Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

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

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I feel for John’s dilemma. No one wants to have to scuttle a valuable ship, most especially in circumstances where such resources are now thousands of light-years behind them. Nevertheless, J.Q.’s decision to remain behind with a skeleton crew until Sol can either be stabilized or must be abandoned is a solid one.

    Like a good commander, John is stepping up to do what needs to be done, despite the obvious fact that he is slowly succumbing to radiation exposure. I hope he and the others can get the treatment they so desperately need in order to survive before it becomes too late for them.

    I don’t envy Adele the decision she must now make. It would be difficult enough without the immediacy of the advisory board hanging over whatever choice she makes like the Sword of Damocles. Violate the most potent Starfleet directive aside from the Prime Directive, or risk throwing away the only viable defense against the Borg anyone has yet to discover.

    Difficult, heart wrenching decisions seem to be the order of the day. Let’s just hope our heroes can live with those they’re forced to make on this day.
     
  2. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Decisions, decisions, decisions. All of them hard to make for all concerned. JQ has already stepped up to the plate and made quite a number of hard calls. Yet again he is making a call here, that of trying to shore up the Sol in order to keep it together and indeed hold together for the evac. However, how compromised is he by the radiation? Should he in fact sought medical help? Maybe, but JQ shows his flaw yet again - is a damned fine flaw but a flaw nevertheless, of caring too much, wanting to spare the others the sight of engineering and its loss of life. At some point, this is going to bite him in the ass. Indeed from other vignettes we know that it has in fact hurt his career before. However, I do worry about him making a call on this basis that will have long term effects. That said, this mission already is going to hurt him - asides from the radiation! From Herk to the Kellers it has taken a certain toll on the guy who has been very impressive with his command calls in the face of danger. It makes you root for the guy all the more. Top stuff.

    Then we have Adele taking control of the chaos on the RBorg ship. She somehow has inspired Lakwa to trust her and the Tesseract crew. Lakwa has mutined against Malik but for his and all of their sakes. I wonder now what this will mean for our allied RBorg friends? I Lakwa to become their leader?

    But now Adele is faced with a terrible decision. To do as she should and destroy Omega or allow for its harnessed power to come onboard the Tesseract, a very viable danger, so that she and the Federation by default can wield Omega's might as a weapon against the Borg. The decision to take it onboard is a bold move and in light of the Borg threat a sensible move. But what ramifications will this have, for Adele in front of the Advisory Board, for the future of the Federation, will it spur a race for Omega weapons/power systems in the Alpha Quadrant ala the cold war and nuclear power/weapons? And what will the Admiral make of it all?

    Oh my, so much to come of all of this! So much to look forwards to.
     
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Would you defy the Omega Directive???

    It's a pretty big decision all right. I would say that the devastating of Omega would make the decision obvious. But we'll just have to wait and see how this plays. And I can understand JQ's line of thinking in not wanting to scrap the Sol. Makes one wonder how the Voyager replaced lost shuttles, especially since they practically gave shuttle-craft away in "Counterpoint".
     
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    JQ's crucible just won't quit. But I've stopped feeling sorry for the guy. His personal problems aside, he's a Starfleet officer and this is the kinda stuff they train you for and where you separate the strong from the weak and the capable from the ones who didn't quite measure up. All in all, John will get through this alright. Question is how he'll handle it all afterwards once he had time to think about it.

    As for Adele, she's making a tough call and I'm looking forward to her having to justify it to the advisory board. I'm squarely in her corner this time. Starfleet has a tendency to exaggerate their general orders (death penalty for visiting Talos IV, anyone?) and sometimes you just gotta give the captain a bit of leeway to make a decision. On the other hand of course, putting a Borg ship with a potentially mega-destructive power source inside your own ship is a risky call.

    Oh and about Maren. She might as well move into sickbay considering all the time she is spending there.
     
  5. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gibraltar -- Thanks for the awesome review. John's just trying to get through the day here with as little destruction and loss of life as possible. And Adele's just trying to make the right call for the most people. We'll see if they both pull it off. In any event, the ripples from the decisions they both make will have the potential to affect a lot of lives -- for better or worse. Not a fun position to be in.

    mirandafave -- Yeah, John could probably use a shot or two of whatever they give you to counteract radiation in Trek. Problem is, if they're treating him, they're not treating some civilian -- somebody's spouse or child who he feels needs care more than he does. As you noted, he cares too much. As for Lakwa, we will be seeing a lot more of her (and Malik) in the coming chapters. She's been forced into a leadership role, but in many ways, she already had one. She was the one her people trusted to hold Malik back from the brink, and that's basically what she did here. But she's not him, and she's not used to being 'in command.' We'll see how she does. The question of what Omega will mean for the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation is a good one. You'll just have to wait and see. ;) Thanks for the great review.

    E1981 -- Would I defy it? I would never be in a position to do so, because in the Trek universe, no one would ever let me near the captain's chair! :lol: In this situation, I think Adele is doing the sensible thing, but also a risky thing. As for shuttles ... someone once did a .gif of Voyager's "Shuttle-O-Matic." :evil: They did lose a lot of shuttles (more than they started with), but never ran out. It's like the loaves and fishes, only with shuttlecraft. Thanks for the comments.

    CeJay -- You're right, JQ did train for this, and more than that, it's what he wanted -- he always wanted to command a starship. Well, this is his chance. Sometimes being the captain sucks. We'll see how he feels about it later if he indeed makes it through this. As for Adele, she's glad to have your support. ;) Yes, it's risky to bring it aboard, but like I said above, she's trying to make the right call for the largest number of people. We'll see what happens. (And yeah -- Maren needs to just move her quarters to sickbay. Or, you know, stop pushing herself and actually recover before inserting herself in the middle of the next crisis.) Thanks for reading and reviewing.
     
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    True, how true. I got that off a Voyager episode trailer asking "Would you defy the Prime Directive?"
     
  7. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Unfortunately, no new chapter quite yet (working on it!), but I thought I'd let you all know that a short story about Icheb and John Quigley at the Academy just won the monthly challenge over at Ad Astra. It's called "Intervention."

    While I'm at it, it occurs to me that I've never actually linked the whole series here, so consider this my plug for the rest of my Tesseract stuff ... TBBS has the two main multi-chapter stories, but Ad Astra has several additional short stories -- all background/character pieces focused on the crew of the Tesseract. So if you're into that kind of thing ... here you go. Hope you enjoy. :)
     
  8. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I spent the weekend writing like a maniac. So watch this space, more coming soon. Apologies for the delays, but life is indeed settling down some, so things should pick up again from here on out ... thanks for your patience. :)
     
  9. ares93

    ares93 Commodore Commodore

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    I love you! :lol:
     
  10. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER NINE

    USS Tesseract – Captain’s Ready Room

    Adele sighed and rubbed her eyes as she finished the official captain’s log entry detailing the meeting she had just completed with Icheb and Lakwa. It had been a long day already, and it just kept getting longer. As the USS Tesseract sped at slipstream velocity toward the last known location of the auxiliary ships Sol and Luna, she sat alone in her ready room, taking a moment to compose a few brief log entries while Icheb escorted Lakwa to her heavily guarded quarters. With the official, “on-the-record” work completed, next up was her personal log. So much had happened today that she hoped it would help her order her thoughts to record it all – or at least help her not to forget any of it later.

    Her replicated dinner sat untouched on her desk alongside a PADD filled with her own notes on everything she had learned about the conflict. She knew she should eat to keep her strength up, but her appetite was gone. Omega. A war. Mutiny among the Resistance. From what Lakwa said, hers was not the only ship experiencing conflict among the ranks. The more individuality the freed drones regained, the less often they agreed about tactics and objectives. Many were working together, but some stood apart, having either abandoned the fight completely or tried to win the war their own way, to varying results. There was no real rank structure, and most of the resistance drones came from completely different cultures and species. As far as Adele could tell, the Borg Resistance was an absolute mess, and Omega was their only tactical advantage.

    Her own crew wasn’t much better off. Her chief engineer and chief tactical officer were both in sickbay recovering from the injuries they had suffered earlier that evening. Ryzal would be laid up at least a week, and how long Maren would be down for was anyone’s guess. Julian was confident that he had stopped the bleeding in her brain, but he had sedated her heavily to ensure she actually rested to full recovery this time. He was also pushing Adele to order her into counseling. She’s probably going to need it by the time I’m done with her, Adele thought wryly. As soon as the young engineer was better, Adele would have to decide how best to deal with behavior so far during the mission. She had proven herself remarkably unstable during the multiple crises they had faced. Adele simply wasn’t sure she could trust her with command of engineering anymore, regardless of her intelligence and skill. It weighed heavy on her heart to think of cutting such a bright young talent off at the knees after she had achieved so much in her short career, but she was starting to feel she had no other choice … especially when she thought about the lies.

    The lies. Her first officer was dying, and she hadn’t even confronted him about it yet. She realized it had to happen, and soon. She found herself preoccupied by it, having to fight to control her anger at the young ex-drone’s dishonesty, as well as her worry and fear for him and what his loss would mean for the mission. But nothing weighed as heavy on her heart as the four hundred people, mostly civilians, who were currently missing on the Sol and Luna. They had yet to find any sign of them. The leaden feeling in the pit of her belly grew worse every time she looked at the chronometer. The Advisory Board was hungry for answers she didn’t feel ready to give. No, Adele thought tiredly, today had not been a good day.

    There had been a few bright spots, though. Lakwa and Jeytl had provided assistance at just the right moment. Even though their mutiny now served as a stark reminder of a larger systemic problem that would undoubtedly complicate relations with the Borg Resistance, Adele was grateful for the desperately needed ‘win’ they had provided her today. She also found Lakwa intriguing. Part drone, part doctor, part diplomat. It was an interesting dynamic, and the more she conversed with the ex-Borg, the more she found to like about her. Lakwa had opened up a bit during their conversation earlier, or at least as open as Adele had ever seen an ex-drone. It surprised her how easily they could relate to one another. Between Lakwa’s words and Adele’s own empathic senses, she had deduced that both of them had experienced loss courtesy of the Borg, both cared deeply for the people they were serving with, and both desperately wanted this alliance to work.

    With a weary glance at her now-cold dinner, Adele decided to skip it completely and start in on her personal log entry. “Computer,” she said, “Record --”

    The sound of the ready room door chime interrupted her. "Computer, cancel recording,” she said with a small sigh. “Come in,” she called out, as she stood and stretched. Her muscles ached after a day spent reacting to one crisis after another. The door slid open, and she saw that her first officer had completed his escort duties and returned as he had been instructed to do.

    “Commander,” she greeted him.

    “Captain,” Icheb nodded in reply, as he stepped into the spacious ready room. “I showed Lakwa and Jeytl to their quarters. They have been assigned continuous security and their rooms are equipped with communications dampening fields. I have also arranged for the replication of two portable regenerators to meet their energy needs.”

    “Thank you,” Adele said sincerely. “I appreciate your handling that.” She picked up her uneaten dinner and turned to take it back to the replicator. “I’m going to have some tea,” she said. “Would you like anything?”

    Icheb shook his head. “No, thank you,” he replied. Adele nodded and recycled her dinner, replicated herself a cup of Yridian tea, then sat back down at her desk and offered Icheb the seat across from hers.

    “Please, sit down, Commander.”

    Icheb complied with the request. “What did you wish to speak to me about?” he asked. “I have some thoughts I’d like to share concerning the Borg Resistance,” he added, as soon as he was seated.

    “We’ll get to that,” Adele replied, sounding weary. “I need to discuss something else with you first.” She took a long sip of her tea, then set the steaming cup down on her expansive desk and gave her exec a long, searching look. “I have a serious problem, Commander,” she began softly, “a problem I need your help to fix.”

    Icheb’s expression remained unchanged, but she could feel his wariness at the statement. “Elaborate,” he said in a careful tone.

    Adele took a deep breath. “I realized something today,” she said. “I realized that after just a day of knowing Lakwa, she’s earned a fair amount of trust from me. I’m not going to hand her my command codes or anything, but I generally trust what she has to say and I feel like I’m beginning to understand her motivations.”

    Icheb frowned. “I fail to see the problem.”

    “The problem is you,” Adele said flatly. “It hit me as I was thinking about this that I don’t have that same trust in you that I have in a stranger. A Borg stranger.” She sighed heavily. “I need to trust you, and right now, I don’t, Icheb. You’ve been lying to me since the day I met you. You lied to us all. As we face this Omega problem, this Borg civil war together, I need to know I can count on you, but I don’t know that. You’re dying and you didn’t tell me.” Icheb tensed visibly at this, and she could feel his defenses going up. Nonetheless, she continued, “You put this entire mission at risk by lying about your condition, and today, when I needed you most, you were far too distracted by Lieutenant O’Connor to be of much use to anyone. I realize you’re in love with her --” at this, Icheb opened his mouth to protest, but Adele held a hand up to stop him.

    “Stop. I’m an empath,” she reminded him. “You’re in love with her. It’s okay. You can’t control it. To ask you to control it would be to ask you to deny the individuality you’ve regained since leaving the Collective. But I can’t have you two constantly screwing up our operations with your preoccupation with each other. And I certainly can’t have you lying for each other.” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose with two fingers before continuing, “You two are a walking, talking security breach. In the face of Maren’s apparent familiarity with the Omega Directive, I can only assume you were the one who gave her that information. Information you gained from the Borg Collective. Now, I understand that you possess information you shouldn’t because of your unique history. But I did not expect Miss O’Connor to have that information, as well. I want a list of potential security risks caused by your relationship with her on my desk tomorrow. Whatever you told her that she shouldn’t know, I need to know about it, for her safety and ours.”

    Icheb nodded grimly. “Understood.”

    Adele softened her tone considerably and asked, “Have you been to see her yet?”

    Icheb slowly shook his head. “Not since Doctor Bashir had me removed from sickbay.”

    “You were out of line,” Adele gently pointed out. They had gone briefly to sickbay to check in on Ryzal, Malik, Dena and Maren upon their return to the Tesseract. If Adele had realized the extent of Maren’s injuries, she never would have let Icheb enter the room. He had panicked, in his controlled Borg manner, at the sight of the engineer lying on an operating table undergoing her second emergency brain surgery in a week. He had instantly begun asking too many demanding, rapid-fire questions, and Julian had swiftly kicked him out.

    “Perhaps,” Icheb conceded with a small nod. “I was concerned for her safety.”

    “Doctor Bashir and Doctor Marchenko are both excellent physicians,” Adele reminded him. “They were – and are – doing the best they can for her.”

    Icheb said nothing. Adele assessed him carefully, unsure of what she could possibly say that he might find comforting. There was so much about her exec that she didn’t understand. His cybernetically augmented mind worked very differently than hers. The only thing she knew for sure was that he loved Maren with all the intensity she had once felt for her imzadi. That much was clear. His emotions were more far stronger than she would have expected from an ex-drone, but then again, he was the only one she had ever spent much time with. She guessed that would be changing now, with the arrival of Dena and the Resistance Borg. She wondered how her understanding of all these former drones would develop as they got to know each other better. “Tell me your thoughts on Lakwa,” she requested, suddenly curious.

    Icheb seemed grateful for the change in subject matter. “I agree with your assessment. I believe she is trustworthy. She was very kind to me while I was aboard their ship. She openly questioned Malik’s handling of the situation. She was the only one who did.”

    “What do you mean, she was kind?”

    “She treated my injuries, objected to Malik’s harsh treatment of me, urged him to apologize.”

    “But she never gave you any indication she wanted to lead a mutiny?”

    “No. She performed her function as a medical officer and nothing more.”

    “Did the others seem loyal to Malik?”

    “I don’t know. I didn’t see them often. I was mainly kept behind a force field. The only time I was around most of the others was when we intercepted you in the nebula. They performed their tasks efficiently and spoke very little.”

    “Sounds about right,” Adele replied wryly, recalling her experiences with the nearly silent Jeytl. They both fell quiet for a moment, Icheb seemingly lost in his memories of the experience while Adele subtly tried to read him. Finally, she sighed. Icheb looked at her, and she met his gaze.

    “I want to trust you, Number One,” she said softly, with her eyes locked on his. “I felt like we were building that trust in the very beginning, but what Maren told me about the two of you set us back a long way. This isn’t her fault, though,” she quickly clarified. “Maren did the right thing telling me. Her biggest failure was not saying something sooner. But most of the responsibility for this rests on you. You applied for this mission. You went through the interview process. You were assigned executive officer of a seven-year mission to the Delta Quadrant – second-in-command of nearly 1500 people. And you did all this knowing you had a terminal condition you were refusing treatment for, and you didn’t say a word? I really have only one question for you. What were you thinking?”

    Icheb stared back at her for a long moment. “I made a mistake,” he finally said quietly. “A very serious error. I was frightened of what experiments might be performed on me if I went to Starfleet Medical, but that doesn’t excuse my actions.”

    Adele frowned. She still felt like he was holding something important back, but she decided to see where he planned to go with this. “Maren told me you were afraid of that. Something about Admiral Nechayev wanting to download your memory engrams?”

    Icheb nodded. “She and several others at Starfleet Command made it very clear from the moment I arrived on Earth that they saw me as a source of intelligence and a potential weapon. I resisted that with Admiral Janeway’s help, but it was very difficult. After that, the only person I entrusted with my medical care was The Doctor.”

    Voyager’s EMH.”

    “Correct. When I first started experiencing difficulties with my implants, we hoped there would be a simple solution. As the problems got worse, he urged me to seek additional help – particularly from Seven of Nine. I refused. I realize now that both The Doctor and Maren could face serious consequences for helping me conceal this. I wish to do everything I can to take responsibility for it myself. They were merely honoring my wishes about my own medical care.”

    Adele pinched the bridge of her nose again briefly and sighed. “I can tell you right now that there will be consequences for Maren. I can’t speak to what Command might do with the EMH. They’re unaware of all of this, for the moment. But he at least has doctor-patient confidentiality to stand behind. Maren doesn’t have that protection, nor should she. However, lying for you is really the least of the problems I have with her right now. She’s in enough trouble without bringing your medical issues into it.”

    “Captain?” Icheb queried with a concerned look.

    Adele sighed again. “We’ll have plenty of time to discuss Miss O’Connor’s behavior later, Commander. Right now she’s lying on a biobed recovering from her second brain surgery in a week. I don’t really feel like discussing her shortcomings or their possible consequences right now, and I can’t imagine you do, either.”

    “I am the executive officer of this vessel,” Icheb retorted coolly. “If there is a problem with a member of the senior staff, would that not fall under my area of responsibility?”

    “Indeed it does,” Adele shot back, matching his tone. “And trust me, we’ll be having that conversation. But for right now, let’s just let her recover.”

    Icheb frowned, but reluctantly nodded his assent. Adele could feel his irritation at her unwillingness to share her thoughts on Maren, as well as his concern for her, from across the desk. She sighed. “Look,” she offered, “why don’t you go check in on things in sickbay? Check on Maren and Ryzal, and see if Doctor Bashir needs any help with that drone. I have some logs and reports to finish up here. I don’t have your perfect memory, so I need to get these things recorded while they’re still fresh,” she said with a wry smirk. “We’ll be caught up to the last known position of the auxiliary ships in a few hours. Make sure your own logs are complete by then, and we’ll meet to discuss everything first thing in the morning, when we’re all fresh and have had some time to think about things.”

    Icheb nodded and stood up. “Very well, Captain,” he said, a little stiffly. “I’ll see you then.”

    Adele nodded in reply. “You’re dismissed,” she said with a tired half-smile.

    Icheb immediately turned and headed for the door, but just short of the sensor, he stopped and turned to face Adele again. “Captain?” he asked, his face pensive.

    Adele looked up from her desk quizzically. “Yes, Commander?”

    Icheb took a visible deep breath and said, “It was never my intent to make your job more difficult. I intend to do everything I can to resolve the problems I have caused.”

    Adele raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to say you’re sorry?”

    Icheb blushed slightly. “Yes,” he replied quickly. “I’m sorry.”

    Adele nodded. “That’s a good start,” she said sincerely, then added, “I can think of a few other people who deserve to hear that from you right now, too.” She smiled at him wryly. “Lucky for you, they’re all in one place. Pretty convenient, if you ask me.”

    Icheb looked back at her with an unreadable expression for a moment, then nodded slowly. “Thank you, Captain. I’ll be in sickbay.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    How lucky is Icheb to have Adele as his captain? I could imagine a lot of other commanding officers taking much harsher actions considering his dishonesty. Hope her leniency won't backfire on her. I already thought once before that she had been to easy on Maren.

    I doubt she's gonna make that mistake again.

    Great stuff.
     
  12. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Reviewing on the fly but I will review more later. But for now, suffice to say I loved the interaction here. Adele 'slapping' Icheb around the face for how she has little reason to trust him is striking. The fact that she can trust Lakwa more than Icheb is startling. However, when we consider the facts she has more to base her trust on Lakwa than she does Icheb. However, poor Icheb and Maren have had a conspiracy of events to thwart their opportunities to prove themselves to Adele. Yes, the lying about dying is a circumstance of their own making but still things have not exactly gone their way. I do feel that Icheb is ready to make up for his actions. He has a lot to prove and to try and win back the trust he had seemed to be forming with Adele. I liked too the insight we get of Adele's thoughts here. As usual she is reflective, smart and interesting to read about. Can't wait for more.
     
  13. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Thanks, CeJay and mirandafave. Icheb is lucky that Adele is pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place right now. She's facing a Borg civil war, and what is she going to do, demote her primary Borg expert? So even if she might like to be harsher, she's willing to reserve final judgment for now, knowing that his lies had nothing to do with the Borg and everything to do with his own fears. She figures it could be a lot worse. As for Maren ... yeah, Adele is pretty over her. We'll see what happens .... Thank you both for reading and reviewing! :)
     
  14. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    A captain's job is a tough one and Adele certainly experiences it right now. Decisions, decisions. I can only hope she would make the right ones, not based on feeling sorry for her officers or her warm feelings for them. If I wasn't sure before, I am sure now: Maren should not be the chief engineer. She is not ready, be it because of her complicated relationship with Icheb, or because she is too young and her judgement is not fully developed and matured--she is not ready yet.

    Adele has a lot of patience. I would be furious in her place ;)
     
  15. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Maren's approach to incapacitating the Borg was certainly reckless. And in hindsight, Icheb should have been a little more forceful in excluding her from the away team. Of course, Adele doesn't exactly have the luxury of throwing anyone in the brig for the rest of the mission. :p
     
  16. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gul Rejal -- thanks for the comment. We'll see what happens with Maren. You're not the only one doubting her ability to command a department right now. Adele does have a lot of patience and understanding, but it only goes so far.

    E1981 -- You bring up an excellent point. Adele is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Icheb especially, and even Maren, to a degree. There aren't an endless supply of additional officers of their intellectual abilities out there in the DQ. She doesn't want to throw the baby (babies?) out with the bathwater.

    More coming in a few minutes.
     
  17. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER TEN

    USS Tesseract – Sickbay

    As Icheb entered his security override to enter the locked-down sickbay, he remembered something that John had said to him several dozen times back at the Academy: It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. The line had always been delivered with the same wide, easygoing grin that Icheb had futilely attempted to reproduce in the lavatory mirror on more than one occasion. That had never worked – Icheb looked didn’t look anything like his tall, blond human friend. But the sentiment behind John’s oft-repeated idiom was often true, at least among humans, and Icheb felt this was one of those times. It would be much more difficult for Doctor Bashir to remove him from sickbay once he was already inside than it would be for him to say ‘no’ if he asked permission to come in. So he didn’t bother with the comm. system. He simply entered.

    At the thought of John, he wondered briefly if his friend was okay on the Sol, but he quickly deemed that worry irrelevant. There wasn’t a lot he could do about the situation until they found the missing ships. Perhaps he would go to astrometrics in a little while and help with scans. In addition to being useful, it might help distract him, and alleviate the anxiety he felt every time he thought of the missing ships. But for the moment, it would have to wait. The captain had all but ordered him to report to sickbay, and she had been right. Doctor Bashir deserved an apology. So did Maren.

    As he stepped through the open door into the slightly darkened central medical chamber, Icheb gripped the PADD he was carrying in his hand tightly. He hoped its contents would go a long way toward repairing the damage he had done. At the same time, he also felt guilty as he realized he was still holding something back from everyone. He had made his choice, though – and as sure as he was that he had made the right one, he wasn’t certain if he could stand up to the pressure if anyone else tried to convince him otherwise – especially Maren.

    He sighed. He would tell her, anyway. He had to tell her. But he had to tell her first. If there was any hope of her forgiving him for this, she couldn’t hear it from someone else. Doctor Bashir and the captain could wait.

    Although Julian Bashir had technically gone off duty several hours ago, Icheb saw that he was sitting in his interior office with a task lamp on, poring over something on his desk display, rubbing his eyes and looking tired. He looked up as Icheb entered, and his facial features twisted into an expression of exasperation mixed with sympathy. He immediately stood up and walked over to intercept Icheb.

    “Commander, please give it time. It’s only been two hours. Her condition hasn’t changed. Go get some rest, or a meal or something.”

    Icheb shook his head. “I didn’t come to see Maren. I came to speak to you,” he said.

    “Oh, really?” Julian asked, as his eyebrows quirked upward. He sounded surprised and a little bit skeptical.

    Icheb nodded. “I want to apologize. I was out of line earlier. I shouldn’t have questioned your abilities. I was frightened for her. It will not happen again.”

    Julian’s expression softened somewhat. “I appreciate that, Commander, but I had you removed for my patient’s well-being and yours. I wasn’t offended. But you weren’t helping her by being there. ”

    Icheb nodded as if to concede the point, then tentatively offered the PADD he was holding to Julian. “This is for you,” he said.

    Julian looked down at the PADD as he accepted it, then gave Icheb a questioning look. “What is it?” he asked.

    “It’s my complete medical history,” Icheb answered flatly, eliciting a surprised look from Julian. “Before the away mission, Maren informed me that she told you about my failing implants. I thought this might help you with your research.”

    Julian stared down at the PADD for a long moment, then looked up at Icheb. “Thank you, Commander,” he said sincerely. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

    “I’m sure you will,” Icheb replied quietly. His let his gaze wander away from Julian as he scanned the large central medical chamber. He could see One of Fifteen – Dena, he corrected himself – lying in her forcefield-protected area. He could see Ryzal’s hulking frame resting on a biobed through the uncovered window on one of the private rooms. Before he could identify which room might belong to Maren, Julian spoke up.

    “Would you like to see her?”

    Icheb looked back at him and nodded, suddenly too nervous to speak. Silently, he followed the doctor over to one of the private rooms and waited as he toggled the release on the door.

    As the door opened and Julian motioned him inside, he could see that Maren was lying prone on a biobed with a delta wave inducer affixed across the front of her head. He knew that the device would keep her unconscious indefinitely and accelerate her body’s natural healing process, but the absolute stillness it produced in her unnerved him. He was accustomed to her being slightly hyperactive, even in her sleep. With his enhanced vision, it had always seemed like she was in constant motion, almost as if her impossibly active mind created a vibration he could actually see. In contrast, the woman on the biobed seemed like an entirely different person.

    “The delta wave inducer is just a way to speed her recovery and make sure she gets the rest she needs,” Julian assured him, seeing the look on his face. “We want to keep her resting until she’s stronger. And since she’s already proven she won’t rest of her own accord …” he trailed off with a gentle shrug as if to say ‘this is what’s necessary.’

    Icheb nodded and kept staring at Maren with the same uneasy expression.

    “We successfully stopped the bleeding, so all that’s left to do is wait for her body to heal itself completely,” Julian added, obviously looking to fill the silence.

    “Will there be any permanent damage?” Icheb asked worriedly, without taking his eyes off of her.

    Julian breathed a small sigh and glanced over at the engineer. “It’s impossible to say for sure,” he admitted, “but I think we repaired all of the damage. And if there are any lasting effects, we’ll find a treatment. I think she’s going to be fine.”

    “She’s not fine,” Icheb said, with a bitter edge to his voice. “She’s emotionally damaged and it’s my fault.”

    “We all make mistakes,” Julian replied. “Even the Borg.”

    Icheb stared silently at Maren for a few moments. He longed to go to her side, but he didn’t make a move. He kept thinking back to a time when it had been him lying on a biobed with an uncertain future. She had held his hand in the infirmary at Starbase 12 for nine hours and twenty-eight minutes straight. Unsure of whether he would survive, she had flat-out refused to let go. The medical staff had told him about it later, seemingly bemused and awed by her determination. As much as he wanted to return the favor now, he didn’t feel he had the right to touch her. She had been through too much, and it was all his doing.

    After a long silence, Julian interrupted his thoughts. “She cares for you,” he said quietly. “You should have seen how worried she was when you were being held by the Borg resistance.”

    Icheb kept gazing down at Maren even as he answered Julian. “I left her because I wanted to protect her from being hurt,” he explained to the doctor. “I remembered how frightened I was when Seven was dying. I risked my life to save her. I didn’t want Maren to have to feel that way, or ever put herself at risk for me. I was too young and inexperienced to realize that removing myself from her physical proximity would not be enough to change her feelings toward me. Now, we are here, and in a matter of days, she has risked her career, her safety and her life because of her relationship to me. It is unacceptable.”

    “I suggest you learn to accept it,” Julian retorted gently. “People take risks for the people they care about all the time – especially in our line of work. You can’t control the way she feels about you. You can’t force her not to love you … least of all when it’s so obvious you feel the same way.”

    “I don’t want her to suffer.”

    “You don’t think she’s suffered every day since you left her, knowing your life is in danger? Wanting to tell someone, but thinking you’d never forgive her? I assure you, Commander, she has suffered. The good news is, somehow, you’ve lasted this long. You have a chance to fix this. Not everyone gets that chance.”

    Icheb looked thoughtfully down at the sleeping Maren. “You’re right, Doctor,” he said, with quiet determination. “I do have a chance to fix this.” Without another word, he turned and walked out of Maren’s room and out of sickbay, leaving Julian staring bemusedly after him.

    *****

    USS Tesseract – Diplomatic Quarters

    The dampening field was a necessity, Lakwa knew it, but it made her feel very alone. After nine years, she was used to hearing Malik’s thoughts during times like this. Right now, there were only her own.

    She wondered what he was doing right now, locked in the brig of this Federation ship behind a force field even their technology could not easily defeat. No doubt, he was angry. Angry at her, angry at the Federation … maybe even angry at himself.

    She still found it difficult to believe that she had betrayed him. You did not betray him, she argued with herself. You saved him. You saved us all. Her internal arguments seemed inadequate. Malik was her friend – her only friend. The others looked up to her, for reasons she could not begin to understand, but Malik saw her as an equal. And despite her increasing lack of confidence in his ability to lead their small crew, she cared for him. Maybe too much.

    She crossed the extravagant quarters to which she had been assigned by the captain of the Federation vessel and looked at herself in a reflective surface mounted on the wall. Mirror, came the translation in Federation standard, without her consciously bothering to call it up. There were no mirrors on her own vessel, at least not in the areas reserved to the Resistance. The organic crewmembers had them, but most of those who had been freed from the Collective preferred not to be visually reminded of what they had become.
    Lakwa was no different. She still remembered herself on Seitun. She remembered how she used to look, young and vital, with pink, healthy ridges, blue eyes and hair the color of the setting of the second sun. Now there was only gray skin, scars and machinery where that beauty had once dwelt.

    She remembered her mate, Inru and their four offspring, Onla, Minra, Lidu and Saeil. She remembered the warm home they had shared before the Borg came. She remembered their assimilation. And she remembered how she had been forced to kill them all.

    Not by her own hand, thanks be to Iyira … but she had watched in horror – still in shock herself from the realization that her thoughts were once again her own – as Malik and the others had struck them down one by one. She had not lifted a finger to stop them. So recently separated from the Collective, the logical Borg programming in her cortical array had overruled her heart, and she had let them die. She had not even recognized the children until later, as they tried to determine who among them had survived the battle for control of their sphere. The maturation chambers had been effective. The body of her mate was recognizable, albeit barely – but the bodies of their children looked like just four more drones from the Collective, their only identifying features the ridges on their foreheads. She rarely dreamt, but when she did, it was still of them – all these years later.

    It had been necessary. They were part of the Collective, and they were intent on reassimilating or destroying everyone with the Unimatrix Zero mutation – including Lakwa herself. No amount of reasoning with them would have been effective. In fact, she had been pleading with Inru in a voice she had all but forgotten she possessed when Malik had deactivated her lover and her friend. Yes, it had been necessary. But it had hurt. And that pain had reminded her that she had once been Seituni – not Borg.

    Now, she looked in the mirror aboard a Federation starship and wondered where her own loyalties lay, in the end. Seitun was no more. Neither was Malik’s homeworld, or Jeytl’s … or Icheb’s for that matter, although she hadn’t told him yet. She had been fighting against the Borg with everything she had since the destruction of Unimatrix Zero, but at the same time, the Borg were the closest thing she had to a people. The Resistance may have formed alliances with others, like the Tyndorans, but no one had truly accepted them yet. No one trusted them, no one loved them.

    Seeing Icheb in the medical bay of this Federation vessel had changed everything for her. The engineer had looked at him like Inru used to look at her. She loved him. The captain clearly valued him. He was Borg and Brunali, yet they treated him as one of their own. In that moment, Lakwa had known she had to act – that perhaps Malik’s hatred for the Federation had been misplaced.

    She knew would have to speak to Malik. He would need her to explain. She also knew she had to wait. Asking to see him too soon may cost her the trust she had earned from the Federation crew. Mutiny was much more understandable than … whatever she was doing. She was uncertain herself. All she knew was that she wanted this to work, and Malik had gotten in the way, and for the first time in nine years, she could not stand with him, so she had risen up against him. She knew it was very unlikely that these people would understand why she still wanted him to be part of this.

    The door chime sounded. She did not recognize it at first, but a memory stored deep within her cortical array, from some Starfleet member long ago melded into the Collective, told her what it meant. “Come,” she said, out of a habit not truly her own, yet as familiar to her as anything she had done with regularity on Seitun.

    The door slid open. Commander Icheb stood on the other side, flanked by two armed guards. “Your assistance is not required,” he told the officers. Both looked hesitant to heed his words. “Please stay here,” he said, with more authority, and stepped inside the room, allowing the door to close behind him.

    Lakwa looked at the young man with a curious gaze. She had not been expecting him to return so soon after escorting her here. “May I assist you?” she asked him.

    Icheb took a step toward her. “Malik made me an offer I could not accept,” he said quietly.

    There was a desperate quality to his voice, and Lakwa could hear his heart rate accelerate, then quickly level out as his implants regulated it. He was clearly anxious. “You’ve come to ask me for the same thing, with no conditions,” she replied softly. She hesitated only a moment before adding, “I’m willing to provide it.”

    “No,” Icheb answered forcefully, with an emphatic shake of his head. “I don’t want it.” Lakwa looked at him in surprise. “I want to know if there’s an alternative solution,” he said. “If so, I’ve come to ask for that, with no conditions.”

    Lakwa looked at the Brunali for a long moment. “You’re afraid it will make you Borg again,” she guessed.

    Icheb hesitated, but nodded. “Yes,” he replied simply. “I want to live, but not like that.”

    Lakwa understood perfectly. She had often thought that if she could remove everything that made her Borg, she would. She knew of others who had tried, with varying success, but none who had integrated as seamlessly into a new culture as this former drone standing in front of her appeared to have done. In his position, she doubted whether she would feel any differently than he did.

    “I know of no alternative,” she told him quietly. “I am uncertain how you have even survived this long.”

    “Then study me,” Icheb pleaded. “Perhaps you’ll learn something you can use on others, while finding a way to allow me to live. Perhaps -- ” he was cut off by the sound of his combadge chirping.

    “Commander Icheb, report to the bridge immediately,” a female voice said. Lakwa recognized it as belonging to Lieutenant Iden Nix, whom she had met earlier that day. Icheb visibly tensed at the interruption, but tapped his badge to reply.

    “What is it, Lieutenant?” he asked.

    “We’ve found an area of subspace damage on long range sensors not far from the last known position of the auxiliary ships,” came the disembodied reply from Iden.

    “Is there any sign of the ships?” he asked, looking concerned.

    “Negative, sir.”

    “I’m on my way,” Icheb replied tersely. He looked over at Lakwa again, then opened his mouth to say something, but she spoke first.

    “I am willing to attempt what you have asked of me,” she said simply. “I cannot guarantee success, but I will try.”

    Icheb shut his mouth and looked at her gratefully for a moment. He nodded slowly. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “I’ll let our doctor know.” Lakwa nodded once in reply. “I have to go,” he added, a bit awkwardly.

    Lakwa nodded again. “Use caution, Commander,” she warned him quietly. “Remember that the Resistance is fractured. There are many who are dangerous to you.”

    Icheb looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. “In that case, your assistance may be needed on the bridge,” he said. “Please postpone regeneration until I notify you otherwise.” She nodded her assent. Seconds later, Icheb was gone, leaving Lakwa once again alone.
     
  18. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    I'm glad to see that Icheb finally starts to understand that by leaving Maren he didn't solve the problem, but instead caused more and probably worse. Leaving her didn't solve his problem, but added to her suffering.

    Poor Lakwa, haunted by her own past. She couldn't do anything and she knows it intellectually, but feelings are feelings--they are there and they never go away when we politely ask.
     
  19. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    After all of the crap, angst and difficulties that has been thrown at Icheb and Maren since the Tesseract's journey has begun, it is easy to forget that the two of them did have happier times and they had a love they thought unbreakable. We see here that Icheb remembers it, he remembers Maren staying by his bedside and he would like to sit in vigil by hers. But he recognises that he cannot do that. He feels he does not have the right to do so. I think he can be admired for recognising that. It seems as if he is trying now to make ammends for his past poor decisions. Lying to the Admiralty and leaving Maren all seemed good ideas at the time, and he had good reason for believing he was making the right choices. Alas it all coming back on him.

    But he is beginning to make the changes needed. He is opening to Bashir about his condition, and opened in other ways to reveal a little of his heartache to the good doctor too. One wonders about Bashir's words and how much he is speaking about his own situation. But we also see that Icheb goes to Lakwa and seeks a solution to his condition. But he does so with the condition of not sacrificing the Borg free part of himself. What that means for his future chances of survival, I don't know.

    Then the stuff from Lakwa's pov. Wow. Really impressive and insightful. We see her think about the Borg, about Malik, her own decisions in betraying him, the future of the RBorg faction, her own life and how changed/mutilated/brutalised it has been because of the Borg. In amongst all of this she can recognise that Icheb loves and is loved by Maren. She sees the way in which he has been accepted and is a part of something. And that gives her pause, gives her hope, that she may also be a part of something and have a life, a love, a future, a home.

    And on the topic of home ... Icheb's. How much more bad news can he be delivered? And how will he react to the news when he does hear it? All this while out there JQ is fighting a desperate fight to survive and one imagines that the call to the bridge will reveal how that struggle has played out for all concerned. Continued excellence.
     
  20. Diogenes

    Diogenes Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Dear Kes7,
    You are as your namesake, Kes: Brilliant.

    I've seen every episode of Voyager multiple times, and really liked Icheb's character. What you've done with him is terrific--it feels so very right. The same goes for your expanded characterization of Bashir, which builds on what we already know of him from DS9. The interaction between Bashir and Icheb was so well done, I could feel Julian's typically empathetic yet analytical response to Icheb. And Icheb's (and Maren's) agony is a palpable thing in your narrative. (In fact, how apt--or problematic?--that Tesseract's Captain is an empath, for this starfleet ship throbs with sentiment. Even Beckley's seeming paucity of emotion is evocatively conspicuous.)

    And Lakwa... I just met her, and already I am invested in her welfare. I processed the conscious thought, "Well done, Kes," after it occurred to me that my own reaction to Lakwa mirrors that of Adele's: a nigh immediate fondness and trust. I do believe you have as firm a command on my attention and my "buttons" as you have on your story.

    I should point out that I am in the middle of the latest Trek book to be published, the Titan novel "Seize the Fire." The Trek books have been a fraction of their number last year, so I consume each page of this new book as if it were my last meal. And still (!) when I saw that you'd posted a new chapter, I did not hesitate to set aside "official" Trek for STAR TREK: Tesseract! And there are times when I have to remember to separate your evolving history of Icheb from what is "canon." That's how compelling, nay--how GRAVITIC I find your writing.

    So, from a reader who, perhaps, takes folk like you and Captain Sarine a smidgen for granted (madness!), thank you for what you do, and for doing it so well.

    Bestest,
    'Los

    P.S.: I hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving.