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Old March 17 2010, 10:00 PM   #466
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

It's gotta be getting tough for John as apparently everybody seems to be realizing what is going on but him. Or at least he won't admit it to it. I wonder how things will go over with Icheb once he learns of his behavior.

And talking of the ex-Drone XO, kudos to him for deciding to go on the offensive and not play the bargaining chip any longer but he better remember that he's also a Starfleet officer and as such he may have to put his own feelings, ego and comfort on the back burner to serve a greater good.
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Old March 23 2010, 09:40 PM   #467
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

It was controlled chaos in the hangar bay as the civilian population of the Tesseract evacuated the enormous starship ten at a time from the transporter pads onto the two Saber-class auxiliary ships. The corridor outside the main hangar was even more chaotic, as officers and enlisted crewmen said hasty and occasionally tearful goodbyes to their loved ones. With a lightly-packed travel bag slung over his shoulder, John pushed his way through the crowd slowly, being careful to avoid tripping on children or stepping between couples. Looking at the scene around him, he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he should go say goodbye to Maren while he still had the chance. He wasn’t normally superstitious, but he had a very bad feeling about this entire thing. After a brief hesitation, he took a deep breath and tapped his combadge.

“Quigley to O’Connor.”

“John?” came the reply after a moment. He could picture her leaning over to grab her badge off the tray table by her biobed. “You’re supposed to be on duty, what are you doing?”

“I’ve been assigned to one of the civilian ships. They’re evacuating before the rendezvous with the Borg. I’m on my way to the hangar bay now, I just wanted to let you know I’m leaving.”

There was a pause, and John almost turned back. He would tell her everything. He would kiss her like that Trill couple he had just dodged in the corridor were kissing each other. What was the use of hiding the way he felt about her when the whole ship was apparently talking about it anyway? Maybe she would come with him on the Sol; get to relative safety; let the others handle the Borg. You have to stop thinking like this, he told himself. Get a grip, Quigley. She’s not even remotely yours, she never will be, and you both have jobs to do. Is a childhood crush really worth ruining your career over?

Before he had a chance to definitively answer that question, his communicator crackled back to life. “Thanks for letting me know,” Maren said, sounding resigned and a more than a little anxious. “Be careful out there, J.Q.,” she added.

“I will,” he replied. “You too, okay?”

Her voice was less than certain as she told him, “I’ll try.”

*****

Adele sat in her ready room quietly watching the evacuation on her desk display, courtesy of the security feed from the hangar bay. She would have gone down to personally supervise things if she hadn’t thought her presence would be more of a distraction to the hangar bay crew than anything else. As it was, they were working efficiently and competently, given the short notice. She watched as hundreds of civilians dematerialized, ten at a time, reappearing a moment later on board the Sol and Luna, where she couldn’t see.

As a child of two worlds, Adele wasn’t particularly adherent to any single belief system, but she silently offered up a traditional Betazoid prayer of protection for the two ships, figuring that at the very least, it couldn’t hurt. She then activated her desk comm. to contact the commanders of each ship -- Lieutenant Commander Borux on the Sol, and Lieutenant T’Pring on the Luna.

“Are you ready?” she asked Borux.

“Affirmative, Captain,” the Denobulan replied calmly … almost cheerfully, Adele thought, smiling to herself and admiring his irrepressible good spirit.

“T’Pring, are you ready?” she asked.

“All systems are nominal and we are ready to depart on your order, Captain,” the Vulcan replied -- as serenely, yet joylessly as ever.

“Make sure to monitor the comm. frequencies Iden gave you at all times. We’ll contact you as soon as we know what’s going on,” Adele told them. Her chief comm. officer had come up with a way for the ships to communicate without using the compromised subspace array, but the transmissions would be limited to a narrow, encrypted data stream that would appear like background noise unless one knew precisely where and how to look for it. It would also take time. At least for now, there would be no easy back-and-forth communication between the Tesseract and its auxiliary ships. Perhaps that would change when they found out more about who had access to their comm. array -- and why.

“Acknowledged, Captain,” came the reply from T’Pring.

“Yes, sir,” Borux said.

“Be safe out there, both of you. Stay together. We’ll be in touch soon.”

Both officers acknowledged her transmission, and they said goodbye. Adele switched back to the visual feed and watched as the two ships completed their departure sequences and launched into space.

*****

Admiral Beckley also watched the launch on his own desk display, idly wondering what would become of the two ships and their sentient cargo. There were many reasons he had no personal attachments of his own, and this was one of them. Two tiny ships, commanded by members of Adele Oyugo’s senior staff, packed to the gills with civilians, in an unfamiliar and apparently battle-torn region of space? What could possibly go wrong? he thought to himself with a sardonic smirk. The possibilities were endless, but he supposed it was better than bringing them along to meet the angry Borg Resistance and their cube-obliterating superweapon.

As soon as they had disappeared from view, he switched the display to the project he had been working on. He wondered if he would get the chance to use it. If all went according to plan, it wouldn’t be too long now before he would find out. He closed out the program and quickly erased all traces of its existence before deactivating his desk display and heading out to get some lunch.

*****

Maren had had her fill of sickbay. She sat on the biobed in comfortable civilian clothes, compulsively perfecting the plan she had written for the drones while her thoughts raced on ahead of her. Doing her best to ignore the dull ache in her head, she obsessively checked and rechecked the chronometer, counting down the hours until the scheduled rendezvous. All the while, her mother’s cheerful but no-nonsense voice, with its slight Appalachian twang, echoed in her mind as if home was just around the corner, rather than tens of thousands of lightyears away. A watched pot never boils, Maren. Try to have a little patience. Go and find something productive to do.

That was exactly the problem. There was nothing productive to do in sickbay. Julian wasn’t letting her near the drone he was repairing, and she had all but given up on the translation of the remaining Borg alphanumerics, as the last small bit seemed to be beyond her skill level. The throbbing pain in her head wasn’t helping her rise to the challenge, either. The only consolation to her damaged pride was that she was at least a better translator than the ship’s computer, but it was cold comfort. It was driving her crazy knowing she couldn’t translate every last symbol.

She had a feeling whatever those yet un-translated bits were would be the key to something. The reports Telek had sent her on what the engineering staff had been able to make of the schematics so far were interesting, but they seemed incomplete. Besides, Maren felt that surely if someone on New Tyndora had gone to the trouble of sneaking the captain that data chip, it must have something more than just diagrams of a few ships on it. Frankly, she wanted -- no, needed -- Icheb’s help, but of course, he wasn’t around. Not for the first time, she wondered if she ever could have made it this far professionally all on her own. Back at the Academy, many of their classmates had theorized she was dating the ex-drone simply to get ahead academically. It wasn’t true -- she had started dating him because she found him absolutely fascinating, and then later on, she had kept dating him because she had fallen in love with him. But she had to admit, if only to herself, that their constant collaboration had given her an academic edge -- and that now, without someone in her life to challenge her and push her that way, she wasn‘t quite as sharp as she used to be. She supposed that in some ways, it didn’t really matter. After the events of the past thirty-six hours, she felt she would be lucky if she ever got within fifty meters of the engineering deck again.

Engineering. Her stomach did a flip at the thought. Engineering had been her other first love. What would she do if she was permanently relieved of duty? Scrub plasma conduits for the next seven years? Learn to cut hair and go to work in the salon? Try to put her childhood spent growing up on a farm to good use in the airponics bay? She tried to put the thought out of her mind. One problem at a time, Maren, she thought to herself, echoing something John had said to her the previous night when he had come to apologize.

At the memory of their conversation, she involuntarily glanced over at the empty chair where he had sat by her side for so many hours before his assignment to the Sol. Other than the two arguments they’d had -- first about the lying, then about the drones -- John Quigley had done nothing but comfort her and take care of her for the last three days. She owed him big time. She hoped and prayed that he and the others would be all right on the auxiliary ships. She also wished she had at least been able to give him a hug goodbye.

She jumped as her thoughts were interrupted by a now-familiar voice coming from the doorway. “Everything okay?” Maren looked up to see Sheila Duggal looking at her with a compassionate smile. The petite doctor seemed to have taken a personal interest in Maren and had been stopping by frequently to check on her, often bringing a snack or a glass of water for John. Maren was actually starting to wonder if she was interested in John. She recalled that Sheila had asked if he was seeing anyone the night they had worked on the gel packs, after Maren had explained that they weren’t dating.

“I’m a little tired of being here,” Maren admitted. “Any word on when I might be allowed to leave?”

Sheila shook her head sympathetically and walked over to her, perching casually on the foot of the biobed. “I think Doctor Bashir wants to keep you another day. He thinks you’re not getting enough rest and he wants to keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t overdo it. Especially since, I guess, the captain wants to you examine Icheb’s implants if we’re able to get him back on board?” Sheila’s expression made it clear she was curious about the situation, but trying hard not to pry.

Maren nodded. “I’m sure you heard the whole story by now,” she said dryly.

Sheila nodded in reply. “I heard quite a bit about it. It’s hard to keep secrets in sickbay. I don’t think it’s shipwide yet or anything, though.” Maren blushed as she realized it probably would be soon. Sheila rushed to fill the silence. “It certainly explains why you two were so awkward in here the other day,” she said. "I’m sorry about prying; I didn‘t have any idea -- ”

“I know you didn’t,” Maren quickly assured her, cutting her off. “Don’t worry about it,” she added, smiling weakly at her.

Sheila gave her a small smile in return, then stood up. “Well, I’ve got some things I’m working on,” she said. “I just wanted to come see if you were all right. Do you need anything before I go?”

A do-over for this entire mission, Maren thought wryly, but shook her head no. “No, I’m okay. I think maybe I’ll try to sleep a little bit before the rendezvous. The last thing I need is Julian telling me I can’t help because I haven’t rested.”

“Want something to help with that?” Sheila asked. Maren automatically started to decline, but then thought better of it.

“Actually, that’s probably not a bad idea,” she said resignedly. “Not too much, though -- just enough for a nap, okay?”

Sheila nodded. “Of course.” Maren sighed quietly. She hated to do it, but she knew that given the circumstances, there was no way she would actually get any sleep without a little chemical assistance. Sheila quickly programmed a hypospray and pressed it to Maren’s neck. As soon as the brief burning sensation had passed, Maren started to relax. As the medication took over, she closed her eyes and tried to think about happier days. Her last thought before falling asleep was a promise to herself to do whatever she had to do to make things right again -- with the captain, and with Icheb.

*****

Icheb finished putting the finishing touches on his improvised creation as he anxiously consulted his chronometric node for the twenty-third time in the past thirty minutes. They were getting close. Too close. He had minutes to complete his task and conceal the evidence -- less, if Malik came to retrieve him before then.

As he stared at the newly completed device in his hand, he wished he could test it. There was no way to do so. He would have to trust his own engineering skill completely. He tried to imagine what Maren would say about it if she were here, and it suddenly struck him that he didn’t really know. Back at the Academy, and immediately afterward, she would have been enthusiastic about his plan and probably even improved on it with some sort of ingenious twist he hadn’t thought of. But she wasn’t entirely the same person he had known before he had left her, and he could no longer predict her reactions to things, nor could he imagine what kind of improvement she might make to his work if she were here. The realization unsettled him, so he pushed it to the back of his mind as he slipped the small device into his pocket.

It was fortunate he was on a Borg resistance ship, he thought, in more ways than one. He had been able to regenerate, of course, and that was critical to his survival. However, it also meant that he was capable of identifying and modifying the Borg-related technology on the ship. Much of the technology on this vessel was new and unfamiliar to him, but the alcove he had showed them how to reconfigure for his use was fairly standard Borg equipment. So for the last several hours, as he had brainstormed possible solutions to the larger conflict Malik had told him about the previous day, he had used occasional periods of unsupervised time alone to remove various secondary components from the alcove, eventually amassing enough to construct a small beacon he could activate as soon as the Tesseract was within range. It was nothing too complex, but it was at least a shot at giving his colleagues the upper hand in the coming encounter. It also gave him something to do besides sit.

As he heard Malik’s voice somewhere in the corridor outside his holding area, he consulted his chronometric node one last time. Fifty-six minutes to intercept. After twenty-eight more seconds had passed, Malik stepped through the force-field into the small room.

“You will come with me, Federation. It is time.”
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Old March 23 2010, 10:36 PM   #468
mirandafave
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Well, Well, well. So much to digest here. From John's near change of heart and big reveal to Maren to his berating himself for thinking along those lines. The question now is whether his chat with Ryzal and his thoughts here are going to draw a line under his relationship with Maren. Is he going to accept not being with her. He seems to be trying to convince himself that he is only infatuated, that is merely a childhood romance. But for John prior to this he was a womaniser and not one for romantic notions. So this is a shock to his system and he has a lot to contend with. He seems to be of the belief maybe that he shouldn't be with Maren because he doesn't deserve it or because she belongs with Icheb. He's cutting himself out of the running - but then that saves him running and allows him to run away. He seems to be one pretty conflicted guy who doesn't know what he is thinking when it comes to Maren. So can he simply walk away?
Me thinks the outcome of this mission is perhaps going to force his hand. I'm rather wary about the safety of the two civilian ships. I don't doubt the veracity of the plan or the capability of the ships' commanders. However, this is Trek and something, somewhere has to go wrong. What with Adele's words ringing in my ears, 'Stay together' and the ominous news that they have dodgy communications - I can't possibly foresee any problems.
As for Maren, she's a bit of a mess still. No wonder she just wants to sleep. Not feeling productive and cut off from where she might be of use - either in engineering or working on the drone- she feels very isolated and alone. I like the reflection though on her mother's words and her Academy days. It points to reasons why Maren is always pushing herself and trying to be a perfectionist. She could have had any geek on campus and paired well with them but she chose uber geek Icheb. Talk about making expectations for herself. But it seems she has more and more reasons to prove herself. Pushing herself so hard is going to get her into trouble - I mean bigger trouble and danger.
That said, the relationship between her and Icheb seems to have been one that was mutually beneficial as it helped both of them to become better officers and better academics with Icheb in his own way sharing the same thoughts. Icheb himself seems to be taking his destiny into his hands in a bold and risky gambit nut one that only gives the Tesseract a slight edge in the upcoming meeting. I can hardly wait. Wider conflicts and more trouble for the Tesseract. I also love his being called Federation by Malik. Hee hee.
Now, what else could I possibly salivate over ... ? Oh no, I can't possibly think what. Hmmm ... where is that shifty Admiral smilie?
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Old March 25 2010, 10:55 AM   #469
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Despite the brevity of their mission so far, it’s still unsettling to see the ‘family’ broken up in this way, with the civilians departing in the uncomfortably vulnerable Sol and Luna while Tesseract herself goes deliberately in harm’s way.

Beckley is his usually detached self, analyzing the situation for whatever advantage can be gained. He appears to be the ultimate pragmatist, even to the detriment of his own humanity (if he is, in fact, really human).

John’s poignant departure and short conversation with Maren underscores his unrequited love, as well as Maren’s acknowledgment of their friendship… but only just that. John’s instinct to hold his tongue about his real feelings is a good one, but one wonders, how long can his restraint last?

And as for Icheb, he’s playing a dangerous game with his captors, one that may well have consequences not only for himself, but for Tesseract as a whole.

Terrific chapter!
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Old March 26 2010, 02:30 PM   #470
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

miranda fave -- Thanks so much for the awesome review! Always very appreciated. You do have to kind of feel for John, don't you? He's pretty mixed up at the moment. Maybe getting off the ship for a bit will help him clear his head and figure out what he wants. Or, as you say, it could just make everything more chaotic. We'll see. As for whether he can walk away ... he's done it before. But that was a very long time ago. They are grown-ups now (in theory - ha!) and a lot has changed ... And haha, the uber geek! Yeah, I guess Icheb kind of is that, isn't he? And Maren chose him. Which kind of says a lot about her, doesn't it? But no one's expectations for Maren are higher than Maren's expectations for Maren. So being stuck in sickbay when Important Stuff is happening is driving her insane. And yes, she and Icheb did have quite the little symbiotic relationship going back in the day. Very complementary in many ways. "A collective of two," John called them, remember? Unfortunately, learning to be strong together doesn't necessarily translate into being strong apart ... they've got some growing to do. Icheb is working on it ... risky though his plan may be. We'll see how that turns out. As for the Admiral ... he totally needs a smiley. Grey-haired and perpetually smirking. Heh.

Gibraltar -- Thanks! It is sort of unsettling to see them separate ... we'll see what happens. As for Beckley as the ultimate pragmatist -- that's a pretty apt description! Then there's John. Yes, at least he held his tongue. One can only imagine how Maren would feel having that particular bomb dropped on her as John is literally on his way off the ship while she's off to (hopefully) see Icheb. Now, like I said to MF, he did hold his tongue for seven years before this, but that was different and a lot has changed. So we'll see if he can keep his mouth shut in the long run. (Of course, whether he SHOULD keep his mouth shut in the long run is another question entirely ...) And yes, Icheb has a risky idea. He's decided he's going to be proactive. Let's see how it turns out!

Thanks again, both of you for reading and commenting. I'm very glad you're continuing to enjoy the story!
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Old March 27 2010, 08:48 PM   #471
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

The more I think about it the less I agree with the call to stuff all the civilians into the smaller ships. Maybe the initial plan ... facing the Borg rebels in the support vessels and keeping the civilians in a safe place would have been the better way.

It's a gamble either way and we'll have to see which option turns out to be the better one. Hindsight and all that.

John is slowly turning into a tragic figure. Or maybe he always has been. Poor guy has maneuvered himself into a position of a complete bystander now, unable to help rescuing his best friend or trying to keep his wanna-be girlfriend safe.

Good thing Icheb seems to have something up his sleeve. All the firepower of the Tesseract is not going to be enough against the rebel's super-weapon so they better have a Plan B ready to deploy.

Things are about to get tense ...
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Old March 30 2010, 02:55 AM   #472
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hey, Cejay! Thanks for the comment. Things are getting tense, and soon we'll see if they made the right call and whether Icheb's plan will be a good thing or not. As for John, yeah, he's a little bit tragic; always has been. He just used to hide it better. Poor guy, indeed.

Working on the next chapter or two ... should be updating soon. Thanks for sticking with the story!
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Old March 31 2010, 02:57 PM   #473
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Well, believe it or not, we're winding up to the end of book one/beginning of book two here ... but I think it's going to be delayed a few more days. I just got smacked with some kind of dread illness ... fever, chills, the works. Ugh. Just in time for Easter.

Again, thanks for sticking with the story, and I hope to have more for you soon.

-k7, miserable
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Old April 1 2010, 03:26 PM   #474
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hi Kes!

Sorry it had been so long since I have written, been busy with other things.

A great chapter, a nice interlude to show us the mindsets of your different characters before the descent unto the breach that I can sense you are preparing us for. It was good to see John still struggling through his relationship with Maren, while she seems to have come to some kind of closure by the end of her little section.

I thought the scene of Adele watching the evacuation from afar was both touching and chilling - this woman who obviously cares deeply for the people she has in her crew juxtaposed with the cold and clinical eye of the Admiral...

I look forward to following you through the last few chapters of Book One, and seeing how these things wind up.

Great job!!!!
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Old April 3 2010, 09:12 PM   #475
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Hey, Joel! There you are? When do we get more Restoration? Huh? Huh?

Thanks for your comments regarding the last chapter. I'm glad you're continuing to enjoy the story.

(Oh, and I wouldn't draw a line under anything just yet. Just because Maren thinks she has closure doesn't mean she actually has closure. Relationships are rarely that simple, and there are three people involved in this one. Lots of messiness to come ... though it may be Book Two before we see it.)

I'm hoping to have more up tonight!
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Old April 4 2010, 01:56 AM   #476
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER FIFTY

USS Tesseract -- Bridge

With the bridge at red alert, the viewscreen displayed their destination in vivid 270-degree holographic detail as the Tesseract approached the coordinates given by its first officer’s captors. The protostellar nebula directly ahead was absolutely stunning, and on any other day, Adele knew her science officers would have begged to survey it thoroughly. There was only room for one concern at this moment, however – the safety of the ship and crew.

“What is that thing going to do to our sensors?” she asked the human lieutenant JG manning the science console in T’Pring’s absence.

“Nothing good, sir,” the lieutenant -- Diaz, Adele suddenly thought she remembered, though she wasn’t one hundred percent sure -- replied. “The particle flux inside the nebula will severely compromise our ability to accurately scan our surroundings.”

“It will also negatively affect our shields,” Ryzal interjected from the primary tactical console.

“Can we compensate?” Adele asked.

“No, sir,” Ryzal replied.

“Unlikely,” the science officer confirmed, shaking his head as he looked at his display.

Adele pressed her lips together and looked forward at the breathtaking display for a moment. “Scan the nebula, best resolution. Let’s see if we can see anything from here.”

Several moments went by in silence before the science officer shook his head. “There’s too much particle interference, sir. If we go in there, we’ll be flying almost blind.”

Adele glanced over at Adrian Keller sitting at flight control. She hoped he was up to the challenge. Taking in the Sol would have been bad enough, but the Tesseract was enormous in comparison. Making sure they didn’t hit anything – if there was anything to hit – would be difficult without the sensor array.

As if he could sense her concern, Adrian turned around and flashed her a quick smile. “Relax, it’s not as if we’re hitting atmosphere,” he reassured her in his clipped London accent. “No gravity, no problem. I could maneuver DS9 through a nebula if I had to.”

Adele smiled at his optimism. “I trust you, Commander. Wait on that for just a minute. Science, scan surrounding space before we go in, with short- and long-range sensors. Use the data engineering sent up from the Tyndoran data chip,” she added. They all waited another moment.

“Nothing, sir. We appear to be alone,” the young lieutenant said.

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Adele replied dryly. “Time to rendezvous?” she queried.

“It’s time, sir. T plus thirty-four seconds,” Alex Slidell spoke up from ops.

Adele nodded. “Take us in, Adrian,” she instructed.

“Aye, sir,” Adrian replied, and set course for the nebula.

As the leading edge of the Tesseract accelerated slowly into the cloud of superheated gases and plasma, the inertial dampers did an admirable job of keeping the massive ship feeling steady in the turbulence. All the bridge crew could feel was a slight vibration beaneath their feet as they kept their eyes on the viewscreen and the now-useless sensors, anticipating whatever they were going to find inside the nebula.

Suddenly, Iden Nix frowned at her console, and her blue fingers began flying across the touchpad with deliberate speed. “Sir, I’m picking up some kind of transmission,” she called out.

Adele turned to look at her. “Visual or audio?”

Iden shook her head. “No, just information. I’m running it through the comp --” she cut herself off and narrowed her eyes at her display. “Done,” she announced after a moment. “It’s a simple repeating signal. The computer recognizes it as Commander Icheb’s Starfleet identification code.”

Adele raised her eyebrows. “Can you tell where it’s coming from?”

Iden shook her head again. “Not yet, but wherever it’s coming from, it’s close. It’s on a regular comm. band, not subspace.”

Adele stood up. “Share the data with ops and science. All of you, try to figure out where it’s coming from.”

“Aye, sir.”

The bridge was silent but for the sound of the slightly vibrating deckplating, beeping consoles, and the soft whine of the impulse engines for a few moments, then Alex Slidell announced in a slightly triumphant tone, “Got it. Bearing three-three-one mark four-one; approximately five hundred kilometers.”

“What do you see?” Adele queried. “A vessel, or just a transmission?”

“Just the transmission, sir. Sensors won’t show us anything until we’re within 3,000 meters, and even then, I think it’ll be dicey.”

Adele eyed the murky gases warily and sat back down in her command chair, holding the arms tightly. “Bring us closer, Adrian,” she ordered the pilot. “Slowly.”

*****

Resistance Vessel 1473

Aboard the resistance vessel, Icheb stood with Malik in the central control room, watching two drones, formerly of the Borg Collective, share the duty of piloting the sophisticated starship. They used their neural implants to interface with the navigational controls and each other, and Icheb couldn’t deny the efficiency of the arrangement.

“We can adjust your implants to serve this function if you wish,” Malik said as he observed the younger man staring at his comrades.

Icheb turned to Malik with a weary look. “I believe I’ve already made my position on that quite clear,” he said coolly.

He wondered if the device he had surreptitiously activated as soon as sensors had picked up the Tesseract was actually working. He tried to be patient. After all, it had only been ninety-three seconds.

He had expected the resistance Borg to realize what he had done instantly, but so far, they had failed to notice his transmission – that is, if there was a transmission to notice. He found himself hoping the non-reaction was simply because two of the four purely organic crewmembers aboard the resistance vessel were assigned to the consoles that controlled communications, and therefore weren’t intimately tied into the ship’s systems like their cybernetically-enhanced colleagues. He didn’t know the technology here well enough to ascertain for himself whether he had succeeded in his attempt to transmit or not, so he waited.

Despite his apprehension, he stood perfectly still, with apparent calm. He turned his attention to the holodisplay, eyeing the swirling plasma and gases. He had always loved to gaze at nebulae. Generally, he preferred to do so from the comfort and safety of the astrometrics lab, but he had to admit that this up-close view was intriguing, as well.

His thoughts were interrupted by the Tyndoran standing behind a nearby console. “Malik, the Federation ship has changed trajectory. It is now on an intercept course.” Malik turned his head sharply toward the violet-skinned being.

“Clarify,” the cyborg demanded.

The Tyndoran flared the two nostril slits on his face impatiently and blinked his third eyelid twice in rapid succession. “They are no longer heading toward the coordinates we sent them,” he said. “They’re heading for us.”

Malik strode over to the console. “I understand that,” he told the Tyndoran, giving him a withering glare. “How do they know where we are?” After a moment’s consultation of the display, both he and his organic colleague discovered the source of the problem at the same time and exchanged a glance. “We’re transmitting,” Malik stated icily, turning to Icheb with a cold glare.

Icheb met his gaze. “I told you I’m willing to assist you, but I won’t do it as your hostage,” he told the cyborg matter-of-factly. “Shut down your engines and hail the Tesseract before they attempt a rescue.” Giving Malik his own personal best Borg stare, he added, “I suggest you comply.”

One of the drones spoke up. “I concur. We’ve lost our most significant advantage.”

Malik glared at the screen in frustration. “Unless we use the weapon,” he said ominously. The entire crew of the resistance vessel inside the control center eyed their leader as if they thought he was just unstable enough to carry through with the threat, and suddenly, Malik reminded Icheb of nothing more than the young drone who had taken charge of their cube after Icheb’s pathogen had destroyed all of the mature drones. Like Malik, the First had been irrational, angry, and unpredictable, but most of all, he had been afraid. His erratic behavior had eventually gotten him killed, and if it hadn’t been for the crew of the starship Voyager, Icheb and the others would have died with him. With perfect clarity, Icheb recalled the way that Captain Janeway and Seven had reached out to them and gained their trust. Perhaps he could do the same.

“Hail my vessel,” he repeated. “My crewmates simply want their first officer back, and to understand what’s happening. I assure you, they will get those things whether you make it easy for them or not. Communicate with them; accompany me to the ship. You know as well as I do they’re not going to destroy you unless you give them a reason.”

Malik fixed Icheb with a level gaze. “This ship’s very existence is reason enough,” he said, and there was just enough solid conviction behind the words that a sudden chill ran down Icheb’s spine as he wondered exactly what the drone meant.

“Clarify,” he requested.

Malik ignored him and turned to the Tyndoran. “Hail the Federation ship,” he ordered.

*****

USS Tesseract -- Bridge

The proximity alert klaxon wailed as the Tesseract came within a thousand meters of something physical that neither sensors nor the crew’s eyes could see. “Full stop,” Adele ordered. “Find that ship. As soon as you do, take out its shield generator and try to beam Icheb out.”

“Initiating tachyon scan,” the science officer said.

“Captain, we’re being hailed,” Iden Nix announced.

“On screen.”

A floating rectangle showing the control room of the resistance vessel instantly overlaid the main display. “Shut down your sensors immediately,” the drone onscreen ordered without greeting. Icheb stood beside him with a questioning expression. They were obviously close by, as Adele found she could empathically sense Icheb’s presence. Not knowing the drone as well, he was harder to pinpoint.

“Trust me, Captain,” the cyborg said, “it will be safer for both of us if you shut down sensors now.”

Adele glanced at her command display briefly. Sensors were almost useless anyway. “Fine,” she replied, and nodded at Alex. “Do it.” He tapped briefly at his console, and several displays went dark. “Sensors are disabled,” she said, eyeing Malik coldly, then she stood up and added, “but I still know exactly where you are.” She wasn’t entirely sure what she was about to do would work, but realizing she could sense Icheb had given her an idea. Without another word, she walked over to ops and forced Alex aside. She closed her eyes and reached out with her empathic senses, suddenly grateful for the enhancements she had been so concerned about for the last few days. She could feel Icheb, so she focused on him first, then widened her focus in an almost meditative manner as she tried to locate each of the beings he was with.

Everyone on the bridge watched as their captain stood motionless for a long moment, then finally opened her eyes and quickly entered a sequence on the ops console touchpad. The two men on the main viewscreen visibly jolted as their vessel was caught in a tractor beam. “Captain to the brig,” Adele said, activating the comm., prepare to receive Commander Icheb and a number of guests. Level ten force fields, separate cells.” She touched the display again, and onscreen, Icheb and Malik both appeared to shimmer out of existence.

Everyone stared at Adele in shock for a moment, then Iden broke the stunned silence. “Okay, I have no idea what you just did there, but … nicely done, Captain,” she said, clearly awed. Adele, feeling slightly shaken, didn’t acknowledge her – for one thing, she wasn’t entirely sure how she had pulled that off, herself, and besides, there was no time to respond -- the brig was still ominously silent.

“Captain to the brig, please respond immediately,” Adele ordered tersely. No response. She exchanged a glance with Ryzal and nodded at him. “You better get down there. Alex, take tactical and seal off that deck completely.” The young man she had relieved from ops quickly jogged over to the tactical console as Ryzal hurried off the bridge. What is going on down there? Adele wondered. A chill went down her spine as she remembered the two drones already in the brig. If they somehow escaped … She forced herself to remain calm and wait for Ryzal’s report.

*****

USS Tesseract –- Brig

As Icheb, Malik and the others materialized in the middle of the Tesseract’s large brig, Icheb was grateful to have the home advantage. His cortical processors instantly processed the unexpected scene in front of him, and he moved quickly in response. Within seconds, he had grabbed the fallen ensign’s phaser rifle and used his command codes to activate a level ten force field around Malik and his crew.

“Don’t worry, you’re not a hostage, you’re my guest,” he couldn’t resist quipping wryly, throwing Malik’s own words back at him. The former drone stared wordlessly back at him, then broke eye contact to examine his surroundings. With the others safely contained, at least for the moment, Icheb turned to survey the rest of the brig, as well. Leaning down to check the pulse of the seemingly lifeless young officer assigned to the brig, he was relieved to find him merely unconscious. In two cells were two additional Borg, also prone and motionless. Slowly, Icheb approached them with the phaser rifle at the ready.

“They’re dead,” Malik announced. Icheb glanced back in surprise.

“How can you be certain?” he asked as he kept advancing on the inert drones.

“If they weren’t, my proximity monitor would register their presence.”

“I’m sure there’s a strong dampening field active in this chamber,” Icheb advised him.

“Deactivate it,” Malik replied. Icheb looked back at him with a dubious expression, then sighed and spoke to the computer.

“Computer, reconfigure dampening field to allow subspace communication within this chamber only. Authorization Icheb alpha one, protocol theta four.”

“Voiceprint confirmed. Dampening field has been modified,” the computer responded after a brief pause.

Icheb looked at Malik expectantly. “They’re dead,” the drone repeated with conviction. Before Icheb could reply, the doors to the brig slid open and Ryzal stormed in, carrying a compression phaser rifle much larger than the one Icheb was holding. He quickly assessed the scene and raised his weapon.

“Drop your weapon, Commander,” he demanded, taking aim at Icheb, but sweeping Malik and the others, as well. He leaned down and checked the ensign’s pulse for himself, but never took his rifle or his eyes off their target.

Icheb wordlessly tossed his own phaser rifle to the ground and held up his hands, suddenly realizing how very incriminating the scene must look to the tactical chief.

“Computer, activate a level ten containment field around Commander Icheb, authorization Ryzal beta two, protocol gamma seven,” the Saurian ordered as Malik and the others looked on. As the computer complied and confirmed the action, the medical drone, Lakwa, looked worried, while Malik appeared almost amused.

I never pointed a weapon at you, Federation,” Malik taunted Icheb from behind his own force field. Ryzal moved his weapon to cover him.

“I recommend you remain silent,” Ryzal said threateningly. He tapped his combadge. “Ryzal to the captain.”

“Report?”

“Ensign Dean is unconscious. The two Borg drones appear to be, as well.”

“They are dead,” Malik interrupted, earning him another warning glance from Ryzal.

“Commander Icheb and the others are contained behind a level ten force field,” Ryzal informed the captain.

“I’m on my way,” her tense voice replied.

Icheb tried to be optimistic as he calmly stared down the barrel of a Starfleet-issue compression phaser rifle and waited for his captain. He reasoned that Adele was both an empath and a diplomat. It was likely she would avoid jumping to any conclusions about him or the others. He eyed the dead drones warily, wondering how they had come to be there in the first place, whose side they had been on, and who had killed them. Whatever the answers were, it was clear to him that they had more than just one problem on their hands.
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Old April 4 2010, 02:20 PM   #477
mirandafave
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Well you said this was the countdown to the end and from the very start the chapter ticked down the hour glass towards an exciting end. Icheb has been caught with hands apparently bloody. Talk about bad timing. He has faith though in his captain to sort it out. Considering her skills in locating Icheb I'd have faith in her too. A moment of win for Icheb there as he asserted a degree of control on the events surrounding him. Alas, it seems so fleeting with the mysterious events on the brig. Someone has killed the other drones and taken out the guard. Why? Who? What? It seems there is another layer of unknown events going on here. Malik also being so insistent upon sensors being shut down in order to protect the ship is also ominious and points to something in particular. But what does that mean for the overall scheme of things between this Borg faction and the other Borg? What does that mean for the crew who appear to be stuck in the middle of this? And again why does whoever want the Borg drones killed? Mystery aplenty still as we come to the closing stages. I wait with baited breath for what you are going to do next.
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Old April 5 2010, 10:53 PM   #478
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Looks like it's going down between Tesseract and rebel-Borgs. I was as surprised as the rest of the bridge crew when Adele pulled off her little psychic trick. Never underestimated a Betazoid. Not even one who is only quasi telepathic.

And what's happening in the brig? It left me a bit confused to be honest. I'm also a bit concerned at the lack of trust Ryzal seems to have in Icheb. Fair enough, things look odd, even to me, but the guy is your XO. A bit more loyalty I think is called for.

Very eager to find out what happens next ... or has already happened.
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Old April 6 2010, 05:32 PM   #479
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

miranda fave -- thanks for the review! I'd try not to think of this as the "closing stages" so much as a transition point. Part Two is already in the works. We've gotten to know the characters, we've had a whole lot of setup -- now, you can expect some "WTF" moments like these as we end the long introductory segment and head into the story arc to come. There are definitely more mysteries here, but we'll also be getting some answers very early in book two. So hang in there!

CeJay -- Don't feel bad about being confused, this was meant to be kind of a WTF moment. All will be explained in time ... as for Ryzal/Icheb ... I don't want to spend too much time boring you with a super-long explanation, but remember how Adele said before that Icheb would be behind a level ten force field until they could ensure he hadn't been compromised by the Borg? She discussed that with Ryzal, obviously, since he's tactical chief. Ryzal sees most things purely in terms of what's best for the security and safety of the ship, and as far as he is concerned, Icheb is a definite risk, executive officer or not, especially fresh off a mysterious Borg ship full of unstable drones with whom he's made "compromises" (his own words) and holding a rifle he's got pointed at dead or unconscious prisoners (with an unconscious security officer at his feet). You have to admit ... that looks bad. That said, Adele's on your side -- a little respect for the XO is called for. We'll see how she reacts to the scene when she arrives. Now, as to Adele herself and her Betazoid moment of win ... she even surprised herself with that one. Another mystery for part two ... hope you'll stick with it.

Thanks guys, for reading and reviewing. Working on more ...
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Old April 10 2010, 10:48 AM   #480
Gibraltar
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

This tense confrontation went from zero to 100mph in a flash.

Icheb’s little trick helped give Tesseract a much-needed advantage during the encounter, though Adele using her empathic senses to trace the location of Icheb and his captors was pure genius. Her senior staff were clearly startled by her quick action and instincts, and unless I’m way off base, this instance of captain-level wizardry will grow larger with each re-telling by the officers and enlisted personnel of the ship.

I’m still wondering who incapacitated the security officer in the brig and killed the Borg drones prior to the prisoners’ arrival? My first guess would be Beckley, but hey… I’ve been wrong before.

Terrific characterizations and excellent pacing in this chapter!
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