Star Trek: Tesseract

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by kes7, Jul 18, 2009.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I’ve got to agree. The relationship angst between Icheb and Maren is so thick it’s like a physical presence in the room with them, which of course only serves to give Adele a headache.

    Icheb is pushing too hard. Hell, they’re barely out of spacedock and he’s already made repeated attempts to force them to draw a definitive conclusion about the state of their relationship. Riker and Troi served together for 15 years before they re-ignited their relationship. Granted, Icheb feels he may not have sufficient time, but if that’s the case then how would it be fair to Maren to start things up again only to put her through the agony of losing him to whatever mystery malady might be ticking away within him?

    Poor Adele not only has to captain the most ambitious Starfleet exploration mission in over a decade, but now finds herself playing the part of camp counselor to these two.

    “Security, set phasers to ‘drama.’” :lol:

    Continually fantastic stuff, kes7.
     
  2. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    As a former Borg drone, I think Icheb would call Riker and Troi most inefficient. :borg: That doesn't mean he's right, just that he doesn't think that way. As for it not being fair ... they've already had that argument more than once (before this story). Icheb was on your side of that fight, which was the major reason he left. But he had to put light years between them to keep his resolve -- and he doesn't really have that option here.

    Thanks! And :lol:.

    Thanks, CeJay! They are working hard. Do you think things will calm down once they jump to slipstream? :devil: They're still 24,000 light years from the DQ ...

    Keep reading and find out! ;) Well, as soon as I post some more. Which will hopefully be very soon. (And yes, these characters are all very tired and cranky now. At least the senior staff and their favorite helpers are, anyway. I imagine everyone else is just off doing their regular jobs and hanging out on the recreation deck in their leisure hours, along with trading rumors about what's going on with the mission.)

    Thank you for the awesome compliments, they really did make a crappy day better.

    More coming soon!
     
  3. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER THIRTY

    0712 hours -- USS Tesseract, Sickbay

    Adele sat quietly on a biobed as Julian Bashir scanned her with a medical tricorder. “Thank you for seeing me on short notice, Doctor. I know you’re busy.”

    “Not too busy for the captain,” Julian replied. “Now, what seems to be the problem? Because according to this, you’re in perfect health.”

    Adele sighed. “Over the past several days, I’ve been more aware of my empathic senses than usual,” she said. “The difference is noticeable enough that I just wanted you to make sure there’s nothing wrong with me. I just want to get checked out.”

    “What do you mean, more aware?” Julian asked curiously, lowering the tricorder to his side.

    “It’s like my usual senses are enhanced,” Adele replied. “I never used to be able to read people as strongly I am now, and even when I don’t want to read people, their feelings are affecting me. For the first time in my life, I feel like it’s beyond my control, and I don’t like that. And I’ve been letting these feelings influence my command decisions, which is something I’ve spent my whole career up to this point trying not to do.”

    Julian looked at Adele with a combination of interest and concern, and scanned her one more time with his tricorder. “Well, you’re absolutely fine,” he assured her. “But I can run a few tests if it will make you feel better.” He paused thoughtfully for a moment, then dropped his voice and added carefully, “You know, if you were a full Betazoid, you’d be getting ready for The Phase right about now.”

    Adele was annoyed at the suggestion. “I’m not full Betazoid. And I’m not that old. My mother was over fifty when it happened to her.”

    “I know you’re only a quarter Betazoid,” Julian replied, “but that means, frankly, that you’re still a bit of an experiment. There aren’t all that many second-generation human-Betazoid hybrids around, at least not grown adults. It’s hard to predict how your body will handle the balancing of human and Betazoid genetics as you age. You may experience The Phase early, or late, and you may experience it differently. But if you’re experiencing a change in your empathic abilities, it doesn’t have to be The Phase, sometimes excessive stress or lack of sleep can affect the paracortex and impact psionic range, for better or for worse.”

    Adele sighed. “Well, I’ve definitely been under stress, and I’m definitely not sleeping much. But I’ve been a starship captain for six years. Stress and lack of sleep aren’t new to me. This is new -- this feeling what everyone around me is feeling all the time whether I want to or not. A couple of officers are having some issues with each other, and I met with them about work early this morning, and just being around them gave me an actual headache. That’s never happened before.”

    Julian looked at her sympathetically. “Have you tried talking to Counselor Madar? Not only is she a counselor, she’s a Betazoid. She might be helpful.”

    Adele shook her head. “Ms. Madar is part of the advisory board. I’d rather not burden her with my personal issues.”

    Julian looked at her with barely concealed amusement. “You mean you’d rather hide your personal issues from her.”

    “Precisely,” answered Adele. “Very perceptive of you, Doctor Bashir.”

    “I have my moments,” replied Julian.

    Adele sighed. “It’s not necessary for you to run any more tests. I trust your judgment. If you think I’m fine, I’m fine. And if you think it’s The Phase, I’ll just have to come to terms with my impending old age and stock up on trashy Betazoid romance novels.”

    Julian laughed in surprise at the comment, then made a face. “Well, I hope your old age isn’t impending too quickly, because it’s the same as mine,” he said, glancing down at her chart. “We were born the same year.”

    “Really? Who’s older?” Adele asked with a grin.

    “I am, by two weeks,” sighed Julian.

    “Nice to know I’m not the only adult around here,” Adele noted wryly.

    Julian raised his eyebrows, then glanced through the transparent partition at his own relatively youthful staff and laughed. “I suppose we are the wise elders on this mission, aren’t we? God help us all,” he joked.

    “Indeed,” agreed Adele. “Thanks for the reassurance that I’m all right, Doctor. I just wanted to be sure.”

    Julian looked at her sympathetically. “Anytime, Captain. If you need anything else, please let me know.”

    “I will,” replied Adele. She slid off the biobed and headed out of sickbay, and it suddenly occurred to Julian that the captain seemed very much alone. He hadn’t seen much of her yet, but as far as he could tell from what he had seen, she didn’t seem to have any trusted friends assigned to this mission. Every time he had seen her outside the bridge, she had been alone. That kind of isolation wasn’t good for anyone, let alone someone who was a quarter Betazoid. As Adele reached the edge of the partition separating the examination area from the rest of the floor, Julian had an idea.

    “Captain?” he called out after her. Adele stopped and turned around. “You and I aren’t the only people of our advanced age aboard,” he informed her teasingly. “I’m having dinner with Adrian and Claire Keller tonight. Why don’t you join us? It’s my professional opinion that an evening of pleasant conversation would do you good.”

    Adele automatically shook her head. “I’m not sure that would be an appropriate -- ”

    Julian cut her off. “I insist. Doctor’s orders. I’ll even write you a prescription if you want to make it official.”

    Adele assessed him carefully. To her relief, she didn’t sense even a hint of subtext to the doctor’s words. He wasn’t asking her for a date. She considered his offer. Maybe an evening out would help her feel more normal after the chaos of the past week. She hesitated another moment and sighed before answering, “That won’t be necessary, Doctor Bashir. I’ll accept the invitation. Where and when?”

    Julian smiled. “I’ll pick you up at 1800 hours. Dinner is in their quarters. Claire is quite the chef, as long as she uses a replicator. And since that’s all they’re equipped with, it ought to be a halfway decent meal.”

    Adele snickered. “Sounds like it. I look forward to it.”

    “So do I,” replied Julian.

    Adele grinned as she bid Julian goodbye, realizing that an evening of socializing might well be the best thing for her. Between the bumpy start to the mission and all the pre-launch formalities back on DS5, it had been a while since she had done anything recreational. As she walked out of sickbay, the awareness of all that she had to deal with today still weighed on her, but the promise of a pleasant evening bolstered her mood. The doctor had done his job well, she thought -- she felt better.

    As soon as Adele had gone, Julian walked into his office and sat down at his desk. He sent a quick data transmission to Claire Keller advising her to expect one more guest for dinner, then pulled up the first officer’s medical file. Now that the captain was back and the young XO didn’t have the responsibility for the whole ship on his shoulders for the very first time, Julian thought it was time to address a few issues. He sent a data transmission to Icheb’s quarters, requesting that he make an appointment at his earliest possible convenience, and sighed as he eyed his file again. He suspected getting the answers he was looking for was going to be difficult. For some reason, he suddenly thought of his old friend Elim Garak, the Cardassian spy, who’d had so many things to hide. Surely, he thought, an ex-Borg drone won’t prove that talented a liar.

    *****

    0904 Hours -- USS Tesseract, Main Engineering

    “Good morning. I’m sorry I’m late,” said Icheb as he walked into Maren’s office.

    “Good morning,” Maren replied, without looking up from the desk display. She was holding a cup of coffee in both hands, leaning forward as she read something on the screen. With the assistance of his ocular implant, Icheb could see her almost imperceptibly shaking.

    “Is that your first cup of coffee?” he asked warily.

    “Third,” she answered, still without looking up from whatever she was reading. Icheb held his tongue, but inwardly, he wanted to groan. Too much caffeine made Maren jumpy and irritable. As if she needed assistance with that, he couldn’t resist thinking to himself. As she reached for the touch pad to scroll the text on the screen, he could see her hand trembling and sighed. All of his attempts to get her to switch to nutritional supplements for her energy needs had failed over the years. He could not understand the need humans had to hold onto damaging habits.

    “Is that the code from the Tyndorans?” he asked.

    “No, it’s a status report from the gel pack teams,” she answered. “Did you get a chance to look at Plan Z yet?” she asked, finally turning around to look at him. He noticed that she didn’t look any less exhausted than she had six hours before, just much more caffeinated.

    Icheb shook his head. “No, I woke up late. After I reported to the captain, I came straight here. The captain asked that we work together on decrypting the Borg code.”

    “Yes, I know, she got me on the comm. already. She said you’d be on your way, so I waited for you.”

    “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”

    “It’s not as if I didn’t have plenty of work to keep me busy while I waited,” she replied, with a slight edge to her voice. For once, Icheb sensed her irritation had little to do with him and more to do with her overwhelming task list.

    Unable to think of a comforting response that wouldn’t be taken as pushing too hard, Icheb simply nodded and sat down in the visitor’s chair next to Maren. She entered her security code into the control panel on her desk, and a drawer opened. She took out the small data storage device from the Tyndorans.

    “There’s a scanner and workstation in the lab that’s disconnected from the main computer,” she said, standing up. Icheb nodded in understanding. If they were disconnected from the main computer, they wouldn’t have to worry about a virus damaging or seizing control of any critical systems. He quickly stood back up to follow her.

    They walked the short trip down the corridor to the engineering lab and Maren politely ordered the ensign working on a project at their intended workstation to go find somewhere else to work. Icheb found it strange to see her giving orders. The last time he had seen her before the Tesseract mission, she had just recently made lieutenant junior grade, and mostly took the orders everyone else gave her. Many things had changed in two years, he reflected. As they sat down at the workstation and started to sift through the unfamiliar code, Icheb realized this was going to be a long day.

    *****

    1031 hours -- USS Tesseract, Bridge

    Iden Nix uttered a Bolian curse under her breath as her fingers flew across the communications console, her closely-trimmed fingernails painted a cheery pink. The happy color was no match for her mood, which was growing angrier by the minute.

    “Problems?” John Quigley asked from the tactical console two meters away. He looked like he was enjoying watching her lose her composure, and she shot him a nasty glance.

    “Are you still here?” she asked sarcastically. In her estimation, the only reason the blond tactical officer was even on the bridge right now was that his best friend was the XO and Ryzal was catching up on sleep after the away mission. She actually liked John quite a bit, despite the near-nepotism that had her sharing bridge duty with him the past few days, but she was not in the mood for his friendliness at the moment.

    “Still here,” he replied, as stubbornly good-natured as ever. “I speak a little Bolian, too,” he added. “The U.T. may be too polite to translate what you just said, but I know enough to know it was unbecoming a Starfleet officer.” His eyes danced with humor, and Iden whipped around to face him, annoyed.

    “I apologize for my poor choice of words,” she said irritably. “Now can you please keep quiet so I can figure out why I just lost contact with the subspace comm. buoy we dropped a few light years back?”

    Adele, sitting in the command chair, overheard their exchange. “Report, Ms. Nix?”

    “I don’t know,” she replied. “It might be a sensor glitch because of all the subspace damage between here and there. I’m working on pinpointing the problem.”

    “Worst case, Ms. Nix?” Given the way this mission was going so far, Adele figured it was best to steel herself for the worst possible scenario.

    “If it’s failed, it will interfere with our subspace transmissions to the Alpha Quadrant,” Iden told her, then quickly added, “but it shouldn’t have failed, those buoys have all kinds of redundancies built into them. In theory, only its physical destruction or manual deactivation should cause it to stop working, and to manually deactivate it, you’d have to have the codes. It’s even got shielding to protect it from physical damage. I’m sure this is just a sensor glitch.”

    “What if it’s not? What can we do?” asked Adele.

    “Send someone back to repair it or replace it,” answered Iden matter-of-factly.

    Adele resisted the urge to make a sarcastic remark of her own. This situation was about par for the course for this mission so far. Is it ever going to let up? she thought to herself. “Okay, keep working on it,” she ordered Iden. “We’ll hold off on jumping to slipstream until you figure it out. If we end up needing to send someone back, I’d rather it be a quick trip than a long one.” She sighed. “And what’s one more day in the Alpha Quadrant?” she added, almost to herself.

    Something in her defeated tone struck John as funny in a gallows-humor sort of way, and as he smiled to himself, Adele sensed his reaction. She turned around as if to call him out for laughing at her the way she had Adrian Keller at the beginning of the away mission, but then realized the situation probably was amusing in its sheer absurdity, if you weren’t the one in charge of the mission. Besides, she reflected, it spoke well of him as one of the younger officers with bridge clearance that he was keeping his sense of humor in the face of all the adversity they had encountered so far. He seemed a lot more level-headed than the Bajoran ops officer, Par Renn, who always looked like he was about to throw up or run away screaming whenever anything went wrong. And despite his questionable decision to jump to slipstream during the mission to Aris 4, at least he had made a decision, which he had been able to back up with reasoning, however flawed. She considered the possibility that she had misjudged him during their initial meeting after the Aris 4 mission, and wondered how his counseling sessions with Taran Madar were going.

    John had glanced up at her when she turned to face him, and she smiled conspiratorially back at the lieutenant. At the look of visible relief on his face, she nearly giggled. Am I really that intimidating? she wondered as she turned away, shaking her head bemusedly. Obviously, I really do need a night off.

    Suddenly, Adele’s combadge activated. “Alvarez to the captain.” She recognized the name and voice as one of the retired captains from the mission advisory board. And now, I’m going to need that night off even worse, she thought pessimistically.

    “Go ahead, Captain,” she replied.

    “I’d like to have a few words with you when you have a moment.”

    “Now is fine,” she replied, seeing no sense in putting it off. “If you’re available, that is.”

    “I’m available,” he answered.

    “Meet me on the bridge; we’ll talk in my ready room,” she told him.

    “Aye, Captain. Alvarez out.”

    Adele resisted the urge to sigh as she stood up and turned to John. “Quigley, it’s your lucky day. You have the bridge.”

    John blinked in momentary surprise, and tried hard not to show his pleasure at this development. “Aye, captain,” he replied, with forced indifference. He somehow managed to wait until Adele had made it all the way into her ready room and the door had closed behind her before walking over to sit down in her still-warm command chair. Looking around the bridge from that vantage point, he couldn’t resist a quick grin.

    Iden, seeing this, had to smile, as she had reacted the same exact way to her first turn in the command chair of the Tesseract. It was a pretty impressive ship, and she knew that sitting in that chair made it feel like it was all yours, even if you only got to do it for twenty minutes, with the ship’s commander sitting in the next room, ready to take over as soon as anything actually happened. “Just don’t accidentally activate the self destruct sequence,” she teased John, then quietly returned to trying to find her missing communications buoy.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2009
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    My goodness, a captain that actually goes to see the CMO without having to be ordered?! That’s unheard of! Good on Adele for being proactive. And yikes that she could already be facing the equivalent of Betazoid menopause. Perhaps more likely that a saturation of 20-something angsty pheromones in her vicinity have caused a sudden jump in her telepathic senses. :lol:

    Good stuff.
     
  5. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Lyon, France
    I really liked this chapter.

    It was great to see Adele and Bashir getting to know one another a little better, and I think he has done a good thing getting her out and about. Her problems with empathy were interesting, I hadn't realised that she was having so much trouble.

    I also liked the constant swing back and forth between Icheb and Maren, good to see that they can still put aside their differences when the job needs it.

    Now what exactly does Alvarez want with the captain now? I'm trying to remember whether Alvarez was one of the nice captains who seemed to be on Adele's side? I'll have to go back and look, I guess.

    Continued fantasticness!!! :)
     
  6. Diogenes

    Diogenes Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Kes7:
    Ridiculously redundant of me by now, but, again, THANK YOU!

    Have you ever had a partner/spouse whose best friend annoyed the FRAK outta you, regardless of how hard you try to get around it? That's what I'm in the middle of right now. There's a reason my favorite Trek races are those like Vulcans, Telarites, Klingons, Brikar, and Zaldans---minimal bullshit, less of the human variety of the obfuscation of emotional pretense. I abhor disingenuousness, which prevents me from engaging in small talk outside of a professional milieu, so I feel like my head is about to explode.

    BUT!--logging on and desperately consuming the latest chapters from you and Captain Sarine just now was like a balm to my irritation. Both your stories make me want to crawl into my computer screen so that I can live life with the crew of the Tesseract (and/or the Redemption).

    Okay, my personal shite out of the way... I loved this last chapter. I really like Adele. Her character rose several notches in my already healthy amount of esteem for her when she went to Bashir so proactively. I always thought the avoidance of prompt (and unprompted by the CMO) medical care to be a sad, irresponsible, stereotypical behavioral bi-product of the "command personality." Kudos to the Mistress and Commander of the good ship Tesseract.

    I also love that she's becoming friends with Julian. You had me thinking back to the first years of DS9 when Bashir was the walking, talking (so much talking!), baby-faced hormone on speed.

    I really quite dig the notion of a captain with ramped up empathic skills. I always wondered what Picard would have been like with some more empathy. I am SOOOO trying to not step on toes by discussing certain prospective specifics, but I cannot help saying that I am salivating at the thought of a showdown between Admiral Beckley and a Betazoid Adele.

    And speaking of Betazoids... Can you tell us if Adele's Betazoid relations are of one of the noble families like Deana and Lwaxana? Is Adele's Betazoid family responsible for the keeping of such artifacts as the Sacred Chalice of Rix and/or the Holy Rings of Betazed?

    End of babble.

    Thanks again, Kes7, for the surcease.
    Hugs,
    'Los
     
  7. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gibraltar -- Yes, Adele is quite an anomaly, isn't she? When she thinks something might be wrong with her, she goes to see the doctor at the earliest opportunity. Very un-Starfleet captain of her, really. :lol: As far as her issues, could be the Phase, could be stress and lack of sleep. Julian was merely offering some possibilities. Maybe your theory is right, and it's all the 20something angst making her feel screwy. Or maybe it's something else. We will see! Thanks for the review!

    CaptainSarine -- Thanks for the comments! Julian is definitely doing Adele a favor. She's a people person and in need of some friendship. And yes, Icheb and Maren are professionally functional at the moment. They may be a disaster otherwise, but so far, they can work together. As far as Alvarez, you'll find out. (Yes, he was one of the "nice" captains.)

    Diogenes -- As always, thank you for your wonderful encouragement. It's never redundant, it totally inspires me to keep going with this! So sorry to hear you've got major irritation going on, that's never fun, but I'm so glad that I could play a part in helping you feel better about it. I'm happy you like Adele ... I like her, too. I laughed out loud at your comment about Julian Bashir being a walking, talking, baby-faced hormone on speed -- that is such a funny and true description of early Bashir. He's grown up a lot since then, but he's still chatty and idealistic (if not nearly so naive). As far as Adele's Betazoid roots ... her grandmother's relatives are "regular" Betazoids, not nobility. She met a lot of them for the first time when she was XO of a ship that assisted with recovery efforts on Betazed after the Dominion occupation. It was eye-opening for her and helped her understand herself better. Maybe someday I'll write that story, too. ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2009
  8. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

    1117 hours -- USS Tesseract, Captain’s Ready Room

    “Come in.” As the door to her ready room slid open and Mario Alvarez stepped inside, followed by Almen Drare, Adele looked up in surprise. “I didn’t realize this was a conference,” she said, a bit less kindly than she had intended. Mario and Almen exchanged a knowing glance, then looked at Adele expectantly.

    “Please, sit down,” she told them. “Can I get you anything from the replicator?” Both men shook their heads.

    “No, thank you, Captain,” Mario said. “I apologize for springing this meeting on you at the last moment, but we wanted to catch you before anything else went wrong.” He glanced at Almen. “We’ve both been reading the daily reports from Commander Icheb, and it seems like this mission has been one thing after another.”

    You don’t know the half of it, thought Adele, thinking of the warning from the Q, and the data chip full of Borg code currently being analyzed by her first officer and chief engineer, neither of which had yet been reported to the advisory board. “Unfortunately, you’re too late,” she informed them wryly. “My chief communications officer just lost contact with one of our subspace buoys.”

    Almen looked at Adele with sympathy. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said sincerely. He remembered well his own problems in nineteen years as a starship captain. It wasn’t an easy job, and the Tesseract was a much bigger ship, with a much bigger crew.

    He looked over at Mario, who began to explain the reason for their visit. “We’ve noticed you’ve avoided talking to the advisory board since our last meeting just after the launch,” Mario said. “Frankly, I don’t blame you. Ms. Gentry hasn’t exactly made those meetings pleasant. Almen and I just wanted to make sure you know we’re not your adversaries. I can’t speak for Ms. Gentry, of course, but at least the two of us know exactly where you’re coming from. We’ve been there before.”

    “No, you haven’t,” Adele said quietly. When both men looked surprised at the statement, she clarified, “With all due respect, gentlemen, you have not been where I am. You’ve both commanded starships before ... I’ve done that, too. But this is different. No captain in Starfleet history has ever had to answer to a board like this one.” There was no malice in her voice, she was simply stating the facts.

    The retired captains both stared back at her for a long moment, then Mario broke the silence. “You’re right. It’s not the same thing. And I understand we’ve all gotten off to a poor start, especially Gentry and your exec. All I’m asking is that you give the rest of a board a chance to help. These reports the exec keeps giving us are overflowing with non-essential information, while being strangely short on basic facts or useful analysis. Honestly, the past few days, it’s felt like he’s trying to distract us.”

    Adele held his gaze and tried to keep her expression from giving anything away. She had instructed Icheb to be as vague as possible about the mission to Tyndora while still giving them as much pertinent information to read as he could -- sensor analyses, department reports, and the like. Apparently, he had completed the task she had given him to his usual standard of perfection.

    “We’ve done nothing in the past few days worth wasting the board’s time with,” Adele finally said.

    “First contact?” Mario challenged her.

    “Routine for a starship captain, you know that,” Adele replied.

    “Nothing about this mission is routine, Captain,” Almen interjected. “More Federation resources went into the development and construction of this ship and the training of her crew than any other project in UFP history. We’re heading for a region of space only one small Starfleet crew has ever really explored, and you’re going to have to smooth over some hurt feelings there as well as contend with whatever reputation Admiral Janeway and her people might have earned for us during their unplanned tour of the Delta Quadrant. It’s a big job, too big for one person. That’s why we’re here, to provide perspective. We’re not here to run your ship, Captain, or to tell you what to do. We’re here to be a sounding board, and offer our experience.”

    Mario jumped in. “We’re not saying you have to call a meeting over every little thing. But more useful information in the daily reports and less of the overload of minutiae that your exec seems so skilled at providing would be a good start.” Adele couldn’t help but crack a smile at the comment. If there was anything Icheb was good at, it was being thorough -- at times, far too thorough. She had wondered a few times already whether his Borg efficiency programming had been corrupted or just plain incomplete when he had made his premature exit from his maturation chamber.

    “I’ll let him know to streamline the reports. I apologize for any inconvenience,” she said.

    “It’s not inconvenient. We are here to read those reports,” Almen said with a hint of exasperation. “We just want you to be aware that you and your XO have allies on the board if you desire them. We’re not all like Gentry. We’re not here to micromanage you or hyper-analyze you or your staff. We’re here to help.”

    Adele sighed and felt her defenses dropping a bit. She sensed that these men meant every word of what they were telling her, but she didn’t see how she could open up to them without inviting more frequent attention from Admiral Beckley, or exposing Icheb to more abuse from Eleanor Gentry than he was already getting.

    “I appreciate what you’re both saying,” she finally said. “I never intended for the relationship between my staff and the board to be adversarial in any way. In fact, one of the reasons I was chosen for this mission is that Starfleet Command thought I worked very well with others and wouldn’t mind dealing with the board. And they were right -- I didn’t really have an issue, until Ms. Gentry went on the attack.” She didn’t mention that the admiral and his chilling lack of emotion, along with his generally flippant demeanor, also fueled her desire to keep the advisory board at arm’s length.

    “I wouldn’t worry much about Gentry,” said Mario. “She’s in a little over her head here. She’s used to courtrooms and martini lunches, not space travel and the Borg. Unless you decide to start violating Federation law, she doesn’t really have anything to say worth listening to, no matter how loudly she speaks. Like the situation with your exec. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about, and it shows. She hears the word ‘Borg’ and doesn’t like it, it scares her. So she rants at him to make herself feel more powerful. I bet if you tested her on everything the commander has actually explained to her about the Borg since the mission started, she wouldn’t remember any of it, because she wasn’t really listening. She just doesn’t like being on a ship with an ex-drone.”

    “Insightful,” Adele said, truly impressed. She was used to being the insightful one, but she knew her Betazoid genetics were a bit of a cheat. It always surprised her when people without enhanced empathic ability read others as well as or better than she did. Mario was clearly talented in that regard, having discerned Adele’s own discomfort with the board, along with the underlying dynamics of Eleanor’s hostility toward Icheb. She wondered what he thought of Admiral Beckley, but wasn’t quite comfortable enough to ask, yet.

    “Captain, I think you’ll find us both full of insights if you give us a chance, along with the rest of the advisory board,” Almen said quietly. “The first two meetings went badly, but they don’t all have to be that way. Perhaps we were remiss in not speaking up for you and Commander Icheb during the first two meetings, but we are as new to this situation as you are. It’s difficult to know when speaking up will be taken as overstepping one’s bounds.”

    “It’s not your fault,” Adele assured Almen. She sighed. “This will all take some getting used to, for everyone involved. I’ll take what you’ve both said here under consideration. And I can tell you that the daily reports will be more concise in the future, at the very least. Perhaps I’ll also call Ms. Gentry in for a talk.”

    “Might not be a bad idea,” agreed Mario.

    Adele stood up as a sign she would like to end the impromptu meeting. “Thank you both for coming and sharing your concerns. It was nice to get to know both of you a little better. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.”

    “I hope so,” Mario said, as Almen nodded. They all shook hands and Adele escorted them out of the ready room and off the bridge. When they were gone, she turned around and looked at John Quigley, sitting comfortably in the command chair. She could sense his slight disappointment at her return, but he stood up without comment, smiled politely at her and returned to his post at tactical.

    “Thank you, Lieutenant,” she said. He gave her a nod in reply. As she turned to walk over to the command chair herself, she could see him eyeing it longingly. Wait your turn, she thought with a small smile. He definitely had a long way to go, but the look of determination on his face as he stood there openly coveting her job made her wonder for a moment if one day, he just might end up with a ship of his own.

    “Lieutenant Nix, report?” she asked. The Bolian turned around with a sour expression that told Adele everything she needed to know.

    “Give me a few more hours, sir,” Iden replied, miserably. “I’m working on it.”

    “You have the rest of Alpha shift,” Adele replied. “After that, we’ll plan for the worst.” Iden nodded and turned back to her console. Adele sighed. What was one more day in the Alpha Quadrant, indeed?

    *****

    1238 Hours -- Subspace Communications Buoy XDS27A

    The two resistance fighters completed their modification of the Federation comm. buoy and reactivated it with all the efficiency one would expect from those who had once been part of the Collective. They had no need of pressure suits, and they used the tools protruding from their arms as deftly as if they were part of their own bodies, which, of course, they were. As they finished their task and requested transport back to their ship, they argued via their neural link.

    This plan is Malik’s stupidest yet. He’ll get us caught or killed.

    You worry too much. The plan has a 78.7% probability of success.

    Implying a 21.3% probability of failure.

    Yes, but the probability of us being caught or killed because of what we’ve done here is much less. 3.2%. Your fear is irrational. At worst, the plan will simply not work. I swear I liked you better as a drone. You weren’t such a simpering coward back then.

    Of course I was. I just had a quadrillion voices telling me everything would be fine. It did wonders for my confidence.

    Well, right now I’m telling you if you don’t stop whining about our orders, I’m going to --

    The threat was postponed as they both dematerialized for transport. With one task accomplished, it was now time to move on to the next.

    *****

    1441 hours -- USS Tesseract, Office of Admiral Shane Beckley

    This, thought Admiral Beckley, is exactly why Adele Oyugo should never have been allowed to command this mission. He had just listened to the recording of the unscheduled meeting between Adele and the retired captains, and was once again reminded of why he had told his superiors he thought she would be a problem. If the captain wasn’t a part-Betazoid empath, he could be down on the bridge flattering her and winning her trust and loyalty right now. Instead, he was avoiding her while two other members of the advisory board attempted to be her new best friends.

    He had seen the way she reacted to him at the two meetings of the board they’d had so far. She was clearly intimidated by his presence, and he suspected it was not because of his rank, but because of her inability to read him. Since that wasn’t changing anytime soon, he would have to find some other allies. He activated the intercom.

    “Martha, get me an appointment with the chief engineer, would you? I want to check out the slipstream drive, I’ve never seen it up close.”

    “Aye, sir,” came the response from his aide.

    The admiral had always thought people often underestimated the influence the chief engineer could wield. In many ways, he thought, the head of engineering was the one who was really in control of the ship. It was true that they all followed orders from their captain, but in turn, their opinion about any course of action involving the ship was invariably valued above even that of the first officer. If the chief engineer said it couldn’t be done, then that was often that, and likewise, if he or she proposed an utterly insane idea, it was usually taken more seriously than it would be from anyone else. In general, they were good people to have on your side -- even more so if one happened to be unusually influential with a commanding officer, as Admiral Beckley believed was the case on the Tesseract.

    Martha’s voice came over the comm., “Sir, she’s not answering in her office. Shall I use her combadge directly?”

    “No, Martha, just send a data transmission. It’s not urgent.” Admiral Beckley rose to his feet and stretched, turning to look out the large window behind his desk as he did so. He was bored. Everyone needs a little recreation sometimes, he thought to himself. With nothing else to do, he invited Martha to accompany him to Ten Forward for a drink.

    *****

    (cont. below)
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2009
  9. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    (cont. from above)

    1604 Hours -- USS Tesseract, Main Engineering


    As Icheb walked Maren back to her office to lock up the Tyndoran data chip and the four PADDs worth of work they had completed over the last seven hours, he took note of the physical signs of fatigue and stress she was exhibiting. He wondered how many hours of sleep she had gotten in the last week. Clearly, it hadn’t been enough.

    “You need rest,” he told her as she covered up a yawn. “You’ve worked double shifts for two consecutive days. You also worked some of the night before that, even through you weren’t on duty. That’s past the limit for a human officer, according to Starfleet regulations. You’re relieved, beginning now. And I suggest you take a nap. That’s the fifth time you have yawned in the last twenty-three minutes.”

    “Do you count everything?” Maren asked. She already knew the answer to that question, and that he couldn’t help it. It was still irritating.

    Icheb shot her a look, knowing that she knew very well the answer to her own question. He had also counted the words they said to one another all day -- one hundred thirty-four words in approximately seven hours, not counting what he had just said to her about getting some rest. Five of them had been “I’ll return in ten minutes.” Another ten had been “Do you need anything from the replicator? Because I’m going.” The rest had been completely work-related. Other than the expected frequent interruptions by her staff, it had been a quiet day.

    They had worked most of the last seven hours on decrypting the Borg code on the Tyndoran data chip, and their progress had been steady, but slow. If it had been anyone else on the ship working on it, progress probably would have been nonexistent. As soon as they decrypted one layer, they were faced with another, each seemingly more complex than the last. Icheb was surprised at how different it was turning out to be than what he knew both from his own experience with the Borg and what Seven had taught him. It seemed the Borg had changed a few things since he had last seen them.

    Once they entered Maren’s office, she leaned over her desktop viewer, scanning her unread data transmissions. “Admiral Beckley?” she asked aloud. “I didn’t even realize there was an admiral on board.”

    “He’s the flag officer assigned to the mission advisory board,” Icheb told her.

    She didn’t answer him, as she was reading the message. She groaned and rolled her eyes, glancing back at Icheb. “His aide says he’s requesting a personal tour of main engineering with special focus on the slipstream drive. Apparently, he’s never seen one up close before.”

    “Would you like me to do it?” Icheb asked.

    Maren shook her head and sighed. “No, it’s fine, I’ll do it. I’ll schedule him for sometime tomorrow, though. I’m too tired to kiss ass tonight.”

    In previous times, Icheb would have seized the opportunity to issue a cleverly worded query regarding which part of his physiology she might not be too tired to kiss tonight. At the present time, he was certain such a comment would result in his being slapped. Before he had much time to dwell on the contrast between then and now, the door intercom buzzed, interrupting his thoughts.

    “Maren, are you in there?” John Quigley’s voice came over the intercom.

    “Open,” Maren said without looking back up from the screen, and as John walked into the small office, his face registered total surprise at the sight of Icheb standing there.

    “Sorry to interrupt,” he said quickly. “Should I come back later?”

    “No, I’m done for the day,” Maren replied, deactivating her desk display and locking down her workstation. She turned to face John. “What’s up?”

    John glanced uncertainly at Icheb, then back to Maren. “I just ran into Marcus Lindley.”

    “Who?” Maren asked with a blank look.

    “One of the tactical officers,” John explained. “Apparently, he and Alex Slidell both got bottles of some crazy glowing drink on the away mission, and they’re having a little party tonight to share it. Marcus invited me to come, and the last time I saw you, you looked like you could definitely use a break.”

    “She could,” Icheb spoke up in agreement.

    John turned to Icheb. “Do you want to come, too?” he asked. “I didn’t plan to ask you because I know you don’t really drink, but you’re welcome to come with us. You could get to know some of the more junior officers better.”

    Icheb hesitated as if actually considering it, but quickly shook his head. “No, thank you. I’ve been working in engineering all day. I’m sure I’ll have a large number of messages and department reports to review before I regenerate.” He didn’t add that he was sure Maren would not go if he was there, and considering the obvious stress she was under, he was certain she needed the recreation more than he did.

    John, easily picking up on his friend’s unspoken reasoning, looked at him for a long moment, trying to decide whether to call him out on his dishonesty, or call Maren out for her continued freezing out of Icheb. In the end, he decided they both looked like they’d had enough of whatever was going on between them for one day, nodded at Icheb in understanding, and let it go.

    He turned to Maren. “How about it? Are you in?”

    She sighed, and looked like she was about to decline, when Icheb quietly interrupted, “As executive officer, I think you should go and have a good time, as long as you get some sleep, too. John is correct, you need a break. We can continue the decryption tomorrow.”

    John grinned mischievously. “Okay, when the Borg start telling you to go have fun, you know you’re in bad shape,” he told Maren jokingly. Icheb smiled with mild amusement, knowing John was just teasing them both.

    At this, Maren finally smiled, too, and shook her head in defeat. “Fine, I’ll go,” she agreed, “but I’m taking a nap first, or I’ll be extremely poor company.” She made eye contact with Icheb and sighed. “Sort of like I was for you today,” she reluctantly admitted. “I apologize for the excessive caffeine consumption and overall crankiness level. I know I didn’t show it, but I really did appreciate your assistance. I promise I’ll try to be more pleasant tomorrow.”

    Icheb smiled, looking relieved, but also skeptical. “I’ll look forward to it,” he said. But I won’t hold my breath, he thought wryly.

    John looked at Maren. “You, caffeinated? Never a good thing,” he said, shaking his head. “All right, go get some rest. I’ll pick you up at 1830 hours. Wear civilian clothes.”

    Maren nodded at John and turned to Icheb. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Commander,” she told him.

    He nodded in reply. “Enjoy your evening.”

    As John and Icheb both walked out of Maren’s office and headed for the turbolift, John reflected on the entire encounter. It was the first time in years that the three of them had been in the same room, but it was most definitely nothing like old times. If things kept going the way they were going between the other two, John thought, it was going to be a very long seven years.
     
  10. Diogenes

    Diogenes Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Brilliant, as always.

    Thanks for giving me a little of THE Admiral after some time. I missed loathing him. I almost resent him for making me so damned intrigued by his every thought.

    I'm glad that Adele is an empath so that we have some reliable confirmation that the two captains on the review board are being sincere in their desire to help. Otherwise, I might have worried that they were doing Beckley's bidding, wittingly and/or unwittingly.

    Cant wait to see what happens when Adele and the Betazoid on the Board face off!

    There have been moments when I was vaguely taken aback by the command crew's seeming unfamiliarity with the junior bridge officers. But Adele's conversation with the other two captains really had me thinking pointedly about the scope of Tesseract. Even on a Galaxy class like Enterprise D in TNG, with a crew of around a thousand people, it seemed a more tight knit community. But if a Galaxy class starship is a small town, then the Tesseract is definitely a city. (They say that the only thing faster than Warp speed on a starship is gossip. On a ship like Tesseract, is gossip faster than Slipstream? HAH!) The same can be said for a starbase, I guess, but most starbases aren't mobile, nor are they facing first contact situations, much less renewed contact with everyone from Hirogen to the Voth any day of the week. Underscoring the fact that Adele, Icheb, Maren, and John aren't pals or even particularly acquainted with a host of other officers and crew on a ship the size of Tesseract makes a lot of sense. I wonder if there are any xeno-anthropologists or cultural observers on board to provide an in-situi clinical perspective of Tesseract.

    See, Kes7, (like Captain Sarine) you set of thought bombs in my head.

    Much obliged,
    'Los
     
  11. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    Thanks for the comment, Diogenes!

    I think the biggest factor in their seeming unfamiliarity with one another is that they've only been underway for about a week. Maren, Icheb and John knew each other already. Adrian and his wife Claire and Julian all knew each other already. There may be some other pre-mission friendships like that here and there, but for the most part, they're still all feeling each other out, and there's been so much going on, it's been hard to do that well. So you've got Maren, who knows the other engineering people; John, who knows the other tactical/security people; Julian, who knows the other doctors; and then Adele and Icheb are sort of isolated from everyone but the senior staff, the advisory board, and the bridge crew (who've been rotating constantly due to away missions). Eventually, they'll all get to know each other much better. There are only around 1500 people on board. And gossip on the Tesseract definitely moves at slipstream speeds. John already commented about the lack of privacy being similar to a Borg cube. ;)

    And you're right, I'm sure Command will have a field day with the counselor's logs when this mission is over. Seven years of isolation for a crew that size will be an interesting thing to study, for sure.

    As always, thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2009
  12. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Oh the Admiral is going to try the divide and conquer approach by courting Maren's influence. His job might be made easier by her current status with Icheb but Maren doesn't strike me as the easily converted type. That said, I doubt the Admiral will be too blunt or overt in his overtures. Can't wait to see how he goes about winning her to his side.

    Adele did well in the meeting but likewise the former captains made a good impression on her of the council and the need to keep them onside and in the loop.

    Alas, for our little trio, things are very messy and John has it right when he observes how they are at present. Atop of which, it is a weird situation at the moment and i admire Icheb for abstaining from the party for the sake of Maren and Maren in turn apologising for her own behaviour to Icheb.

    Now as to the mystery of Iden Nix's communication buoys that was quite a reveal there. I hadn't expected you to do so soon. So wow, what a little treat and still very, very mysterious. What the heck? Freed Borg or somet? Whatever next?
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Just got caught up with this. Great stuff.

    And looks like we're finally getting a glimpse at what might be behind the subspace damage and the bigger issues in play here. Or these renegade Borg might just be another layer to this increasingly complex web your spinning.

    Beckley has shown an interests in Maren before, I wonder how that will go over with the young engineer. Something tells me she will not be an easy victim, if she manages to remain alert, that is.

    And where exactly is this friendship between Maren and John going? If they're not careful it might just go into the wrong direction.

    This ain't Mickey D's but I'm Lovin' It. (Boy that was a poor line ... )
     
  14. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    Oooh Borg Renegades! I loved the mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar in that scene - these Borg who do not at all act or think like Borg for the most part, but who have the technology, the enhancements and that little thing with the quick calculation of their chances was excellent.

    You handled the interactions between characters with your usual deft hand, allowing us to see Adele slowly warming to the two captains as she realised that they were on her side, the Admiral spinning his little webs, and getting a glimpse of even further complications for John, Maren and Icheb. I have to admit to wondering how disappointed John was when he saw Icheb (if at all..?)

    All in all, an excellent chapter, another fine addition to this great story!
     
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Mysterious renegade Borg and our favorite Dark Admiral being his usual manipulative self… who could ask for anything more?

    Icheb and Maren appear to be finding a demilitarized zone of professional cooperation that allows them to do their jobs without unnecessary emotional impediments. Here’s hoping they can maintain it for the duration, to save Adele’s sanity if nothing else.

    Perhaps Adele can find allies in the two captains assigned to the advisory board. Heavens knows she needs someone to confide in, seeing as though she keeps herself so tightly controlled and separated from those around here… not an easy thing to do for anyone, and less so for a person whose part Betazoid.

    Wonderful stuff all the way around. :)
     
  16. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    MirandaFave -- Thanks for the comments! I also doubt the admiral will be obvious in his overtures, but I am still curious why you think Maren will be such a tough sell. We'll see! Adele did seem to warm up to the captains a bit, didn't she? She could use some support on that board, that's for sure. And re: Icheb, Maren and John -- yes, what a mess between our little trio of Academy buddies. Re: the little reveal -- we chatted about that already. ;)

    CeJay -- Glad you got caught up! There are definitely larger issues at play here. We haven't even scratched the surface of that mess yet. We're still in the "getting to know you" phase while they head out to the DQ (yes, after thirty-plus chapters, sigh :alienblush:) ... I will say that Q wasn't kidding about danger ahead. And I see we have another vote for Maren not being an easy target ... I'm curious what makes you think that, as well. Re: Maren and John ... I take it you wouldn't approve of such a thing. :lol: So happy that you're "lovin' it."

    Capt. Sarine -- Thanks for the compliments! Yes, these are not the Borg we're used to. The question is, what exactly are they? We'll find out ... :borg: Glad you liked the bits with Adele and the Admiral. And of course, you're not the first person to wonder what John is thinking regarding his friendship with Maren.

    Gibraltar -- Like I said on Ad Astra, if Icheb and Maren didn't find a way to work together, it would be doing a disservice to everyone on board. Personal issues aside, they're a very good team in that regard, better together than apart, quite complementary and all that. We'll see how it goes, though, there are a lot of things that could shape their interactions for better or worse ... Oh, and yes, Adele definitely needs a friend or two to confide in. Maybe she'll find that in Bashir or the Kellers, maybe the captains, maybe all of them. She has plenty of options if she decides to open up.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2009
  17. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

    At promptly 1800 hours, the door chime sounded in Adele’s quarters.

    “Come,” she said as she picked up the bottle of Tyndoran liquor she’d kept from the away mission and headed for the door. She knew Adrian Keller already had a bottle, but she figured it would still make a nicer gift for her hosts than a replicated bottle of wine.

    As Julian Bashir stepped into the living area, Adele was relieved to see she had neither overdressed nor underdressed. Julian was dressed in the same smart-casual manner as she was, with a nice jacket over a tunic sweater and slacks.

    “You’re punctual,” she observed with a smile.

    “Yes, well, I can’t exactly keep the captain waiting, can I? That could be damaging to my career,” he replied.

    Adele laughed. “Come on, let’s go,” she said. “After the day I just had, this is exactly what I need.”

    They walked out the door and into the corridor, making small talk as they went. “What exactly is that?” asked Julian, eyeing the bottle of orange liquid.

    “Tyndoran fire water,” Adele replied. “At least, that’s what the universal translator called it. The Tyndorans gave us a crate of it as a gift. According to Doctor Marchenko, it won’t kill us. She didn’t say whether it would make us stronger, though,” she joked.

    “Doctor Marchenko,” Julian said with a smile. “Now there’s an interesting woman.”

    “So I’ve heard,” Adele replied. Rumors traveled fast on a starship, and she was aware that the pretty doctor had been a woman on a mission her first several days on board, sleeping her way through the ranks of junior officers just for the fun of it. She was wondering how long it would take before she moved on to the senior staff. “She’s made quite the reputation for herself in a very short period of time,” she noted.

    “From what I hear, she’s got her eye on your first officer,” Julian warned Adele.

    Adele raised her eyebrows again, this time looking less than pleased. “Well, I’d advise her to steer clear of Commander Icheb. Frankly, he’s a little young for her, and he has enough personal issues at the moment,” she said quickly, and instantly regretted it. What business is it of mine? she wondered. Or the doctor’s?

    Julian’s ears perked up at the comment. “What kind of personal issues?” he asked. “I don’t mean to pry, but I’ve found his physical condition to be a bit of a mystery since the away mission, and his medical records seem somehow incomplete, even after I received the classified portions from Command. I actually sent him a request for an appointment earlier today, but he hasn’t responded yet.”

    “He was in engineering all day. I’m sure he’ll get back to you promptly. I was actually referring to personal issues of the romantic variety. It’s not really my place to say anything; in fact, I already said too much, it’s really none of my business. But all the same, if I were a friend of Doctor Marchenko’s, I’d probably warn her away.”

    “I see,” replied Julian, intrigued, but unwilling to pry any further.

    “Icheb isn’t ill, is he?” Adele asked.

    “I don’t think ‘ill’ is the best way to describe it,” Julian answered. “But until I talk to him, I’d be hesitant to say more.”

    “Understood,” replied Adele, as Julian came to a stop outside a door.

    “Well, here we are,” he said, and buzzed the intercom. “It’s Julian.”

    “Open,” came a female voice over the comm. The door slid away, and Julian and Adele stepped through the opening into Adrian and Claire Keller’s quarters, where Claire was busy setting the dining table while a small blond boy and an even tinier dark-haired little girl knelt in front of the sofa table coloring pictures. Both were clad in pajamas as if they were about to go to bed. They almost looked like little clones of their parents -- the boy with Adrian’s coloring and the little girl with Claire’s -- except that both had the same piercing blue eyes as their mother.

    “Captain! It’s so wonderful you could come,” Claire said warmly, shaking Adele’s hand. Before Adele could tell her to call her by her first name, she had already turned to Julian, kissing him on the cheek. “Hi, Julian.” Julian smiled and returned the gesture, looking slightly awkward as he did so.

    Adrian emerged from one of the two bedroom doors at the side of the living area. “Captain, it’s nice to see you in civilian clothes. Did you get some rest after the away mission?” he asked kindly.

    “A little,” Adele replied. She held up the bottle of Tyndoran fire water. “Here, I know you’ve already got one of these, but I figured it was still a better gift than something from the replicator. If it turns out to be horrible, tell me what you want and I’ll replicate you whatever you like.”

    “Thank you,” Claire said, as she stepped forward to take the bottle from Adele. “Please, come in and make yourself comfortable. These are our children, Bennett and Lucy,” she said, pointing at the two remarkably well-behaved children. “I’m just about to put them to bed.” The children looked up at the group of adults, paying special attention to Adele, since they had never seen her before.

    “I’m Bennett,” the little boy said.

    “I’m Lucy. I’m four and a half,” said the girl, putting emphasis on the half.

    “Is it true that you’re the captain?” asked Bennett. Adele nodded, and he replied, “My friend Toras says that on his home world, only men can be captains.”

    “Yes, well, people say all kinds of things, Bennett,” Adrian interrupted, clearly a little embarrassed. “We can talk about that later.”

    “Here, I drew this for you.” Lucy stood up and walked up to Adele, handing her a sheet of paper with a large square drawn on it, surrounded by dots. “It’s our ship,” she explained. “See the stars?”

    Adele smiled at the girl as she knelt down to take the picture. “I’ll put it up in my ready room,” she promised her. “Do you know what that is?” The little girl shook her head, so Adele explained, “It’s the place where captains go to think about really important things and sometimes talk about them, too. I’ll hang it up in there, okay?”

    The small girl’s blue eyes grew huge and she nodded silently, though her smile was suddenly so wide Adele thought her face must hurt. Adele glanced at Julian, who was looking on with amusement at the scene.

    “Well, it looks like you’ve made a friend, Captain,” Adrian said, smiling.

    “Please, call me Adele,” she replied, standing back up. “You were both so kind to have me over on short notice like this. When Doctor Bashir--”

    “Julian,” the doctor interrupted. “Call me Julian, please.”

    Adele smiled, forcing herself to relax a bit. “Right. When Julian asked me to join you all, I wasn’t sure I should come, but he made a persuasive case. I hope it’s not an imposition.”

    “Not at all,” said Claire. “We’re glad you could join us.”

    “So, what’s for supper?’ asked Julian. “I’m absolutely famished.”

    “I was thinking I’d try something we haven’t had yet. Something called Zin Talak, it’s a Bolian dish.”

    Julian tried to cover up his snickering and failed.

    “Julian?” Claire asked with an annoyed look on her face.

    “It’s just ... well, it will land us all in sickbay. Again. It’s not digestible by humans.”

    Claire’s face went blank for a moment, then she blushed. “Well, the description sounded interesting. They should really put a warning on it.”

    “They do put a warning on it,” said Adrian. “You’re supposed to press the ‘more info’ button. And then you’re supposed to actually read what it says.”

    Claire sighed heavily. “Okay, anyone have any better ideas?”

    Adrian, who had been trying not to laugh out loud, lost his battle upon seeing the slightly baffled look on Adele’s face and began to giggle. This set Julian off, which in turn set Claire herself off. Adele had a feeling she was missing the joke, but their mirth was contagious, and she smiled and shook her head.

    “Well, if you don’t want to spend the night in sickbay, I have one we can try,” she said. “Give me five minutes to program the thing, and we could have a delicious traditional Betazoid meal, with none of the, um ... interesting side effects of the more exotic Bolian cuisines. We can skip the constantly ringing chimes, though,” she added with a roll of her eyes. She had spent four months on Betazed helping with recovery efforts after the Dominon War ended, and had finally experienced her grandmother’s culture firsthand. She had found that many of the elaborate social traditions, including the chimes that rang constantly during every shared meal, were a bit much for her liking, but the food was definitely excellent, and blessedly side-effect free. “Do you mind?” she asked Claire, hoping her offer to help wouldn’t be seen as an insult.

    Claire shook her head, still giggling. “No,” she said, “it sounds like you know what you’re doing. Go right ahead.”

    “My lovely wife is legendary for her cooking ... ah, skills,” Adrian explained, getting his own giggles under control. “She’s the only person I personally know who ever found a way to make people ill with replicated food. Let’s just say her adventurous nature is stronger than her programming skill, and she has an unfortunate habit of overriding and ignoring any warning the computer gives her when she tries to get creative. Trying to serve the captain a dish that will land her in sickbay is about par for the course for Claire. It’s all the worse that she’s a biologist. She should really know better,” he said, shooting his wife a pointed glance. It was obvious this was a debate that had been going on for some time between them.

    Claire sighed. “I’m not much better with real food,” she admitted, shaking her head and blushing. “I keep trying, though.”

    “You know, I think it’s time for a drink,” suggested Julian, trying to change the subject. “Shall we try the fire water?”

    Adrian eyed the bottle suspiciously, then shrugged. “Why not?” he asked. He and Julian went to open the bottle, while Claire went to put the children to bed, leaving Adele alone to deal with the replicator. By the time Claire came back ten minutes later, the table was set with four plates of oskoid, four glasses of Tyndoran fire water, and a selection of Betazoid breads and berries. On an impulse, Adele had even gone ahead and used her command override to replicate a chime just to make it more authentic, but unlike her relatives, she intended to strike it only once.

    “This looks wonderful,” Claire said as she approached the table. “We’ll have to have you over more often,” she said with a smile in Adele’s direction.

    “You know, if you would stick to the tried and true and not feel like you need to try or worse yet, modify every program in the replicator, you wouldn’t be so shocked when things come out of it looking like they should,” Adrian said wryly.

    “Well, I like to put my own stamp on things, and I hate to be boring,” Claire replied.

    “Well, this drink appears to be anything but boring,” Julian spoke up, raising his glass. “To our captain, and her skill with a replicator.”

    Adrian and Claire also lifted their glasses, and the three took careful sips of the fire-orange liquid.

    “Well, this is hardly fair,” Adele complained jokingly. “If you all toast me, I can’t drink.”

    Julian was making a horrible face. “I’m not sure you’re missing anything,” he choked out.

    Adrian laughed at his friend while Claire looked amused. “You lightweight,” he said, “this is great stuff. Try it, Captain.”

    “Adele,” she corrected him, and took a swig of the liquor. She was used to competing in the still-mostly-men’s club that was Starfleet captaincy, and all of the drinking that often went along with it. But she quickly realized this drink was easily on par with Romulan ale in strength and effect. It tasted about like it looked, and she wasn’t surprised the closest translation was ‘fire water.’ The experience wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but it did burn. She was surprised to find it also gave her an instantaneous feeling of slight euphoria. She would have to be sure to drink slowly, she decided. She set her glass back down on the table and smiled. “Interesting,” was all she chose to say about it.

    *****

    (cont. below)
     
  18. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Sector 001
    (cont. from above)

    “Maren, open the door.” John Quigley stood impatiently outside the chief engineer’s quarters, waiting for a response to his third inquiry over the intercom. Finally, feeling a little guilty as he did so, he asked the computer: “Computer, locate Maren O’Connor.” He always felt like he was spying on people when he did that.

    The computer’s answer was unintelligible, as it was forced to compete with a voice coming from the corridor behind him. “Maren O’Connor is right behind you,” Maren said, in an eerily accurate imitation of the standard computer voice, as she walked up to her door and leaned in front of the eyescanner. She was still in uniform, and John sighed.

    “You’re supposed to be wearing civilian clothes. It’s a party, not a staff meeting.”

    As they walked through the door into Maren’s quarters, she shrugged apologetically. “I couldn’t help it; I got called back into engineering. Captain Oyugo ordered the jump to slipstream. Didn’t you notice when it happened?”

    “No,” John replied.

    “Excellent tactical awareness, there, J.Q.,” Maren admonished him teasingly.

    “Is the slipstream going to attack us?” John asked in the same teasing tone.

    Maren rolled her eyes. “No, I suppose it’s not. I’m just glad we’re on our way again.”

    “Me too,” agreed John. “It’s a good thing Iden found her buoy, or you’d probably be in a shuttle backtracking a few light years right about now to fix it while the rest of us sat at impulse for a few more days. It’s about time something went right around here.” As he made the comment, he took a look around Maren’s quarters for the first time. “This is really nice,” he said, impressed. “Must be good to be a department head. This is twice the size of mine.”

    “It’s the payoff for them owning my soul,” Maren said with a sardonic roll of her eyes. “If you think this is big, you should see Icheb’s.”

    “You’ve seen his quarters?” John asked with a surprised laugh. Maren blushed and rolled her eyes again.

    “Not for the reason you’re obviously thinking. It’s my job to operate his alcove and interrupt his regeneration cycle when people need him at night. No one wakes him up without coming to me first, and I have to decide whether it’s worth him restarting his cycle over. Have I mentioned lately what a disaster my life is?”

    John shook his head and smiled. “I’m sorry, that’s just ... well, it’s so wrong it’s almost funny. You think Command is just sadistic, or do they not have a clue?”

    “How would they know? We never officially shared quarters or anything like that. He left before we sent in the forms to notify Starfleet we were getting married. He hasn’t sent me so much as a data transmission in two years. No, I don’t think they had any idea. It’s just one of those unfortunate cosmic accidents. Glad you find it amusing.”

    John’s face grew serious. “I don’t. Nothing about this is amusing. I hate seeing you both unhappy.” Especially you, he added silently, in his head. Way back at the Academy, Maren had been his first friend -- actually, he had hoped she would be more than that at the time, though he had never worked up the nerve to tell her -- and it had taken him a while to warm up to Icheb after he had made his entry into Maren’s life. More than seven years later, as close as he was to Icheb, he supposed his first loyalty was still to Maren. For some reason he couldn’t quantify, that made him feel guilty.

    Maren sighed heavily, but quickly plastered on a brave smile. “Well, a night out might go a long way toward improving my mood. Though I wish I’d had time for that nap,” she added, a bit wistfully. “Anyway, I’ll go get ready. Five minutes, I promise. I’ll be fast. You can grab yourself a drink or something from the replicator if you want.” She walked through the door to her bedroom, leaving John alone in the living area, staring after her with a bemused expression on his face.

    After a moment, he walked over to the replicator and started scrolling through the menu. It had a lot more choices than his did, most likely another perk that came with being a department head. He was still perusing the myriad options when Maren came back through her bedroom door.

    “Okay, are we ready?” she asked. John tried not to show any reaction to the change in her appearance. In the span of about three minutes, she had traded her unflattering yellow tunic, black jumpsuit and boring ponytail for a much softer look, with a long, pale green, slightly dressy tunic over some tighter-than-usual leggings. The tunic had split sleeves that tied at the shoulders, wrists, and elbows, leaving bits of her slender arms exposed, and her hair was pinned up into a loose twist. She had even put on a bit of lip gloss. The two pips and combadge she had affixed to the tunic killed the look a little, but rules were rules. I wonder what the engineering guys would think about their boss right now, John thought to himself. She really was beautiful, he thought -- even prettier at twenty-six than she had been at eighteen. Cybernetically-enhanced genius or not, Icheb had been an idiot to walk away from her, John decided, not for the first time. Also not for the first time, he wondered what it would be like to kiss her. He pushed the thought aside. You’re taking her to the party for her, not for you, he reminded himself.

    “Did you eat dinner?” he asked her, suddenly realizing that if she had been called into engineering, it was likely she had skipped it, which she did way too often.

    “Sort of,” she replied. “When I got called in, I realized I wouldn’t have time to eat, so I replicated a liquid nutritional supplement and drank it while I worked. What it lacked in deliciousness, it made up for in efficiency,” she noted with a wry grin.

    John laughed. “Two of Two lives,” he joked. “Icheb would be pleased.”

    Maren sighed, looking annoyed. “Can we not discuss him any more tonight, please? It was bad enough you invited him along. At least he had the good sense to decline.”

    John sighed. “Are you going to freeze him out forever? Because speaking as someone caught in the crossfire of your little cold war, it’s not fun at all, and I pity anyone who actually has to work with you both at the same time.”

    “A cold war doesn’t have crossfire,” Maren pointed out. “That’s why it’s cold -- lack of fire.”

    “You know what I mean,” John replied with a roll of his eyes. Does she have to be so pedantic? he wondered. He thought she could actually be worse than Icheb at times, but it was usually when she was trying to avoid answering a question, which was obviously the case here. John pressed her. “Answer the question. Are you, or are you not going to continue avoiding meaningful conversation with Icheb for the rest of time?”

    If he doesn’t stop being so stubborn, I won’t need to, Maren thought to herself ominously, and a dark look passed across her face. For a moment, she was tempted to make a crack to John about time not being strictly linear and therefore not having a “rest of,” but she quickly realized she was being obnoxious. She was tired, and stressed, and now she was taking it out on the only person on board the Tesseract who consistently looked out for her well-being. Not smart, Maren, she told herself.

    “I haven’t decided yet,” she finally answered, “and I’m not deciding anytime tonight, either. Tonight, I’m going to drink strange alien liquor and talk to crewmates I haven’t met yet and try to forget the entire last week of my life ever happened. Maybe the last two years. Or maybe even the last seven. We’ll see just how good this alien liquor is.”

    John sighed, wondering if this was going to get completely out of hand, but said, “Okay, fair enough. Let’s go. Just don’t forget you have a ship to take care of tomorrow.” She made a face, but nodded her assent, and they headed out the door of her quarters and down the corridor towards the turbolift.
     
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    It’s nice to see everyone getting to relax for once. Adele and Julian at an interesting dinner party as their host attempts to accidentally poison them, and John and Maren heading out for a night on the… well, ship, I suppose.

    John’s feelings for Maren are coming to the fore, and he’d better be careful or he could find himself becoming an awkward third party in a particularly troubled love triangle.

    I’m glad to see they’re getting away from Tyndorian space, though the possible Borg-related mysteries that species was likely hiding haven’t been answered. But, sometimes such answers aren’t forthcoming, at least not until the Borg data on the iso-chip is decoded.

    A nice break from the adventures of late as the crew gets a much needed opportunity to get to know one-another in a non-duty related capacity. :)
     
  20. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Location:
    Lyon, France
    I'm going to be lazy here and say I agree entirely with Gibraltar. It really was nice to see everyone relaxing and I thought you handled the Adrien/Claire family really well - very realistic and a nice change onboard ship.

    John definitely better be careful - if he has waited this long before telling Maren how he feels, I would suggest that he wait a little longer! :)

    Oh and unrequited feelings mixing with alcohol? That can't be good!

    Continued awesomeness, K7
     

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