Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by kes7, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    CHAPTER FOUR

    USS Tesseract – Deck 8 Corridor


    As Adele walked the deck 8 corridor on her way back to the bridge, she tried to sort her thoughts about everything that was happening around her. The missing Sol and Luna. The arguments she had heard during their initial meeting with Malik and the Borg Resistance. One of Fifteen’s emotional breakdown in sickbay. What to do about her first officer and chief engineer.

    She also tried to keep an empathic read on her away team. She was thankful that they had only transported a few hundred meters -- close enough to allow her to sense them. She found the emotional wreck that was Maren O’Connor easiest to track, so she focused mainly on her, but she also found she had to try hard not to allow the young woman’s overwhelmed state of mind to overwhelm her, too. She wondered, not for the first time, if sending the young woman over to the resistance ship had been a bad idea. Adele was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice Admiral Shane Beckley walking briskly to catch up with her.

    “Captain Oyugo, may I have a word?” he asked politely. Adele barely covered her surprise at his presence. Given her empathic senses, she wasn’t used to people being able to sneak up on her, but as usual, the admiral was an emotional blank to her – more like an android or a hologram than a human.

    “With all due respect, Admiral, I’m a little busy right now,” Adele said. She tried hard to keep the irritated edge from creeping into her voice, but she failed.

    They arrived at the doors to the bridge together. “I realize you’re very busy right now, Captain,” he replied. “I only need a few minutes.”

    Adele looked at him warily. “We can talk in my ready room,” she assented.

    “Thank you,” the admiral replied, apparently oblivious to her reluctance.

    Inside Adele’s ready room, she sat down at her expansive desk and offered Admiral Beckley a seat, which he accepted with another of his cold, emotionless smiles. “I’ll make this short,” he said. “I wouldn’t dream of intruding like this if it weren’t important, but I just want to ensure you’re giving due thought to the course of action Mr. B’akhti has proposed, despite Commander Icheb’s reservations,” he said.

    Adele narrowed her eyes. “Admiral, I don’t have enough information to make any kind of decision about that yet. All he said is that he wanted to combine Commander Icheb’s DNA with his technology to create a weapon. He refuses to elaborate on what that technology is, and Commander Icheb seems less than inclined to hand over his genetic material for experimentation. Frankly, I don’t blame him.”

    Admiral Beckley seemed to consider this for a moment, then leaned in close – too close for Adele’s liking. She was thankful for the sheer surface area of the large wooden desk that prevented him from getting any closer. He dropped his voice. “I know I don’t need to tell you what an opportunity this is, Mrs. Oyugo,” he said, emphasizing her former marital status.

    Adele’s blood ran cold. He was manipulating her in the most obvious way possible, she knew, but the problem was, on some level, it was working. The thought of bringing the Collective down once and for all was incredibly tempting to her in a very personal way, and Admiral Beckley obviously knew it.

    “Any chance to bring down the Borg should be explored to the fullest. You can order him to submit to any test you like,” he continued. “It’s not as if he’ll be damaged. Are you really going to let this option remain unexplored because one officer is uncomfortable with it?”

    Adele met the admiral’s gaze. “I just told you I haven’t made a decision yet,” she said levelly. She sighed heavily. “We’re all just reacting to this situation right now, Admiral. The commander was held hostage by Mr. B’akhti. It may take more than a few hours for him to recover emotionally from that. I plan to give him that opportunity before ordering him to do anything against his will.”

    “That’s all well and good, Captain, but what if he says no?” Beckley asked, eyebrows raised slightly.

    “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Adele replied calmly. She tried to turn the tables on him. “What does the rest of the advisory board think of all this?” she asked him.

    The admiral leaned back in his chair like he was getting comfortable there. “Drare and Alvarez say they’re behind you 100%, whatever you decide … but if it were them, they’d take the chance to damage the Collective at just about any cost. As for Gentry, she doesn’t trust the Borg Resistance for a moment, but then again, she doesn’t trust your First, either. She’s also a lawyer, not a starship captain,” he added with an unfeeling, but almost conspiratorial smirk.

    “What about you?” Adele interrupted before he could continue. “Do you trust the Borg Resistance?”

    Beckley smiled, which Adele again found chilling and emotionless. “Of course not,” he replied calmly. “When you’ve spent as many years in SI as I have, it’s rare you trust anyone. But I think the potential gains outweigh any risk of working with them. What does Commander Icheb say?”

    Adele sighed. “I’ve barely had three uninterrupted seconds to speak with him. He got back, we checked to make sure he was okay, we had our meeting, and then the Collective drone in sickbay had some sort of emotional meltdown and we had to deal with that. Then Lieutenant Nix reported we’d lost contact with the Sol and Luna and I sent Icheb and O’Connor over to the Resistance ship. So you know as much as I do about his opinion.”

    “On the contrary, Captain,” Beckley protested. “You’re an empath. You know many things I don’t. What do you sense from him concerning the Resistance Borg?”

    Adele hesitated for a moment. What she sensed was that Icheb was conflicted. She could tell he was holding something back, something important to him. She wasn’t sure what it was, though, and for all she knew, it might be the same thing he had been hiding since the beginning – the failure of his implants, which she hadn’t yet confronted him about. But she didn’t want to share any of what she was thinking with the admiral. Regardless of her current frustration with her exec, her first loyalty was to her crew, not this creepy, emotionless member of the advisory board.

    “He’s difficult for me to read,” she finally lied.

    The admiral quirked his eyebrows up slightly at this. “All the time?” he asked.

    Adele deflected the question. “This mission is still new and I really haven’t been around him much, between my away mission and his abduction,” she said. “I don’t have the answers you’re looking for. I wish I did.”

    Beckley looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. “Very well. Thank you for your -- ”

    Adele didn’t listen to him finish his sentence. She was suddenly distracted by a marked change in Maren O’Connor’s mood. In an instant, the young woman’s emotional state had moved from tense anxiety to sudden shock and anger. Quickly, Adele tried to expand her read to the others, and realized that the entire group shared Maren’s alarm. Something’s wrong, she realized.

    “Captain?” Beckley asked. “Is something wrong?”

    Adele shook her head quickly. “No, sir. I just … felt something. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to check on the away team.”

    “Of course,” the admiral replied.

    Adele tapped her combadge. “Oyugo to Icheb.” When no response was forthcoming, she tapped her badge again. “Oyugo to O’Connor.” She and Beckley exchanged a glance as they were met with more silence.

    *****

    Resistance Vessel 1473 – Control Center


    So far, so good,
    Maren thought to herself as the odd mix of Starfleet officers and Resistance Borg materialized in the control center of Malik’s vessel. The beamout hadn’t killed them. That was one potential disaster avoided … now they just had a seemingly infinite number of unpleasant possibilities left to go before they could secure the resistance vessel and leave the nebula. As soon as the transport was complete, security immediately moved to take up positions around the room.

    “Stay where you are. Touch nothing,” Malik protested sharply, before turning to the technical drone, Jeytl, standing beside him. The two appeared to communicate via neural link for a moment, while Icheb and Maren exchanged a glance.

    “Unacceptable,” Icheb told Malik. He turned to Lieutenant Commander Ryzal. “You may continue.” Ryzal nodded and motioned his officers into place. “Our orders are to secure this vessel, with your assistance,” Icheb continued, turning back to Malik. “That is what we agreed upon. If you are unwilling to cooperate, I will have you transported back to the Tesseract and we will complete this assignment without you.”

    Even as Icheb spoke to Malik, Maren couldn’t help but study their new surroundings with interest. It seemed that everything on the resistance vessel appeared exactly the same as the schematics on the data chip she had been studying for the past few days.

    It was fascinating to see it in person, but there were really no surprises here … and yet the same question that had plagued her since they had decrypted the schematics kept running through her mind: How the hell do they power all of this?

    No warp core. No fusion reactor. No obvious power cells. It had seemed to her like the ship in the diagrams ran on magic, and seeing it in person gave her the same feeling. The power reserves needed to run a ship this complex were incredible, yet even standing here on the bridge, she felt nothing – no throbbing hum of a propulsion system, no ultrasonic whine of an EPS … just cold stillness and silence. Without waiting for Malik to answer Icheb, she opened her engineering bag, still hanging from Icheb’s shoulder, and took out her tricorder. Without asking permission, she began scanning the room.

    At the soft sound of the tricorder’s beep, Malik’s head snapped over in her direction.

    “Put that away,” he demanded sharply.

    Maren gave him an incredulous look. “Why?” she challenged him.

    “Put it away,” Malik repeated, staring her down with all the intensity of a typical drone. Maren was unfazed. Malik terrified her for other reasons, but she found his glare rather unintimidating after five years spent associating with Seven of Nine.

    She shot back a glare of her own, almost as intense. She hadn’t learned nothing from her years spent hanging out with a couple of ex-drones. “I will not comply,” she said coolly. She suspected she was pushing Malik’s buttons, and she didn’t care. She was tired, her head was pounding, she was worried about John and the other missing crewmembers, and she just wanted to get this over with -- quickly. Malik was the only thing standing in between them and going to find the Sol and Luna.

    “No scans. No sensors. No tricorders, no coming over here without supervision,” she said, trying hard to keep her volume from increasing with her frustration. “Surely you don’t really think you’re going to be able to keep hiding whatever it is you want to hide?” she demanded incredulously. Malik didn’t immediately answer, so she continued, “Whatever it is, I assure you, we are going to find it – and quickly. And let me tell you, I know from personal experience that Captain Oyugo is not in the mood for surprises today. So if I were you, I would come clean, and the sooner, the better.”

    “Lieutenant O’Connor is correct,” Icheb spoke up. He stepped forward slightly, putting himself in between Malik and Maren. “Our assignment is to ensure the safety of our vessel when we bring yours aboard. That means we will scan every system, and either deactivate it or secure it. We will not fail in that mission. If we have to do it without your assistance, we will. I can easily have you transported back to our brig.”

    “You’re likely to destroy us all if you attempt to secure this vessel without our assistance,” said Malik.

    “I’m willing to take that risk,” Icheb snapped. He tapped his combadge. “Icheb to Tesseract,” he said. “Lock on to the two resistance Borg and prepare to transport them to the brig on my mark.”

    “Acknowledged, Commander,” came the quick reply, then after a moment, “We have a lock.”

    “That won’t be necessary,” Malik interjected angrily. “I’ve already expressed my willingness to cooperate.”

    “Excellent,” Icheb replied dryly. He tapped his combadge again. “Tesseract, maintain lock on resistance Borg. Stand by for further instructions.” He looked from Maren to Malik and back again. “Take Commander Ryzal and three security officers and go to engineering,” he instructed Maren. “You may take Jeytl if you wish.” Maren nodded and reached out to take her bag from Icheb.

    Malik’s reaction was both predictable and prompt. “You will not enter any section of this vessel without my supervision,” the cyborg snapped, stepping forward as if to stop them. Maren froze despite herself and turned to look at the angry drone.

    Icheb turned to face him, as well. “I thought you were willing to cooperate.”

    “I am,” Malik said darkly. “You’ll get your opportunity to see everything.”

    For a moment, Malik looked slightly distracted by something. Maren realized a moment too late what it was. “Icheb, he’s interfac -- ”

    “ … -ing with the vessel,” Icheb finished in unison with Maren, sounding rather defeated as force fields went up around all around the Starfleet members of the away team.

    I really should have seen this coming,
    Maren thought to herself miserably. She shot a glance at Ryzal, the Saurian chief tactical officer, who looked as if he was thinking the same thing. Then she looked over at Icheb, whom, she realized, looked incredibly angry.

    “What are you--” he started.

    Malik cut him off. “It’s merely a precaution,” he said, sounding much calmer now that he clearly had the upper hand. “You will not be harmed. I have something to show you. It’s necessary that I have your undivided attention.”

    Maren couldn’t stop herself from sniping back, “I think it’s pretty safe to say you’ve got it.”
     
  2. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    My, what a chapter. Of course, any chapter that features the Admiral is of course a winner. But throw him into a meeting with Adele and being so bold as to try and manipulate her! He really will try anything. That strikes me as an out and out calculated move to try and see how much he can push it will Adele. He hits upon a really sensitive area but doesn't get his own way thanks to the awesomeness that is Adele.

    But it serves to show that he is willing to go to some lengths to meet his agenda. And it seems he would only be too happy to go experimenting on Icheb. Yipes! Scary. Little does Icheb realise that Adele is the only one standing between Icheb and a test lab - if ever the Admiral took over!!!

    We now we have Adele keeping track of the away team empathically. Brilliant way to use her abilities in such a nuanced and tactical manner. Of course, it stands to reason that Maren is the easiest to track empathically! Ha, ha! So funny and so obvious really when you think about it. But boys did she have cause to end up feeling in a worse way!
    It starts off with a lot of tense standing off between them all, with sparks flying almost between Malik, Icheb and Maren, with Maren getting in his face. Then Malik pulls what he does. He really hasn't assimilated any social guidelines books has he! Wow. What's next? And when?
     
  3. tau136

    tau136 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2010
    Location:
    The middle of the middle of Ireland
    Well it seems the back & forth about Adele’s tough captaincy is playing out — she’s made her decision & stood by it firmly but inside (once we see there) she is as conflicted as anyone by her decisions. Just the wrong time for her to be waylaid by the Admiral so, inevitably, that is the moment he picks. This really is an abrupt, upfront approach from him; very direct & obvious in what he wants to get from Adele but his clumsy subtlety doesn’t seem to be getting him far — it works to an extent but she picks up on it and is still disenchanted with the man on just about every level. It isn’t his best play at all . . . ah but we’ve seen him in the wings and seen how he can wear whatever face suits his needs of the moment, helped along by all the insider knowledge he has. So now; he is being pretty much what most people (Adele included) would expect him to be — a man with an agenda he’s willing to force his way onto people for and to push to a manipulative level, but no very sophisticated level. Overall the facade is one of a guy you can get a handle on, as he isn’t as able as he imagines himself to be; that could be a fateful misreading. Against all that; circumstances have put him and Adele jointly at point in a moment of crisis. It will be interesting to see if they are forced to work together under fire and how the Admiral will balance holding up his mask against working effectively.

    Malik sure has chosen being effective for himself over anything else it is a wonder that Maren and Icheb were both caught out by his link to the ship as both are familiar with Borgability but, then, both are somewhat off key thanks to recent events. Their live are pretty much on parallel track right now: both have had physical trauma in their own ways (Borg Target / Borg Captive) and each are emotionally overturned and some of the issues they face they share with the other so they are mirrors to each other and in the same critical situation at the same time — relying on each other and playing off each other; not something they can afford right now.
     
  4. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    mirandafave -- Thanks for reading and reviewing! Yeah, I think Beckley is definitely testing Adele's limits with his open attempt at manipulating her. He wants to see what he can get away with. As for whether he'll get his way ... we'll see. Just because she's not a pushover doesn't mean she can't be swayed. You're certainly right that Icheb does not have a friend in Beckley. Beckley's said (thought) before, back in book one, that he would happily hand Icheb over to the Borg himself if he thought it would be advantageous. He may like the "kid," but not enough to keep his best interests at heart or anything like that. Glad you liked the bit about Adele 'tracking' them. Adele won't always be able to pull this trick, but she did this time. She's just lucky they're so close by. And Maren would be the easiest to track! Like a flashing beacon of angst and internal conflict. As for Malik, he is clearly horrible with people. Maren's not in the mood for his crap, but she gets put in her place pretty quickly. So we'll see what he wants to show them, and why he feels they need to be confined for him to do it. Thanks again for the awesome review.

    tau136 -- Thanks for the great observations. Yes, this was a much more aggressive approach than we're used to seeing from Beckley. Like MF noted, he may be testing his limits ... or he may think whatever payoff is worth the risk ... his motivations aren't what you'd expect, so it's hard to judge his actions. Underestimating him would not be a good thing for Adele to do. Then there's Icheb, Maren and Malik. Malik is another one whose thinking is just not what we're used to at all. So judging his actions by typical human standards might not give the best picture of his motives. Icheb and Maren, of course, are very much not at their best. You make a lot of good points regarding their almost parallel situations. The fact that they are together right now actually worked against them for probably the first time in their lives, here. They used to make an awesome team ... they need to get back to that, or they just might prove to be each other's undoing. Thanks again for reading and commenting!
     
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    The admiral, usually so very subtle in his maneuverings, really started blatantly trying to manipulate Adele here. I've got to say, having the advisory board in an after-action review capacity might be helpful, but having their membership present to try and sway the captain's judgment prior to her making a decision is far from beneficial.

    Somebody needs to put a cortex bomb in Malik's head for the next time he pulls a stunt like this. I'd love to see Icheb pull out the key-chain fob of death, press the button, elicit a double honking sound from Malik's mouth as his eyes flash... and then *BOOM*! :evil:

    And yes, Icheb should have seen that coming. Malik didn't have to do anything overt in order to commune effectively with his vessel. He made Icheb, Maren and the others look like a cadet review.

    If you're going to play with the Borg, even the Borg Resistance, on their own turf... you'd best bring your A-game. Otherwise, stay home. Here's hoping Malik's just trying to make point with all this rather than anything more nefarious.
     
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, good thing my views on the advisory board are already on record.

    It's bad enough to have them on board to give you a blow-by-blow breakdown of how you've done things the wrong way after the fact, but for Beckley to show up during a crucial mission to share his two cents with the captain is extremely lousy timing on his part.

    But oh boy, how useful is it to have a Betazoid captain? Even as a half-Betazoid, Adele clearly has a leg up on her more conventional colleagues thanks to a almost flawless spidey-sense. Now that's handy.

    And I better hope that whatever Malik is doing, was so incredibly unlikely that a top-notch Starfleet engineer and an ex-Borg drone could not possibly have foreseen it. If not, Adele needs to have another serious conversation without our favorite (non)-couple about their private life and issues being a dangerous distraction and leading to careless with the safety of their mission and the ship. And I mean serious.

    Sorry for all the highlights. And I liked this chapter. Hey, if everything went right and there were no complaints, you wouldn't have much of a story now, would you?
     
  7. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Gibraltar -- OMG! Remind me not to mess with you. CORTEX BOMB? Keychain fob of death? :eek::lol: You're right though, Malik's been making fools of the Tesseract crew so far. We'll see what his endgame is (or if he even has one). As for the advisory board, yeah. They're an issue, and particularly the admiral. It's not so much just that they're there and present -- that's the whole point of them being on the ship. It's the fact that this has never been done before, no one knows the etiquette, people are testing and overstepping boundaries, and Adele has a limited window in which to establish her dominance over that ship or she will be in big trouble. All this in the midst of craziness no one expected. Have fun with that, Adele. :( Thanks for the review. :)

    CeJay -- Yes, your views on the advisory board are long established, and being validated as we speak! ;) I'm glad you liked the chapter, and yes, Adele owes her First and her chief engineer a very. Long. Chat. Hopefully they survive long enough to get their asses chewed out by their captain.
     
  8. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Sector 001
    So, even though no one has complained, I feel the need to apologize for the slowness of getting these chapters out lately. All I can say is that work is crazy, life is crazy and I'm splitting my free time between Tesseract and another project. I've been aiming for a post a week, but I don't think I'm going to make my self-imposed deadline this time. I plan to write tonight, though, and hopefully have another chapter up in a day or so! Thanks for your patience, everyone, and thanks for continuing to follow the story! :)
     
  9. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    No needs to apologise, I'm right there with you! I've taken a week off to get a good three chapters written in draft form so that I have something to work on and get more chapters posted. I know entirely what it is like. Just good to see you keeping on posting (unlike me who went AWOL for five months... :) )

    Can't wait for more, but I will since I know when it does arrive it will be awwwwwesome! ;)
     
  10. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Sector 001
    Watch this space. I've been up late tonight writing and editing and there should be new Tesseract tomorrow. :)

    ETA: And now there's more.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  11. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Sector 001
    CHAPTER FIVE

    USS Sol – Cargo Bay

    One hundred sixty-eight people. That was how many were supposed to be on the USS Sol – how many lives John Quigley now found himself responsible for. He kept a mental tally of the dead he had seen with his own eyes – Borux, Lang and Chelsea on the bridge, and five more in engineering, including Specialist Herk. Another one in the corridor on the way from engineering to the cargo bay. That made nine. One hundred fifty-nine people left to account for.

    The cargo bay was impressively organized chaos. Ensign Par Renn, the ops officer-turned-acting-XO, had done an admirable job of controlling the situation as dazed, frightened and injured passengers – that was really what most of them were, John realized – made their way into the blessedly environmentally-controlled chamber.

    It had taken only minutes for John and Anit to move from engineering to the cargo bay, now that the automatic doors were operational. Anit still had the medkit, so once they arrived, John sent him to check for injuries and try to treat what he could. I’m a pilot, not a medic, he had protested, looking anxious. You are now, John had replied, utterly unsympathetic. If John could play captain, Anit could play doctor, even if it was simply in the interest of keeping everyone calm.

    John looked for Par Renn, and found the Bajoran standing at a console, wearing an EV-suit with no helmet on and staring intently at the display as he tapped away at the interface with still-gloved fingers. John walked up to him and took his own helmet off, then spoke quietly. “Do we have anything resembling a damage report yet?”

    Renn looked up, startled. He quickly recovered. “I didn’t see you come in, sir,” he observed, then looked back at his screen and shook his head. “Other than, ‘it’s really bad,’ I couldn’t begin to tell you, sir,” he said. “Main computer’s still offline. I’ve got limited access to emergency systems thanks to whatever you two did down in engineering, but slaving everything to this auxiliary console has been a total pain in the ass. Excuse my language.”

    If it hadn’t been for the gravity of the situation, John would have smiled at the absurdity of anyone apologizing to him for use of foul language. “Do your best,” he told Renn. “Any ideas about what’s going on with that tractor beam?”

    “I’m 99% sure it’s the Luna,” Renn answered, looking slightly relieved. “External sensors are still offline, but we’ve got eight tricorders in here that detect no sign of active alien energy signatures, and I don’t think we’ve been boarded or anything. I’ve been trying to establish communications, but the whole transceiver array is gone.”

    “Nice,” John said with a roll of his eyes, momentarily unable to contain his sarcasm. He thought for a moment. “Did you try the shuttles?” Provided they hadn’t been too badly damaged, each of the Sol’s two shuttles should have sensors and full communications capability -- not to the extent the Sol herself had once had, but certainly enough to contact the Luna and maybe get a better look at their surroundings.

    Renn blushed. “No, sir. I hadn’t thought of it.” Renn was clearly embarrassed at the oversight, but John waved him off. The ensign had been occupied with the survivors. It was probably better that he stayed with them, anyway.

    “It’s okay,” John replied. “I’ll go check it out in a minute. Do we have a head count in here?”

    “Ninety-four, sir. I sent ten people back out to look for other survivors. There are another twenty-two in Sickbay, but Doctor Duggal needs help moving them, so I sent five men up there, as well.”

    John forced himself not to react outwardly to Renn’s report.It’s a start, he told himself. Given the condition of engineering, it was a damned good start. But ninety-four accounted for in the cargo bay plus twenty-two in sickbay and nine dead left forty-three people whose fate was yet unknown. That number was too high for his comfort.

    “All right,” he told Renn, “you’re doing a great job. Stay here and keep doing what you’re doing. I’m going to go see about contacting the Luna and maybe use the shuttle sensors to try and figure out where the hell we are.” And as soon as I’m done with that, I’m going to find those forty-three people, he vowed silently to himself. He was still reeling inside from everything he had witnessed in engineering, and trying hard not to think about it. All he knew was that he was determined not to see it happen again.

    “Yes, sir,” Renn replied, but lost in thought, John didn’t reply. He put his helmet back on, sealed it, and left the cargo bay.

    *****

    USS Luna -- Bridge


    “Status report.” Lieutenant T’Pring of Vulcan kept her expression carefully stoic as she questioned her command staff on the damaged bridge of the USS Luna.

    She wasn’t asking for a status report for their own ship. That much was already known -- they had sustained heavy damage when the cloaked ship had attacked, and they were barely hanging on to life support. Of course, that was partly because they were using precious power to hold on to the USS Sol with a tractor beam, trying to keep it from drifting uncontrollably, propelled by the plasma and gases it was venting.

    The Sol’s condition was much worse than theirs. From the limited information the Luna’s sensors were giving, their sister ship had no life support except for in the cargo bay, and plasma radiation had leaked throughout the ship, threatening any survivors with a most unpleasant death if they weren’t treated in time. T’Pring had noted with alarm that of the life signs left on the Sol, none were Denobulan, which meant it was likely John Quigley, the young tactical Lieutenant she had been coordinating with during the attack, was now in command. That worried her somewhat. She didn’t know much about the young officer, but she knew he was on probationary status for making a rash decision based in human emotion on the away mission to Aris 4 -- and their present situation was obviously far worse than that one.

    Ensign Julia Han, the officer assigned to ops, looked intently at her display. “They’ve got limited power back up, probably from emergency power cells. Warp, QSD, impulse and thrusters are all offline. Sir, we need to get them out of there,” she said. “Radiation levels are still critical, life support is severely compromised, and they have multiple hull breaches. The ship is incapable of sustaining life for more than a few hours at best.”

    T’Pring nodded slowly. She reached up to brush a lock of black hair away from her forehead, then looked bemusedly at her hand, sticky with green blood. The Luna had its own problems. Other than thrusters, propulsion was offline. Two had been killed, seventy injured – and nineteen of those injuries were life-threatening. Everyone on the bridge was bleeding and bruised. Sickbay was too busy to bring up a dermal regenerator. But at the very least, they weren’t in immediate danger of losing life support or other critical systems, and repairs were already underway.

    “Can we communicate with them?” T’Pring asked.

    “Negative,” was the reply. “Their transceivers were destroyed in the attack.”

    T’Pring tapped her combadge just to see if it would work. Normal range for a personal communicator was several thousand kilometers, but that was when everything was properly calibrated and being boosted by the ship’s communications array. Unless someone on the Sol had thought to calibrate their combadges to use the Luna’s signal instead of the Sol’s, it was unlikely they would get two-way communication through all the radiation and residual interference from the explosion that had destroyed their attackers’ vessel.

    “T’Pring to Quigley,” she said, but there was no response. She turned back to Julia. “Do we have enough power to transport a team over to the Sol?”

    “Maybe one person,” was Julia’s halfhearted reply. “It’s taking everything we have just to keep them in one place.”

    One person. T’Pring’s first thought was that it should be her. With repairs already underway on the Luna, there was nothing for her to do here but give orders – which she could easily do from the Sol, if she could manage to get communications working. The Sol needed her experience and expertise more than the Luna did. The logical choice was for her to go.

    Unfortunately, she was in command here. She hesitated. Her internal debate was interrupted by the ensign.

    “Lieutenant? We’re being hailed.”

    T’Pring looked down at her command interface to look at the data the ensign was seeing. Her single concession to the surprise she felt was to arch an eyebrow slightly. “On screen.”

    Lieutenant John Quigley’s young face filled the main display, which was flickering oddly and slightly distorted. T’Pring was unsure of whether it was due to radiation interference or lack of sufficient power flow, but it was irrelevant -- she could hear the lieutenant fine, and see him well enough to conclude that he was in one of the Sol’s two small shuttles. He’s well-trained, she noted. She had seen much more senior officers than John forget about the shuttles during an emergency. She recalled him saying that he had served on the Titan, where Commander Tuvok was chief of security. Surely it was Tuvok’s influence, she thought.

    “Lieutenant Quigley,” she greeted him, carefully maintaining a perfectly serene demeanor.

    “Good to see your face, T’Pring,” John replied. T’Pring chose not to chastise him for his omission of rank title. “This is probably a stupid question, but are you holding us in a tractor beam?”

    “Yes,” T’Pring acknowledged. “You were venting plasma and it was causing you to drift. We are holding you in place for now.”

    “Thanks,” John replied with a tired almost-smile. T’Pring thought he looked very fatigued. “We’re in rough shape over here,” he told her. “Nine dead that I know of, including all of our engineers. Dozens injured, forty-three unaccounted for. We’re still waiting on Doctor Duggal to get down here with radiation meds. We’re going to have a lot of sick people on our hands.”

    T’Pring nodded. “Acknowledged. We are aware of the radiation problem. It is imperative you evacuate immediately. Your ship is no longer capable of sustaining life. I don’t anticipate you will be able to repair the systems on the vessel before your backup power is exhausted. According to the Luna’s sensors, you have lost twenty two people already. More will die if we don’t act quickly.”

    John sucked his breath in sharply. Twenty-two people. He quickly did the math. If she was right, that meant there were still thirty people alive and unaccounted for. “What’s our tactical status?” he asked. “Our attackers?”

    “A single ship,” T’Pring informed him. “Destroyed by a transphasic torpedo.”

    “That was one ship?” John asked in disbelief. “Evading them was like evading five ships!”

    “Their weaponry is formidable,” T’Pring agreed. “As is their cloaking technology. Their destruction was a fortunate act of chance.”

    “A lucky shot?” John asked, raising his eyebrows.

    “Indeed,” T’Pring acknowledged him with a short nod.

    “How’s the Luna?”

    “Better, but not much,” T’Pring replied. “We have life support, limited sensor capability and enough power and attitude control to hold you in a tractor beam, but little else.”

    “Understood,” John nodded.

    “You must begin evacuation,” T’Pring reiterated. “Time is short.”

    On screen, John sighed heavily. “Normally, I’d agree, but to where?” he asked. “We don’t even know where the hell we are; this is uncharted space. Have you got a star chart for this region I don’t know about? And are your long-range sensors working? Because the ones on this shuttle aren’t.”

    T’Pring shook her head. “No. We also lack long-range sensors. I believe the explosion caused by the destruction of the hostile vessel damaged subspace.”

    “I have thirty missing people to track down before I can even think about evacuating,” John said. “I’m not leaving anyone here. Can you use your sensors to find them? Beam them out?”

    T’Pring frowned slightly and tapped at her interface. “I may be able to assist you in finding them if we re-route additional power to the sensor array. But we cannot beam them out. We lack the necessary power for transport.”

    John looked displeased, but answered simply, “Acknowledged.”

    T’Pring had an idea. “We can guide you by voice.” She turned to Julia. “Ensign Han, reroute any available power to the sensors. Apportion some from environmental control, if necessary. See if we can get the exact locations of the life signs aboard the Sol.”

    “Yes, sir,” Julia replied, and set about carrying out T’Pring’s orders.

    “Our comms. aren’t working,” John reminded T’Pring. “The only way I can talk to you is in this shuttle, and I can’t exactly fly it through the corridors.”

    “Nor do I expect you to,” T’Pring said coolly. “I want you to reset your personal combadge to use that shuttle’s comm. system as its primary signal booster and keep the system active. Are you familiar with the procedures?”

    John made a face. “It’s been a while,” he admitted. “I think I can do it, though.”

    T’Pring nodded. “Good.” She waited as he tapped at his own interface for a few moments, and politely ignored the single Terran curse word she heard him mutter as he fumbled with the unfamiliar comm. controls. She was a moment away from offering assistance when she heard him give the computer his codes.

    “Done,” he finally said, cheeks tinged red with what T’Pring assumed was a combination of frustration and embarrassment. “Now what?” He looked up at her on the screen for direction, and she again noted how young he appeared to be. She herself looked not far from him in age, but she was Vulcan, and fifty-one standard years old. Young for her species, very young – but probably nearly double John’s age, she guessed.

    “Now return to the cargo bay,” she told him. “We can coordinate both the evacuation and the search effort. You may want to have other officers link their badges to the shuttle, as well, to facilitate communication.”

    “Acknowledged,” he replied tersely. “I’m going to test it. I’ll end this transmission and go to combadge only.”

    “Understood.” T’Pring waited as the screen went blank, then a moment later, her combadge chirped.

    “Quigley to T’Pring.”

    She tapped her badge. “I can hear you,” she said. “Good work.” She glanced down at her command interface and forced herself to remain perfectly calm as she noted how much time had passed. “Proceed quickly. Radiation levels are still critical,” she reminded him. “At this rate, any survivors may not be survivors for long.” She delivered the warning with a calculated edge to her voice. She found that when working with officers from less controlled cultures, it was sometimes necessary to purposefully emote when speaking to them over audio channels, lest they not catch one’s full meaning.

    “Understood,” came John’s equally terse reply. “Then let’s do this.”
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2010
  12. KimMH

    KimMH Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    The poster formerly known as ORSE
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    oooooh! saw that coming a mile away.

    *Grins* so not! Love the - what do I call it? Juxtaposition? Irony? Adele gets blindsided by Beckley (I was hoping to see him skulking about!) and they both (?) get taken unawares by Malik. It's one of those things where you knew in RETROSPECT you should have been more cautious. But that won't help right now - huh? Oh yeeesh!

    I can't help but be struck by the fact that Malik was the name of one of Dr. Sung's human augments in Enterprise.

    Completely off-topic - I also love Ryzal.

    I've been so swamped by RL it's wonderful to peek in and find this lovely nugget! Fewer calories and guilt than chocolate! Unlike chocolate - carrying it around in your head as you mull things over - it won't end up on your butt or thighs!

    Thank you for another wonderful chapter Kes7!!! Love your new av!

    ^

    didn't even see the newest chapter! it's like freakin' Christmas around here!

    I won't say JQ is a surprise. We've known him a little while and know he wouldn't be where he is if he wasn't made of stern enough stuff - but it is great to see him come into his own; as it were. You never really know how you'll handle a catastrophe until you handle a catastrophe! Bravo JQ - we knew you had it in ya!

    Funny/sweet/odd that T'Pring sees Tuvok's influence in JQ's command of the situation at hand! Even Vulcans believe what they wish . . .
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  13. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Hey, good to see you back here, oldstredshrtevr! I'm sufficiently unfamiliar with Enterprise (working on it, though!) that I didn't realize the Malik thing until it was too late. Oh, well. *shrugs* There are other duplicate names in Trek, too, so at least I'm in good company. So glad you liked the chapter, and Ryzal (who played little more than a bit part here, but I love that you love him). As for their lack of caution ... one of Icheb's greatest strengths AND weaknesses is his innate confidence. Sometimes life sneaks up on him because of it. Unfortunately, this time, it sneaked up on eight other people right along with him.

    Thank you so much for the enthusiastic review ... and you cross-posted with a new chapter, so now there's more for you to enjoy (guilt free)! :D
     
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    I continue to admire John who seems to have taken to leadership quite well even if I'm sure he himself would probably disagree. But it's about time he gets to do something right for a change. It's interesting to see how he continues to try and account for all of his missing crewmembers. I can see a lot of young officers in that position not keeping that in mind. Having said that, it could become a liability and he might find himself having to make another one of those "the needs of the many" decisions.

    I also like T'Pring. She is the kind of refreshing Vulcan who can stay true to her nature but still manage to relate to those pesky emotional species.

    Great stuff all around here.
     
  15. tau136

    tau136 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2010
    Location:
    The middle of the middle of Ireland
    Finally we learn something of what has been going on; tho not who or what the mysterious attackers were. Tesseract might be a heavy hitter but losing both your starships in one go is going to put a wrinkle in anyone’s day. That’s regardless of them sort of scraping; by thanks to, as our Vulcan nicely described it, a lucky shot. Doesn’t T’Pring come across as the typical Vulcan though. JQ’s aplomb has to be down to his training at the hand’s of another Vulcan (Tuvok) not anything else.

    JQ is tracking his learning curve well — from the immediate catastrophe and ruthless response (with about the least crew possible) in the last chapter to him beginning to marshal a coherent response and pick up on a larger team thru to the linkage and interaction with the Luna. After we have been left to draw our own conclusions about JQ for at least a chapter and a half we begin to see him thru another’s eyes; one who has no hesitation in analysing his entire history quite dispassionately. What a study in contrast he is for sure; highly effective in a highly charged situation and holding onto essentials that slip by others (the shuttles) yet at the same time hamstringing himself by making a running tally of The Missing and taking each one his personal charge.

    In the supermarket here one magazine is doing a special on Ryan Tubridy (chat show host) and, in some ways, the chapter is another magazine piece . . . on JQ. There’s the teaser of A Hard Day at The Office thru to A Workmate’s View. JQ seen thru all possible prisms.

    Oh and — Kes; nice job in balancing exactly what works, what's damaged and what's a goner on each ship. I can imagine you, almost, with a pile of little pieces on your desk. That's for Sol ... That's for Luna ... Leave this bit out ... :cool:
     
  16. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Hee hee. tau136 you put it so well:
    It's one messed up jigsaw puzzle for sure. Almost we have enough bits for one ship alas we have two. And when we see the damage and the situation as even viewed through the eyes of a cool and calm Vulcan we are hit with how badly off both ships are and yet how lucky they appear to have been. It's a worrying sign for down the road that the enemies out there are just so formidable. That's gulp moment waiting for us down the line.

    Of course, that depends on them getting out of this one alive as they are far from doing yet. There are plenty of people unaccounted for and many of them civilians and we somehow have to get them off the Sol in the next :insert countdown timeframe here: YIPES! I'm putting down a 100 bucks here that the rescue and evacuation is not going to go smoothly. Any takers?? No! No? Surely we all don't think kes7 is that evil? ... I guess we do.

    But man oh man! What a great piece. From the foul-mouthed and fiery personality of JQ to the more poised and calm precision of T'Pring we have two contrasts in charge. It makes for a compelling contrast and an even more vivid picture of what is happening. I loved both POVs and think they added so much to the overall effect. Smart thinking and great command skills shown by both, poor T'Pring's skills are probably going to be overshadowed by the far younger and more inexperienced JQ stepping big time up to the command plate. After the various doubts about his decisions, even 'voiced' by T'Pring, we see him take charge and make smart moves others would have missed. Terrific stuff. Excellent.
     
  17. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Wow. Just getting back to this after a crazy week. Three cheers for Saturday! :lol:

    So glad you all enjoyed this chapter! I'm going to be rude and answer everyone en masse today because a) I'm pressed for time and b) you all said some really similar things about JQ.

    First of all, I'm glad everyone seems to be enjoying JQ's sink-or-swim moment (because he's not!). So far, he's keeping his head above water. We'll see how the rest of this disaster unfolds. tau136 and CeJay both very correctly noted that his tendency to make everyone his responsibility in a very personal way could be a liability down the line -- both for practicality reasons and his own sanity.

    As for the ships, tau136 and MF cracked me up with their puzzle analogy. I hadn't really thought of it that way. I hope it doesn't come across as too "speed of plot!" Basically, the Sol is trashed, the Luna's slightly less so. Let's hope the crew of the Luna can hold things together long enough to save the crew of the Sol.

    Thank you all so much for reading and commenting. :) :adore: I really appreciate the feedback.
     
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Outstanding chapter as John and T'Pring attempt to pick up the pieces and determine what (and who) is salvageable, and what isn't.

    John's clearly in over his head, but he's rising to the challenge, a great characteristic in a future leader. He's keeping his people calm, focused, and on-task, much as T'Pring is aboard Luna.

    Here's hoping John can bring those last 30 people out alive.
     
  19. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Hey, Gibraltar! Thanks so much for the review. :) We'll see what happens with the survivors ... soonish. First we'll be bouncing back to our other friends, though. :borg:

    Alas ... I'm not sure when that will actually be happening, as life is crazy at the moment -- oldest kid went back to school (which you would think would free up time, but doesn't, because now the little one is bored!), and it's busy time at work ... I literally haven't had time to write a single word of fiction this week. :sigh:

    Anyway, I'll try my best not to make everyone wait TOO long for the next installment.
     
  20. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    CHAPTER SIX

    USS Tesseract, Brig

    As Adele entered the brig, she tried to hide her irritation that, of all moments, the resistance Borg called Lakwa had chosen this one to demand a face-to-face chat with the captain of the Tesseract. Nine officers had just gone missing on the away mission to the resistance ship, another few hundred people were already missing, and she wasn’t optimistic this former drone was going to be any more helpful than the last one she’d spoken to. Something about the urgency of the request, though -- and the emotions she had sensed from Lakwa since their first meeting – told her to give this a chance.

    Adele sensed an emotional depth to Lakwa that Malik lacked – that some of her own crew lacked, for that matter. It was almost enough to make her wonder if she had been from a telepathic species before her assimilation by the Borg. She also sensed an openness, a willingness to trust, that seemed utterly foreign to Malik. So while her remaining staff attempted to locate the away team and find out what was happening on the resistance ship, Adele had agreed to make a brief visit to the brig. If nothing else, it was worth a shot.

    The officer on duty in the brig escorted her to the cell where Lakwa was being held. “Nine of my crew just went missing on your vessel,” Adele informed Lakwa without preface. Whatever you wish to discuss had better be related to that, or it’s going to have to wait.”

    “You sent Malik to our vessel.” It was a statement, not a question, and it was delivered with palpable concern.

    Adele nodded. “Yes, I did. And now I can’t reach any of my crew, and Malik refuses to respond to hails.”

    Lakwa met Adele’s gaze with her single, pale blue eye and some sort of imaging implant that Adele assumed could probably see right through to her insides. “It was unwise of you to send him,” the cyborg said quietly. “He is not behaving rationally.”

    Adele looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean?” she asked.

    “I mean he is a danger to your crew and mine,” she replied, and Adele could sense her sadness and deep conflict at the betrayal. “He desires your help, but he fears you will choose your own interests over ours and destroy all that we have worked for. I don’t know what he will do, but I know your people are not safe on our vessel, and Jeytl will not resist him. With your assistance, I can seize control of our vessel and neutralize the threat he poses. However, I will need your trust and assistance.”

    “Are you saying you want me to help you lead a mutiny?” Adele asked, raising her eyebrows in surprise.

    Lakwa hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “Yes,” she answered. “Please try to comprehend,” she added quickly, “Malik’s intentions are honorable and he has been a competent leader, but he lacks perspective and the capacity to process his emotions. He was very young when he was assimilated, and he did not have the benefit of the assistance your second-in-command received in making a transition from life in the Collective to life as an individual. He doesn’t recall his life before. He feels anger, and he doesn’t know what to do with it. He has become increasingly unstable, and my attempts to assist him have failed. Whatever has gone wrong on our vessel, it is the opportunity I need to take control – for all of us – and I assure you, I will have the support of the majority of our crew.”

    According to Malik, Lakwa was the equivalent of a medical officer -- and she indeed sported a servo-armature full of medical equipment that would make any Starfleet doctor drool – but to Adele, she seemed to be functioning more like an XO. In the limited interactions she had shared with both of them since they had come aboard, Adele had sensed that Lakwa was the one Malik trusted, the one he looked to for advice and reassurance. And yet, here she was, telling Adele she wanted to lead a mutiny.

    “I did not come to this decision lightly, Captain,” Lakwa added, before Adele could think of a reply. “Malik is a friend. I believe he needs assistance. Perhaps you will be willing to provide it in time. But first, I believe it is imperative we work together to prevent him from doing irreparable damage to the potential unity between our people.”

    Adele’s jaw almost dropped. This Borg drone was talking like a diplomat. Ex-drone, she reminded herself. She was still impressed. “What do you propose?”

    ****

    Resistance Vessel 1473, Control Center


    Icheb and Maren stared at the display in shock, then exchanged a glance as they both realized why Malik had contained them all behind force fields.

    “This vessel is powered by particle 010,” the resistance Borg said, indicating the image on the screen – a live shot of what Icheb assumed was their engineering room, with a small spherical resonance chamber inside. “I believe you call it ‘Omega.’”

    He was looking at Icheb for a reaction, but it was Maren who gave it to him. The engineer’s eyes were wide with wonder as she stared at the screen. “It’s stable?” she asked breathlessly.

    Malik looked at her with mild surprise. “It was my understanding that knowledge of this particle within Federation Starfleet was limited to those with the rank of captain or above,” he said.

    “I know a lot of things I shouldn’t,” Maren admitted, without taking her eyes off the display. “They did it,” she breathed in awe as she looked at the display. “I can’t believe they did it.”

    “Yes, it is stable,” Malik confirmed. “You understand why I could not permit you to discover it without taking this precaution,” he said, gesturing toward the containment field she was stuck behind.

    The seven Starfleet security officers who didn’t know what particle 010 or an ‘Omega’ was looked utterly perplexed. Jeytl, the Borg engineer, stood to the side, silent as ever as he watched the scene unfold.

    Icheb glanced over at Maren, thankful she had been standing too close to him to be safely isolated in a separate containment field – although the rest of the team were all isolated, they shared the same makeshift “cell.” He glared at Malik from behind the containment field. Stable or not, Malik obviously knew Starfleet protocol about particle 010. Suddenly, his secrecy and evasion made perfect sense. “You turned it into a weapon,” he said coolly, recalling all the subspace destruction and Borg debris they had encountered in previous weeks.

    “It’s more than a weapon,” Malik retorted. “It’s everything our alliance is built on. The Tyndorans perfected the technology as a power source. We convinced some of them to share that technology in the interest of stopping the Borg.”

    “This is why you hid from us,” Icheb said. “You know we have to destroy it.”

    “Destroying this vessel would be the stupidest thing you could do. We both know that,” Malik replied, staring him down.

    Icheb held his gaze. “It’s not up to me.”

    “Isn’t it?” Malik challenged him. “Your captain listens to you. You can recommend she disregard the protocols regarding 010.”

    “The protocols regarding 010 are in place for a reason,” Icheb retorted. “You’ve been destroying subspace with your weapons. We’ve visited entire systems where warp travel is now impossible. You’re putting interstellar civilization at risk.”

    Malik glared condescendingly at Icheb. “For a society that calls itself ‘peaceful,’ your Federation seems uniquely preoccupied with the destructive potential of particle 010. Weaponry is a small part of what we have been able to do with this particle. You were once Borg. Do you not remember the possibilities?”

    “I remember perfectly,” Icheb replied coldly. “But even with the best intentions, Omega is highly dangerous. Millions of drones were destroyed in the failed pursuit to control it. It’s too unstable. In the Federation, we value lives more than progress.”

    “If you value lives, you should welcome this technology,” said Malik. “We’ve protected your ‘interstellar civilization’ from the Borg for nine of your years with it,” he said. “They have failed to adapt to our weaponry, and they cannot penetrate our cloaking technology. Unfortunately, our numbers are far too small to keep them out of the Alpha Quadrant for much longer.”

    “How many of these vessels are there?” Icheb asked, his mind reeling with the ramifications. If the Borg Resistance had particle 010 at their disposal, they were far more powerful than anyone had imagined … and potentially far more dangerous. He wondered what, other than destroying Borg, they had done with the technology.

    “Less than five thousand,” Malik replied. “It took a considerable length of time to develop a way to mask the energy signature with cloaking technology. But we use the particle for everything. It is the power source for our colonies, and it is the only way we have been able to build alliances with other Delta Quadrant societies. When we offer the technology, they become much more willing to cooperate.”

    “I bet,” murmured Maren, still staring forward at the live image of the ship’s Omega-powered energy core on the viewscreen.

    Icheb shot her a silencing look, then frowned. “You should have simply told the captain when you had the chance. She’s not going to react well to your deception.”

    “I’m prepared to hold you indefinitely to maintain control of my vessel. I don’t believe your captain will destroy her drone, her chief engineer, and her head of security, despite her threats.”

    “That’s an unwise gamble,” Icheb replied. “She made her intentions clear in the transporter room. I assure you, she is prepared to destroy this vessel. The Tesseract crew is made up of many talented people. I guarantee she would rather lose the nine of us than lose hundreds of them.”

    Malik gestured toward the others. “They may be replaceable, but you are not,” he said. “It was clear during our discussions aboard your vessel that she looks to you as her primary source of information about the Borg, and she is well aware of your potential as a weapon.” He suddenly deactivated the display, eliciting a disappointed gasp from Maren, who had been staring at it with analytical eyes. “I meant what I said,” he continued. “I desire your assistance, and I do not wish this encounter to become hostile,” he said. “But I cannot allow my vessel to be destroyed, nor permit this technology to fall into Federation hands.”

    “You share it all over the Delta Quadrant, but you don’t trust us with it?” Maren interjected, sounding incredulous. Icheb wished she would stop talking. He gave her a look that said as much, and she reluctantly shut her mouth.

    “We’re too powerful already,” he said quietly. In a way, he understood Malik’s concern. Malik’s distrust of the Federation was readily apparent, and no other ally the Resistance was likely to encounter had anywhere near the power and influence of the Federation, which governed almost a quarter of the galaxy -- the Borg had made sure of that. If the Borg were defeated, that would leave the Federation in a position to fill the power vacuum left behind in the Delta Quadrant, and that task would be made very easy by the almost limitless resources of Omega. Icheb didn’t believe the Federation had motives on conquering the Delta Quadrant, but Malik had no way of knowing that.

    “You understand our concern,” Malik acknowledged him with a nod.

    “I do,” said Icheb. “But holding us here isn’t the answer. You’ve only made it more probable that Captain Oyugo will destroy this vessel, with us on it.”

    “As I said, I don’t believe she’ll do it. As long as I don’t fire on her vessel, I believe she will attempt a rescue before risking your destruction.”

    “And if she does, what will you do?” Icheb asked.

    “Whatever is necessary,” Malik replied. Icheb thought the lack of emotion with which he delivered the answer was more chilling than if he had actually tried to sound threatening.

    As Malik spoke, with the enhanced peripheral vision provided by his ocular implant, Icheb suddenly noticed Maren nervously fingering her sidearm. She can’t possibly be thinking of shooting him. A phaser beam will never pass through this containment field, he thought. He wished she had a neural transceiver of her own so he could remind her of that fact without calling her activities to Malik’s attention. Why must she be so tactically inefficient when she’s angry?

    He glanced over at her, hoping to communicate what he was thinking with a simple look, but he was too late. In that instant, she pulled the phaser and took aim -- not at Malik, but at Icheb.

    ****

    It was a simple calculation, really. Malik was still mostly Borg. That meant however unstable he seemed, there was still a system at work here -- Maren was sure of it. Malik’s mind would still organize things into a hierarchy and make every decision accordingly. All she needed to do to take control of that system was find its vulnerable point … what was at the top of Malik’s hierarchy of objectives?

    In the hours since his arrival, Malik had told them a lot of horrible and moderately confusing things -- about the war, about the Resistance, and now about Omega – but the one thing that had been perfectly clear to Maren through all of it was how much Malik thought he needed Icheb -- how important Icheb seemed to be to him.

    She was sure he wanted him for more than just his poisoned DNA, otherwise he wouldn’t have wasted so much time with arguments and persuasion – he would have simply forced the issue. He had taken him hostage not once, but twice now. He had tried to manipulate him openly during the conference on the Tesseract, appealing to his sense of guilt over the destruction of so many Delta Quadrant worlds—worlds Malik implied could have been saved if only help had come sooner. Maren had somehow sensed he had been about to up the ante considerably when Adele had suddenly called a recess, and then a million things had happened and now, here they were, trapped behind a force field with an insane ex-Borg calling the shots.

    Yes, Maren decided, Icheb definitely seemed to be holding the top spot on Malik’s current hierarchy of goals. So, with shaking hands, she pulled her phaser out and leveled it at her former fiancé’s cortical array. Two could play the hostage game.

    “Forget Captain Oyugo,” she said, hoping her voice would stay steadier than her trembling hands. “She’s not here, but I am, and I’m telling you, release us now and let us contact the Tesseract, or I will fire. Face it, he’s the whole reason you’re here -- you need him. You’ve said it over and over again. And he’s no good to you dead.”

    Icheb was looking at her with total surprise. She locked eyes with him for the briefest of instants before returning her gaze to Malik. She hoped he knew she wouldn’t do it -- couldn’t possibly do it -- but she didn’t dare offer him even the smallest look of reassurance, because she needed Malik to believe she would.

    “I don’t believe you’ll fire that weapon,” Malik said flatly.

    Maren took another step forward, bringing the phaser’s aperture sickeningly closer to Icheb’s perfectly neat brown hair. She knew every cubic millimeter of his cortical array, or what was left of it, and she made a point of aiming at a particularly vulnerable spot. Icheb looked extremely concerned, but he didn’t move to stop her. She hoped that meant he trusted her enough to play along. If he tried to disarm her, it would be over -- there was no way she could compete with his faster reflexes and superior strength in her current condition. She felt dizzy and weak, and she could hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears. The head injury, she thought. I’m not supposed to get my blood pressure up like this. She tightened her grip on the phaser and tried to stay focused. Please God, don’t let me accidentally shoot him, she silently prayed.

    “Lieutenant O’Connor, lower your weapon immediately,” Ryzal ordered from behind her in a warning tone, but she didn’t bother to acknowledge the security chief. What could he do from behind a force field? There would be plenty of time to face the consequences for this later on. Right now she wanted only one thing, and that was the upper hand. This was the only way she could think of to gain control.

    “Comply,” she demanded, still staring Malik down. “Drop the force fields and let me contact our ship, or I swear I will fire this weapon.”

    For a moment, something resembling surprise was evident on Malik’s mottled gray-green face, but he quickly masked the emotion, returning his expression to its perfect Borg neutrality. “I believe Starfleet has regulations concerning the murder of one’s superior officer,” he said coldly.

    “Starfleet has a lot of regulations,” Maren replied. “And one of them is that where Omega is involved, all the rest are suspended.” Spots passed in front of her eyes, and she blinked hard, trying to clear them. Icheb noticed this, and looked at her with concern, but given the fact that she was holding a phaser on him, she wasn’t surprised when he didn’t make a move to assist her. Just hold on to the phaser, keep looking at Malik and DON’T PRESS THE TRIGGER, she told herself firmly. “Comply,” she repeated, trying her best to sound cold, calculating and maybe just a tiny bit unhinged – rather than like the scared, injured little girl she felt like inside. Her head was swimming. She tightened her grip on the phaser once more and fought to stay upright. When she spoke again, her voice was noticeably shakier. “You must comply.”
     

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