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Old September 1 2009, 07:54 PM   #181
KimM
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

It'll be jolly great fun finding out what you have in mind as the sections issue. Tesseract has become my guilty pleasure at work - mental health - just for FUN break. Almost fell off my seat when Icheb intro'd the 010. Whether or not it factors in I can wait to find out. But not very long!
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Old September 2 2009, 11:14 PM   #182
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

oldredshrtevr -- Regarding 010: You know, Voyager gave me the sense that Icheb knew a heck of a lot more than he was ever given credit for -- he and Mezoti both seemed to have just as much or almost as much Borg-imparted knowledge as Seven did, it's just that they were just sneakier/quieter about it and only brought it up when it was relevant/necessary.

Which reminds me that Icheb in particular was always a little bit sneaky and deceptive, almost like it was just in his nature. It wasn't usually that he was hiding anything dangerous (except in Imperfection when he went behind everyone's back to disengage his cortical node), but he was always sneaking around.

He hid his application to Starfleet from Seven until he felt like talking about it, he hid his thoughts about B'Elanna until he felt like talking about it, he helped Q hide the "surprise repair" on the Delta Flyer, he asked Chakotay to hide the fact that he'd been tutoring Naomi instead of doing his own paper and had no trouble coming up with a sneaky way to conceal the cider from Neelix ... for the amount of screentime he had, he sure spent a lot of it sneaking around.
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Old September 2 2009, 11:46 PM   #183
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

True enough - plus his parents were to an extreme sneaky using him as a biological weapon to kill the Borg. I blames the parents ...
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Old September 3 2009, 04:54 AM   #184
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER TWENTY

Adele eyed her second-in-command with concern as he entered her ready room. He seemed to be in a better mood than he had been in Astrometrics, for some reason, but she noticed he looked even more exhausted than he had earlier. She wondered for a moment if it was actually possible for someone whose bloodstream was full of Borg nanoprobes to get sick. There was that flu outbreak going on ... She shrugged off the thought, focusing on the matter at hand. Icheb was an adult. Surely he could see to his own health needs.

“Sorry, Commander,” she apologized, “I know I told you to get some rest, but something has come up, and I need your help.”

“Certainly, Captain,” Icheb replied.

“You have knowledge of this region of space that the rest of us don’t. Do you know anything about the Tyndorans?”

Icheb’s recall appeared instantaneous to Adele. “Species 6384. Humanoid. Approximately three billion life forms on a single planet. Warp capable. The Borg desired their assimilation because of their superior shield technology and biological distinctiveness.” He recited the statistics dispassionately, as if automatically retrieving them from some vast database. Adele found the overall effect a bit creepy, as if the entire Borg Collective was somehow hidden in plain sight, right there inside her first officer’s skull. You have got to get over this, Adele, she told herself. He’s your first officer, you can’t allow yourself to think like that.

“What kind of biological distinctiveness?” she asked him.

“They regenerate unusually quickly after injury for a purely organic species.”

Adele nodded. “I see,” she said, and she suddenly understood why some of the Starfleet brass back home had wanted access to the teraquads and teraquads of data inside the young officer’s head. She herself had already begun to wish she could simply download the contents of her first officer’s mind into the ship’s computer. It seemed inefficient and risky for the exec to possess so much information the captain didn’t have, and she knew if he was ever incapacitated, she would lose access to it entirely. She was aware that a legal battle had been fought back home over exactly that issue -- and that the law had eventually come down on the side of Icheb’s and Annika Hansen’s rights over their own thoughts and memories. In theory, Adele agreed with the ruling, but in practice, it was proving to be frustrating. However, since his knowledge would only become more crucial as they entered the Delta Quadrant, she was clearly just going to have to embrace his superiority in this area.

She continued, “Well, we’ve entered their space, and they’ve invited us to pay them a visit.” She handed him a PADD displaying a list of names, which he scanned quickly. “I’ll be taking these officers on an away mission in a runabout to the fifth planet to make first contact with their government and try to get some answers as to what happened here. Obviously, you’ll be commanding the Tesseract, so please make sure you get adequate rest.”

As Adele had expected him to do, Icheb protested. Adele feigned attentiveness to her first officer’s dutiful objection. If there was one thing she’d grown quickly weary of in six years as a starship captain, it was the seemingly endless dance between a captain and her exec regarding Starfleet regulations, particularly concerning away missions.

“Captain, regulations state that I should be the one to lead the away mission to Tyndora. We don’t know that they won’t be hostile. Sending the captain is too great a risk.”

“I knew you were going to say that, Commander, but I’m not going to change my mind,” replied Adele. “Your talents are better served here, supervising the analysis of our sensor data and commanding the ship in my absence. Also, I hate to say this, but if someone is going to handle first contact and diplomatic relations with a race that may have had fairly recent experience with the Borg, I’d rather not send a former drone to do it.”

Icheb held his tongue, suspecting any argument with the captain would be futile and inefficient. “I understand,” he assented. “I’ll stay behind. But I recommend you take a Saber class, not a runabout.”

“That’s a waste of resources, Commander. The crew complement on a Saber class is forty people. We don’t need forty people going to Tyndora.”

Icheb shook his head in disagreement and clarified, “The Saber class is much more capable tactically if anything goes wrong. With the damage to subspace between here and there, we won’t be able to get to you quickly to assist you if you need it. The Saber class ships also have higher warp capability and the slipstream drive, either of which you’ll be able to use once you get clear of the subspace rifts. That will reduce your travel time considerably when you rendezvous with the Tesseract again.” Having made his main points, Icheb gave Adele just a hint of a smile and surprised her by making a follow-up appeal to her personal comfort. “Besides, Captain,” he said, glancing down at the PADD with the names of Adele’s proposed away team, “do you really want to spend a minimum of two days in a cramped runabout with Alex Slidell?”

Adele had to laugh at this. Ensign Slidell was notorious for being difficult to get along with. “Pompous little ass” was a term she had overheard used more than once in reference to him, with “punk” and “spoiled brat” being close seconds. His father was a prominent starship captain and lack of parental involvement plus his status as one of Starfleet’s “legacies” had apparently done quite a number on his personality. Adele was amused that even the unfailingly polite ex-drone was apparently irritated by the younger officer, though he’d never shown it in any way until the comment he’d just made. Still smiling, Adele replied, “I have to say that’s a surprisingly irrelevant argument coming from you, Commander, though I think I like you a little better for it. But where’s your sense of camaraderie? Something like that could be a real bonding experience!”

“I had enough bonding during my time with the Collective, Captain.” Noticing Adele’s failure to laugh, he quickly added, “That was intended to be a joke.”

“Right,” replied Adele, raising her eyebrows and smiling despite herself. “That brings your count up to two for this conversation. A record. Either you're warming up to me, or you really do need to get some rest,” she teased him. “Your points regarding the tactical and speed advantages of the Saber class are well-taken, though. I’ll accept your recommendation.”

“Thank you,” replied Icheb. “Regarding crew assignments while you’re away, with your permission, I’d like to -- ” Adele held up a hand to stop him.

“Stop right there, Commander. Don’t you dare ask my permission. The Tesseract is all yours for the next few days. I’ll be trusting your judgment regarding all command decisions, starting now,” she said. She leaned back against the desk she was standing in front of, running her hands along it and looking around the ready room almost longingly. “Your orders are to run this ship and keep her safe, along with her crew. How you go about that is entirely up to you.” She paused to let the gravity of his responsibilities sink in. Giving him a pointed look, she added, “I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on you, Icheb, but you had better do as excellent a job as I’m promised you’re capable of, because the advisory board is going to be watching carefully as soon as they figure out I’ve gone.”

“Then you’re not going to tell them?”

“Not until I have to,” answered Adele. “Notify them in the daily report and answer any questions they ask you, but other than that, don’t volunteer anything until I get back. I’d like to keep the decision making to the senior staff for as long as possible, unless I think we have reason to believe the advisory board needs to weigh in officially. I want to try and avoid setting the precedent of calling a meeting over our every action.”

Icheb nodded. “Understood, Captain.”

“Good. I’ll stay in as close communication as I can -- I’m leaving Iden Nix with you; she should be able to handle any issues that come up in that regard.”

“Understood.”

“Okay.” Adele took a deep breath and a last look around her ready room. She smiled at Icheb. “She’s all yours. Take good care of her. I’m going to get my things together. I’d like to get underway as soon as possible so as not to keep our new acquaintances waiting.”

Icheb nodded. “Be safe, Captain,” he said.

Adele gave him a tight smile in return. “I’ll do my best, and you do the same, Number One.” She left the younger officer standing in her ready room and headed to her quarters to pack.

Twenty-five minutes later, Adele stood next to the hangar deck transporter pad with a small bag slung over her shoulder. Recognizable to her among the thirty or so crewmen rapidly assembling there were Lieutenant Commander Adrian Keller, Lieutenant T’Pring, Lieutenant Commander Ryzal, Ensign Marcus Lindley, Dr. Irina Marchenko, and Ensign Alex Slidell. She also saw an Andorian lieutenant from engineering and a few other people with familiar faces whose names she couldn’t immediately place. As she greeted the officers and crewmen with courteous smiles and nods, it occurred to her she really needed to make a point to try and talk to more of these people. Perhaps the two-day journey at impulse into the star system’s inner region would give her the opportunity to do that.

Once assembled, the team beamed over to the Sol. The team quickly dropped off their belongings in their respective cramped quarters, and took up their positions around the small starship. Adele settled into the captain’s chair, surrounded by Adrian at the helm, T’Pring manning science and communications, Slidell at Ops, and Ryzal at tactical.

T’Pring hailed the Tyndoran ships. “Sol to Tyndoran vessels, we are ready to depart,” said Adele over the comm.

“Acknowledged,” replied the voice of Ordi’te. “Transmitting coordinates. When we get close, stay with us, or you won’t get past our planetary shield.”

“Thank you,” replied Adele calmly. “Commander Keller, take us out.”

Adrian requested clearance and entered the launch sequence. The docking bay doors opened as the Sol eased out into space. Adele hadn’t seen the exterior of the Tesseract in a while, and was once again awed by its size as Adrian brought their much smaller ship around to join the three Tyndoran cruisers, which were much more closely matched to the size of the Sol. It was hard to get a sense of how immense the Tesseract was when one was inside it. From the outside, it was astonishing.

When they joined the Tyndoran ships, Ordi’te gave the order to depart. “Match their course and speed, Commander,” Adele instructed Adrian. This worked out to about three-quarters impulse, and Adele realized it was going to be a long trip. She settled back in her chair, feeling like she should remain present on the bridge for at least a little while before retiring to her small private quarters to get a few hours of sleep.

She noticed Adrian seemed to be following at more of a distance than she would have liked. “Any particular reason you’re hanging out back here, Mr. Keller?”

“Just giving them some breathing room, Captain.” His back still turned to her, he shook his head and smiled. Adele picked up on the feeling of amusement he was unconsciously projecting.

“Something funny, Commander?” Adrian turned briefly to look at her in surprise. For the first time, he noticed her telltale black eyes. I didn’t know she was a Betazoid, he thought wryly. He wondered what other emotions of his she had picked up on during his time at the helm of the Tesseract.

“Nothing, Captain ... it’s just that you sound exactly like my wife whenever we’re in a shuttle together.”

“Oh? Is she a bit of a backseat driver?” Adele asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Adrian replied with a smile.

“Claire, right?”

“Captain?”

“Your wife is Claire Ryan, the exobiologist? I met her once at Deep Space Nine just after the war. Lovely woman, I liked her very much.”

“Claire Keller, now, Captain,” Adrian corrected her good-naturedly, glancing away from his console for a moment to smile at the captain. “Seven years next month.”

“Congratulations,” replied Adele sincerely. “This is a hell of a way to spend your next seven years together.”

“She insisted on coming along, and bringing the kids. Her family is worried sick, of course, and offered to take them, but I guess compared to the Dominion War and its aftermath, exploring the Delta Quadrant in the fleet’s largest ship sounded safe and cushy to Claire by comparison.”

“I could see that,” replied Adele thoughtfully. “How old are your children?”

“Six and four. Bennett and Lucy. Bright, sweet kids, both of them. They’re so excited to be on board.”

“I bet they are,” sighed Adele. The concept of families on board starships was one of those ideas that seemed wonderful and eminently reasonable until one was promoted to captain. There were 42 children aboard the Tesseract, a small number, given the size of the crew, but enough to form a knot in Adele’s stomach if she thought about the risk too much. Ultimately, though, she knew it was their parents’ decision to make, and their parents’ risk to accept. All she could do was the same thing she did every day -- explore the galaxy and try to keep the ship in one piece.

Beginning to feel the late hour, she rose from her seat. “Ryzal, you have the bridge,” she addressed her chief tactical officer. “If you need me, I’ll be in my quarters.” The Saurian nodded and left his station to sit in the command chair. Adele walked off the bridge and found her way to her compact room. She unpacked her small bag and dressed for bed. It was 01:30. She hoped to get at least four hours of sleep before returning to the bridge to check on their progress.

She considered making a log entry, but a full-body yawn convinced her otherwise. Instead, she lay down. Within moments of settling onto the overly firm bed, she fell into a deep but disturbed sleep, her dreams full of devastated Borg cubes, nervous-looking Tyndorans, and the bloodied face of her long-dead Imzadi.

Last edited by kes7; September 3 2009 at 05:24 AM.
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Old September 3 2009, 07:38 AM   #185
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Adele is handling Icheb well, and her time away from Tesseract will give him the opportunity both to stretch his command legs as well as give the captain a chance to guage his abilities. I'll be interested to see the advisory council's reactions when they discover Adele has jumped ship without informing them in advance.

And at least she took his advice on taking the Sol rather than a runabout.
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Old September 3 2009, 08:51 AM   #186
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

DEar Kes7:
WOW! I think that was my favorite chapter yet. I The thought of Adele onboard a runabout or the Sol with a bunch of eclectic crewmen made me smile, and seems a cool nod to the episode of Voyager (I think it was called something like "The Good Shepherd"--someone correct me if I'm wrong) in which Janeway took the Delta Flyer and a crew of Voyager's not-so-finest (a chronic screw-up, a hypochondriac, and a surly, arrogant genius) on an away mission in the hopes of getting to know the only members of her crew she'd somewhat neglected. The episode showed how fiercely protective Janeway the shepherd is of all her flock. One of my favorite aspects of her character. I'm getting a similar sense of Adele. She's already like the iconic mother figure who can "read your mind," the "eyes in the back of her head" type. I think that when Beckley starts messing with Icheb, he will surely find the Captain's boot up his rear-admiral. I cant wait for that smackdown!

By the by, I really like Adele's tone. She's clearly in charge, and very comfortable in her authority--a great teacher for Icheb. Man, Icheb has been pretty lucky with the women in his life (except, I suppose for his biological mother)--from Janeway to Seven to Adele. And then there is Marren. He better get off the stick and tell that woman what she needs and deserves to hear. Icheb's and Marren's buddy John served on Titan. I hope he reminds them how much time Riker and Troi wasted getting out of their own way before the got married.

Well, I'm gonna stop right there, because I'll be mortified of I get too specific again.

Another terrific installment, K7. I'm always looking forward to more.

I remain much obliged,
D
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Old September 3 2009, 09:00 AM   #187
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Another fantastic addition to the Tesseract story - your character interactions are so well written, makes me jealous!

I love the concept of this massive ship with all the little ships inside: I know some people didn't particularly like the idea at the beginning of you posting the story, but I think it's great.

Can't wait to see what adventures/problems/disasters the Sol is going to get into, and how Icheb is going to handle the advisory board.

Great stuff, as always. More?
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Old September 3 2009, 04:51 PM   #188
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CaptainSarine wrote: View Post
Another fantastic addition to the Tesseract story - your character interactions are so well written, makes me jealous!

I love the concept of this massive ship with all the little ships inside: I know some people didn't particularly like the idea at the beginning of you posting the story, but I think it's great.

Can't wait to see what adventures/problems/disasters the Sol is going to get into, and how Icheb is going to handle the advisory board.

Great stuff, as always. More?
Cap'n Sas! Not only do I agree with your assessment of Tesseract, particularly the notion of the scope of the vessel and the smaller ships aboard. And I was just about to head on over to your Restoration page. I loved your last chapter. The S.I. agent is terrific. Dont sell yourself short. Thanks for your work as well.
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Old September 4 2009, 12:47 AM   #189
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Thank you all for your awesome comments! I appreciate them.

Diogenes, yes, Good Shepherd was the episode you're thinking of. I'd say the biggest difference between Adele and Kathryn is Adele's ability to literally get inside other people's heads (or at least their hearts -- she's an empath, not a mind reader).

Whereas Kathryn cared about others, but was very fixated on her own opinion and point of view, Adele can't help but see where other people are coming from thanks to her partly Betazoid biology. That's what gives her that "eyes in the back of her head" ability. She doesn't necessarily WANT to be giving Icheb advice about his love life or wondering what the hell is up with the Admiral ... but her perceptions of those around her are so shaped by their emotional states that she can't help but interact with those emotions (or in the case of Admiral Beckley, the lack thereof).

Really, it's almost a self-preservation instinct. For example, if Icheb is tied up in knots over his issues with Maren, it's distracting to Adele, so she does what she can to encourage him to fix the problem. Ultimately, she wants what every captain wants -- for her crew to focus on their jobs and be good officers and crewmen. She just has unique insight into the way that emotions can play into that and tries to make appropriate interventions.

There you go. More than you ever wanted to know about Adele Oyugo.


Capt. Sarine, I said this on your thread, but THANK YOU for reading my story and liking it. Coming from someone as obviously talented as you, it's extremely high praise. Same goes for Gibraltar, who is just awesome.

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Old September 4 2009, 01:35 AM   #190
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Nice chapter kes.

I can't wait to see what's gonna happen on board with Icheb incharge. Maybe this will get under the Admiral's skin, forcing another emotion out of him.

And a long two days for Adele, hope she brought a book with her on the journey. Though sleeping through it is always good.
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Old September 4 2009, 09:06 AM   #191
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Capt. Sarine, I said this on your thread, but THANK YOU for reading my story and liking it. Coming from someone as obviously talented as you, it's extremely high praise. Same goes for Gibraltar, who is just awesome.
Kes7, you are so welcome! Same right back at ya! Roll on the next chapter!!!
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Old September 5 2009, 10:28 AM   #192
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

I'm glad to see that Adele is changing her attitude towards the advisory board. Even more impressive is her hands-off approch with Icheb to let him run the entire show while she's gone. She clearly trusts him explicitly now which may be a bit suprising considering the many reasons one might not ... ex-Borg drone, young age, personal hangups and a tendency to delay getting a much needed rest, to mention just a few.

A lot of responsbility placed on his shoulders. But I guess it would have to come to that sooner or later. Let's see how he does.

As for Adele's quest, I'm curious to see if this is going to be one of those times everybody learns that those annoying regs about captain's leading away mission are actually there for a reason.

Great chapter.
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Old September 5 2009, 11:20 AM   #193
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Neat chapter with the command relationship between Adele and Icheb developing nicely, with Adele willing to trust the Commander despite her reservations and the stark reminders about his Borg heritage not to mention the reasons outlined by CeJay.

Yes there are certain similarities with Janeway but stark differences too and it is around how she interacts with people that the difference is most glaring. Of course such an approach could cause difficulties and quandaries for Adele down the line - especially in light of the young families onboard not to mention whatever new families might start along the seven years.

The decisions made by Adele are telling of her personality, her growing trust in Icheb and her concerns regards the Advisory Board. She nicely accepts Icheb's thoughts about taking the Sol, she opts to leave without telling the Board - and she's just right in her assessment to that. Hopefully it is a little one up on them and puts some in their box - though it will be interesting to see how Icheb fares in the next meeting when he debriefs them to the captain's absence.

Now I have to add an ominious little wondering about the impressive shield technology of this race. If the Sol can't get through without their assistance how will they ever leave if things go south? Hmmm ... lots of little things here and there to mull over.
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Old September 5 2009, 05:21 PM   #194
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CeJay and MirandaFave, thanks for the great comments!

Gee, everyone is so suspicious of the Tyndorans! Where's your Federation Starfleet sense of openness to new cultures?

I think Adele's trusting of Icheb at this point is more like when you're a kid on the high dive, and you're pretty scared, but at some point you just have to jump in with both feet. Better to get it over with now than in a Big Freaking Emergency. (And the way this mission has been going so far, this may be as safe as it gets, despite the torn up subspace and unfamiliar aliens.)

She still has major misgivings, but without anything concrete to base them on, she's just going to have to trust that her superiors at Starfleet knew what they were doing when they assigned Icheb as her XO. She's not 100% skeptical anymore, though -- since they've gotten to talk more over the past few chapters, she's starting to like him a little bit, or at least get used to him.

I'm hoping to get the next chapter up tonight. Thanks, everyone!

Last edited by kes7; September 5 2009 at 05:58 PM.
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Old September 6 2009, 05:27 AM   #195
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

“Regeneration cycle complete.” As his alcove powered down, Icheb awoke after six hours with barely enough time to dress and replicate a nutritional supplement before he was due on the bridge for his first full day of temporary command of the Tesseract. He hoped the night had been uneventful in his absence. He assumed it had been, as the senior staff had been instructed by Adele before leaving that they could summon the chief engineer to interrupt his regeneration cycle if they really needed to.

As usual, Icheb felt much better after a full night of rest. The headache he had been fighting in engineering last night was gone, and he no longer felt tired or off-balance. Eager to take advantage of his renewed energy before the day sapped it away again, he headed for the bridge, carrying his nutritional supplement with him so as not to be late.

During the short walk there, he recalled working with Maren in engineering the night before. They had been interrupted by Adele’s calling him to her ready room to brief him on the away mission, but before that, he reflected, they had actually been interacting with one another like a team, and they had come up with a way to alter their shield configuration and energy signature to both reduce their apparent size and appear more traditionally Federation despite all the technology they had “borrowed” from the Borg. At impulse, the latter had been easy to do, but Maren was trying to figure out a way to create the same effect at warp and slipstream speeds, too. There were times it might be useful. Throughout the process, Maren hadn’t quite been warm, but she had treated him civilly and even expressed concern for his well-being on more than one occasion. It was less than he wanted, but more than he had been expecting, given her extremely negative reactions to all of his previous attempts at interaction.

Between the sudden, marked improvement in his situation with the chief engineer and the prospect of spending a few days in the captain’s chair of the Tesseract, Icheb was in an unusually good mood, despite the questionable circumstances that had led to his command. He was normally early for Alpha shift, but today, he arrived right on time. “Good morning, sir,” Iden Nix greeted him as he walked onto the bridge. He nodded and smiled at her.

“Good morning, Lieutenant. Have we heard anything from the away team?”

“They’re still en route. Nothing new to report, sir.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Icheb said with another smile, and the Bolian woman gave him a slightly perplexed nod in return.

John Quigley was at tactical in Ryzal’s absence, per Icheb’s hastily issued crew reassignments the night before. Icheb nodded in greeting at John and grinned at him, too, and John smiled back in obvious bewilderment at his usually reticent friend’s unexpected good cheer. Icheb walked to the center of the bridge and settled into the command chair with enough slightly self-satisfied contentment that Iden and John exchanged a glance. John couldn’t help himself. “Did you have a good night, Commander?”

Icheb craned his head around to look at his friend. “Great,” he replied, knowing John was thoroughly puzzled, and enjoying the rare opportunity to feel like he had the upper hand in their social interaction. “Yours?” He took a sip of his nutritional supplement.

“Just fine, sir,” John replied, shooting Iden another look. She shrugged, shook her head, and turned her attention to her console.

Despite the uneasy circumstances of being stuck at impulse in a damaged sector of space without their captain, Icheb couldn’t help but enjoy sitting in the command chair. He was pleased with the job Adrian Keller’s temporary replacement was doing at the helm, and all systems appeared to be functioning well. If they could get through today without incident, they would be a third of the way through the damaged area of subspace and that much closer to resuming their course to the Delta Quadrant ... assuming Adele was back by then.

Forty-five minutes later, as Icheb sat quietly reading the comparative analysis Astrometrics had completed of the readings from this region of space and the readings from Aris 4, the comm. activated, and the bubbly voice of Sheila Duggal came over the bridge speakers. “Commander Icheb, please report to sickbay immediately.” The mention of sickbay brought Icheb’s good mood to a quick end. He reached behind his neck and touched the ever-present cortical monitor he was wearing. It was still there. He got up, walked over to John and pointed to it.

“Is this on?” he asked. John pulled aside the collar of Icheb’s shirt and looked at it.

“Glowing means it’s on, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” Icheb replied.

“Then it’s on.”

Icheb nodded and put Iden in charge while he reported to Sickbay as Sheila had requested. He wondered why he was being summoned on the CMO’s day off. When he arrived, the first thing he noticed was that Maren was there, too, standing next to Sheila and looking impatient. For a moment, he was gripped by irrational fear as he wondered what, if anything, she had told them. He gave her a slightly panicked, questioning glance, and she narrowed her eyes and shook her head, then pointed to a table full of gel packs. Relief and a bit of embarrassment washed over Icheb as he realized this visit to sickbay likely had nothing to do with him personally, and everything to do with the fact that he was currently in charge of the ship.

“Thanks for coming on short notice, Commander. I hope your first day of command is going well,” Sheila said.

“It is, thank you,” replied Icheb. “What is this about?”

Sheila motioned toward the gel packs. “Dr. Marchenko had just about figured out what had been happening to these gel packs when she had to go on the away mission,” she said. “I had some time this morning, so I looked at her work, and maybe it just needed a fresh pair of eyes or something, but I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on. The problem is, I’m not sure it can be fixed.”

“Explain,” Icheb and Maren demanded in flawless unison. Sheila looked surprised and a tiny bit intimidated. Maren blushed and looked down at her feet, but Icheb barely suppressed a small smile. It had been a long time since that had happened, but it had once been such a frequent occurrence that John had jokingly called them One of Two and Two of Two -- their own little collective.

“Okay,” Sheila said. “We have a Cairn officer aboard. His name is Rennel Linto, a lieutenant JG in the operations division. He’s one of only four Cairn officers in Starfleet, and the only one who has ever been assigned to a ship with bio-neural gel packs. I think he’s inadvertently causing the failures with his unusually strong psionic field.” She tapped at a console next to the table and brought up a magnified image of a neuropathic scan, pointing to a few small, dark spots. “The neural fibers are suffering trauma similar to the kind of trauma you or I would suffer if a telepath tried to invade our minds at the deepest levels. The gel packs don’t have any shielding or protection against his psionic waves, so their neural tissue is very susceptible to this kind of damage.”

“But how do you know it’s the Cairn? Don’t we have a lot of telepaths on board?” Maren asked.

“Ninety-seven of them, mostly Betazoids and Vulcans,” Sheila replied. “It took me a little while to narrow it down. But a lot of the telepathic species on board simply don’t have enough telepathic projection power to affect anything around them. Basically, they’re receivers, not transmitters. And some of the rest have never been in the parts of the ship that have had failures. When I looked at the failure reports you gave to Irina, I was able to find only five telepathic crew members who had been in the areas of the failures and had sufficient psionic range to cause this kind of damage. Then I noticed there had been an unusually long gap between failures, coinciding with our away mission to Aris 4. The only one of the five who was with us on that away mission was Linto,” she said, looking at Icheb.

Icheb remembered Rennel Linto from the impromptu briefing he’d given on the hangar deck before the mission. The lieutenant, apparently unable to speak, communicated by way of a specially designed artificial voice box that translated the images in his mind into words. “That’s not conclusive proof,” Icheb pointed out, “but it does sound like the most reasonable assumption given the facts. Have you tested your theory?”

“No,” replied Sheila. “I wanted to notify you first and ask you what you want to do. If you bring me some working gel packs,” she said, looking at Maren, “I can call him in and run some tests. But if it does turn out to be him, I’m not sure what we can do about it. Seven years is an awfully long time to confine someone to quarters just for being who they are, and I can’t think of a way to dampen the psionic field of a Cairn without causing significant impact on his daily life. They use their telepathic abilities for everything, even communication. It was only twenty or so years ago that humans were even able to begin communicating with them.”

Maren sighed in frustration. “Well, if we keep letting things go on like this, we won’t have any gel packs left. We just launched, and my staff has replaced 57 of these things. We have a good number of spares, but nothing lasts forever, especially not at this rate. Something has to be done.”

“It will be,” Icheb reassured her quickly. “Don’t worry.” He managed to resist the impulse, created by years of habit, to place his hand on her arm in an attempt to comfort her. He stayed silent for a moment, thinking, all the while keenly aware of the unfortunate similarities between his own situation with his neural transceiver and this officer’s situation with his telepathic abilities. He wanted to help Rennel live a normal life on the Tesseract. “What if we could find a way to shield the gel packs?”

Maren looked at him incredulously. “All 21,492 of them? How?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Icheb, “but I have no doubt that you will find an effective solution. The alternatives are unacceptable. Dr. Duggal, bring Lieutenant Linto in and test him. Lieutenant O’Connor, work with her to come up with a way of shielding the gel packs. I’d like to see your proposal by the end of Beta shift. If I’m regenerating, wake me. This is important and every hour makes a difference.”

Maren nodded. “Yes, sir.” Icheb gave her a bemused glance. He had always outranked her, so he was used to her calling him that in the context of their careers in Starfleet, but the fact that he was now giving her direct orders was something he was going to need some time to get used to. Maren met his gaze for a second longer than strictly necessary. He saw something in her eyes, a feeling -- he wasn’t sure what.

His communicator chirped. It was John. “Bridge to Commander Icheb, there’s someone here to see you.”

Icheb tapped his combadge. “Acknowledged. On my way,” he said.

“I have to return to the bridge,” he told Maren and Sheila, though they had both heard the transmission. “Contact me if you think of a better solution or make progress with this one.” He turned to Maren. “If you want my assistance after Alpha shift, let me know.” Maren nodded.

As he walked back to the bridge, Icheb thought of the three captains he’d served under as a bridge officer. Their days had often consisted of one interruption after another. If the last hour was any indication, his first day of actual command was shaping up to be no different. As he walked onto the bridge, he saw his uninvited visitor before he saw anyone else. Steeling himself for the abuse that was sure to follow, he walked toward the petite blond woman who was clothed in civilian attire. As he passed John’s station, John whispered “I tried to get her to come back later ...”

Icheb paused and shook his head. “I don’t predict she would have taken “no” for an answer. It’s not your fault,” he whispered back. He continued his walk to the door of Adele’s ready room, where Eleanor Gentry stood looking even more agitated than usual.

“Hello, Ms. Gentry,” he said cordially. He manually entered the security code for the ready room and the door slid open. As they walked in, Icheb pulled out a visitor’s chair for Eleanor, then sat behind Adele’s large desk. He and Eleanor sat staring at each other for several seconds. Finally, Icheb broke the silence.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

Eleanor waved the PADD she was holding angrily. “What the hell is going on here, Commander?”

Icheb eyed her with preternatural calm. “If you’d calm down and tell me to what you’re referring, I would be happy to try and answer any questions you have.” Adele had told him not to volunteer anything. He was good at following orders.

“You know what I’m referring to, Commander. Am I to understand that Captain Oyugo is on her way to a planet we have had no formal contact with, and you are now in charge of the Tesseract? And no one thought it wise to send the advisory board more than a PADD full of data regarding the matter?”

“Starfleet captains often handle first contact. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about that. It didn’t seem necessary to do more than put the information in the daily report,” Icheb answered, indicating the PADD she was holding, one of five he had ordered distributed to the members of the advisory board.

“No other Starfleet captain answers to an advisory board, Commander. There’s a reason we’re here,” Eleanor retorted.

“I don’t see anyone here but you, Ms. Gentry,” Icheb answered coolly. His outward calm rivaled that of any Borg drone, but he had just about had it with the obnoxious lawyer. “The rest of the advisory board seems to have accepted the situation. You’ve made it quite clear you disapprove of my presence on this mission. Would you like to discuss that, since we’re alone? Or would you rather continue shouting at me about a perceived slight?”

Eleanor assessed him warily. She could see that he was out of patience. If he had been human, she would have used it to her advantage somehow, but she suddenly realized she was at a loss. Maybe that was what terrified her about the ex-drone. She didn’t know the first thing about what made him tick, or what he was capable of.

“I want to know why you’re here,” she finally said. “I looked at your file, at least the parts I have access to. You’re very highly classified, you know,” she added snidely. “I’m finding it hard to imagine why someone who escaped from the Borg Collective and apparently ran away from his home world would want to return. Personal curiosity, Commander? Or is it something more?”

“If you’re going to accuse me of collaborating with the Borg, could you get to the point?” Icheb requested in an impatient tone. “And if you could do it more efficiently, I’d appreciate it, as I’ve heard it before. I’m sure you know you’re not the first person to have made the suggestion -- you did say you read my file.”

“I’m not accusing you of anything, Commander,” Eleanor retorted testily. “I’m merely trying to understand why someone who endured significant personal sacrifice to get to the Alpha Quadrant in the first place would be so eager to return to the Delta Quadrant at the first opportunity. And I must say, I find it more than a little disconcerting that after eight years of no recorded Borg activity, we get out here with you on board, and suddenly space is littered with the remains of destroyed Borg and something is interacting with your implants.” She paused to take a breath, then blurted out the truth. “You’re right, Commander. I don’t think you belong on this mission. I think your very presence is a huge risk, and I don’t care how well-regarded you are by your superiors at Starfleet or how much useful information about the Delta Quadrant is contained by the implants in your brain, you scare the hell out of me. I hope to God you prove me wrong, but I have a bad feeling about all of this.”

Icheb stood up, clearly done. “Thank you for your input, Ms. Gentry,” he said politely but firmly, without bothering to acknowledge her rant. “I look forward to seeing you at the next meeting of the advisory board.” He motioned toward the door of the ready room, silently inviting her to leave.

Eleanor had lost that bout, and she knew it. The Admiral had been right, Commander Icheb handled himself surprisingly well under pressure. She had lost her composure, revealed too many of her own thoughts, and allowed him to stay entirely too quiet. Something about the XO just unnerved her, and she had allowed it to affect her judgment. She vowed that it wouldn’t happen again.

“Thank you for your time, Commander,” she replied coldly. Nodding at him as she passed, she walked out of the ready room and off the bridge.

Inside Admiral Beckley’s office, the Admiral chuckled as he listened to the exchange on the live feed, amused at the attorney’s obvious humiliation. He had to admit the Borg kid had balls of steel when the situation called for it. He wondered if those were standard issue from the Collective, as he had met plenty of Starfleet captains and even some Admirals who might have tripped over themselves trying to please the pretty, hard-charging lawyer. It was almost enough to make him hope the kid made it through the next seven years and got a ship of his own. He listened for another minute until he was sure Icheb had left the ready room, then deleted the audio file and deactivated the feed. It would reactivate automatically the next time someone spoke in the room.

With his morning entertainment finished, Admiral Beckley turned to more pressing matters. He pressed the call button on his desk. “Martha,” he said, “replicate some lunch, would you?”

“Yes, sir,” came the disaffected reply. Beckley smirked. It was good to be the Admiral.

Last edited by kes7; September 6 2009 at 10:20 AM. Reason: fixed error
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