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Old November 29 2010, 01:11 AM   #136
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Gul Rejal -- thanks for the comment. We'll see what happens with Maren. You're not the only one doubting her ability to command a department right now. Adele does have a lot of patience and understanding, but it only goes so far.

E1981 -- You bring up an excellent point. Adele is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Icheb especially, and even Maren, to a degree. There aren't an endless supply of additional officers of their intellectual abilities out there in the DQ. She doesn't want to throw the baby (babies?) out with the bathwater.

More coming in a few minutes.
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Old November 29 2010, 01:19 AM   #137
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER TEN

USS Tesseract – Sickbay

As Icheb entered his security override to enter the locked-down sickbay, he remembered something that John had said to him several dozen times back at the Academy: It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. The line had always been delivered with the same wide, easygoing grin that Icheb had futilely attempted to reproduce in the lavatory mirror on more than one occasion. That had never worked – Icheb looked didn’t look anything like his tall, blond human friend. But the sentiment behind John’s oft-repeated idiom was often true, at least among humans, and Icheb felt this was one of those times. It would be much more difficult for Doctor Bashir to remove him from sickbay once he was already inside than it would be for him to say ‘no’ if he asked permission to come in. So he didn’t bother with the comm. system. He simply entered.

At the thought of John, he wondered briefly if his friend was okay on the Sol, but he quickly deemed that worry irrelevant. There wasn’t a lot he could do about the situation until they found the missing ships. Perhaps he would go to astrometrics in a little while and help with scans. In addition to being useful, it might help distract him, and alleviate the anxiety he felt every time he thought of the missing ships. But for the moment, it would have to wait. The captain had all but ordered him to report to sickbay, and she had been right. Doctor Bashir deserved an apology. So did Maren.

As he stepped through the open door into the slightly darkened central medical chamber, Icheb gripped the PADD he was carrying in his hand tightly. He hoped its contents would go a long way toward repairing the damage he had done. At the same time, he also felt guilty as he realized he was still holding something back from everyone. He had made his choice, though – and as sure as he was that he had made the right one, he wasn’t certain if he could stand up to the pressure if anyone else tried to convince him otherwise – especially Maren.

He sighed. He would tell her, anyway. He had to tell her. But he had to tell her first. If there was any hope of her forgiving him for this, she couldn’t hear it from someone else. Doctor Bashir and the captain could wait.

Although Julian Bashir had technically gone off duty several hours ago, Icheb saw that he was sitting in his interior office with a task lamp on, poring over something on his desk display, rubbing his eyes and looking tired. He looked up as Icheb entered, and his facial features twisted into an expression of exasperation mixed with sympathy. He immediately stood up and walked over to intercept Icheb.

“Commander, please give it time. It’s only been two hours. Her condition hasn’t changed. Go get some rest, or a meal or something.”

Icheb shook his head. “I didn’t come to see Maren. I came to speak to you,” he said.

“Oh, really?” Julian asked, as his eyebrows quirked upward. He sounded surprised and a little bit skeptical.

Icheb nodded. “I want to apologize. I was out of line earlier. I shouldn’t have questioned your abilities. I was frightened for her. It will not happen again.”

Julian’s expression softened somewhat. “I appreciate that, Commander, but I had you removed for my patient’s well-being and yours. I wasn’t offended. But you weren’t helping her by being there. ”

Icheb nodded as if to concede the point, then tentatively offered the PADD he was holding to Julian. “This is for you,” he said.

Julian looked down at the PADD as he accepted it, then gave Icheb a questioning look. “What is it?” he asked.

“It’s my complete medical history,” Icheb answered flatly, eliciting a surprised look from Julian. “Before the away mission, Maren informed me that she told you about my failing implants. I thought this might help you with your research.”

Julian stared down at the PADD for a long moment, then looked up at Icheb. “Thank you, Commander,” he said sincerely. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

“I’m sure you will,” Icheb replied quietly. His let his gaze wander away from Julian as he scanned the large central medical chamber. He could see One of Fifteen – Dena, he corrected himself – lying in her forcefield-protected area. He could see Ryzal’s hulking frame resting on a biobed through the uncovered window on one of the private rooms. Before he could identify which room might belong to Maren, Julian spoke up.

“Would you like to see her?”

Icheb looked back at him and nodded, suddenly too nervous to speak. Silently, he followed the doctor over to one of the private rooms and waited as he toggled the release on the door.

As the door opened and Julian motioned him inside, he could see that Maren was lying prone on a biobed with a delta wave inducer affixed across the front of her head. He knew that the device would keep her unconscious indefinitely and accelerate her body’s natural healing process, but the absolute stillness it produced in her unnerved him. He was accustomed to her being slightly hyperactive, even in her sleep. With his enhanced vision, it had always seemed like she was in constant motion, almost as if her impossibly active mind created a vibration he could actually see. In contrast, the woman on the biobed seemed like an entirely different person.

“The delta wave inducer is just a way to speed her recovery and make sure she gets the rest she needs,” Julian assured him, seeing the look on his face. “We want to keep her resting until she’s stronger. And since she’s already proven she won’t rest of her own accord …” he trailed off with a gentle shrug as if to say ‘this is what’s necessary.’

Icheb nodded and kept staring at Maren with the same uneasy expression.

“We successfully stopped the bleeding, so all that’s left to do is wait for her body to heal itself completely,” Julian added, obviously looking to fill the silence.

“Will there be any permanent damage?” Icheb asked worriedly, without taking his eyes off of her.

Julian breathed a small sigh and glanced over at the engineer. “It’s impossible to say for sure,” he admitted, “but I think we repaired all of the damage. And if there are any lasting effects, we’ll find a treatment. I think she’s going to be fine.”

“She’s not fine,” Icheb said, with a bitter edge to his voice. “She’s emotionally damaged and it’s my fault.”

“We all make mistakes,” Julian replied. “Even the Borg.”

Icheb stared silently at Maren for a few moments. He longed to go to her side, but he didn’t make a move. He kept thinking back to a time when it had been him lying on a biobed with an uncertain future. She had held his hand in the infirmary at Starbase 12 for nine hours and twenty-eight minutes straight. Unsure of whether he would survive, she had flat-out refused to let go. The medical staff had told him about it later, seemingly bemused and awed by her determination. As much as he wanted to return the favor now, he didn’t feel he had the right to touch her. She had been through too much, and it was all his doing.

After a long silence, Julian interrupted his thoughts. “She cares for you,” he said quietly. “You should have seen how worried she was when you were being held by the Borg resistance.”

Icheb kept gazing down at Maren even as he answered Julian. “I left her because I wanted to protect her from being hurt,” he explained to the doctor. “I remembered how frightened I was when Seven was dying. I risked my life to save her. I didn’t want Maren to have to feel that way, or ever put herself at risk for me. I was too young and inexperienced to realize that removing myself from her physical proximity would not be enough to change her feelings toward me. Now, we are here, and in a matter of days, she has risked her career, her safety and her life because of her relationship to me. It is unacceptable.”

“I suggest you learn to accept it,” Julian retorted gently. “People take risks for the people they care about all the time – especially in our line of work. You can’t control the way she feels about you. You can’t force her not to love you … least of all when it’s so obvious you feel the same way.”

“I don’t want her to suffer.”

“You don’t think she’s suffered every day since you left her, knowing your life is in danger? Wanting to tell someone, but thinking you’d never forgive her? I assure you, Commander, she has suffered. The good news is, somehow, you’ve lasted this long. You have a chance to fix this. Not everyone gets that chance.”

Icheb looked thoughtfully down at the sleeping Maren. “You’re right, Doctor,” he said, with quiet determination. “I do have a chance to fix this.” Without another word, he turned and walked out of Maren’s room and out of sickbay, leaving Julian staring bemusedly after him.

*****

USS Tesseract – Diplomatic Quarters

The dampening field was a necessity, Lakwa knew it, but it made her feel very alone. After nine years, she was used to hearing Malik’s thoughts during times like this. Right now, there were only her own.

She wondered what he was doing right now, locked in the brig of this Federation ship behind a force field even their technology could not easily defeat. No doubt, he was angry. Angry at her, angry at the Federation … maybe even angry at himself.

She still found it difficult to believe that she had betrayed him. You did not betray him, she argued with herself. You saved him. You saved us all. Her internal arguments seemed inadequate. Malik was her friend – her only friend. The others looked up to her, for reasons she could not begin to understand, but Malik saw her as an equal. And despite her increasing lack of confidence in his ability to lead their small crew, she cared for him. Maybe too much.

She crossed the extravagant quarters to which she had been assigned by the captain of the Federation vessel and looked at herself in a reflective surface mounted on the wall. Mirror, came the translation in Federation standard, without her consciously bothering to call it up. There were no mirrors on her own vessel, at least not in the areas reserved to the Resistance. The organic crewmembers had them, but most of those who had been freed from the Collective preferred not to be visually reminded of what they had become.
Lakwa was no different. She still remembered herself on Seitun. She remembered how she used to look, young and vital, with pink, healthy ridges, blue eyes and hair the color of the setting of the second sun. Now there was only gray skin, scars and machinery where that beauty had once dwelt.

She remembered her mate, Inru and their four offspring, Onla, Minra, Lidu and Saeil. She remembered the warm home they had shared before the Borg came. She remembered their assimilation. And she remembered how she had been forced to kill them all.

Not by her own hand, thanks be to Iyira … but she had watched in horror – still in shock herself from the realization that her thoughts were once again her own – as Malik and the others had struck them down one by one. She had not lifted a finger to stop them. So recently separated from the Collective, the logical Borg programming in her cortical array had overruled her heart, and she had let them die. She had not even recognized the children until later, as they tried to determine who among them had survived the battle for control of their sphere. The maturation chambers had been effective. The body of her mate was recognizable, albeit barely – but the bodies of their children looked like just four more drones from the Collective, their only identifying features the ridges on their foreheads. She rarely dreamt, but when she did, it was still of them – all these years later.

It had been necessary. They were part of the Collective, and they were intent on reassimilating or destroying everyone with the Unimatrix Zero mutation – including Lakwa herself. No amount of reasoning with them would have been effective. In fact, she had been pleading with Inru in a voice she had all but forgotten she possessed when Malik had deactivated her lover and her friend. Yes, it had been necessary. But it had hurt. And that pain had reminded her that she had once been Seituni – not Borg.

Now, she looked in the mirror aboard a Federation starship and wondered where her own loyalties lay, in the end. Seitun was no more. Neither was Malik’s homeworld, or Jeytl’s … or Icheb’s for that matter, although she hadn’t told him yet. She had been fighting against the Borg with everything she had since the destruction of Unimatrix Zero, but at the same time, the Borg were the closest thing she had to a people. The Resistance may have formed alliances with others, like the Tyndorans, but no one had truly accepted them yet. No one trusted them, no one loved them.

Seeing Icheb in the medical bay of this Federation vessel had changed everything for her. The engineer had looked at him like Inru used to look at her. She loved him. The captain clearly valued him. He was Borg and Brunali, yet they treated him as one of their own. In that moment, Lakwa had known she had to act – that perhaps Malik’s hatred for the Federation had been misplaced.

She knew would have to speak to Malik. He would need her to explain. She also knew she had to wait. Asking to see him too soon may cost her the trust she had earned from the Federation crew. Mutiny was much more understandable than … whatever she was doing. She was uncertain herself. All she knew was that she wanted this to work, and Malik had gotten in the way, and for the first time in nine years, she could not stand with him, so she had risen up against him. She knew it was very unlikely that these people would understand why she still wanted him to be part of this.

The door chime sounded. She did not recognize it at first, but a memory stored deep within her cortical array, from some Starfleet member long ago melded into the Collective, told her what it meant. “Come,” she said, out of a habit not truly her own, yet as familiar to her as anything she had done with regularity on Seitun.

The door slid open. Commander Icheb stood on the other side, flanked by two armed guards. “Your assistance is not required,” he told the officers. Both looked hesitant to heed his words. “Please stay here,” he said, with more authority, and stepped inside the room, allowing the door to close behind him.

Lakwa looked at the young man with a curious gaze. She had not been expecting him to return so soon after escorting her here. “May I assist you?” she asked him.

Icheb took a step toward her. “Malik made me an offer I could not accept,” he said quietly.

There was a desperate quality to his voice, and Lakwa could hear his heart rate accelerate, then quickly level out as his implants regulated it. He was clearly anxious. “You’ve come to ask me for the same thing, with no conditions,” she replied softly. She hesitated only a moment before adding, “I’m willing to provide it.”

“No,” Icheb answered forcefully, with an emphatic shake of his head. “I don’t want it.” Lakwa looked at him in surprise. “I want to know if there’s an alternative solution,” he said. “If so, I’ve come to ask for that, with no conditions.”

Lakwa looked at the Brunali for a long moment. “You’re afraid it will make you Borg again,” she guessed.

Icheb hesitated, but nodded. “Yes,” he replied simply. “I want to live, but not like that.”

Lakwa understood perfectly. She had often thought that if she could remove everything that made her Borg, she would. She knew of others who had tried, with varying success, but none who had integrated as seamlessly into a new culture as this former drone standing in front of her appeared to have done. In his position, she doubted whether she would feel any differently than he did.

“I know of no alternative,” she told him quietly. “I am uncertain how you have even survived this long.”

“Then study me,” Icheb pleaded. “Perhaps you’ll learn something you can use on others, while finding a way to allow me to live. Perhaps -- ” he was cut off by the sound of his combadge chirping.

“Commander Icheb, report to the bridge immediately,” a female voice said. Lakwa recognized it as belonging to Lieutenant Iden Nix, whom she had met earlier that day. Icheb visibly tensed at the interruption, but tapped his badge to reply.

“What is it, Lieutenant?” he asked.

“We’ve found an area of subspace damage on long range sensors not far from the last known position of the auxiliary ships,” came the disembodied reply from Iden.

“Is there any sign of the ships?” he asked, looking concerned.

“Negative, sir.”

“I’m on my way,” Icheb replied tersely. He looked over at Lakwa again, then opened his mouth to say something, but she spoke first.

“I am willing to attempt what you have asked of me,” she said simply. “I cannot guarantee success, but I will try.”

Icheb shut his mouth and looked at her gratefully for a moment. He nodded slowly. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “I’ll let our doctor know.” Lakwa nodded once in reply. “I have to go,” he added, a bit awkwardly.

Lakwa nodded again. “Use caution, Commander,” she warned him quietly. “Remember that the Resistance is fractured. There are many who are dangerous to you.”

Icheb looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. “In that case, your assistance may be needed on the bridge,” he said. “Please postpone regeneration until I notify you otherwise.” She nodded her assent. Seconds later, Icheb was gone, leaving Lakwa once again alone.
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Old November 29 2010, 04:57 AM   #138
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

I'm glad to see that Icheb finally starts to understand that by leaving Maren he didn't solve the problem, but instead caused more and probably worse. Leaving her didn't solve his problem, but added to her suffering.

Poor Lakwa, haunted by her own past. She couldn't do anything and she knows it intellectually, but feelings are feelings--they are there and they never go away when we politely ask.
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Old November 30 2010, 01:38 PM   #139
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

After all of the crap, angst and difficulties that has been thrown at Icheb and Maren since the Tesseract's journey has begun, it is easy to forget that the two of them did have happier times and they had a love they thought unbreakable. We see here that Icheb remembers it, he remembers Maren staying by his bedside and he would like to sit in vigil by hers. But he recognises that he cannot do that. He feels he does not have the right to do so. I think he can be admired for recognising that. It seems as if he is trying now to make ammends for his past poor decisions. Lying to the Admiralty and leaving Maren all seemed good ideas at the time, and he had good reason for believing he was making the right choices. Alas it all coming back on him.

But he is beginning to make the changes needed. He is opening to Bashir about his condition, and opened in other ways to reveal a little of his heartache to the good doctor too. One wonders about Bashir's words and how much he is speaking about his own situation. But we also see that Icheb goes to Lakwa and seeks a solution to his condition. But he does so with the condition of not sacrificing the Borg free part of himself. What that means for his future chances of survival, I don't know.

Then the stuff from Lakwa's pov. Wow. Really impressive and insightful. We see her think about the Borg, about Malik, her own decisions in betraying him, the future of the RBorg faction, her own life and how changed/mutilated/brutalised it has been because of the Borg. In amongst all of this she can recognise that Icheb loves and is loved by Maren. She sees the way in which he has been accepted and is a part of something. And that gives her pause, gives her hope, that she may also be a part of something and have a life, a love, a future, a home.

And on the topic of home ... Icheb's. How much more bad news can he be delivered? And how will he react to the news when he does hear it? All this while out there JQ is fighting a desperate fight to survive and one imagines that the call to the bridge will reveal how that struggle has played out for all concerned. Continued excellence.
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Old November 30 2010, 05:47 PM   #140
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Dear Kes7,
You are as your namesake, Kes: Brilliant.

I've seen every episode of Voyager multiple times, and really liked Icheb's character. What you've done with him is terrific--it feels so very right. The same goes for your expanded characterization of Bashir, which builds on what we already know of him from DS9. The interaction between Bashir and Icheb was so well done, I could feel Julian's typically empathetic yet analytical response to Icheb. And Icheb's (and Maren's) agony is a palpable thing in your narrative. (In fact, how apt--or problematic?--that Tesseract's Captain is an empath, for this starfleet ship throbs with sentiment. Even Beckley's seeming paucity of emotion is evocatively conspicuous.)

And Lakwa... I just met her, and already I am invested in her welfare. I processed the conscious thought, "Well done, Kes," after it occurred to me that my own reaction to Lakwa mirrors that of Adele's: a nigh immediate fondness and trust. I do believe you have as firm a command on my attention and my "buttons" as you have on your story.

I should point out that I am in the middle of the latest Trek book to be published, the Titan novel "Seize the Fire." The Trek books have been a fraction of their number last year, so I consume each page of this new book as if it were my last meal. And still (!) when I saw that you'd posted a new chapter, I did not hesitate to set aside "official" Trek for STAR TREK: Tesseract! And there are times when I have to remember to separate your evolving history of Icheb from what is "canon." That's how compelling, nay--how GRAVITIC I find your writing.

So, from a reader who, perhaps, takes folk like you and Captain Sarine a smidgen for granted (madness!), thank you for what you do, and for doing it so well.

Bestest,
'Los

P.S.: I hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving.
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Old December 1 2010, 08:04 AM   #141
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Gul Rejal -- Right on both counts! Icheb's finally getting off the fence. He's thought since Part I that he had made a mistake, but he didn't fully realize WHAT the mistake was and what the cost was until now. He wants to fix it for sure. And yes, Lakwa is living with some pretty horrifying memories, and sure enough, those pesky emotions crop up at the worst of times. Thanks so much for reading, and for your comments both here and at Ad Astra.

mirandafave -- Thanks so much for the really thorough and thoughtful review. They really did love each other once. I'd say they still do. But a tremendous amount of damage has been done at this point, obviously. Interesting that you agree that Icheb does not have the right to show Maren his affection at this point. Do you think Maren herself would agree (you know, if she weren't out cold)? As for Lakwa ... yes, she's insightful. There's a reason her crew is willing to go along with this whole mutiny thing and line up behind her. She's very scarred (not just physically, obviously), but she's come out of her Borg experience with her core personality essentially intact, and it's not a bad one. We'll learn more about her and Malik as time goes on, but I'm glad you find her compelling so far. As far as Icheb's homeworld -- yeah. That's going to be interesting, I think, when he finds out. He's got some seriously conflicted feelings about that place to begin with. We'll see what happens. Thanks again for the fantastic review.

Diogenes -- Wow. ALL I can say is THANK YOU. I am really kind of speechless. Not only did you write some incredibly wonderful things, you specifically hit on things that I have tried so hard to do and worried over extensively, especially continuing Icheb's and Julian's arcs in a natural way. And the fact that you love Treklit so much and still would set that aside to read a chapter of this ... seriously, just thank you. You made my entire day -- maybe my entire month. You are wonderful. (...and I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too!)
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Old December 1 2010, 04:05 PM   #142
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Hi Kes!

Sorry been so long since I posted a comment (I have gotten up to date on my comments on adastra as well, if you want to check them out) but I'm glad this was the chapter I got back in the saddle for!

Icheb seems to be doing some of the growing up that he needs to do, opening up to the people around him and giving them access. Notably Doctor Bashir. I'm a huge Julian fan, and it was nice to see him here as the mentor figure, offering some sage advice to this younger man in the affairs of love and loss. Our resident Borg has a little bit of an awakening, as Bashir helps him to see that drawing away from Maren may not have been the best idea. The good doctor and the captain make a good team (no I'm not looking to start an Adele-Bashir shipper group, I'm just saying! )

Lakwa's POV was heart rending, giving us a glimpse of the sort of damage the Borg Resistance awakening inflicted on the collective and on the individual Borg. I'm not sure if the fact that the Resistance is based around the Unimatrix Zero mutation was already clear, I think it was but I can't be sure, but it jumped out at me because I was just watching the VOY episodes where Unimatrix Zero makes its first appearance. Either way, you did a great job of painting this picture of her and she comes across as an intriguing, attaching character.

And now Tesseract has reached the spot where the Sol and the Luna should have been. How long is it going to take to find them? Will Icheb be faced with more heartache as JQ's situation deteriorates?

Can't wait for more!!!
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Old December 1 2010, 07:21 PM   #143
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Ah the Maren/Icheb soap opera continues. Sorry, I know you don't like that term. But boy oh boy are these two people in constant physical and/or emotional distress or what? It's getting harder and harder to imagine them both on a little cottage with white picket fences, living happily ever after.

But then again there appears to be hope for Icheb and a cure. Not from Bashir but Lakwa may be able to come through with something here. Even though I don't entirely trust her yet. And clearly neither does the captain. Good, she's playing it safe. We'll have to see how that's going to work out this time.

Good stuff here.
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Old December 3 2010, 10:13 PM   #144
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Hey, Captain Sarine! Nice to see you back. Thanks for the reviews both here and at Ad Astra. I'm so glad you are enjoying Julian, as I know you are a fan. He and Icheb have a little bit in common, particularly in the background to this universe, so we may see more of that mentoring dynamic ... but we also may see Julian learn (or re-learn) a thing or two from Icheb. I'm also happy you liked the scene with Lakwa. Yes, the Resistance was born out of Janeway's actions in Unimatrix Zero. But there's a lot more to it than that by now. This was a tiny glimpse at the origins, though. As for JQ ... wait and see. Thanks again for the comments.

CeJay -- I can live with the soap opera moniker, as long as it passes for primetime and not daytime. But yeah -- those two have definitely been served a crap sandwich with a side of crap so far in this story. As galactic explorers trying to save entire worlds, I doubt whether they are really the picket fences type ... but who knows, if they somehow survive this mission, reunite and live happily ever after, maybe they'll be ready for a nice boring life in the suburbs. I guess we'll see what happens. As for Icheb and his condition ... Lakwa said she'll try. No promises. But yes, maybe a little bit of hope.
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Old December 4 2010, 02:32 AM   #145
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Just checking in, still reading and still very entertained.
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Old December 4 2010, 04:35 AM   #146
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

kes7 wrote: View Post
I can live with the soap opera moniker, as long as it passes for primetime and not daytime.
Daytime soap operas? Those are still on TV?
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Old December 13 2010, 10:42 PM   #147
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

I have to agree with Diogenes - I tend to confuse Tesseract with Simon&Schuster 'verse because your characters are so compelling and your work is so consistently good. I dabble a little and can turn a pretty phrase once in a while but to create such a complex TesserVerse with so much nuance and deliver so strongly every time is beyond enviable - you've created a reality that is as wide and fascinating and heartbreaking as our own. Thank you for all the hard work and love you've put into this.
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Old December 14 2010, 01:39 AM   #148
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

oldstredshrtevr, if I could, I would hug you right now. I'm having a terrible day and your comment made it so much better. I'm extremely flattered that you think so highly of my characters and story, and I promise to try and have more for you soon. Christmas craziness has been holding things up, but I'm trying!

milo bloom, I'm so glad you checked in. Happy to see you're still with us!
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Old December 14 2010, 03:29 PM   #149
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

It was such a wonderful treat to be able to catch up here - I've been swamped by RL and only able to pop in and out - never long enough to hang onto the edge of my seat properly!

Consistency eludes me so I admire it in others - I do believe you should be getting paid MONDO big bucks for your efforts and the pleasure you give us all!
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Old December 19 2010, 08:35 PM   #150
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER ELEVEN

USS Tesseract -- Bridge

The mood on the bridge was tense. Iden stood frowning at her console, surrounded by several other officers with expressions ranging from cautious concern to outright fear. As Icheb entered the room, she looked over at him, her azure features creased with fatigue and worry.

“Report, Lieutenant Nix?” he asked as he walked to her side and peered at the holographic display in front of her. “Where is the captain?” he added, glancing around at the bridge crew, currently made up of mostly junior officers. With much of the regular bridge staff injured or off ship, that left Icheb, Iden and Adrian Keller as the only senior staff on deck.

“She was in with Admiral Beckley,” Iden replied. “She’ll be here in a minute.” Icheb nodded in acknowledgment. “Look,” Iden said, pointing to the display. “During our last drop out of slipstream, long-range sensors picked this up. It’s right where the last secure transmission from the auxiliary ships came from. Does it look familiar to you?”

Icheb narrowed his eyes as he gazed at the display. He carefully reached past Iden to tap the controls and get a few different views. Grimly, he nodded and exchanged a glance with Iden. “Set a course for the perimeter of the subspace damage,” he told Adrian, who nodded, looking tight-lipped and pale. Icheb tapped his combadge. “Icheb to Security. Please escort Lakwa from diplomatic quarters to the bridge immediately.”

As security was acknowledging the order, the bridge doors parted again, this time admitting the captain. She looked like she was expecting the worst. “What’s going on?” she inquired, with a weary look in Icheb’s direction.

“Lieutenant Nix found an area of subspace damage in the vicinity of the last known position of our auxiliary vessels,” Icheb explained. “The damage is interfering with our sensors. It will be difficult to know what lies within that area until we are considerably closer to it.”

“Can you modify the Astrometrics sensors to get a better look?” Adele asked.

Icheb frowned slightly as he quickly considered the question. He shook his head. “As short-staffed as we are, by the time the modifications were complete, we would already be in range. I’ll have engineering send someone, but I don’t expect it will make a difference.” He quickly tapped his badge and passed the request along to Lieutenant Telek. “I’ve called Lakwa to the bridge,” he told Adele. “Perhaps she will have more insight into what we have found.”

As if on cue, the bridge doors slid open one more time, and the newly-minted leader of Resistance Vessel 1473 was escorted through by two heavily armed guards.

Icheb directed the cyborg’s attention to Iden’s display. “We are traveling toward this area of subspace damage at slipstream. I am hoping you can tell me what caused it.”
Lakwa gazed at the display quietly for a moment. “I can tell you precisely what happened,” she said. “One of our vessels was destroyed.”

“How can you tell?” Adele queried.

“The area and pattern of the subspace destruction is consistent with damage to the power core of one of our vessels. It rarely happens, but when it does, the damage is irregular and scattered like this. The detonation of one of our weapons would have been significantly more focused.”

“What about our ships?” Adrian Keller interrupted sharply from across the room. All eyes turned to look at the pilot, who had turned from his console to fix the resistance Borg with an angry glare. His face was flushed pink with worry and frustration. “What does the area and pattern of the subspace destruction tell you about our missing ships?”

Lakwa met his gaze without visible emotion. “Nothing,” she answered flatly. “However, if they were in close proximity to the vessel at the time of its destruction, it is likely that the damage was extreme.” She turned to Adele. “I am certain you will wish to investigate this matter at close range, but I recommend caution. It is possible there are other cloaked vessels in the area. It is likely they would see you as a threat. If you will permit me access to my vessel, I can use our sensors to scan for them.”

Adele shook her head. “No. I’m sorry. We’re not at that level of trust yet. Icheb,” she said, turning to her exec. “Can you interface with their vessel?”

Icheb shook his head. “No, Captain. But Malik did indicate that a device to allow me to do so could be integrated with my own implants relatively easily.” He swallowed hard and forced himself to go against his own instincts. “I had refused, but I’m willing to try if it helps retrieve our people safely.” He glanced at Lakwa questioningly. She nodded.

“The procedure is simple,” she said quietly. “It will take only minutes.”

Icheb looked over at Adele, who gave him a long, appraising look. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked him.
Icheb hesitated only a moment before nodding. “It’s the option that presents the least risk. This way, I can be the only one on the Resistance vessel. A minor medical procedure is an acceptable price to pay to gain sole access to their sensor technology.”

Adele held his gaze and nodded. “All right, Commander, Lakwa. Let’s do this, and quickly. The sooner we know what we’re headed for, the better.”

*****

Resistance Vessel 1473 – inside docking bay, USS Tesseract


For a long, anxious moment, Icheb doubted his ability to succeed at this mission. As he activated his new neural link, a wave of dizziness took hold of him. He quickly grabbed the side of a nearby console to ensure he stayed upright.

It had been years since he had experienced such a comprehensive neural interface. The feeling of being one with the sophisticated technology that surrounded him was both surreal and somehow achingly familiar. He shoved aside his memories of the Collective and tried to focus on the task at hand. “Connection established,” he reported over the comm.. “I should have full access to the vessel’s systems.”

Full access to the vessel’s systems.
He was suddenly acutely aware he was in direct control of something so powerful the Federation had banned it at all costs. He could almost feel Omega’s power, even though the containment chamber was on some sort of regeneration or standby mode, and the ship’s systems were running on auxiliary power provided via a hastily adapted tether to the Tesseract. The temptation to activate the chamber with a simple thought, to experience particle 010 on a much deeper level, was huge. He managed to refrain from doing so. Still, the sensation of being so intimately connected with this ship was almost overwhelming.

“Acknowledged,” came the reply from Adele. “Can you activate the sensor grid?”

“I will attempt it,” Icheb replied. He mentally scanned the myriad systems until he found the one he needed. He unconsciously held his breath as he established a connection with the sensor array and commanded it to power up. He was again disoriented as data began pouring into his cortical array. Without a cortical node to process it properly, it was difficult to sort it quickly enough to comprehend. He consciously tried to slow the connection down, and met with limited success. He still had significant trouble assimilating the information, but at least it wasn’t making him so dizzy. He noticed that some of the visual/tactile displays had activated around the compact control chamber, and carefully walked over to one of them, finding that maintaining his balance required slight effort. “Sensor grid is online;” he told Adele, “however, there is more data coming in than I am capable of processing.”

On the bridge of the Tesseract, Adele looked over at Lakwa. “Advice?” she asked the former drone.

“He is at a disadvantage,” Lakwa said quietly. “Most of the technology that would help him interface more efficiently with the vessel was extracted from his body. Instruct him to limit his access to one sensor type at a time. That may help him.”

Adele activated the comm. again. “Lakwa suggests you limit your interface to one sensor type at a time. Can you do that?”

Adele thought Icheb’s voice sounded slightly unsteady as he replied. “I will try,” he said. She could sense his shakiness. She hoped he would be all right. It made her nervous to think of the young ex-drone’s mind being directly tied into the systems of an unfamiliar and highly superior ship. She wondered if he was in danger, or if he could somehow put their ship at risk. At the same time, she wondered how much valuable information he would be able to provide them with when he finally disconnected.

“It’s working,” he reported a moment later, sounding noticeably steadier. “I’m connected to the subspace sensor array and attempting to calibrate the sensors.”

A moment later, the comm. activated once more. “I’m not picking up any Resistance vessels in the vicinity of the subspace damage. I am picking up a faint energy signature from within the damaged area. It appears to be Federation.”

“Just one?” Adele asked pointedly. She glanced over at Adrian Keller, who was doing an admirable job of continuing to control their flight while silently falling apart with worry for his wife and young children. He kept his eyes fixed on his display, but she could tell he was listening with anxious attention to every word exchanged.

“It’s difficult to tell,” Icheb admitted over the comm.. “This interface is unfamiliar, the energy signature is weak, and the subspace damage is interfering with these sensors, as well.”

“Can you activate their communications systems? Try to hail them? Look for a distress call?” Adele asked.

“Unknown,” Icheb replied. He sounded distracted. There was another pause, then he came back with, “Negative. The interference is too great.”

“Ask him if he can tell how deep inside of the damaged area the readings are coming from,” Lakwa interjected.

Adele nodded. “Icheb, Lakwa wants to know how far inside the damaged area those readings are coming from.”

There was a pause, and then the answer. “Approximately the center,” he answered, then delivered the bad news they had all instantly realized was coming. “Without the ability to travel at warp through that area, it will take more than a day to reach that location.”

For a long moment, no one said anything, then the comm. activated one more time. Adele could sense her exec’s wariness before he even spoke. “I have an idea,” Icheb said, “but I doubt you will approve.”

Adele sighed, feeling almost resigned. She activated her comm.. “Try me.”

*****

USS Tesseract – Captain’s Ready Room


“I already told you. Absolutely not.” Adele was firm as she faced her slightly disheveled exec in the privacy of her ready room. He wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer, and it was beginning to make her more than irritated. It was starting to feel as if her entire senior staff had serious issues with insubordination.

“I can control the vessel,” he argued. “I’m certain of it. It is far more capable at high sublight speeds than our own. I can be there quickly, and report on the situation – even attempt a rescue, if necessary.”

“By yourself?” Adele was skeptical. “I didn’t even like you tying your brain into their systems to use their sensor array, and you want me to let you go off and be one with their whole ship – Omega and all – flying alone through uncharted, hostile space? I know we’ve had our differences, Commander, but I’m not ready to toss you out an airlock just yet,” she said wryly. “This entire idea sounds like a potential suicide mission to me, and I won’t let you do it. My intent is to save your life, not end it prematurely.”

Icheb’s usually neutral demeanor was starting to slip, and he was becoming as visibly frustrated as Adele could tell he felt. He leaned forward in earnest, his facial features tight with intensity, and continued to press his case. “The ship is designed to carry mostly cybernetic crew,” he explained. “In the event I am forced to use the vessel to evacuate our people, its life support resources will be strained enough without the addition of extraneous crewmembers.” His voice grew more urgent. “I believe I am capable of controlling the ship’s primary systems alone,” he pleaded. “You won’t be far behind me if I need you. But every hour counts, Captain. Please allow me to do this.”

Adele sighed. “Without a cortical node, you couldn’t even process all the sensor data properly,” she reminded him. “What if something goes wrong? What if you come under attack? How will you control an unfamiliar ship’s defensive and tactical systems while also controlling propulsion, maneuvering, and everything else? Not to mention, if something does go wrong, it won’t just be you we risk losing. If we’re anywhere near you, we’re at risk, as well. Icheb, I realize you want to assist our people more quickly, and so do I. But this is a bad idea and I’m saying no. Bring it up again and you’ll be spending some quality time in confinement for insubordination.”

Icheb wisely shut his mouth, but only for a moment. To Adele, it felt like his mind was in overdrive. She had ordered him to disconnect from the Resistance ship’s neural interface the second he had proposed his ill-advised plan, and ever since then, he had seemed strangely excited, almost manic. She suspected whatever information had been dumped into his head by the computer on that ship had simply been too much stimulation for her young exec to handle, and part of her was waiting for the inevitable crash after the high. She was torn between being grateful for the advantage his access to the more advanced ship gave them, and wondering if she should deny him that access in the future for his own safety and theirs.

“What about tying our own systems to their power source?” he suggested a moment later, changing tactics. “We can use the added power from the Omega particle to boost structural integrity and our impulse speed. We could reduce our transit time by several hours.”

Adele looked at him incredulously. “That power source shouldn’t even be here,” she said levelly. “I’m not tying it into our systems on a whim. Besides, I can’t even imagine the modifications needed to make something like that work. Even if I gave the go-ahead, it would probably take Telek longer to figure how to make the modifications than it’s going to take us to reach our ships.”

“Telek doesn’t have to do the modifications. We can use Borg technology,” Icheb protested. “It wouldn’t be difficult. Any member of the Resistance could simply make the correct modifications by infusing the necessary systems with nanoprobes. It would take minutes instead of hours.”

“You want me to let the Resistance assimilate Engineering?!” Adele almost laughed aloud. “Report to sickbay,” she ordered him. “I want Doctor Bashir to take a look at you.”

“Captain --” Icheb started to protest, but he was cut off.

“I’m not kidding, Commander,” Adele said firmly. “Report to sickbay or I’ll have you taken there. Think about what you just asked me to do. I do believe in my position, you would share my concern.” She looked at him pointedly.

Icheb looked as if he would like to protest further, but he seemed to think better of it and headed for the door. “Very well, Captain,” he said politely, as he left the ready room.

Adele stared after him for a moment, then shook her head. “Dismissed,” she said quietly. She took a moment to collect her thoughts, then contacted engineering. She needed a second opinion. As worried as she was about her exec, she couldn’t simply ignore what he had suggested if there was any chance it would save lives.
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