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Old August 16 2009, 06:23 AM   #91
Diogenes
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Kes:
I'm checking back every day for new chapters!

I wonder if Mr Palmeri and Ms. Clarke over at Pocket have gotten wind of you yet. I'd love to see you write a Voyager title. Maybe one of those alternate/mirror universe stories, so you could use characters like Icheb and Bashir as you've been developing them.

Much obliged,
D
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Old August 16 2009, 03:43 PM   #92
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

I'm not a big fan of long, protracted celebrations to send off starships. In this case I liked it fine. It wasn't over done, the Voyager crew was a neat touch and the whole thing didn't last for hours.

Now that that's over we can get to the meat of the story. Should be interesting.
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Old August 16 2009, 05:05 PM   #93
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CeJay wrote: View Post
I'm not a big fan of long, protracted celebrations to send off starships. In this case I liked it fine. It wasn't over done, the Voyager crew was a neat touch and the whole thing didn't last for hours.

Now that that's over we can get to the meat of the story. Should be interesting.
You and me both. I served in the navy for many years, and I hated having to muster up on the deck as we pulled out or returned to port, in dress uniforms no less. Big pain in the butt..

Yes..I agree..now for the story to move on. Cant wait to see where Kes7 takes this...

Rob
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Old August 17 2009, 02:49 AM   #94
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Diogenes wrote: View Post
Kes:
I'm checking back every day for new chapters!

I wonder if Mr Palmeri and Ms. Clarke over at Pocket have gotten wind of you yet. I'd love to see you write a Voyager title. Maybe one of those alternate/mirror universe stories, so you could use characters like Icheb and Bashir as you've been developing them.

Much obliged,
D
Wow, that's high praise. Mind if I print this out and post it on my monitor for a pick-me-up?

Seriously, thank you for such a kind comment.
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Old August 17 2009, 05:59 PM   #95
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

kes7 wrote: View Post
Diogenes wrote: View Post
Kes:
I'm checking back every day for new chapters!

I wonder if Mr Palmeri and Ms. Clarke over at Pocket have gotten wind of you yet. I'd love to see you write a Voyager title. Maybe one of those alternate/mirror universe stories, so you could use characters like Icheb and Bashir as you've been developing them.

Much obliged,
D
Wow, that's high praise. Mind if I print this out and post it on my monitor for a pick-me-up?

Seriously, thank you for such a kind comment.
You can post my praise of you anywhere you fancy, Kes. I'm glad if I can add something to your day. Hope you're well, and having story idea eruptions!
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Old August 17 2009, 08:42 PM   #96
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Yeay! Another chapter! You have such a deft touch with the characterization - it makes me wish I knew all these people and was launching with them! Except of course Adm Beckley - he may turn one way or the other and the uncertainty of his cooperation bodes interesting days ahead!
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Old August 18 2009, 12:29 AM   #97
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

oldstredshrtevr wrote: View Post
Yeay! Another chapter! You have such a deft touch with the characterization - it makes me wish I knew all these people and was launching with them! Except of course Adm Beckley - he may turn one way or the other and the uncertainty of his cooperation bodes interesting days ahead!
I am on the edge of my metaphorical seat waiting to see what the mysterious Admiral Beckley's deal is.
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Old August 18 2009, 06:41 PM   #98
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

^There you have it Kes7. Edge. Of. Our. Seats. Waiting . . .
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Old August 18 2009, 06:44 PM   #99
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

I have a few more chapters almost ready to go -- just editing. Should be some more up tonight.
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Old August 18 2009, 08:09 PM   #100
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

kes7 wrote: View Post
I have a few more chapters almost ready to go -- just editing. Should be some more up tonight.
Looking forward to it!
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Old August 18 2009, 08:36 PM   #101
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

No pressure - just want you to know what a pleasure it is to see another installment pop up!
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Old August 19 2009, 02:51 AM   #102
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Two days into the roughly two-week journey to their arrival point in the Delta Quadrant, the soft blue glow of the quantum slipstream constantly visible outside every window was starting to feel monotonous to Maren O’Connor. She had been on starships at warp before, of course, even for days at a time, but as irrational as it was, the slipstream felt vaguely different to her somehow, and she found herself growing restless. As she assigned one more crewman to replace yet another set of failed gel packs, it occurred to her that she could really use some recreation.

The reality of her life as chief engineer of the USS Tesseract was somewhat different than her childhood daydreams of space travel. As a little girl growing up on her family’s farm outside Morgantown, she had watched the dazzling rural skies at night and marveled at the hundreds of tiny lights that danced across the blackness with such astonishing speed -- humans just like her, going on adventures throughout the galaxy. She had never doubted for a moment that she would join them up there one day. In her imaginings, however, she had been a bold adventurer, flying a little ship of her own, plotting her own course, looking out the front window, seeing stars and galaxies whiz by. She hadn’t understood at age seven that her daydreams violated half a dozen laws of physics and hundreds of Starfleet safety protocols. She just knew she wanted to be up there with the pretty lights, seeing new worlds and new species in person, instead of always looking them up in the databases at school.

Throughout her growing up years, she had studied harder than any of her classmates with one single goal in mind, to earn herself a spot at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. She had been giddy with excitement when she found out she had passed the Academy entrance exam. Upon starting classes, she had quickly realized that her less-academic childhood pursuits were what would enable her to shine as a Starfleet officer. Her summer days spent tinkering with and repairing all manner of sophisticated farm equipment and other random technology were perhaps an early sign of a natural aptitude for engineering that was unparalleled in her class. Maren seemed to have an innate talent for figuring out how to make machines and systems work when no one else could. Her skill had served her well, for here she was, chief engineer of the most advanced ship in the fleet, about to explore a region of the galaxy few humans had ever seen before.

Though she enjoyed the work she was doing and wouldn’t trade her spot on the mission for anything, she had to admit it had been a difficult start. The ship’s bio-neural gel packs had been plagued by constant failures, and while the sickbay doctors had a few ideas about what could be going on, they hadn’t actually solved the problem yet. Then there were her issues with the ship’s first officer. She had gone out of her way to avoid Icheb since he had come to her quarters his first night on board. This had required significant planning and occasional improvisation on her part, given their prominent roles on the ship, and she was mentally exhausted from the effort. Not only that, but she had been more worried about him than ever since Julian Bashir had enlisted her help to create a device to constantly monitor Icheb’s neural transceiver and shut it down in an emergency. She knew the basics of what had happened on the away mission, but she didn’t know how it had affected Icheb, how he was dealing with any of it, or how the rest of his implants were doing after all this time, and the worry she felt for him was driving her crazy.

Maren needed a break, badly. When her shift ended at 16:00 hours, she tapped her combadge as she headed for her quarters. “O’Connor to Quigley,” she said.

“Maren! Where have you been?”

“Working too much. Are you on duty?” Maren asked.

“I just got off. What about you?”

“Same. Want to grab something at the replimat and go do something?”

“Sure, what did you have in mind?”

“I don’t know,” said Maren, stepping into the turbolift, “but if I don’t get away from malfunctioning gel packs and quantum field calculations for a few hours, I’m going to go insane.”

“Want to hit the holodeck?” John asked.

“I gave all my hours away,” Maren replied apologetically.

“In two days?”

“Well, six days, when you count the pre-launch stuff. I gave them away as bonuses for exceptional performance.”

“Smart. I bet the enlisted staff love you.”

“I don’t know about love, but they’ve certainly been efficient.”

“Okay, Icheb,” John replied, teasing her. He loved to make fun of her whenever she sounded even remotely stereotypically Borg, knowing that it was Icheb’s appreciation for efficiency and order -- along with a bit of standard Borg vocabulary -- that had rubbed off on the formerly chaotic and disorganized Maren during their five years together. Words that invited instant harassment included “Clarify,” “Explain,” “Efficient,” and “Comply.”

“Shut up, John,” Maren laughed despite herself, realizing she had set herself up for that. “I’ll meet you in fifteen minutes. I want to get out of this uniform.”

“See you then. Quigley out.”

Maren reached her quarters a moment later and removed her flight suit, hanging it up neatly in the closet. She changed into civilian clothing, slipping a warm, nearly knee-length cream-colored tunic over her dark gray high-necked off-duty undershirt and pulling on thick gray leggings. The soft layers warmed her up immediately, which was a relief. She was always cold in space. The environmental controls never seemed to be set the way she preferred them. She attached her rank pips to the collar of her undershirt and pinned on her combadge before slipping on her shoes and leaving the room.

When she arrived at the replimat, John was waiting for her, also wearing civilian clothing. Maren noticed the many young crewwomen checking him out and couldn’t resist a grin. John, for all his tall, rugged good looks made him a center of female attention, was a terminal failure with women. In the seven years they had known each other, he had gone through 32 short-lived “relationships” and at least as many one-night stands, at least according to Icheb’s last calculations two years ago, which Maren could only assume had been correct. She could only imagine how many alien girls he had crashed and burned with during his time on the Titan -- she’d have to ask him about it sometime. John’s problem had never been getting the girl -- keeping her was the problem. Maren was at a loss as to how to explain the phenomenon, fond as she was of her friend, but clearly, he was doing something wrong.

John grinned back at her as they walked toward the line for the replicators. “What are you smiling at?” he asked with amusement.

“You, and the way every girl in here is looking at you,” Maren replied.

“You should thank me for making you look good,” John said jokingly. Maren rolled her eyes.

They ordered their meals and carried the trays over to an empty table just outside the entrance to the replimat. From this vantage point, they could see almost everything happening on the recreation deck. They both sat in silence for a moment, eating and watching the living scenery pass by.

“So how was your first meeting with the counselor?” Maren asked. She knew John had been apprehensive about it.

John gave a noncommittal shrug. “It went okay. She asks a lot of questions that I don’t know how to answer.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, just questions.”

Maren gave John a look. “Okay. I’m not your counselor. You don’t have to tell me anything. But I think the captain might be on to something, having you do this. You’re the consummate peacemaker until you’re not, and then you’re really, really not,” she said, recalling the horrific fights he had gotten into at the Academy. “It’s always kind of amazed me. Maybe you need to start expressing your true feelings more, or something.”

John made a face and scoffed at this, even though Maren’s words were eerily similar to the ones the counselor had actually used. “Yes, I’m sure the new, sensitive John Quigley will be a hit with the other security and tactical officers,” he said sarcastically.

“You’re hopeless,” said Maren. “Seriously, I think a seeing a counselor is a great idea. Maybe I’ll start seeing her, too,” she added nonchalantly, taking a bite of her stir-fried noodles.

“I think you should,” replied John. “Maybe she can convince you to quit with that ice queen shit you’ve been pulling on Icheb since we all got here.”

“He told me to keep things professional,” replied Maren matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, well your behavior has been anything but.”

Maren put down her fork and stared at John in surprise. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean. You’re the only chief engineer in history who sends underlings to take status reports to the captain. Every other chief jumps at the chance to remind the captain she exists, but not Maren O’Connor. She’s too busy avoiding the XO. For fuck’s sake, Maren, don’t the both of you have enough to worry about on this mission without this ridiculous drama? Can’t you two just talk about it like adults?”

“We tried that already.”

“Before the away mission? Icheb told me about that, but he wouldn’t tell me what happened.”

“I’m not surprised, since he wound up kissing me and then I slapped him so hard I almost broke my hand on his cortical array.” It was John’s turn to look surprised.

“No, he didn’t mention that part.” He looked down at his plate for a moment, then looked back up. “You really hit him?”

“Not my proudest moment, that’s for sure, but apparently lack of closure turns me into a real bitch,” Maren said ruefully.

“So, wait a minute -- he just walked in there and planted one on you?” John smirked wickedly. “Go, Icheb!”

Maren rolled her eyes. “That’s not what happened. Well, not completely. He came in saying something about keeping things professional between us, and I got kind of mad at him and then he just kissed me.”

“Did you kiss him back?”

“John! No, of course not!” She sighed. “Well, for a second, maybe. I was really shocked and confused. But I stopped him right away and then ... you know, hit him.”

“Do you think he still loves you?”

Maren sighed again. “I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“Does it matter to you?”

Maren looked down at her plate and dejectedly pushed her food around with her fork. “He’s our XO,” she said unconvincingly.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Yes, okay? Fine, yes, of course it matters. We wouldn’t be talking about this if it didn’t. God, you have been seeing a counselor. You sound just like one.”

“You should talk to him,” said John, undaunted.

“And say what? I still love you and want to marry you even though you’re my commanding officer, as well as a jerk who left me without saying goodbye?”

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

“And when was your last successful relationship, again?”

“Touché. And ouch.” John put on an exaggerated expression of hurt.

“That’s what I thought. Are you finished with your dinner? Maybe we should get out of here.”

John nodded and wiped his mouth, then grabbed his tray with its half-eaten French fries and headed for the recycler. Maren followed closely behind. “You know, we both clearly need to blow off some steam,” John said. “How about some sparring?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me," Maren said, rolling her eyes. "You’re twice my size, that's hardly a fair fight.”

“All the more reason for you to practice with me. If we ever run into a real combat situation, I don’t think a hostile alien is going to give you a break just for being a lightweight. Come on, I’ll go easy on you to start.”

“If we ever get into a real combat situation, I plan to be well-armed,” Maren shot back. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“You can’t plan your battles, Maren. You’ve always been weak in tactical, I’m giving you a chance to learn from the best.”

“Who says you’re the best?” Maren protested.

“I do,” replied John. “Captain Riker did too, once, I overheard him talking to someone about me. Can't get a better reference than that, my friend," he said proudly, quickly adding, "Don’t worry, we’ll do something with padding so you don’t get hurt.”

Fifteen minutes later, Maren and John faced off in one of the practice rooms off the large physical training area. The rooms were reserved for physical activity and training only, and were effectively tiny holodecks with limited program options that could be used first-come, first-served in thirty-minute increments instead of the usual two hours reserved well in advance for full holodeck programs. John set the room up for a sparring program and had Maren change into a lightweight protective suit before helping her onto a small platform. He took his tunic off, leaving him wearing his slacks and his fitted off-duty undershirt.

“Okay, your job is to stay up here,” he said, “while I try and knock you down.”

Maren looked at him in disbelief. “You’re serious.”

“Yes. You spend half your waking hours up on that stupid catwalk in engineering. What if you were up there and a hostile intruder tried to push you over the side?”

Maren sighed. “This is ridiculous. Fine. If it makes you happy, go ahead and push me off.”

“The point is to stop me,” insisted John.

“Oh, that should be a piece of cake,” retorted Maren sarcastically as she eyed his wiry 6’4” frame.

John had the computer count down to start. When the buzzer sounded, he predictably had no trouble sweeping Maren right off her feet and tossing her over the side of the platform. She landed hard on her shoulder, protective suit preventing injury, and popped back up with an annoyed look on her face. “This is stupid,” she said angrily.

John reached down and helped her back up onto the platform. “You didn’t even try, Maren. As soon as that buzzer sounds, you should be rushing at me. You’ve got to be aggressive and get the element of surprise, especially since you’re so much smaller. Get below my center of gravity; take me out at the knees. You can do this,” he encouraged her.

Maren took a deep breath and adjusted the lightweight helmet she was wearing. Again they waited for the buzzer to sound. This time, she started running at John before the countdown was finished, only to have him effortlessly leap out of her way, her momentum sending her crashing off the platform once more. “You ass!” she cried. “What was that? I did exactly what you told me to do!”

“That was your first mistake,” John said calmly. “Never trust your adversary. Besides, you think an attacker is really just going to stand there while you get a running start and barrel into him at top speed?” Maren stood with her hands planted defiantly on her hips and made no reply. She was frustrated and embarrassed. She hated sparring, hated any kind of physical confrontation. Slapping Icheb had been a complete aberration for her. She was starting to want to hit John, though.

“Fine,” she said finally, reaching up for his assistance. “Let’s go again.”

“That’s the spirit,” said John with enthusiasm as he pulled her back onto the platform.

This time, when the buzzer went off, Maren stood her ground. As John went to grab her, she ducked down and elbowed him hard between the legs, then shifted her body weight forward to shove him off the platform. To her surprise, it actually worked. He fell off the platform, grabbing his groin and moaning, while laughing at the same time.

“Maybe ... I should have ... worn ... a protective ... suit ... too,” he choked out between gasps and pained laughter. He caught his breath and added weakly, “Nicely done.”

Maren jumped off the platform and removed her helmet, placing her hand on John’s arm. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry!”

“No, no, don’t apologize, that was exactly what you were supposed to do. I just didn’t think you’d actually do it,” said John, pulling himself into a sitting position.

Maren grinned at him. “Don’t underestimate me, J.Q.,” she said, using the nickname she’d given him at the Academy. “Want to go again?”

John looked at her in surprise and laughed. “I thought you hated this,” he teased her.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m blowing off steam,” Maren replied gamely. They climbed back onto the platform and faced off several more times, with Maren now giving as good as she was getting. John still won most of the spars, but Maren stayed up longer and longer each time, and a couple of times managed to knock him off his feet again. He noted gratefully that she was kind enough to avoid the groin area as they continued.

Twenty minutes later, they were both sweaty and exhausted, and both smiling from ear to ear. “Better than sex,” claimed John as he waited for Maren to get dressed again, behind a small partition.

“I don’t know about that,” replied Maren as she twisted her slightly damp hair into a loose bun. “But it was definitely exactly what I needed today. Thanks, John,” she said sincerely.

“Anytime,” he replied. They shut the holo-emitters down and left the practice room together.
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Old August 19 2009, 08:56 AM   #103
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

This is the kind of genuine character interplay that creates 3-dimensional people, not just fictional caricatures. I think I learned more about both Maren and Quigley in this segment than anytime previously. Both have their issues, their strengths, and their weaknesses, but they're going to need to build upon the trust they have in each other for the crises that are surely to come in the next seven years.

Really top notch stuff!
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Old August 19 2009, 11:07 AM   #104
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
This is the kind of genuine character interplay that creates 3-dimensional people, not just fictional caricatures. I think I learned more about both Maren and Quigley in this segment than anytime previously. Both have their issues, their strengths, and their weaknesses, but they're going to need to build upon the trust they have in each other for the crises that are surely to come in the next seven years.

Really top notch stuff!
I couldn't agree more, with all Gibralta said. And am I crazy or do Maren and John have some chemistry? It was so subtle, as if they haven't even realized it yet themselves.

You deserve kudos not just for the characterization, but for the kind of writing that nods respectfully to the reader's intelligence. I always wondered how they worked it out on the Enterprise D or on Voyager, having two or three holodecks and, in the case of Enterprise, almost a thousand people. Your brief explanation of how the Tesseract's miniholodecks work with so large a crew was a deft and appreciated touch.

Thanks so much for another terrific chapter, Kes. I am more interested in all of these characters the more you are generous enough to gift us--and you had me from the start.

This smooth, playful interlude makes me all the more eager and anxious to see more of the Admiral.

Please, Kes, can I have some more?
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Old August 19 2009, 01:18 PM   #105
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Re: Star Trek: Tesseract

I enjoyed this. I think character development interludes are equally important to sequences where really big things happen. It gets us invested in them as people. Very nicely done.
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