engineering of their duties, he promised himself, he would go straight to his alcove.

He tapped his combadge. “Icheb to engineering.”

Maren’s voice came over the comm. “O’Connor here.”

He wasn’t surprised to hear her voice. She could be almost as bad as he was when it came to working while off-duty. He replied, “I need you to alter our energy signature to make it really obvious that we aren’t the Borg.”

“Excuse me?” she replied, sounding confused.

Icheb sighed. “It’s a long story. I’ll come down there and assist you. I’m on my way.” Regeneration would have to wait just a little while longer.

“Acknowledged,” replied Maren, sounding a more than a little bit wary, but nothing like she had earlier. At least she was willing to work with him, Icheb thought.

When he entered engineering several minutes later, Maren was already bouncing from console to console making adjustments while Loren Daniels directed the rest of the staff. It took her a moment to notice that he had walked in.

When she finally saw him, she gave him a slightly alarmed look. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Did you find something on sensors?”

“A tactical cube,” Icheb replied. Maren’s eyes grew wide, and he quickly added, “Destroyed, obviously some time ago.” Maren exhaled sharply in relief and gave him an annoyed look.

“Don’t do that to me!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry,” he replied apologetically. “But you should have known better than to be frightened. If there was an active tactical cube anywhere near our position, we’d be at red alert, you know that.”

Maren nodded, embarrassed. “I know. I’ve just been on edge ever since I heard what happened to you on the away mission.”

Icheb glanced at her, surprised by the admission. It was a sudden small crack in her icy façade, but there was no time to follow up. He pressed on, all business. “We need to ensure that if someone has the motive and capability to destroy the Borg, that they don’t read our technology as being similar.”

“It is similar,” replied Maren. “Half this ship is reverse engineered from Borg technology. That was part of the plan, right? Not only does their stuff work, it looks intimidating on long-range sensors. Bad guy deterrent.”

Icheb nodded and pinched his nose ridge, feeling another headache coming on. “Yes, but I’m not sure anyone was expecting to run into someone who isn’t afraid of the Borg.”

Maren noticed his pained expression before she processed his words. “Are you okay?” she asked with palpable concern. “You don’t look so good.”

Icheb sighed and gave her a significant look. “Like I said before, we need to talk. It will have to wait, though. We need to get this done and I need to regenerate.” Maren looked at him with concern, but didn’t press the issue.

“What happened to the cube?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Icheb said truthfully. “But we need to take every precaution to make sure it doesn’t happen to us. If someone has developed a subspace weapon capable of decimating a Borg tactical cube, then such a weapon could easily destroy our ship, as well.”

Maren nodded as she took this information in. “Okay,” she agreed. “You take that console, I’ll take this one. Let’s figure out a way to make ourselves less scary.”

Icheb smiled. It felt like a small victory, their working together like this. It wasn’t anything like old times, but it was a start. For the moment, he almost forgot about his need to regenerate, as he turned his attention to the console Maren had directed him toward. As the duo concentrated on their respective efforts, they were interrupted by the activation of the yellow alert klaxon.

---------------------

On the bridge of the Tesseract, the three alien starships on the main viewscreen arranged themselves in a tactical formation as they approached the leading edge of the cube-shaped Federation ship.

“Their weapons are charged, Commander,” said Ensign Marcus Lindley from behind the tactical console. “Shall I charge the phaser banks?”

“Negative. Hail them, Lieutenant Nix,” Borux instructed the Bolian communications officer. She touched her console a few times.

“They’re responding,” she replied.

“On screen.”

”Identify yourselves,” demanded the violet-skinned alien who suddenly appeared on the main viewscreen. His nostrils, two slits in the center of his face, flared and the vaguely W-shaped arrangement of ridges on his bald head pulsed with tension as he stared down the Beta shift bridge crew of the Tesseract with something resembling fear evident in his pale blue eyes.

Borux answered him as he had been trained to do. “I am Lieutenant Commander Borux of the Federation starship Tesseract. We are on a mission of peace and exploration -- ”

He was cut off by the sharp, scornful voice of the alien. “In that vessel? You look about as peaceful as the Borg.”

“Scan us, if you’re able,” replied Borux levelly. “You’ll see nearly half the ship is a docking bay for smaller craft, and most of the rest is engineering, science labs and crew quarters. As for our armaments, we’re very far from home and heading further away into unknown territory. It’s necessary to be well prepared. I assure you, we mean you no harm.”

The alien, obviously the leader among the pilots of the ships now floating in a defensive formation, apparently lacked the scanning capability to confirm the story. He looked at Borux as if trying to decide whether to believe him.

“Are you the captain of this vessel?” he finally asked.

“No,” Adele spoke up as she walked quickly through the bridge doors, coming to a stop in front of the viewscreen. She had headed for the bridge as soon as the yellow alert had been activated. “I am. My name is Adele Oyugo, Captain of the Federation starship Tesseract. Please identify yourself.”

“I am Ordi’te of Tyndora, the fifth planet in this star system,” the alien answered. His opalescent inner eyelid blinked occasionally, and he intermittently licked his lips with his dark blue tongue, giving him an overall nervous appearance.

“May I ask you some questions about what happened to this region of space?” Adele asked cautiously.

“You may ask, but I’m not sure I can provide the answers,” replied Ordi’te. “Our protocol also dictates that all discussions with alien cultures take place planet side, with our ruling government. Your officer indicated you have smaller ships aboard that large one. Will you agree to send a small delegation? I doubt my government would approve a ship as large as yours coming into orbit.”

Adele smiled warmly and tried her best to project a feeling of calm and trust, though her skills were as weak as her Betazoid genetics in this area. “Certainly. I’ll gather a group at once. And if you’d like, we can bring you or another of your officers aboard the Tesseract to show you up close that we are a peaceful people.”

“Perhaps another time, Captain,” Ordi’te replied tersely. “For now, we prefer to stay aboard our own ships.”

“Understood,” replied Adele. “I’ll let you know when we’re ready to depart.”

Ordi’te nodded, and Iden deactivated the comm. link.

Adele activated the internal comm. system. “Oyugo to Icheb, report to the bridge immediately.”

Last edited by kes7; August 31 2009 at 02:30 AM.
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