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Old February 25 2010, 06:41 PM   #451
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Thank you so much, everyone, for reading and commenting. I kept putting off replying until I can find time to do it individually, but this week will not seem to cooperate, so this time I'm just going to have to say thank you for reading and giving feedback -- please know that I really appreciate it. More on the way, but like I said ... this week is not cooperating, so it might be the weekend before I post the next chapter.

-k7, getting smacked around a bit by real life
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Old March 2 2010, 10:45 PM   #452
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

dratted real life!
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Old March 3 2010, 05:29 AM   #453
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

Sickbay, 0348 hours

Maren’s nervous fingers fumbled with the replicator control pad as she entered Icheb’s command codes to override the medical security lockout. The computer’s voice was ever-pleasant as it delivered the bad news: “Code not recognized.”

Pull yourself together, Maren, she chided herself in annoyance. You have to do this. She re-entered the code -- correctly, this time -- and the tools she needed materialized on the replicator tray in front of her. She immediately picked them up and headed for the drone.

Up close, she could see the woman’s face. Her heart pounded in her chest. I can’t do this. I can’t go through with this; it’s wrong, she thought in panic. Yes, you can, she quickly reassured herself. She’s still a drone, still dangerous, and Icheb won’t survive if you don’t.

Taking a deep breath, she carefully used the laser scalpel to cut into the mottled gray skin on the undamaged part of the cyborg’s lightly ridged forehead. She cursed her slightly trembling hands as she made the incision, which looked nothing like the perfect circles and lines she had seen Voyager’s Doctor cut. I guess sometimes it helps to be a hologram, she noted wryly.

She quickly completed the cortical node extraction and turned her attention to the next task, but when she saw that Icheb wasn’t where she needed him to be, she panicked. It was only then that she remembered he was gone. It wasn’t 2382, she wasn’t in a shuttle on the way to Risa, and Icheb wasn’t dying -- at least not imminently. She suddenly realized she was dreaming again.

She woke up with a start in her room in sickbay, her heart still pounding in her chest. Pull yourself together, Maren, she told herself, echoing her dream. You can’t fall apart right now.

She looked over at John, who had somehow managed to fall asleep in a visitor’s chair. His blond head rested at an awkward angle against the bulkhead, and one of the medics had finally taken pity on him and covered him in a thin, Starfleet-issue blanket. He looked completely exhausted, and Maren had a feeling his neck was going to be incredibly sore from sleeping in that strange position.

He had come to sickbay to apologize to her -- unnecessarily, Maren felt. Then Julian Bashir had interrupted them to deliver the news that Icheb was alive and had contacted the Tesseract. That Icheb had been accounted for was simultaneously an enormous relief to them both and a reminder that he was far from out of the woods, and the sheer emotional weight of it had been too much for Maren. Rather than the joy or worry she should have been feeling, she had suddenly just felt utterly exhausted.

As the emotional fatigue of the day -- augmented by painkillers and sedatives -- finally caught up to her, Maren had tried to convince John to go back to his own quarters and get some much-needed rest, but he had refused to leave, obviously still feeling guilty about walking out on her that afternoon. No matter how many times Maren reassured him that his anger had been justified, he still seemed to be bending over backward to be conciliatory. She got the feeling he simply didn’t want to be alone. It had been a difficult day for everyone, she realized. Shoving aside thoughts about both their kiss and the heated arguments they‘d had earlier that day, she wondered if anything would ever be the same again.

She picked up the PADD sitting on her tray table so she could check the time without asking the computer aloud and waking John up. 0349 hours. Less than fifteen hours to go until the captain would rendezvous with whoever was holding Icheb. The Borg resistance, she thought with apprehension. She wondered if these ‘resistance’ Borg knew they had captured a living weapon. She also wondered what the drones in the brig might be able to reveal about the situation.

Her mind started to wander, thinking of questions to ask the drones and the best way to word them, but at the same time, she felt tired and lightheaded. She was finding that actually bringing a coherent thought to completion was difficult, if not impossible. After a few unsuccessful minutes spent trying to focus, she finally closed her eyes and allowed the PADD she was holding to slip out of her fingers and onto the mattress beside her. Maybe tomorrow will be easier, she thought to herself, just before sleep overcame her once more.

*****

Sickbay, 0615 hours

John Quigley awoke to the sights and sounds of sickbay as Irina Marchenko shook his shoulder gently.

“Did anyone ever tell you that you sleep like the dead?” the Russian doctor asked him quietly as he blinked in confusion, then ran his hand down his face tiredly.

“I can’t say it’s a first,” John replied hoarsely. He winced as he sat up straight. His neck was killing him.

“I can give you something for that,” Irina assured him, in a voice just above a whisper. “It’s six-fifteen,” she added. “I’m sure you want to shower before Alpha shift, so I thought I’d come wake you up.” John nodded, yawning, then looked over at Maren, relieved to see her sound asleep.

“She’s doing fine,” Irina reassured him. She raised an accusatory eyebrow at John and added, “The night we launched, you did not tell me you had a girlfriend.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” John retorted, unable to hide his exasperation.

Irina looked disbelieving. “Whatever,” she said dismissively. “Just know for in the future, I don’t sleep with men who are attached. There are plenty of men on this ship who do not come with that kind of drama. I don’t like drama.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” John repeated irritably.

“As you say,” Irina conceded calmly, obviously humoring him. “In any case, I’m telling you she’s stable. I think we might even release her to quarters tomorrow. It will be a little while before she is one hundred percent, but you don’t need to sit vigil beside her like this. She will be all right. I would tell you if you needed to be here; I promise.”

John nodded slowly, still trying to shake off the fog of sleep. “Thanks,” he said sincerely. “Can you please hand me that PADD?” he requested, and Irina turned to see the device sitting next to Maren. She handed it over.

“Thanks,” John said again, and Irina nodded in reply. As she went about scanning her patient and making a few adjustments on the biobed controls, John entered a quick message into Maren’s PADD.

M -

Back after A shift, if you’re still here. Comm. if you need anything. Remember what I said last night -- be careful, OK? Still sorry, too.

-JQ


He quickly saved the message and set the PADD on the small tray table beside Maren’s bed. He hoped she would take the advice he had given her last night to heart, but he wasn’t optimistic. He looked at the sleeping engineer for a long moment before standing up, stretching, and walking out. He had a feeling it was going to be another long, difficult day.

*****

Large Conference Room, 0854 hours

Lieutenant Commander Ryzal arrived several minutes early for the scheduled senior staff briefing, cursing the artificial daylight as he did so. His species was nocturnal by nature, and he preferred to work Gamma shift, but his position as chief tactical officer of the Tesseract meant that he had to work artificial days more often than artificial nights. The environmental lighting system, designed to mimic the circadian rhythms of an average M-class world, worked to most of the crew’s advantage, but not his.

Normally, the Saurian bore this slight inconvenience stoically, but he was irritated to begin with, and this early briefing wasn’t helping. His most promising junior officer had gone missing for a few hours yesterday, disappearing after leading the security team to manage the Borg intrusion and only turning up again for the second half of his shift, disheveled and distracted. Ryzal had heard he was in sickbay with the chief engineer, but he hadn’t had a chance to talk to the younger man about any of it the previous afternoon. Both he and the lieutenant had been too busy running tactical analyses of the confrontation with the Borg and what apparently had been some sort of cloaked resistance ship.

As he waited for the meeting to begin, he looked around at the other early arrivals. Adrian Keller, the ship’s flight controller, sat clutching a mug full of something steaming, looking fairly well-rested. Beside him was the CMO, Julian Bashir, who looked extremely tired. The two friends were chatting quietly about the previous day’s events and the upcoming mission to rendezvous with the Borg resistance, and the doctor frequently paused to yawn or rub his eyes. Lieutenant Telek, the acting chief engineer, sat at the far end of the table intently studying a PADD, his blue face lined with fatigue and worry.

With a minute to spare before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the rest of the senior staff began to file in. Ryzal had long observed that most of the fleet had the on-time arrival down to an art form. He knew they thought it showed they were too busy to arrive early, but sufficiently dedicated to their duties to be prompt. Ryzal had never cared for such games. He could perform most of his duties from anywhere on the ship with the technology at his disposal, and he preferred to let his record speak for itself. Shipboard politics were not something he enjoyed at all.

Acting first officer Borux, Chief Science Officer T’Pring, and Chief Communications Officer Iden Nix all walked in together, no doubt coming straight from the bridge. Adele Oyugo was right behind them. Ryzal had learned in his twenty years as a security and tactical officer how to read the facial expressions of most humanoid species, and even a few non-humanoids. At this moment, his captain was an enigma, her visage perfectly neutral.

“Good morning,” she greeted her staff crisply. “By now, I’m sure all of you have heard that Commander Icheb contacted the Tesseract late last night. For now, he seems to be unharmed, and I’ll be leading an away mission to rendezvous with the ship he’s on this afternoon. Borux will be in command while I’m gone. The rest of you will be with me, except for Telek,” she said, glancing at the Andorian. “With O’Connor down for the count, I need you here manning engineering. I’ll be bringing Loren Daniels as our engineer on the Sol.” Telek nodded and made a note on his PADD.

“Captain,” Ryzal spoke up.

Adele looked at him. “Yes, Commander?”

“Given what we know of the tactical capabilities of the entity holding the first officer, I question the wisdom of putting the entire senior staff at risk in this way.”

Adele sighed. “The entire senior staff is at risk no matter where they are, given what we’ve observed. If I’m taking a Saber-class head-to-head with these Borg, I want my best people with me.”

“Then why don’t we take the Tesseract?” Iden interjected. Everyone turned to look at the Bolian woman. “Well, I mean, it’s a lot more tactically capable than … well, anything, really,” she said, blushing a deeper shade of blue. Iden could talk all day about communications, or make endless social conversation, but voicing proposals outside of her usual realm of expertise during staff meetings was not normally her style. She just really didn’t want to be on a tiny Saber-class, even an upgraded one like the Sol, if there was any chance they were going up against Borg, even mysterious resistance Borg -- or maybe even especially mysterious resistance Borg.

“There are hundreds of civilians on this ship,” Adele replied. “I’d rather not intentionally bring them into harm’s way.”

“So, get them off,” Iden answered back. “Put non-essential personnel and civilians on the Sol and Luna and send them somewhere safer, and take the Tesseract for first contact with the Resistance. Together those ships can carry about four hundred people. Not comfortably, but it’s only temporary. And they‘re fairly tactically capable, if they run into any trouble.”

“Iden’s suggestion is logical,” T’Pring said, earning her a shocked glance from Iden. T’Pring favored her colleague with a slightly elevated eyebrow. “I share your astonishment,” she informed the Bolian dryly.

Adrian Keller’s normally relaxed expression was gone, replaced by a look of anxious disapproval. Ryzal shared his trepidation. He knew the flight controller had family aboard, and so did he -- a wife and an infant daughter. He was less than thrilled about the prospect of sending them away, not just from him, but from the relative protection of the Tesseract. All the same, he realized that safety was an illusion, and becoming more so all the time. The truth was that what Iden Nix had proposed might well be the safest plan for them. Both the Borg Collective and the Borg Resistance -- whatever it was -- were now aware of the Tesseract, but they might not think to look for the Sol or the Luna. And even if they did, both auxiliary ships could be armed with transphasic torpedoes, in addition to the slipstream technology that should enable them to outrun just about any aggressor. Their smaller size also made them more maneuverable and easier to hide.

Reluctantly, Ryzal grunted his assent. “I agree, Lieutenant Nix’s proposal sounds reasonable, given the circumstances.” Adrian shot him a sharp glare from across the table, but held his tongue.

Adele appeared to think for a moment, then nodded. “I agree,” she said, “it’s a better plan than mine. Let’s get ready to do it.”
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Old March 3 2010, 02:07 PM   #454
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Ooooooh! Getting to some meat! Given the events leading up to the evolutions of the Borg in the Alpha Quadrant, it seems a risky to send families to the DQ. StarFleet obviously is proceeding business as usual in a fist shaking act of defiance to the galaxy kind of thing, but it is a lot more prickly to send families so far away. I've pondered this on and off - since TNG actually - during the TNG era StarFleet seemed close to invincible because we saw Enterprise interacting with a lot of cultures that were less scientifically advance.

DS9 and Voyager of course blew that idea out of my mind and made the Galaxy the big place it was during the TOS era.

I like where this is heading - into the unknown - and I like Ryzal too. His people are featured in other TrekLit and they have such a seemingly different way of thinking - it's almost like they are ALIENS!

Another fantastic chapter Kes7 - thanks for taking time out of your busy life to feed us!!!
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Old March 3 2010, 09:46 PM   #455
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hee hee. Of course, as you expected no doubt, I loved T'Pring's response to Iden's risky plan. I share your astonishment indeed. Love it. The plan does have merit even from the surprising source. Basically, Adele knows nothing about what is ahead of them when they meet the mystery resistance movement. They may indeed be especially dangerous. Still, it is abold and brave move to shepherd the families onto the Sol and Luna. It both reassures and puts fears and doubts into the minds of those who are about to be separated from their families. So Keller and Ryzal have a lot in common and a lot to worry about - nevermind figuring a way through the current predicament.
Ryzal is a great character from the little we have so far gleamed of him. I want for their to be more of him. But then I want more of all the characters. The way you write them I could happily sit and read them discuss their favourite biscuits. I like the perspective we got from his Saurian background and how it informed some of his thinking. It is a neat slant to take. I wonder what he makes of John Q amid his persnal crises at a time of emergency for the entire ship. I doubt he is the sentimental type. Mind you he does have a family so there must be a soft spot somewhere.
As for poor John and Maren. They finally seem to get a little rest and hopefully a chance to cath up on themselves. They have both had a trying day and who knows what tomorrow will bring. The rest can't come soon enough considering Maren's nightmares which threw me for a loop at the start. Freaky and scary atmosphere created in that scene. Well done. It represent the hellish state of affairs for Maren and rest will refresh her for the challenges ahead - of which I am sure there are plenty.
So for now, all that remains to be sorted is:
  1. Getting Icheb back
  2. Figuring ou the Resistance's true motivation and purpose
  3. Maybe finding a way to help Icheb
  4. Shepherd the civilians onto the Sol and Luna and pray that nothing sinister comes of such a move - not to mention wonder who will go where in terms of their duties
Yipes! Can't see anything going wrong here ...
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Old March 5 2010, 11:10 AM   #456
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Maren’s still a wreck despite having discovered that Icheb’s still alive, while John’s still playing mother hen to her. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Adele is now faced with having to decide how many people she wants to commit to this potentially disastrous rendezvous with the Borg resistance.

I’m glad to see that despite the near-overwhelming cascade of events that are threatening to overpower the crew of Tesseract, Adele can still see the value in the counsel of her senior staff.
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Old March 7 2010, 02:33 PM   #457
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

The quality of being able to listen to your senior officers and then change your plan accordingly is an admirable one. I think it is part of what makes Adele a good commanding officer. (Even though I have questioned some of her decisions in the past.)

But it's Irinia Marchenko who's getting my Personal Hero Award in this chapter. Finally somebody who tells it how it is. John couldn't be any more obvious. Yeah, I know he's Maren's best friend and all but ... come on ...
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Old March 7 2010, 06:45 PM   #458
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

oldstredshrtevr -- Thanks for the review (and the subtle push to finish this chapter)! I agree that having families on board is almost crazy ... but I also understand why they allow it. This isn't like today's military where you're gone for, at most, a year or two ... some of these missions, like the Tesseract's, take years and years -- seven, in this case, and that's IF everything goes according to plan. So I can imagine Starfleet officers being unwilling to miss their childrens' entire childhoods, or part with a loved one for that long. And Starfleet is known for it's "f-you, we're doing this OUR way" mentality toward the universe and its dangers ... so there you go. Glad you liked Ryzal, and yes, we're headed into the unknown ... thanks again for reading and commenting!

mirandafave -- Wrong? What could possibly go wrong? Thanks for the awesome review. Yeah, the resistance Borg have shown themselves to be incredibly powerful, so Adele is rightly wary ... even though Icheb seems okay for now, she has no idea what the story is with him and he's not high on the list of people she implicitly trusts at the moment anyway. So getting the innocents away from the situation seems like a good move. As for Ryzal and what he makes of John ... he probably has the same reaction as everyone else right now: <---- And yes, Maren is in her own personal hell right now and it's showing up in her crazy dreams. Hopefully you're right and a bit of rest will do her good.

Gibraltar -- Yes, Maren is still a total disaster. With any luck, she'll be able to pull herself together and make herself useful soon. For now though ... yeah. Wreck. John's playing mother hen for sure, it's in his nature to do so. Remember, he did the same for Icheb way back in the beginning and got in trouble for it -- he just handled things in a more action-y way that time rather than sitting around. (He won't be sitting for long, though ...) As for Adele and her colleagues ... I think the remaining senior staff are the only people left on the ship that Adele still trusts. Thanks for the review!

CeJay
-- I laughed aloud at your comment on Irina. Yeah, she tells it like it is. Glad you appreciated Adele in this chapter. She's doing the best she can in the midst of some seriously confusing chaos. She doesn't always get it right, and she knows that. When someone else has a better plan, she's not afraid to admit it and go with that. But if this plan should fail, she also knows the responsibility is on her, not Iden. Thanks for reading and commenting!
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Old March 8 2010, 06:00 PM   #459
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hey Kes!

Sorry it has taken me so long to get around to reading this!

A great chapter here, with Maren feeling the effects of everything that has happened recently, and with Borg showing up in her dreams you know that things have been chaotic! I liked the little scene with John as well, you described really well that feeling of detachment when someone talks to you after you just wake up. And John's continued protests about his relationship with Maren ain't foolin' no one!

I really enjoyed the Saurian character, nice to see a different POV race and get a feel for another of the aliens onboard your ship. I laughed out loud at the little back and forth between Iden and T'pring, I thought that was handled really well. I look forward to seeing how the situation is going to develop.

A masterful chapter, as usual!

Joel
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Old March 12 2010, 01:05 PM   #460
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hey, Joel! Sorry it has taken me so long to respond! Thanks so much for the kind comments on this chapter. Yeah, Maren is a mess, and John's not fooling anyone. I'm happy you liked seeing more of the Tesseract's chief tactical officer, and of course Iden and T'Pring are always really fun to write for when they are together. Oil and water, those two ... thanks again for reading and reviewing. We'll see what happens next, hopefully sooner rather than later.
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Old March 15 2010, 02:14 AM   #461
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

Chief Tactical Officer’s Private Office -- 0936 hours

“You’re serious?” John stared at his commanding officer in disbelief as he unwisely questioned the orders he had just been given.

Lieutenant Commander Ryzal fixed the young tactical officer with an impatient glare. “Do I often come across as unserious? You have your orders, Lieutenant. Given the way you‘ve conducted yourself the past 24 hours, I wouldn‘t risk questioning them.”

John Quigley shifted uncomfortably under Ryzal’s yellow-eyed gaze. The Saurian chief tactical officer was not pleased, and he had spent the last ten minutes letting John know it in no uncertain terms. Now, he had ordered him off the Tesseract. While most of his crewmates -- including Maren -- would be heading into the unknown for a rendezvous with Icheb and the mysterious Borg Resistance, he would be on a Saber-class auxiliary ship full of civilians, heading away from the action and toward what they hoped would be neutral territory.

Ryzal’s voice was level and his manner professional, but it had been the content of his diatribe that had John red-faced and flustered. This wasn’t Irina or Sheila making flippant comments in sickbay -- this was a department head, taking him to task for leaving his post during a crisis -- to “sit by his mate’s bedside,” were the words Ryzal had used -- and, like Irina and Sheila, he had treated all of John’s protests to the contrary with irritated disbelief.

John felt sick. It was bad enough that his direct supervisor was angry with him, he was now on report and reassigned away from the action, and -- given his probationary status -- could potentially even end up an ensign again due to his choices the previous day … what actually worried him even more was that sooner or later, assuming they really got him back, all of this was definitely going to get back to Icheb. Nice work, Quigley. Very smooth. Wait until your best friend is also your XO, and then move in on his girl in front of the entire crew. A well-conceived plan. With instincts this good, you’ll make captain … oh, never, he berated himself sarcastically. He was starting to wish he had never left the Titan.

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to question you,” he apologized, standing stiffly at parade rest.

Ryzal cocked his head and looked at the junior officer with slightly less of his unnerving reptilian intensity. “Listen to me, Terran. I understand how distracting personal attachments can be. I have family myself. You are worthless here. You’re spending every free moment in sickbay with your mate -- friend -- whatever word you are using to describe her -- and when you’re not there, your mind still is. Your tactical skills are impressive, but your commitment to duty is not. I’m familiar with your service record aboard the Titan, so I know this is not how you have conducted yourself in the past. I can only assume it is your personal attachment to Lieutenant O’Connor that has made the difference here, which is why I think everyone will be best served by your removal from the situation. I have no doubt that your tactical abilities are up to the challenge of defending the Sol.” At this, he once again increased the intensity of his gaze and added, “My wife and daughter will be on the Sol, which means you will be responsible for their safety. Likewise, I will be responsible for Lieutenant O’Connor’s. I give you my word that I will do a commendable job. Can I trust you to do the same?”

“Of course, sir,” John quickly replied, locking eyes with his superior officer.

“Good. Then you are on the Sol,” Ryzal repeated firmly. “Chief tactical officer. Report to the bridge by 1200 hours. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir,” John replied with what he hoped was sufficiently convincing enthusiasm, and headed for his quarters to pack.

*****

Sickbay -- 1014 hours

As the crew got preparations underway for the plan the senior staff had developed during the morning briefing, Adele headed for sickbay to check on her chief engineer. As she stepped into the open doorway, she saw Maren sitting up in bed and tapping intently on a PADD, looking much more alert and far less bruised and tearstained than she had the day before.

“Captain,” Maren breathed anxiously, when she noticed her unexpected visitor. Adele could feel her trepidation. The engineer sat up a little straighter, as if trying to approximate standing at attention.

“At ease,” Adele said. “I’m here to apologize. I still disagree strongly with some of the decisions you’ve made, but I took out some of my own frustrations on you yesterday, and that was inappropriate. I’m wanted you to know I’m sorry for it.”

Maren blinked in surprise. “Thank you, Captain,” she said sincerely, sounding a little shocked. After taking a moment to regain her composure, she held up the PADD she was tapping on. “I’ve been making a list of questions to ask the drones.”

Adele sighed. “I’m not sure you’re going to be asking them anything,” she said cautiously. “How much do you know about Annika Hansen’s history aboard Voyager?”

“What do you mean?” Maren asked, looking slightly wary.

“I mean, how aware are you of the circumstances of her separation from the Collective? And more to the point, did you know she put the ship at serious risk on numerous occasions due to her connection to the Borg?”

Maren narrowed her eyes. “What are you getting at, Captain?”

Adele sighed. “I’m asking you a question, Lieutenant.”

Maren blushed. “I’m fairly familiar with those incidents, Captain,” she replied.

“Then you know why I’m not particularly inclined to keep these drones aboard this ship unless they ask for asylum,” Adele replied. “And the less we talk to them, the less likely they are to ask for it.”

Maren looked at her captain incredulously. “You’re going to send them back?”

Adele held the younger woman’s gaze. “I’m seriously considering it. I’m told you’re one of the best hackers in the fleet, and you obviously have experience with Borg cybernetics that I wasn‘t previously aware of. What would be the best way to get information from the drones without having to verbally interact with them?”

Maren looked at the captain with an odd expression. “You mean download their memories directly, don’t you?” It was more of an acknowledgment than a question, but Adele nodded anyway. Maren sighed. “Well, the neural processor has all the recent commands from the Collective stored in it. Getting to it is a problem, though; it’s deep within the abdomen of a drone. The designator interface circuit stores all the data collected by a drone since its last regeneration cycle, but if you remove it without first separating the drone from the hive mind and doing some reprogramming, the drone self-destructs. The cortical array contains an index of memory engrams, but the sheer amount of data there would be staggering, and most of us wouldn’t understand how it’s organized, and it’s impossible to access without brain surgery.”

“Something tells me you would understand how it‘s organized.”

“I might.”

“Can you come up with a plan ?”

Maren looked at Adele levelly. “To mind-rape the drones? Sure, I can come up with a plan for that. But let’s call it what it is. And in that case, it might make more sense to just have Doctor Sarik do a mind-meld or something. You know, more efficient,” she said snappishly.

Adele maintained her composure, despite the engineer’s insolent tone. “These drones aren’t individuals, Lieutenant. They’re part of a collective mind hell-bent on assimilating the galaxy. Do you really not understand that, or are you simply going out of your way to be difficult?”

“I assure you,“ Maren replied, “I understand it perfectly. I also understand that if we sever their link to the Collective and give it an honest try, we might have half a chance at giving three innocent people a second chance at life.” Maren’s voice was beginning to rise slightly, and Adele could sense her frustration, along with a healthy dose of anxiety about opposing her captain.

“Your concern has been noted, and noted again, Lieutenant,” Adele said in a tone that invited no further comment from the engineer. “Come up with a plan anyway. I’m going to wait until we learn more about these Resistance Borg before deciding what course of action to take, but I want every option ready to go, including this one.”

“Yes, sir,” Maren assented quietly.

“Thank you,” Adele replied with a terse nod. “That also brings me to the other reason I came here -- do you think you would be able to tell if Icheb’s cortical implants have been manipulated or altered in any way if we can get him back on board?”

Maren nodded. “Probably. I take it you want me to look at him?”

“Yes, for two reasons. First, you’re obviously the most familiar with the technology inside his head, and second, he trusts you the most. He’s going to be behind a level ten forcefield and under armed guard if we get him back, at least until I have reasonable assurance that he hasn’t been compromised in some way. I‘d like to do what I can to make that bit of unpleasantness as comfortable as possible for him.” Maren raised her eyebrows at this, but said nothing. “I’m sure he won’t be happy about it,” Adele continued, “but I don’t trust these new, sneakier Borg in the slightest, even if they say they need us. Trust me, I hate to have to treat my own XO with suspicion, but …”

“I get it, Captain,” Maren assured the captain, blushing as she realized she was interrupting her. Nonetheless, she continued, “I do understand your concerns. I may not share them, but I do get it. I’ll be happy to do whatever I can to reassure you that you can trust him.”

“The truth is the only thing I’m interested in, Lieutenant,” Adele told her pointedly.

Maren sighed and closed her eyes. “Understood.”

*****

Resistance Vessel 1473 -- 1121 hours

Icheb sat in his makeshift quarters aboard the resistance vessel, staring absentmindedly at the gleaming white walls while lost in the internal debate that raged within him.

He was tired. Not physically -- regeneration had taken care of that, for now -- but emotionally, he was exhausted. He was tired of being everyone else’s pawn; tired of feeling like his destiny rested in everyone else’s hands but his own.

He couldn’t decide if Malik was being honest about his intentions, or was simply a masterful manipulator. The Borg he was familiar with weren’t feared for their skill with treachery or deceit, but this was a new kind of Borg, free of the hive mind and operating under stealth, and they had offered him everything. All they wanted in return was him.

Their case had been so persuasive that he might have considered it under different circumstances. He still wasn’t entirely convinced his refusal had been the right decision. But he was the first officer, his crewmates needed him, and then there was Maren. He had left her once. He wasn’t sure he could do it again.

There had to be another way -- a way for everyone to get what they desired out of this situation. If he had learned anything from Admiral Janeway in the nine years since she had recovered him from the Borg, it was that there was always another option.

He eyed the forcefield on his door wearily. He suspected that convincing either side to really hear the other might be easier said than done. There was absolutely no trust, no good will here, on either side. He felt in over his head. Diplomacy required social skills he had never fully developed. However, he reasoned, his captain was a diplomat -- or at least that had been her specialty before she had moved into Command. If he could make her understand all that was at stake, and how responsible for all of this the Federation truly was, perhaps with her expertise, they could bring the two sides together under different terms.

My terms, he suddenly clarified to himself, feeling strangely resolute. More than anything, he simply wanted to be done being an object for other people to covet and use -- valued only for his potential as a weapon, a database, or a source of intelligence. No -- he was done with that, he promised himself solemnly. Somehow, he was going to engineer a resolution to this conflict, and it was going to be his choice how he participated. As he set his brilliant mind to work in concert with its cybernetic enhancements, trying to figure out how to repair the damage he had unwittingly participated in inflicting on an entire galaxy, he checked his chronometric node. Five hours, twenty six minutes to rendezvous.

It would have to be enough.
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Old March 15 2010, 04:03 PM   #462
KimM
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

oh my.

what a tangled web you weave my dear!

I will hve to reread at my leisure to absorb all this lovely delicousness. Your work definitely stands up to a second and third read! Thank you *Kes7*!
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Old March 15 2010, 05:28 PM   #463
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Man, Ryzal was for more understanding than I expected, and perhaps even more so than John deserves given the circumstances. I especially liked that he kept referring to Maren as John's 'mate,' regardless of the actual specifics of their relationship, because that's how John's treating her. Ryzal obviously has no patience for trivial labels.

Adele distinguishes herself yet again by offering an olive branch to Maren and admitting some fault in their last, heated interaction. That's certainly something not every captain would do, or perhaps even should do... given the necessary myth of a captain's infallibility.

Now Icheb comes to an important decision to finally take full responsibility for his own destiny. I'm curious to see how this choice will affect other aspects of his life, provided he survives the coming encounter between Tesseract and the Borg Resistance ship.
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Old March 15 2010, 10:30 PM   #464
mirandafave
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Well Ryzal certainly takes John to task. He so kindly enough considering that he has grounds for being harsher. However, it strikes me that Ryzal is a fair and decent chief and his aim is solely to ensure the safety of all. John Quigley is a proven officer - albeit before his tenure on the Tesseract. However, if Ryzal didn't have faith in him, he'd not have given John the solemn task of protecting his own family. His desire to mentor John and shepherd his skills is productive as it keeps John in line and yet reaffirms his skillset. That said, how comes I have suddenly got an ominous feeling about the Sol which is apparently going off for safety purposes. I do hope it doesn't backfire.

Meantime, Maren and Adele are just about keeping it civil. It is a touchy subject for both. Maren can't but help associate the drones with what Icheb once was and the kindness extended to assist his escape from the collective. However, she is under the illusion that they can do this for all drones. For Adele, the drones are only a further reminder of the loss of ehr husband. Her handling of the situation is expert and it shows her diplomatic skills. She wants Maren to do this but only as a means of covering her bases and giving the captain options. Adele doesn't react to the strong language from Maren. Mind rape is a harsh term though from Maren's POV that is exactly what it is. For Adele there is a bigger picture to view and to worry about. Quite an edgy and prickly scene between the two. Normally I'd imagine Maren wouldn't be quite so vocal to the captain but she's had a rough time and of course feels close to the issue at hand. Adele impresses with her own control. She admits to taking some of the trouble out on Maren and takes a certain degree of verbal abuse from the engineer. However Adele doesn't react to it. Her comportment and handling of the unfolding situation is impressive.

Adele doesn't seem to like being backed into a corner with information or her hand being forced. This it seems is something that Icheb is beginning to realise he needs to sort when it comes to his own circumstances. But what to do about seizing control of his own destiny. And what can he do to convince either side? This should prove to be very, very interesting.
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Old March 16 2010, 08:40 PM   #465
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

oldstredshrtevr - You're welcome! And thanks! (The nice thing about fanfic deliciousness is that it has no calories. Maybe I should put a big label on the story -- DELICIOUS! FAT FREE! Think I'd attract more readers? ) I look forward to your thoughts if you do check it out again. Thanks for reading!

Gibraltar
- Thanks for commenting! You're right, Ryzal is not a fan of BS overall. He calls it like he sees it. He knows John has potential and did very well at his last posting, and he's not willing to see him throw that potential away over a woman -- partly because it would be a shame, but mostly because it would be detrimental to his entire department not to have everyone, including John, functioning to the best of their abilities. With this chapter I was really trying to show the balance between the no-nonsense, alien/reptilian side of him and his job as a teacher/leader of mostly human(oid) officers. I hope I did a good job. As for Adele, she's a diplomat to her core. The Betazoid part of her craves harmony. But the human part of her (by far the larger part) is more pragmatic. She knows she has to work with Maren; knows that especially now, she really needs her expertise as well as her cooperation. So reaching out to her is part of all that. And I think Maren's made it pretty clear she doesn't believe in the infallibility of the captain, so that ship has already sailed, alas. As for Icheb, he's soon going to be making a lot of choices in many areas of his life, for sure. We'll see how that goes. Thanks again for reading and reviewing!

Miranda Fave - I like your summation of Ryzal here -- he's fair and decent. He mostly just wants the best from the people under him and does what he can to foster that. Sometimes that means being nicer than he would like to be, sometimes it means being a jerk. Depends on the officer and the kind of motivation they require. He's a pretty careful observer of people (goes with the territory of being a security officer), so despite his own alien/Saurian nature, he's understanding of the characteristics of the species he serves with. (As for the Sol and Luna ... you'll just have to wait and see. ;-)) Maren and Adele are definitely in an odd situation. Their experiences and perspective regarding the Borg could not be more different. Adele is trying her best to manage the conflict in a professional manner, but Maren in her tired, stressed and injured state is not making it easy for her. As for your other comment, I don't think ANYONE likes being backed into a corner or manipulated. Adele and Icheb are not exceptions. But all of that has been beyond Icheb's control for a long time. He's been used by the Brunali, the Borg, and even Starfleet, and he's tired of it. We'll see how he goes about trying to take responsibility for his own life ... and how those around him react to it. I hope you continue to find it interesting! Thanks for the review!

Thanks for reading, everyone! I love the feedback!
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