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Old October 7 2010, 07:11 PM   #106
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

"It is cruel to put children in danger by bringing them aboard a starship in the first place." DaiMon Lurin in "Rascals" (TNG)

So much for getting the civilians out of harm's way. That was kind of my rub with having families aboard the Enterprise-D even if they did separate the saucer section every time they went into battle. But I guess separating crew from their families would also be cruel seeing as they'll be spending the next seven years in the Delta Quadrant. And sometimes it can't be helped, which Benjamin Sisko has to tell himself in the latest chapter of my story being reminded of all the times Jake was in serious danger.
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Old October 8 2010, 02:03 AM   #107
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Mini or no - a great entry!

Such difficult choices he has to make and these won't always pay off. But even the one little boy is one more person that JQ had at the start of the chapter! It's hard not to feel justified when following your heart seems to be the right choice - but JQ has to be careful to keep in mind the goal is WHAT is right - not WHO is right. He's not quite like everyman like us - average people who might find themselves thrown into unexpected circumstances - he is highly trained Starfleet personnel after all. But he does seem accessible because he is so human. Highly enjoyable *Kes7* - thank you!
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Old October 9 2010, 08:34 PM   #108
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Thanks so much for reviewing this little snippet, everyone. I promise more is coming soon; in fact I *think* I may have just finished this chapter. So hopefully the rest will be up and posted by the end of the weekend.

CaptainSarine and "Deadstredshrtevr" -- Yeah, JQ cares. Maybe too much. I know 24th century humans are supposed to be "evolved" past all that damaging overemotionalism (browser claims that's not a word, but I'm declaring it one as of now!), but I don't buy it. Because to me, a less caring humanity (the kind that would let the prime directive interfere with saving an innocent planet, for example) is not as worth fighting for as the kind that would tell a Vulcan superior officer to "F-off because there are still three people left in that section and we're going to at least try get them out if it's literally the last thing we do."

MirandaFave and E1981 -- I know, the kids, right? It breaks the heart. But sometimes it can't be helped. Remember, heading into this mission, there had been no word from the Borg in eight years. The temptation was to think they would be exploring the DQ ... not fighting a war. And seven years is an awfully long time to leave your family. The debate over families on starships is a tough one, to be sure. But in an interstellar culture with many species -- some of whom are hostile -- living almost anywhere carries a risk. Earth may be well-defended, but it's also a prime target. Vulcan learned that lesson the hard way in the alternate timeline. So while starships are dangerous, so can be planets. Now, I'm not trying to personally apologize for or rationalize the inclusion of kids in the mission, or defend it. I'm just explaining Command's thinking and WHY it is like this in the story. Basically, it's a tough universe out there and families just want to be together ... so as long as they're willing to sign off on the liability waivers, they're permitted to do so. (And frankly, on a seven year mission, given the lack of an anti-fraternization policy, it's likely there would eventually be some new little additions to the crew anyway.)

Anyway, thanks to all of you for reading and reviewing this scene, and stay tuned for the rest of the chapter.
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Old October 11 2010, 01:07 AM   #109
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

(Chapter Seven, continued)

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

Resistance Vessel 1473 – Control Chamber


Lieutenant Commander Ryzal had faced many unpleasant situations in twenty years as a Starfleet officer. This, the Saurian security chief thought, was among the worst. He had absolutely no idea what the first officer, chief engineer, and the drone had been talking about during the last several minutes. Clearly there was something huge at stake, but he had never heard of an Omega Molecule or particle 010 before. For that reason alone, he had hesitated before developing a plan, but then Lieutenant O’Connor had pulled out her phaser and taken the XO hostage. That had been an unexpected development.

She had refused to lower her weapon when ordered to do so. Ryzal wondered if she was insane, or just bluffing. When it comes to Omega, the rules are suspended. That was what she had said. He was aware of no such regulation, but she seemed deadly serious and Commander Icheb, the only other officer who seemed to know exactly what she was talking about, hadn’t questioned the statement at all. Then again, he had her phaser pointed at his head.

Ryzal could see that the chief engineer was visibly shaking and looked seconds from losing consciousness, but he simultaneously realized she had given him exactly the distraction he needed. The two resistance Borg were currently focusing all of their attention on her. He would have to act quickly to carry out his plan before she passed out, or worse, fired her weapon.

Thankful he had taken a position behind a console before the force fields had been activated, he used the cover it provided to carefully and silently draw his tricorder from his pocket. He flicked his eyes briefly back to the center of the room to see if he had been noticed. Both Malik and Jeytl were still staring at Maren, who was still holding Icheb at the point of her phaser and threatening deadly action if the Borg did not comply with her demands.

Ryzal wasn’t about to wait to find out if the engineer’s questionable ploy would work. He simply used the massive distraction she was providing to the fullest, scanning the containment fields and finding the exact frequency he needed. With that accomplished, he slowly, surreptitiously drew his phaser and reprogrammed it, once again using the cover the console provided to hide his actions. His reptilian nerves allowed him to stay stone-still while manipulating the tiny interfaces. He cast a quick glance over at his team, and saw that the two nearest him had been looking to him for instruction and were now following his lead. Admirable, but unacceptable in this case, he thought to himself. He caught the nearest officer’s eye and shook his head ‘no,’ almost imperceptibly. The officer looked perplexed, but didn’t dare question the silent order, and subtly communicated it to the next man.

Ryzal regretted that he had to do this alone, but the fact was, he was the only one who had a chance. His tougher Saurian physiology – particularly his protectively scaled skin – would be the only thing that made the action he was about to take possible. Any of the more thin-skinned, fragile officers with whom he served would be too badly injured in the attempt, likely becoming more of a liability than an asset – or even becoming casualties. He couldn’t let them take that risk. He would have to find a way to free his team after he freed himself.

He steeled himself for the coming pain as he remembered the last and only time he had successfully used a similar tactic, some twelve years before. Some said the Dominion’s force fields were always lethal – he had proved them wrong. He had spent the better part of a Standard week in sickbay recovering from the burns and neural trauma afterward, but he had gotten himself through that force field and released his captured team – just as he hoped he was about to do now. As he finished modifying the settings on his hand phaser, he eyed the resistance drone, Malik, along with his companion, Jeytl. He knew the odds of disabling them both were not good.

The situation in the center of the chamber remained essentially unchanged, but Malik looked like he was out of patience and Ryzal could tell from the look on Commander Icheb’s face that Maren O’Connor’s condition was deteriorating rapidly. There was no time for further delay. So he brought up his weapon and fired a continuous beam at the force field, while simultaneously throwing himself at it with everything he had.

The pain was intense. The energy field, while significantly weakened by his modified phaser blast, still packed a heavy neural punch, and Ryzal’s nerves screamed at him as he forced his way through it. He could feel his skin burning beneath his scales, but he knew this was his only chance to get through – no doubt the Borg would adjust the frequency in seconds when they saw what he was doing. He fought to keep his focus on the mission at hand and not the pain he was experiencing.

After an excruciating moment that felt like an eternity, he made it through. Despite his relief at being through the worst of it, his body still screamed at him to stop moving. He ignored it. With two practiced flicks of his clawed thumb, he reset the phaser to its default setting and increased the intensity as high as he could get away with in an enclosed chamber like this one. It was a level lethal to most humanoid life, but he had a feeling it would only slow these Borg down – maybe knock them out if he was very fortunate. Without hesitation, he raised the weapon and fired at Malik.

*****

Icheb’s attention was evenly divided between the situation unfolding in front of him and the frightened woman pressing the phaser to his temple. He could feel Maren’s hand shaking behind the weapon, and his superior visual acuity allowed him to see things that others would miss – like the subtle changes in her physiology indicating increased intracranial pressure that stood a good chance of causing either a seizure or a brain hemorrhage if allowed it to continue. In a fraction of a second, he considered whether he might be able to solve two problems at once with a Vulcan nerve pinch – rendering Maren unconscious might both stabilize her physical condition and free him up to take some sort of action.

She saved him the trouble of deciding. As Ryzal fired his weapon and Malik crashed to the floor, Maren pulled her hand away from Icheb’s head so fast it was as if she had been burned. Still badly shaking, she quickly shoved the phaser at him and pulled out her tricorder, her trembling hands seeming to fight her the entire time.

“I’m so sorry,” she murmured, red-faced, without looking up from the tricorder’s display. “Are you okay?”

“No, not really,” he replied truthfully. He looked at her pointedly. “Are you?”

“Not even a little bit,” she whispered, still fumbling with the controls on the tricorder. “We’ve got to adjust your neural transceiver.”

“Agreed,” he whispered back. She didn’t need to explain why. They both knew exactly what they needed to do. If they could find the frequency of the force field and adjust his implants to compensate, he should be able to pass through it without resistance and assist Ryzal. He stepped closer to Maren to allow her access, keeping an eye on Ryzal and Malik as he did.

Malik had gone down after the first shot, but he wasn’t entirely disabled, and Ryzal had pounced on him immediately, his Saurian ferocity on full display as he slashed at the Borg with his claws and bared his frighteningly sharp teeth. Ryzal was obviously injured, though, and Malik was putting up a good fight. Jeytl had started to move from his position on the other side of the chamber. Icheb knew they had to hurry.

Unfortunately, Maren’s physical condition was making that impossible. She blinked hard for the second time and seemed to wobble before catching herself. Icheb quickly slipped an arm around her for support. “If you don’t calm down you’re going to damage yourself further,” he warned her.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized, clearly frustrated with herself. “I know I’m a liability right now. I’m so sorry.”

“I hate that you’re here at all,” Icheb admitted. Maren looked up at him, surprised at the sentiment for an instant, then seemed to realize what he meant by it. Icheb briefly tightened his grip around her.

Three-point-eight seconds later, Maren found the correct frequency for the containment field and reached into the engineering bag Icheb was still carrying to find the tool she needed to adjust his transceiver. That was when Icheb suddenly realized Jeytl wasn’t moving to assist Malik … he was heading directly for them.

It was too late. They had been too slow. As Jeytl reached their position, Icheb instinctively let go of Maren and moved to put himself in front of her. Maren looked up in surprise, noticing for the first time that they had been found out.

An instant later, the force field came down and Jeytl stepped forward. Icheb searched for a means to overpower or escape him, but he could find none. Resistance is futile, he realized, with a growing sense of dread. If he hadn’t thought their lives were in danger, he might have smiled at the irony.

*****

USS Sol


The little girl wasn’t moving. Her eyes were closed, dark lashes fanned out against round but dangerously pale cheeks. There was an awful lot of blood.

“I was trying to get the kids to the cargo bay when the ceiling went,” a badly injured Claire Keller was explaining weakly. “Lucy was so frightened, she wouldn’t move. Bennett was already at the door, but then everything collapsed – I told him to run and scream for help.” She looked up pleadingly at John. “Please tell me he’s all right.”

John barely registered her request. He answered it on autopilot. “He’s going to be fine, ma’am.” He didn’t have any idea if that was true or not, but right now, he was much more worried about how he was going to get Claire and Lucy out of there.

He tapped his combadge. “Quigley to Par.”

The Bajoran ops officer’s voice came back sounding weary. “Par here, sir.”

“Cut artificial gravity to deck two.”

“Sir?”

“Just do it, Renn. I’ve got two civilians trapped under a ton of debris, but they’re alive. It’ll be easier to dig them out without gravity fighting us.”

“Understood, sir.”

John waited as Renn manipulated the ship’s failing systems. His stomach did a flip as his feet left the ground less than a minute later. He quickly activated the magnets in his boots, and his team did the same. They all hit the deck again with a heavy thump. He motioned everyone into position, and they began to disassemble the tangled prison holding Claire and Lucy Keller as quickly and carefully as they could.

When the debris had been tossed aside, John hit his combadge again as the remaining medic knelt down to assess their injuries. “Quigley to Par. Give us gravity and send someone down here with two antigrav stretchers,” he said.

“Already done, sir. They’re holding position behind the bulkhead you blew out. Standby for re-initialization of gravity plating. In three … two … one.”

John’s stomach did another flip as gravity took hold, and he had to stagger slightly to keep his balance as his brain adjusted to the situation, an action made more difficult by the fact that his magnetic boots were still trying to hold him to the floor. The debris they had tossed to the other side of the room came crashing down loudly, and John flinched slightly. Moments later, two crewmen entered through the doorway pushing the antigrav stretchers. John quickly deactivated the magnets in his boots and tapped his combadge. “Thanks, Renn,” he said.

He looked down at the medic, who was scanning Claire and Lucy with a tricorder that protested with all sorts of flashing lights and beeps that John was sure couldn’t be good omens.

“Meke, report,” he said to the burly Orion holding the device. The medic looked up at him with a wearied expression.

“They both have massive internal injuries. I could list them all, but we’d be wasting time. They both need surgery, now.”

John nodded tersely. “Let’s go.” He leaned forward and picked Lucy up, gingerly cradling the small child against him, taking care to support her neck and spine. She couldn’t have weighed more than fifteen kilos. His chest tightened as he carried her over and laid her down on the antigrav stretcher. Who the hell attacked us and what did they want? he wondered. Unbidden, Maren O’Connor entered his mind again. He involuntarily pictured her in Claire’s place, under a ton of debris, bleeding internally and barely clinging to consciousness. It made him nauseous. He couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be for Adrian Keller when he found out what had happened to his family.

With the last two people accounted for, suddenly the reality of the entire situation was beginning to set in. Just because everyone had been found didn’t mean they were going to survive this. The ship seemed beyond repair, people needed medical treatment they didn’t have the ability to give, and there was no way to contact the Tesseract to let them know what was going on.

I will get us out of this,
he vowed silently as he turned back to supervise the transport of Claire Keller from floor to stretcher. Somehow, we’re going to survive this. He frowned as his mind started to work on a million problems at once. His hand went up involuntarily to tousle his hair, as was his habit when stressed or thinking hard, only to meet the hard, unyielding curve of his EV suit helmet. He sighed and let his hand drop to his side. I just wish I had the first clue how.
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Old October 11 2010, 08:14 PM   #110
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

So, Maren didn't not shoot Icheb in the head. Funny, earlier in this story I could have sworn that was exactly what was going to happen eventually. Story ain't over yet, I suppose.

Lucky for the away team to have the one guy with them who can walk through force fields. Well, he's a Saurian so I can believe that. But how come nobody noticed that he started firing his phaser at the force field and trying to push himself threw it? Wouldn't that be kinda noisy?

Turning off the gravity to free somebody trapped underneath debris now strikes me as so obvious, I can't believe I've never seen anyone else do that. My only suggestion for turning it back on: Do it gradually.

Great chapter with plenty of questions still remaining.
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Old October 11 2010, 08:45 PM   #111
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CeJay -- You're right, the story ain't over. She could still do it at some point! (You sound almost as if you're rooting for that outcome! ) As for Ryzal -- it might have been noisy, but it was also quick. I think that section suffered from my unfortunate tendency to describe everything in slower-than-real-time. Once he started firing, he was through almost instantly -- it just felt longer to him because it hurt so bad. I'm going to take a look at that section though, and see if there's anything I could have done to make that more clear. (If nothing else, I can always fix it on Ad Astra since that's where this story is "archived.") As always, thanks so much for reading, and for the great feedback.
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Old October 11 2010, 10:50 PM   #112
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Despite the hiccups all along the way so very early on for the crew of the Tesseract, it seems quite a few of them display the skills and qualities that marked them out as the best for the seven year job. Both Ryzal and JQ so far showing the security department in a good light for good thinking and using skills beyond their security brief to best the different situations they are in.

The anti-grav thing is so obvious is seems stupid that it hasn't been used before. But it shows the young JQ is a real thinker and problem solver. He is quickly garnering real command presence and strength, from effing off his superior officer in the previous segment to now using his brains to shift the heavy wreckage. He is also wise enough to know that he is far from out of the woods and that he still has to figure out a way of bringing this whole disaster to an end and the people to safety.

Likewise, Ryzal demonstrates some mad bravery - which he has displayed before. Go the Dominion War hero. I love the usage of his Saurian background to pull his stunt off as well as tying it into personal experience of his from the war. That is really impressive. Even the long description of his arduous task of trying to push through the field with the details about his skin under his scales, etc.

Then we come to Icheb and Maren. Man oh man. That seems like a moment of truth or a great big deal the way Icheb tells Maren that he wishes she wasn't there. He is speaking of so much more. He is hinting at things in the future. He shows he wants to protect her. he shows that he cares for her. What it means for after this - if they get out of it - is still undecided. But I like the potential set up for so much after this. Great stuff.
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Old October 12 2010, 05:59 PM   #113
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Thanks for the awesome review, mirandafave. Glad you approve of JQ and Ryzal's actions so far. As for the anti-grav thing ... well, the gravity is artificial. It stands to reason that if it can be "lost," then it can also be manipulated or turned off, right (like they did for Mellora in DS9)? If JQ had been thinking more clearly, he might have just reduced it a lot to avoid the big crash at the end ... but he's pretty much flying by the seat of his pants, here.

Oh, and can I just say, you are the CHAMPION of reading romantic subtext into things! From shipping Julian and Adele before they'd ever spoken to each other to calling the whole JQ/Maren thing, and now reading a whole possible future in one little line between Icheb and Maren. I love it. I'd also say you're pretty spot-on, at least this time.

Thanks again.
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Old October 12 2010, 09:04 PM   #114
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Wow, talk about taking big risks: Ryzal throwing himself against the forcefield and JQ going into a danger zone to rescue civilians. Either way, he made the right choice in the face of huge danger despite T'Pring's urgings. It would make for an interesting case study on just how literally Vulcans interpret, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
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Old October 12 2010, 11:10 PM   #115
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Good on Ryzal for keeping a cool head in a tense situation and knowing both how and when to act. Icheb, on the other hand, was so preoccupied with Maren's condition that he dropped his guard and now one or both of them may end up paying the price.

John's tactic with the grav-plating was inspired, and I hope the civilian victims can be saved from their injuries and radiation exposure. They've still yet to discover who attacked them, and why, but first things first...

The excellence continues!
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Old October 13 2010, 12:00 AM   #116
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

The more I read Ryzal the more I like him. The idea the galaxy could be filled with so many other species that are so different and so alike is highly compelling.

I like Icheb and Maren but feel for JQ. Or I like JQ and Maren but feel for Icheb. One of them may lose out and thus all will lose because the friendship will never be the same. Again. If Icheb dies they all lose too. It's like Shakespearean tragedy. Or a Quentin Tarantino movie . . .

I didn't want Maren to shoot Icheb of course. But I prefer to think she was subjugating her feelings for an outcome that would benefit more people. going all Kirk on them and shooting from the hip. I can buy that she was bluffing but I actually prefer that she wasn't. I know - I'm awful. . .

Thanks for another wonderful chapter!

Oh, btw , any chance some space debris landed on Beckley? I know - wrong ship . . . besides i do want to see him live another day to create more chaos and angst . . .
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Old October 13 2010, 05:07 AM   #117
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Wow, I love you guys. I've been just buried in work and life and just generally having a crappy time of it and all of you with your awesome feedback for this chapter have just totally made my day.

Enterprise1981 -- T'Pring is a fairly by-the-book Vulcan. There's more to her than just that, but she prides herself very much on her outward calm and flawless logic. I doubt that John's success here (if it can be called that -- we still don't know what's going to happen) will sway her from thinking the risk he took was unwise, just as she was completely unimpressed by Telek's "heroics" in engineering during the confrontation with the Borg. Thanks for the great comment.

Gibraltar -- Thank you for reading, and for the compliment! You're right, while Ryzal and JQ are doing their thing, Icheb is extremely, extremely distracted. Reason number 432 or so why he said to Maren "I hate that you're here." We'll see what happens now ...

oldst/Deadstredshrtevr -- I was really looking forward to your reaction to Ryzal's scene because you've said a few times now how much you like him. I definitely thought of you a few times while writing that bit. So I'm glad you liked it! As for the triangle ... yeah, there are no real winners here. Someone is going to get left out, hurt or maybe dead, and that's just ... well, it sucks. BUT! In the same breath you say you were sort of hoping Maren was serious about shooting Icheb?! So I guess you don't feel TOO bad for them all ... or maybe you're just a bigtime J/M shipper? As to Shakespeare and Tarantino comparisons ... uh, wow! I'll take it as a huge (and undeserved) compliment that I made you think of either of them for even a second. Thanks.

(P.S. Yep, wrong ship. Beckley's still Beckley-ing on the Tesseract.)
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Old October 13 2010, 01:13 PM   #118
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

MirrorKes7 wrote: View Post
BUT! In the same breath you say you were sort of hoping Maren was serious about shooting Icheb?! So I guess you don't feel TOO bad for them all ... or maybe you're just a bigtime J/M shipper?
Love them all - have "known" Icheb longest so logic would suggest I have the strongest emotional attachment to him. Alas that I am not always logical! I knew that would read badly but I lack the skill to say what I meant without my stupid server timing out on me (for the 3rd time - I was in hurry up and post mode by then!). What I meant was that I liked how precarious Maren's mental state was that she had reached the point where she was able to parse her feelings from her logic. Most people don't have to do that under that kind of duress. It was an interesting choice and one I didn't see coming. By "like" I mean following her mental state has been a very rewarding and intriguing ride! And how logical is it really - to shoot your CO?

A thoroughly enjoyable read!
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Old October 15 2010, 03:14 PM   #119
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Thanks. I don't think your comment read badly at all. I was just really surprised by it. Because you are a Voyager fan and you like Icheb and all that, I was surprised you would react favorably instead of with dismay to the idea of the woman he loves being serious about killing him for the good of the team (as opposed to just trying to bluff her way through a bad situation). And yeah, shooting one's CO -- not usually the best move. But I am glad you also like John and Maren, in addition to our favorite (second favorite? If you're a Seven fan, I guess) ex-drone.
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Old October 27 2010, 11:55 PM   #120
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER EIGHT

Resistance Ship 1473 – Control Chamber

As the force field dropped, Icheb reacted instinctively, lifting Maren’s weapon to defend them against Jeytl, the silent Borg engineer. He was quick, but not as quick as Jeytl, who easily dodged his first shot and then grabbed Icheb’s arm, dispassionately twisting it and holding it in a position that prevented Icheb getting a clear shot at anything but himself. His strength was far superior to Icheb’s own, even with his remaining Borg enhancements. Maren went to grab Icheb’s sidearm, but a warning glance from Jeytl stopped her short. With his augmented hearing, Icheb could actually hear her heart pounding in her chest.

The resistance Borg finally broke his interminable silence. “In approximately ninety seconds, your captain will transport into this chamber,” he said flatly. “Assist me in subduing Malik.”

Icheb looked over at Maren, who looked as visibly shocked as he felt. Despite their shared confusion, now was not the time for questions. Icheb quickly nodded at Jeytl, who released his arm. As he did, the displays in the control chamber started to flicker and change.

“Lakwa is overriding Malik’s link with the vessel,” Jeytl explained. “She is accompanying your captain. Assist me,” he repeated.

Icheb didn’t need to be asked a third time. He sprinted to the center of the chamber, where a badly injured Ryzal was still struggling to subdue Malik, who was also in less-than-optimal condition. Jeytl followed close behind. The two former drones pulled Ryzal off of Malik and used their combined strength to pin Malik to the deck. Icheb looked back at Maren for assistance in enacting a more long-term solution, only to realize she seemed frozen in place, looking disturbingly unfocused. As five additional figures materialized in the control chamber, she finally collapsed onto the cold deck plating, unconscious.

*****

USS Sol – Shuttle Bay

“You must evacuate the Sol.” T’Pring’s voice was even more no-nonsense than usual as she spoke to John. “We can no longer hold you in our tractor beam. The power drain is too severe. If we release your vessel, we can make further repairs to our own. Perhaps we can escape this damaged area of subspace and re-establish contact with the Tesseract.”

Back inside the shuttle he had sought out as a quiet place to communicate with the commanding officer of the Luna, John sighed. “Where are we going to put a hundred-sixty-eight more people on the Luna? Your systems are already compromised and you’re at near maximum evacuation capacity already.”

“We have no choice,” T’Pring said calmly. “The passengers of both vessels stand a better chance of survival on a partially repaired Luna than they do split between two disabled ships. You have no engineering crew left, no one to effect repairs. By my calculations, in seventeen minutes, the power cell you used to bring limited systems back online will be exhausted.”

“Fifteen,” John muttered quietly. He wasn’t looking forward to returning to the house of horrors that was engineering to insert another cell. Not to mention he didn’t know if he could handle seeing Herk again. Every death on this ship since he had taken command felt like a failure, and it was starting to take its toll. He tried to block out his worries about Claire and Lucy Keller. They needed surgery, or stasis, and the Sol had the power for neither. Their survival was looking unlikelier by the minute.

“Neither ship has transporters operational,” he pointed out, sounding pessimistic. “How are we going to –“ T’Pring lifted an eyebrow, and John trailed off. “Of course,” he said, blushing. “The shuttle transporters.” T’Pring nodded. John hesitated. “So … we just abandon the Sol?”

T’Pring nodded again. “Unless you have a better idea,” she said coolly.

John frowned and dragged a hand down his face, tiredly. He was a tactical officer. His tactical training told him abandoning a ship full of cutting-edge, experimental technology in the middle of an unfamiliar and apparently hostile area of space was a really bad idea. Then again, scuttling the ship felt like a bad idea, too. He sighed heavily.

“The civilians,” he said. “We’ll send the civilians, and injured crew, and our doctor. I want to keep a skeleton crew here to maybe try and repair something. If you can spare an engineer to send over here, that would help. And if something goes wrong and we have to scuttle, we still have the escape pods.”

“If something goes wrong and you have to scuttle the ship, I doubt the escape pods will offer much meaningful protection,” T’Pring replied.

“Maybe not, but there are hundreds of people on the Tesseract who are going to need what’s left of this ship. I think it’s worth doing everything we can to save it.”

T’Pring inclined her head ever so slightly and nodded. “Very well … we are in agreement. I will arrange for the transport of one engineering officer. We should commence evacuation at once.”

John nodded his assent and cut the visual link. Before exiting the shuttle, he put his helmet back on and re-sealed his EV-suit. The walk from the shuttle bay to the cargo bay was a short one, but he knew he couldn’t afford any more radiation exposure. The EV-suits only offered so much protection, and he had been wandering the halls of the heavily contaminated Sol for hours now. He didn’t know whether it was nerves or something worse, but he was starting to feel sick to his stomach. He shoved the concern aside and forced himself to think of something else -- like what the chances were they would be able to fix anything on the debilitated Sol. He looked down the dim, empty corridor outside the cargo bay and swallowed back the bile rising in his throat. He was in over his head, and he knew it. It wasn’t a good feeling.

He re-entered the noisy, crowded cargo bay and removed his helmet again, automatically switching off the independent life support in his suit. “Renn,” he said loudly, over the din.

The Bajoran ops officer looked up from the console he was busily manipulating and automatically launched into a status report. “Sir, we’re down to our last few minutes on that power cell --” he started.

“I know,” John cut him off. “We’ll worry about that in a minute. We’re evacuating the civilians and injured crewmen to the Luna using the shuttle transporters. I need you to start organizing people into groups of six. We’ll transport injured first.”

“Understood,” Renn replied. He hesitated a moment. “Sir?” John glanced at him. “You look a little pale, sir. Are you all right?”

John nodded, tight-lipped. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Just do me a favor and get environmental control up and running in this whole section to facilitate moving people to the shuttle bay safely. We don’t need the doors or the lights or the comm. system anymore, so take power from that if you need to. I’m going to go insert another power cell.”

“Why not send someone else?” Renn asked. “Don’t you want to supervise the evacuation?”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” John assured him. “It’s just that I did it before, so I know where it is and what to do, and … well, you didn’t see it down there, Renn. I really don’t want anybody else to have to see that.”

“You could take Anit with you,” Renn suggested. “He’s seen it.”

John glanced over at the young pilot, who was clumsily closing a laceration on a young Trill child’s face with a dermal regenerator. He shook his head. “No. He’s more useful here. Just start organizing people. I’ll be back in a few.”

As Renn set about the task of prioritizing and sorting the Sol’s human cargo, John took a deep breath and looked around the cargo bay for a long moment. He saw Sheila Duggal and a few medics working feverishly to save the most critically injured patients. He saw frightened and bruised civilians, faces taut with worry. For what seemed like the thousandth time in an hour, he put his helmet back on and reactivated his EV-suit before heading back to engineering.

*****

Adele materialized alongside Lakwa and three security officers in the control center of the resistance vessel, all but Lakwa holding phaser rifles at the ready. Lakwa had helped them to modify the weapons for use against her own commanding officer, but Adele was relieved to see it appeared they wouldn’t actually have to use them. Jeytl had clearly done his part. Propulsion was offline, her people had been released, and Malik was now behind a containment field, in surprisingly poor condition.

He wasn’t the only casualty. Ryzal was lying on the deck nearby, visibly burned and being tended to by two of his security officers, and Maren O’Connor was unconscious. Her first officer was bent over the young woman’s slight frame. With Maren’s overwhelming emotions silenced for the moment, it was easy for Adele to feel the concern he had for her.

“You betrayed us,” Malik said weakly from his spot behind the force field, where the remaining security officers had taken up position around him. He was staring straight at Lakwa. The Borg woman stiffened almost imperceptibly, then took a breath and turned to face him.

Adele watched curiously as Lakwa slowly walked up to the force field, until her ocular implant was almost touching it. “I saved us,” she said quietly. “You’ve grown too paranoid, distrustful. These people are our allies. It’s time we act like it.”

“They can’t be trusted,” Malik said, giving Lakwa a darkly disapproving look.

Lakwa held his gaze. “For the moment, neither can you,” she said quietly, then turned away. “With your permission, I would like to assist your injured officers,” she said to Adele.

Adele hesitated, then nodded. “Start with him,” she said, pointing to her security chief. Lakwa nodded in reply and headed for Ryzal.

Adele strode over to Icheb. “Is she all right?” she asked him, then added, “Are you?” The play-by-play of the situation that Lakwa had provided, based on Jeytl’s reports via their secure neural link, had shocked her, but it had also matched her own impressions of the emotional state of the away team perfectly. She looked down at the unconscious engineer with a troubled expression and couldn’t help but ask, “She actually threatened to shoot you?”

“I’m fine,” Icheb replied, looking up from where he was cradling Maren with one arm and checking her vitals with the other. “She needs immediate medical assistance. I’ll explain her actions later.”

Adele could sense his fear at seeing his former fiancée in this vulnerable state. She nodded and tapped her combadge. “Oyugo to Tesseract. She waited for confirmation that communications had been restored, and when she heard the reply, she said "Beam O’Connor directly to sickbay.”

Icheb reluctantly and carefully laid Maren down on the cold floor and took a step backward, allowing her to shimmer away and back to the relative safety of the Tesseract. As soon as she was gone, he took a small breath and looked over at Adele.

“There is a reason Malik did what he did,” he said. “This ship and the entire Borg Resistance are powered by Particle 010. He is as aware of the Omega Directive as I am. As your first officer, I’m recommending you disregard the Directive and bring this vessel aboard our own, without a crew.”

Adele quickly opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak, Icheb was already pressing on with his argument. “The potential intelligence gains outweigh any risk,” he said. “The destruction of a single vessel won’t make a difference anyway. The Tyndorans stabilized Omega. It’s all over the quadrant, and it’s all that’s kept the Federation from being overrun by Borg so far. Lock Malik in the brig and deny him access, but I strongly urge you not to destroy this vessel.”

Adele met the ex-drone’s pleading gaze and held it. “Lakwa already informed me that their ship is powered by Omega,” she informed him.

Icheb took this in and looked at her expectantly. “What do you intend to do?”

Adele took a deep breath. Ever since Lakwa had revealed the truth of the awesome power that fueled the Resistance Borg ship, she had struggled with how to react to the news. Her primary concern had been getting her people off the vessel, but now that they had retaken control and her people were seemingly safe, she had to make a real decision. Would she follow Starfleet’s strictest rule and destroy Omega, or capitalize on the potential advantage and hope the Advisory Board didn’t strip her of command – or worse?

Then there was the bigger question – whether it was an acceptable safety risk to bring Omega aboard, stabilized or not. She simultaneously wondered if they could afford not to. It was clear that understanding this technology would be crucial to surviving any future confrontations with the Borg Resistance.

What Icheb said made sense to her. If the entire Borg Resistance did indeed run on Omega, the destruction of one ship wouldn’t matter. But taking it aboard could open up a universe of possibilities for the Federation – as well as violate the one command that overrode all others.

She sighed heavily and forced herself to make the call. Slowly, she nodded. “All right,” she said quietly, hoping she was making the right choice. “Secure the vessel. At least for now, we’ll bring it with us.”
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