Star Trek: Tesseract

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

  1. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE (Obligatory warning: Foul language in this chapter. You've been warned.)

    Three hours after they had first sat down to eat, Adele, Julian and the Kellers still sat at the dining table in the Kellers’ quarters, chatting, drinking and picking at what little was left of their replicated Betazoid feast. Claire kept trying to shush them all because they wouldn’t stop laughing, and she was afraid they would wake the children up. Julian had been telling really old stories from his time on the station before Adrian and Claire had even lived there, and Adele had to admit they were hilarious. It sounded like despite the war going on around them, the officers at Deep Space Nine had had their share of fun, as well. She had laughed the hardest at the story about Betazoid Ambassador Troi coming to DS9 with Zanthi fever, creating mass romantic havoc among the people there, but she found herself sincerely hoping nothing like that ever happened on the Tesseract.

    Suddenly, she remembered a funny story of her own. “Okay, I’ve got one,” she spoke up, tentatively. “It’s a little crude, though,” she added.

    “Those are the best kind,” Adrian said. “Tell it.”

    Adele smirked and took a tiny sip of fire water. “Okay,” she began, “when I was a lieutenant JG on the Endeavour, we had to meet with a Ferengi trade delegation. Of course, the universal translators picked that day to stop working. All of them. To this day, I think it was sabotage or a practical joke, because the chief engineer worked on nothing else the whole day and could not get them back online, and then everything started working again after they had all left. It was really strange, but no one was ever accused of anything and I don’t think they ever figured out what happened. Or maybe they just didn’t tell me what happened, because they were afraid I’d retaliate.”

    She sighed at the memory and continued, “See, I was the only person on the ship who knew the Ferengi language well enough to converse in it. But it had been a few years since I’d had classes in it, and my skills were rusty. It’s not like I was making a lot of trips to Ferenginar --” at the mention of the dreary, rain-soaked planet, populated by misogynists, Claire snickered with understanding -- “and whenever we had Ferengis on our ship before, the U.T. was always working. But the captain ordered me to meet with them, so of course I did. And even though I could have probably just spoken Federation standard to them, because, after all, I’m sure their U.T.s were working fine, I decided to try to be impressive and speak Ferengi instead.” She rolled her eyes at her younger self while Adrian, Claire and Julian nodded knowingly. They had all been young, smart and overly confident once, too. They had been there.

    “Well, it was bad enough already, because I’m a woman, and they weren’t at all happy that I was not only wearing clothes, but speaking. But then, every time I would say the word ‘trade,’ they would all bust up laughing.” She sighed. “I’m sure you all know where this is headed,” she said with a weary smile. “The word I was mistakenly using for ‘trade’ was actually a very foul Ferengi curse word -- basically the Ferengi equivalent of ‘fuck.’ It's not a direct translation, but the usage is pretty much the same. So I was basically inviting them to fuck fairly, and come to a fucking agreement, and fuck this, and fuck that. Some diplomat I turned out to be!” she laughed. “And of course, I could see them laughing at me, but I didn’t have a clue what they were laughing about because I can’t read Ferengis at all. So finally, one of them corrected me, and I absolutely thought I would die on the spot. It was horrible.”

    She paused to wipe a tear from her eye as she giggled at the memory, and continued, “The only bright spot was that I gave Captain Amasov the first good laugh I think he’d had since the battle of Wolf 359. He wasn’t even mad, he thought it was so funny. Seeing him laugh made the whole thing worth it.” Her story completed, Adele took another sip of her drink and shook her head, grinning.

    She hoped her grin would cover the way she felt about the untold part of that particular story, knowing that it would definitely be a mood killer to recount how once the laughter had finally died down that day, she and her captain, Eric Amasov, had both broken down in anguished tears, clinging to each other like father and daughter in the privacy of his ready room. It was like the laughter had cracked something in each of them, with their still-fresh grief over the loss of seventy-three of their crewmates -- including Adele’s own husband -- in addition to thousands of their colleagues on other starships during the fight with the Borg. They had been among the lucky ones. They had survived. But at that point, just three months after the battle had been lost, neither Adele nor Eric had felt fortunate to be alive. They had never spoken about that moment in the ready room again, but they had formed and maintained an almost familial bond that had lasted until he had died three years ago. She still missed her old captain often.

    Adrian, Claire and Julian were all still laughing, and Julian had started to wipe tears from his eyes. “You win,” said Julian, through his laughter. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a moment quite that embarrassing.”

    Adrian jumped on that right away. “What about the time --”

    “Oh, quiet, Adrian, or I’ll tell her some of your stories,” Julian said, cutting him off.

    “Now, now, gentlemen,” Claire said. “I don’t think anyone wants to hear the stories you’re talking about.”

    It struck Adele that these people seemed to know each other very well. “How did you all meet?” she asked, curious.

    “At DS9, shortly after the war ended,” Claire explained. “I was actually having a drink with Julian and his girlfriend at the time, when Adrian walked into Quark’s to say hello to them, and it was all over. I ordered Adrian a drink on the spot and rather shamelessly threw myself at him. I haven’t stopped chasing him since.” She grinned at her husband.

    “What were you doing on DS9?” Adele asked.

    “Actually, I was working with Julian,” she explained. “Analyzing all the data he’d collected on the morphogenic matrices of the Changelings during the war. He wanted to develop a way of making versatile replacement organs.” Julian looked displeased at the memory, and Adele instantly discerned that their efforts had not been successful.

    “How about you?” she asked Adrian, trying to change the subject.

    “I was a fighter pilot during the war, and then they had me running freighters for the relief efforts afterward. DS9 was home base for a few years. I met Julian when I broke my leg in a holosuite and he fixed it up for me. We got to talking and ended up friends.”

    Adele smiled. “Well, it’s obvious you all made the best of that place. And it’s nice to see you all with this built-in support group as we head into the Delta Quadrant. I hope the rest of the crew connects eventually.”

    “I’m sure they will,” Julian assured her. He reached his arms over his head to stretch, covering a yawn. “It must be getting late. Computer, time?”

    “2232 hours,” came the familiar-sounding reply.

    “Well, I’ve got to be in sickbay early tomorrow,” Julian said, looking tired. “I guess I’d better be going.”

    “Me too,” added Adele. “I think the lack of sleep is catching up with me,” she said, giving Adrian a knowing glance.

    “The away mission was brutal,” Adrian agreed. “I don’t know why everything that happens on this ship has to happen at oh-one-hundred.”

    “You and me both,” said Adele. “I hope the rest of the trip to the Delta Quadrant is extremely boring. I could certainly use the sleep.”

    “Here’s to that,” Adrian agreed, and downed the last of his drink before sticking the glass back in the replicator. He swayed slightly as he stood up, and Adele realized he had been the only one to consume more than one glass of the fire water. She and Claire had each had about half a glass over more than three hours, and Julian hadn’t touched his since his first disgusted sip, having switched to replicated drinks instead.

    As the dinner party broke up, they all cleared their plates to the replicator, and Julian and Adele thanked the Kellers for their hospitality. As they headed out the door, Adele still felt happy from the effects of the fire water, but she was relieved to find that slow consumption and plenty of food had prevented her from falling victim to anything more dangerous than a good buzz. She certainly wasn’t swaying like Adrian, at least.

    “I have a feeling you’ll be seeing Adrian in the morning,” Adele told Julian as they walked down the corridor toward the turbolift.

    “No doubt,” replied Julian. “I’ll have the hypo all ready for him. Hangover special.”

    Adele grinned and shook her head. “Thank goodness for modern medicine.”

    “Indeed,” replied Julian earnestly, without a trace of irony. He glanced at the drawing Lucy Keller had given Adele. “That’s a lovely piece of artwork,” he said.

    Adele looked down at the simplistic drawing and smiled. “It was very sweet of her. They are such a nice family. Kind of unusual for Starfleet, really,” she noted.

    “It’s the nature of the profession,” Julian rationalized. “It’s difficult to form lasting bonds when people are transferred about over half the galaxy every couple of years. I suppose we were a bit more fortunate in that regard at Deep Space Nine -- once people came, they tended to stay a while. I knew a few happy families there, actually -- relatively happy, anyway,” he added with a wry smile.

    “Well, I had a wonderful time with them tonight,” Adele said. As they approached the turbolift, she smiled at Julian. “You lived up to your reputation as a good doctor today,” she said sincerely. “That was exactly what I needed, I really do feel much better than I did this morning.”

    “You know,” he said, “we all used to get together like that at least once a week. If you’d like, I’ll let you know the next time it happens. I’m sure Adrian and Claire would love for you to visit again.”

    Adele demurred. “I don’t think you all need a tag-a-long.”

    Julian put on an exaggerated look of astonishment. “Tag-a-long?” he asked incredulously, quickly dismissing the notion. “Please, you were the life of the party with that story about the Ferengi. They’ll be talking about it for days,” he said confidently, as they both stepped into the turbolift.

    “Fantastic,” said Adele as the doors closed. She rolled her eyes and smiled sardonically, adding, “Hopefully only amongst themselves. I don’t think the rest of the crew needs to know their captain was ever an accidental Ferengi potty-mouth.”

    Julian smiled, but his expression grew more earnest. “Adele, I mean it. You told us you want the crew to connect, and you did that tonight. I don’t remember ever seeing Claire laugh quite so hard. Speaking as your doctor, you need friends as much as anyone else on the ship -- and as an empath, maybe more so. This isn’t the same as a mission in Federation space, where you can take shore leave every few months to go visit friends or family or take a holiday on Risa. You’re going to have to open up to your crew in a way other captains don’t, or you’ll be terribly unhappy.”

    Adele nodded, giving him a reluctant smile. “I’m sure you’re right. It will just take some time to adjust my thinking. Since making captain, I’ve gotten used to maintaining that professional distance at all costs.” She sighed, and said, “Okay, I’ll consider coming with you next time. I have to warn you, though, that I don’t have that many good stories. I hit them with my best shot tonight, it’s all downhill toward boring from here. Besides, I think all the laughter was more due to the fire water than anything else,” she added, with an amused grin.

    “Somehow, I doubt that,” Julian replied, matching her smile with one of his own. As the turbolift arrived at his deck and the doors opened, Julian sighed and said “Well, that’s my stop.” He smiled and stepped into the corridor. “Good night, Adele.”

    “Good night, Julian.”
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    A nice, relaxing wrap-up to Adele and Julian’s pleasant evening. I’ve glad to see the captain letting her proverbial hair down a bit. Julian’s right… if she doesn’t find some friends and confidants, it’s going to be a long, lonely, and dreary seven years in the Delta Quadrant for her.
  3. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    Gibraltar -- yes, it was a bit of a slow scene, mostly intended to let us get to know Adele a little better, allow her to make some connections (as the good doctor pointed out, she can't stay isolated forever), and give some background on the other three.

    Plus, the poor captain just plain needed a break. :lol: So she got one. Don't worry, things won't stay boring forever ... the crew is just taking a breather. ;)
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Yeah, this was some slow pacing alright. But hey, you clearly like your characters a great deal and you have great, well-placed confidence in giving them a lot of room for development. I can appreciate that.

    But now that this is out of the way, can we get to the meaty stuff? You know where things blow up real good.

    Just kidding, I like your stuff either way. Do what you do.
  5. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    CeJay -- Well, I'm on vacation right now, so you might have to wait a couple of days for any further progression toward things blowing up real good. ;) We're headed in that direction, though, don't worry. Thanks for the comment!
  6. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    I liked this chapter - it was nice to see Adele loosening up a little, and to glimpse a little of her past. The scene with her former captain really showed how everyone must have reacted after the horrific events of Wolf 359 and was a chillingly pathos counterpoint to the hilarity of that Ferengi story (wow did I just write that sentence??! :) )

    A nice character building scene here, really made Adele an even more rounded character than she already was.

    PS: Good vacation!
  7. KimMH

    KimMH Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jan 14, 2009
    The poster formerly known as ORSE
    I've been so busy lately I've not even had the time to throw a couple zingers at the 5 word stories. Catching up on the tesseract has been a wonderful indulgence!

    It feels a bit like a roller coaster - so much going on and such a diverse crew. It's really really warming to spend time with people from the past I've known and loved like Julian and Icheb. I confess Beckley and Gentry are almost minor distractions compared to the joy of getting to know this mini-fleet. Adele is fast turning into another Starfleet captain for whom I'd storm the gates of Hell to recover.

    I've not only been busy but I've been busy with some pretty heavy stuff. I cannot tell you how much this offers a relaxing release. Thank you so much Kes7!
  8. KimMH

    KimMH Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jan 14, 2009
    The poster formerly known as ORSE
    Sorry for the double post but I have to rave just a teensy bit more. The scenes between Maren and Icheb in his quarters and with John - the triangle thing - just about made me teary. It was so touching that Maren's defenses were reduced enough to let her reach out to him just a little bit. And Adeles' recollection about her breakthrough with her own Captain after Wolf359 made me squishy too. Your characterizations and interactions are masterful; I was like putty.
  9. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    oldstredshrtevr -- Um, you're welcome! And thanks so much for saying all that! I'm quite glad you like Adele, and that you find her worthy of the Starfleet captain title. And I hope I'm doing justice to your old favorites, too.

    I have almost too much fun with all the characterizations, but I'm glad you appreciate them! And it makes my day to know my little pet project here is providing you an enjoyable escape. Again, thank you for the kind comments!
    :adore: (<---- that would be a blushing smiley if we had one, but we just have little red alien guy, and he doesn't seem appropriate.)

    CaptainSarine, I'm glad you liked the chapter, as well! And yes, I can believe you used "hilarity of that Ferengi story" in a sentence, because you had some humorous Ferengi action in your own story recently. ;)
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
  10. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001

    When John and Maren arrived at the quarters of Ensigns Alex Slidell and Marcus Lindley, there were already nearly a dozen people packed into the suite, which was cramped compared to Maren’s quarters, or even John’s. Maren shot John a look. “Maybe you should have volunteered to host this little party,” she whispered.

    “That would require picking my socks up off the floor,” he replied, flashing her an impish grin. Maren rolled her eyes, but smiled. As they walked into the room, John counted eleven people present, all junior officers like himself, except for Maren. Maren obviously noticed the same thing, because she hesitated, looking unsure if she had made the right call in coming to a party where she might actually be the highest ranking person in the room. John took her arm and squeezed it gently. “You’re off duty,” he whispered. “Lighten up.” He felt her force herself to physically relax, and he guided her over to Marcus Lindley, who had the advantage of not being intentionally obnoxious like his roommate.

    “Hey, Lindley,” he addressed Marcus, “have you met Maren?”

    When Marcus recognized Maren, he stood up straighter, as if wondering if he should salute.

    “Hey, you’re the chief engineer. Sir. I mean, Ma’am.”

    Maren rolled her eyes. “Not tonight, I’m not, Marcus. Please just call me Maren.” She offered him her hand and smiled.

    “Right,” he said warily, as he shook her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

    The next person admitted through the door was Iden Nix, conspicuously colorful with her bright blue skin, a clingy red dress and extraordinarily impractical shoes. Maren was thoroughly relieved to see her. She barely knew the Bolian chief comm. officer, but the fact that she was senior staff counted for something, especially after the nervous reception Marcus had just given her. “Iden!” she called out, and walked over to her, with John following close behind.

    “Maren!” Iden exclaimed warmly. “It’s good to see you out and about. It seems like you live in engineering. You barely ever even come to the bridge!” She glanced over at John. “Oh, hey, Quigley,” she added with a smile, her earlier irritation with him having evaporated the moment she had found her comm. buoy.

    “Hi, Iden. Nice dress,” he complimented her, automatically giving her his best John-gets-the-girl grin.

    “Thanks,” Iden replied appreciatively, then turned to Maren. “So are you ever going to spend any time on the bridge? I think the engineering console is lonely,” she joked.

    “Really, it told you that?” asked Maren. “I had heard you were quite the linguist, but that’s pretty impressive.” She grinned at Iden, and John was happy to see her starting to relax a bit.

    “Seriously,” Iden said, leaning in and dropping her voice to a whisper, “I’m glad to see you here. What is it they say on Earth? Safety in numbers?” she asked with a knowing look.

    Maren snickered and whispered back, “I know exactly what you mean. Is anyone else from staff coming?”

    Iden nodded and returned her voice to its normal volume. “T’Pring said she might stop by.”

    T’Pring?” Maren asked, in shock.

    “I convinced her to look at it as an opportunity to study the effects of Tyndoran liquor on Federation species and suggested she write a report,” John interjected. “Besides, she has one of the bottles the away team received, and I couldn’t imagine her drinking it alone.”

    Maren looked at him in amazement. “J.Q., I swear you could convince anyone to do anything. It’s kind of scary.”

    John shrugged. “T’Pring was easy, I just said the same thing I’d say to Icheb if he was being difficult. Vulcan, Borg, similar approach,” he said casually, earning him a warning look from Maren. Right. Not supposed to mention him, he reminded himself, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

    “I think you missed your calling as a lawyer, or a negotiator, or something,” Maren told him, only half joking. She looked around the room. “So where is this mysterious glowing drink, anyway?”

    “Right here, ma’am,” Marcus quickly spoke up from behind her, pouring her a small glass of the flame orange fire water and handing it to her.

    “Marcus, my name is Maren, not ‘ma’am.’ We’re not on duty, and I’m not that much older than you,” she informed him with a tired smile, as she took the glass. “Thanks for the drink,” she added sincerely. Marcus nodded in reply, but still looked skeptical.

    John caught Marcus’s eye and nodded, resulting in him being given his own glass of fire water. He turned to Maren, and the two friends lifted their glasses to each other and took simultaneous sips of the glowing liquid, as Marcus watched to see their reactions. John was shocked at the burning sensation the liquor produced, but succeeded in not showing it. Maren’s eyes grew huge and watery, but she managed to down it without sputtering. What neither officer was prepared for was the instantaneous feeling of pleasure the drink provided.

    “Oh, my God,” said Maren, giggling, as the feeling struck her. “That’s pretty amazing stuff.”

    “It tastes like the inside of a warp core,” complained John. “Or at least like what I imagine that would taste like.”

    “You’ve actually given that thought?” giggled Maren.

    “Well, no,” admitted John, as a silly grin spread across his face. “It’s just what popped into my head.”

    They both quickly finished their first drinks. Marcus refilled their glasses, and they wedged themselves into the modest space that had opened up on the large sofa when a large Benzite ensign got up to use the lavatory. Already feeling the effects of the liquor, Maren relaxed totally into the couch, tipping her head back to rest on the cushions.

    “Thank you for convincing me to come with you,” Maren said to John sincerely. “I think I did need a break.”

    “I know you did,” John replied. He leaned conspiratorially in toward Maren and dropped his voice to not much louder than a whisper. “Want to know what I did today?” he asked.

    “I don’t know, do I?” she asked teasingly, just as quiet.

    “I sat in the big chair for almost an hour,” John told her. “Right in the middle of Alpha shift. I could get used to that.”

    Maren smiled and shook her head, feeling a little dizzy as she did. “You’ve been daydreaming about that chair as long as we’ve known each other,” she said to John. “You’ve got a long way to go, J.Q. -- this mission alone is seven years long.”

    John sighed. “Yeah, I know. It was still the highlight of my day.”

    Maren suddenly looked at him and made a face. “Did you cut your hair?” she asked, reaching up to quickly run her fingers through what was left of it.

    “You just noticed that?” he asked in amazement. Usually she was the first one to notice that type of thing. He had been surprised when she hadn’t commented on it.

    “I’ve had a lot on my mind, sorry,” she offered in her defense. “It looks really great. I like it short like that. It makes you look older, in a good way.”

    “Thanks,” said John, blushing despite his best effort not to, and cursing both genetics and the fire water. He had always blushed embarrassingly easily, something Maren had noticed and pointed out the very first time they had met, but alcohol made it that much worse.

    As they sat sipping their drinks, John glanced around the room. Marcus and Alex sat together, pouring drinks and chatting. Every once in a while, Alex said something intentionally offensive to someone, and Marcus shot him dirty looks. They were definitely an odd pair, Marcus the earnest gentleman and Alex the snotty smart-ass, though John himself thought Alex wasn’t really that bad once you got to know him.

    He looked over at Maren, who had leaned forward to talk to Iden. Iden was a pretty girl, John thought, even though he avoided dating Bolians for the pain-in-the-ass health problems physical relationships with them inevitably produced in humans. Not worth the trouble, he had judged, after watching his roommate at the Academy suffer the aftereffects of an ill-advised tryst with a Bolian classmate.

    He could hear Iden talking in her rapid-fire manner in between sips of her drink. “ I was sitting there running yet another diagnostic on the aft transceiver array, and then all of a sudden, it came back! I had tried everything, and I was convinced we were going to have to take a shuttle back to fix the buoy, and then it just came back. I still don’t have any idea why I couldn’t see it for so long. Probably the subspace damage. Honestly, I don’t even care. I’m just so glad we don’t have to go back and fix it. I ran diagnostics on the buoy and they all came back clean, so we’re good to go! Back in the slipstream, going to the Delta Quadrant ...” she trailed off and looked down at her half-empty glass. “Wow, this drink is really strong.”

    John grinned at Iden’s stream-of-consciousness speaking style. He wondered what the two women would be like as friends. He decided they would probably end up pissing each other off constantly with their smart mouths and completely contradictory thinking styles.

    Indeed, Maren already looked vaguely agitated at Iden’s description of what had happened with the buoy. “Are you sure you ran all the indicated diagnostics on the buoy?” Maren asked. “Because something about that doesn’t sound right at all.”

    Now Iden looked annoyed. “Of course I did. I promise, it checked out fine. Even by your standards,” she said pointedly. John suppressed a snicker. Apparently the secret was out regarding Maren’s crushing perfectionism. Nothing travels faster than gossip on a starship, he thought with amusement. Maren raised her eyebrows as if still skeptical of Iden’s assessment, but to John’s relief, she kept her mouth shut. He leaned forward to intervene before the two got into it over work.

    “Enough, you two. This is supposed to be a party. I didn’t drag this one out of main engineering so she could talk shop,” he said, gesturing toward Maren. “It’s been a long week for everyone, why don’t you two talk about something more fun?”

    “Psst. J.Q., come here,” Maren said, motioning him closer as if she wanted to tell him a secret. As he leaned forward, she said in a loud, exaggerated whisper, “In case you didn’t notice, we live at work. It’s kind of hard to get away from it.”

    John rolled his eyes as Iden snickered, apparently finding Maren’s comment amusing. Crisis averted, he thought, as he leaned back with a self-satisfied smirk.

    “Now that’s something you don’t see every day,” John heard a shocked-sounding voice behind him say. He turned to see who had said it, and saw a lieutenant JG from Ops staring in disbelief at the doorway, where T’Pring had just entered holding a bottle of Tyndoran fire water.

    Maren looked, too, and her eyes widened. “She actually came. She’s even wearing civilian clothes. I hope you made a bet with somebody on this, John.”

    John laughed and shook his head. “No, no bet. I just wanted to see if I could get her to show up.”

    “It worked,” Maren replied in awe. “Don’t just sit there, go say hello to her, she’s just standing there!”

    As John stood up and walked over to T’Pring, Alex Slidell quickly slid into the empty spot left next to Maren and offered her his hand. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Alex Slidell.”

    Maren smiled at the ensign and shook his hand. “Maren O’Connor. Thanks for letting me crash your party.”

    “No, I should thank Quigley. He sure raised the quality of women at this party. You, Nix, T’Pring? How the hell did that guy get on a first name basis with every woman on senior staff within the first week of this mission?”

    Maren burst into giggles. “That’s a good question,” she laughed. “It’s just John, though, he’s just always been that way. There’s no such thing as a stranger, especially if she’s pretty.”

    “So you two aren’t -- ”

    Maren shook her head and smiled. “No, we’re not.” Why do people think that? she wondered.

    “Well, that’s good to know,” said Alex, a little flirtatiously.

    “She’s out of your league, Slidell,” John interrupted as he walked T’Pring over to where they were sitting.

    (cont. below)
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
  11. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    Maren made a face at him. “Be nice, John. Hi, T’Pring,” she added, and Iden looked up and waved, too. T’Pring nodded at them both.

    “So I hear you’re writing a report on what all of us crazy emotional types do when we drink too much alien liquor,” Iden said.

    “Lieutenant Quigley suggested that due to the unusual nature of the substance, it might be worthwhile to take notes on the effects it has on various species,” T’Pring replied.

    “I hope you brought a PADD,” Iden said. “You could start with those two over there,” she said, smirking and pointing to two crewmembers in a corner of the room, who were locked in a fairly heated embrace, apparently not caring who saw them or their undergarments.

    Wait for it ... wait for it ... THERE! thought Maren, as T’Pring predictably raised a single upswept eyebrow. I knew she was going to do that. She smiled to herself, feeling comfortably numb.

    “Perhaps I will interview them when they have ... finished,” T’Pring said.

    “I think that’s a good idea,” Alex agreed.

    “So what about you, T’Pring?” John asked. “Don’t you think your report would be incomplete without notes on the effects of Tyndoran fire water on the Vulcan species?”

    T’Pring looked at John with a gaze that could almost pass for amused. “I believe the Earth phrase is, ‘Don’t press your luck,’ Lieutenant. If it is your intent to see me intoxicated tonight, you will be disappointed.”

    “It’s all in the name of science,” John protested with a serious expression. T’Pring raised her eyebrow again, looking unsure of whether to trust his sincerity.

    After a while, Alex finally excused himself to the lavatory, and John offered the newly open seat on the sofa to T’Pring, who said she preferred to remain standing. “Okay, but you can’t say I didn’t offer,” he replied good-naturedly, and sat down next to Maren again.

    “How are you doing?” he asked Maren.

    “Perfect,” Maren replied, sounding a little too enthusiastic. As he looked at her, he realized the liquor was catching up with her quickly. She swayed slightly where she sat, and her eyelids fluttered a bit. She had been leaning forward to talk to Iden, but she suddenly leaned back against the sofa, unintentionally resting her head on John’s outstretched arm and closing her eyes.

    “T’Pring’s going to have to take notes on you if you don’t lay off the fire water,” John whispered. “How much have you had?”

    “Two? Three glasses? I don’t know, Alex refilled it. I lost track. You know, it doesn’t burn so much after a while,” she said.

    “Wonderful,” John replied. He wondered how she was even still functioning. After two glasses, he was starting to really feel the effects, too, and he outweighed her by close to forty kilos. He thought she looked a little pale, and he suddenly wondered if she was going to get sick. He wasn’t about to wait around and let her do it in front of the collected group of mostly junior officers. “I think it’s time to go, Maren,” he said gently, extracting his arm from behind her head and taking her by the hand as he stood up.

    “Time to go?” she asked in confusion, still seated on the sofa. “It’s still early.”

    “Maren, seriously, it’s time to go,” John said more insistently, pulling her to her feet. She almost lost her balance as she stood up, and he quickly caught her by the arm and hoped no one noticed she was already blitzed. “Iden, T’Pring, we’ll see you later,” he said to the nearby women.

    Marcus Lindley looked over at them curiously. “We’re heading out,” John told him, and the younger officer nodded with understanding as he saw that the chief engineer looked kind of unsteady.

    “Need help?” he asked.

    John shook his head. “We’re fine. Thanks for the drinks, guys,” he said to Marcus and Alex. Alex lifted his glass in a mock toast in reply, obviously feeling the impact of the alcohol as well, as he accidentally splashed the glowing liquid all over his hand and tunic sleeve. Iden waved goodbye to them as they walked out, and Maren waved back, grinning.

    John wrapped one arm around Maren and held her steady as they walked. He found he was practically carrying her as they headed toward the turbolift.

    “Where are we going now?” she asked as John guided her down the corridor.

    “I’m taking you back to your quarters,” John replied. “That stuff is catching up with you fast.” The two officers rode the turbolift back to Maren’s deck, then walked together to her quarters, weaving a little and laughing a lot as they went along.

    “That was fun,” Maren said with a tipsy grin as they reached her door. “Short-lived, but fun.” She turned to face the eyescanner and nearly lost her balance again as the door opened and they stumbled through. John caught her, but with his reflexes dulled by the strong alien liquor, it took both arms to do it, and he didn’t immediately let go. In the dark of her quarters, they both realized the glowing orange fire water had left its signature on their mouths. Their lips were glowing, and they both started to giggle when each saw how ridiculous the other one looked. As John laughed, he unconsciously pulled Maren closer, and his whole body tingled at the feel of her in his arms.

    Maren felt his arms tighten around her, and looked up at him with a quizzical gaze. “You’re drunk,” she said accusingly, with a wary half-smile.

    “Maybe a little, but I’m not the one who just almost fell on my face,” he retorted, grinning back at her.

    Suddenly, Maren remembered what Sheila Duggal had said the night they had worked on the gel packs, and what Alex had said at the party. “I want to ask you something,” she said to John.

    He looked at her in surprise. She sounded entirely too serious all of a sudden. “Okay,” he said cautiously.

    “Why did you ask me to come to the party with you tonight?” she asked, looking up at him questioningly while she continued to hold on to him for balance.

    “What do you mean?” he asked, a bit uncomfortably.

    “I mean, you could have brought any girl on the ship with you tonight. Why bring me?”

    “You needed a night out. Someone has to look out for you; you do a terrible job of it,” he said, trying to keep his tone light.

    “Is that what you’re doing right now? Looking out for me?” she asked, swaying slightly in his arms, but not yet moving to pull away. Something about the look on her face told John that if he wanted trouble, it was his for the taking, and to his embarrassment, his body was starting to respond to the possibility.

    He blushed and took a deep breath, then blew it out. “I’m trying to. I have to say you’re making it more difficult by the minute,” he admitted, willing himself not to do anything stupid. All things considered, kissing Maren O’Connor would be about the stupidest move he could make right now, he told himself. He forced himself to let go of her and take a step back, but as he did, she once again lost her balance, and he had to lunge forward to catch her.

    “Okay, that’s it,” he said firmly, and picked her up, eliciting a small shriek and a giggle from the tipsy engineer. “You’re done for the night.” He carried her toward her bedroom so she could sleep it off, and she giggled loudly as he did.

    “John! Where are you taking me?” she demanded, laughing.

    John rolled his eyes. “If you don’t settle down, I’m taking you to sickbay,” he threatened her. “You are way past blended.”

    “Might not be a bad idea,” Maren said as John carefully laid her on top of her bed. “I’m kinda dizzy. Think they have something for dizzy? I need something for dizzy.” She squeezed her eyes closed. “Oh, God, I really need something for dizzy.” She was starting to look a little panicked.

    “What you need is sleep,” said John, kneeling down beside the bed with his face centimeters from hers and reaching up to push a stray lock of blonde hair out of her face. “You’re going to feel awful in the morning. Go see Irina Marchenko in sickbay first thing. She’ll fix you up for work and it won’t go on your medical record.”

    “Irina? The Russian girl?” Maren asked, now beginning to slur her words a bit. “Oh, John, tell me you didn’t.”

    “Didn’t what?” John asked, blushing. He was pretty sure he knew where she was going with this.

    “Sleep with her,” Maren said, although “sleep” came out sounding more like “thleep.”

    “Why not?” he asked defensively. “She’s ridiculously attractive.”

    “I hope you washed it afterward,” Maren said disapprovingly. “The guys in engineering say she gets around. Really gets around.”

    John rolled his eyes. “And I’m some kind of virgin?”

    He instantly realized that had somehow been an unwise thing to say, because suddenly, Maren was looking at him a lot like Irina had the night of the launch. He could almost see the neurons misfiring in her liquor-soaked brain, making her think whatever idea she was currently having was a good one instead of a terrible one. Worse yet, he realized, his own brain was starting to propose some incredibly bad ideas, as well.

    She reached out to touch his face, and before he could stop himself, he leaned forward and kissed her on her glowing orange lips. Despite the fact that he knew she was terribly drunk, there was a part of him that was genuinely shocked when she kissed him back rather than slapping him or pushing him away. The kiss quickly intensified, and it took everything he had to stop it, but he forced himself to pull back before things went any further. This was the last thing either one of them needed.

    As he caught his breath and started thinking again, he looked at Maren to gauge her reaction, and saw that her eyes were squeezed shut, and her features tightly drawn. He realized before she even spoke what was about to happen.

    “J.Q.?” she asked in a small voice, raising her hands to cover her face. “Please don’t take this as a commentary on what just happened, but ... I think I’m going to be sick.”

    John didn’t miss a beat. He lifted her off the bed, and within three seconds, was holding her over the commode in her lavatory, where she proceeded to put on a disgusting but oddly fascinating light show as she expelled the glowing contents of her stomach over the next ten minutes. As John held her and rubbed her back comfortingly, he begged the universe and whatever deities might be listening that this meant she was drunk enough that the kiss would be forgotten. Her life seemed complicated enough, and he really didn’t want to lose either one of his two best friends.
  12. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Wow! Just... wow. Although because of our exchanging PMs I had a good idea of what was going to happen, I absolutely loved this. You really nailed the character exchanges and made them true.

    Seeing everyone relax a little, while still dropping in little reminders of everything that is going on and is at stake (the mention of Icheb, the brief conversation about the missing buoy), was a nice change, preparing us for what is going to come.

    And that ending... I thought you really fleshed out both Maren and John here, and you have made John into a really cool character, struggling with his feelings for Maren. Oh my God, I just had an image of Icheb finding out... I can't wait to see where you go with this!

    Wunderbar! Well done! More!!!!!!!! :)
  13. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Oh, yes, potent alien alcoholic beverage mixed with 20-something hormones. That is a recipe for trouble. :eek:

    John’s got it bad for Maren, though he does try to be a good friend to her and bring her out of her self-imposed shell. However, he may have just opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box, and god forbid Icheb ever finds out about the kiss.

    Great chapter, and some wonderful insights into the young men and women that comprise Tesseract’s crew.
  14. Diogenes

    Diogenes Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Jul 18, 2009
    Kes7! I'm going to consider this last chapter of Tesseract your anniversary present to me (today marks 7 years with my Trek-convert spousal equivalent). This was brilliant. I was more nervous, on the edge of my seat than I have been all through this story. You know I'm a fan of the constant danger and cloak and dagger stuff over on the Redemption as well, but really, there was something about the emotional danger of a prospective union between John and Maren that almost had me nervously biting my nails. I actually spoke out loud ("dont do it dont do it dont do it!!!!") while reading toward the end. Then I WANTED them to do it. Then I was thinking, "I CANNOT believe Kes is gonna do this to Icheb!" Then I thought, "Uhm, Carlos, these are not real people, and Kes has a right to do whatever she pleases with her "people." And that's the crux of the matter vis a vis your legerdemain: I am responding to your characters as if they are "real people." It takes a skilled writer to so deftly dissolve the very need for suspension of disbelief--I believe everything that happens to these people.

    Excellent job, Kes!

    I cant wait to see what you and Cap'n Sarine cook up together. I look forward to reading every new installment of your respective works, but I am convinced that the combination of your styles (the emotionally heightened yet easy-going, languorous exploration of quotidian--and not so quotidian--life on the good ship Tesseract, and Joel's taught, more hardcore, nail-biting "this-is-war!" fare on the badass Redemption) is going to blow me away, like a precision computer-locked transphasic torpedo!

    Much obliged, Kes7.
  15. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    Happy anniversary, Diogenes! Thank you for all the very kind commentary. I have to admit I feel bad for Icheb, too, and I know as well as anyone that he's just pretend, plus I'm the one who did it to him! Then again, I also feel sort of bad for John and Maren -- I can't imagine they're going to be feeling great about themselves when they think this one over. As for the eventual collaboration between Sarine and myself -- I look forward to it as well. We couldn't get it together for the challenge, but we're still planning a joint effort sometime soonish.

    Gibraltar, I answered you over on Ad Astra, too, but yes, your assessment of the dangers of combining strong alien liquor with a bunch of stressed out, overworked single people in their 20s and 30s is spot on. Thanks for the commentary!

    Capt. Sarine, I'm glad you liked the chapter. We'll see what happens with Icheb, how long it takes him to find out, or if he ever finds out at all. Oh, and yes, there's still a lot going on in the background that these people are going to have to deal with when it all eventually blows up. They better enjoy the peace and quiet and ability to enjoy parties while it lasts ...
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2009
  16. Diogenes

    Diogenes Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Jul 18, 2009
    You're most welcome, Kes7. Headed upstate to do some star gazing and D&D playing over the next few days. I will wish upon any falling star I see with all you folks from this forum, especially you, Kes, and Captain Sarine aka Joel, in mind.

  17. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    Thank you very much! Enjoy the stars and the relaxation ...

    -k7, wishing you a happy anniversary
  18. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    Unfortunately, the next installment of Tesseract has been delayed by the havoc the flu is currently wreaking on my household. It's coming, though. I just have to edit it when I'm not completely loopy from Tamiflu. :rolleyes:
  19. KimMH

    KimMH Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jan 14, 2009
    The poster formerly known as ORSE
    Evil Flu!!! It has hit Michigan pretty hard too, half of the mid-state schools closed for about a week because of high absenteeism and the vain hope closing the schools would reduce it's spread. Of course all those children headed to the malls to congregate and spread h1n1 and other germs around . . .

    Thanks for the new chapter! As an old chick who'd rather chew off one of her limbs than be young again I was hoping cooler heads would prevail. Thank goodness for drunken toilet hugging! kind of like an anti-aphrodesiac! No one whose made a remotely similar misjudgment couldn't relate.

    Although your work is short on blood and dying in corridors as phaser-fire shrieks overhead as alarms whistle and wail (not a fan) you're doing an excellent job of

    1) making us care if/when we lose any of these people

    2) showing us what's at stake if we do.

    It's seems terribly cliched to worry about losing a way of life but few things in life matter as much as the freedom to conduct your life the way you wish and to make your own mistakes. That way your trimuphs (sometimes over yourself) are all the sweeter.

    I do hope you feel much better very soon Kes7!!! (for more reason than one - one or two quite selfish)
  20. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001

    “You saw what?” Iden Nix stared at Marcus Lindley in disbelief. She couldn’t believe what she had just overheard. The young ensign whose party she was currently enjoying was talking to a pretty sensor analyst from Astrometrics, and Iden could have sworn he had just told the young woman that he thought he had seen a Borg drone back on the cloaked planet he had visited as part of the captain’s away team. “Why do I get the feeling you didn’t share this information with the rest of the away team?” she asked accusingly.

    Marcus looked back at her, startled by her sudden probing interruption. “I didn’t see anything,” he clarified. “I just thought I did for a fraction of a second. It was my mind playing tricks on me.”

    “How do you know?” Iden retorted.

    “Because that wouldn’t make any sense, that’s how. What would a drone be doing walking around on that tiny cloaked planet? And I only thought I saw it. When I looked more closely, there was nothing there.”

    T’Pring heard the exchange and looked up from her PADD, where she had been dutifully taking notes on the reactions of various Federation species to Tyndoran fire water: “2247 hours: Benzite ensign -- Asleep on floor. Snoring. Trill officer -- observed sitting in the corner talking to herself, staring at her hands. Iden Nix, Bolian -- indistinguishable from her typically illogical, excessively talkative self aside from being flushed a darker shade of blue and appearing slightly unsteady. Humans range from relatively unaffected to utterly incapacitated, depending on body weight and amount consumed.” She noted that Marcus Lindley was in decent shape, having strictly limited his own consumption of the fire water over the course of the evening. In contrast, his roommate Alex Slidell was currently vomiting in the lavatory. Other human officers were making public displays of affection, arguing incoherently with one another about complex theories and philosophies, or in the case of two officers from the operations department, a little bit of both.

    “Ensign Lindley,” T’Pring addressed Marcus.

    “Yes, Ma’am?” he said, looking grateful for the interruption as Iden continued to stare him down.

    “I assume Lieutenant Commander Ryzal informed you that we are at a heightened state of alert, and that any and all unexpected occurrences, no matter how seemingly trivial, are to be reported to a superior officer without delay?”

    Marcus’s face fell. T’Pring was not his rescuer from an uncomfortable conversation -- she was tag-teaming him. He sighed and replied, “Lieutenant, I really don’t think there was anything to tell. I was all worked up about the Borg, I hadn’t had enough sleep, I was wandering around a strange planet, and my mind played a trick on me. There’s no way there was a Borg drone on that planet. It wouldn’t make any sense.”

    “It might make more sense than you think, Ensign,” T’Pring replied coolly. “In any case, it’s not for you to decide.”

    “What are you doing?” Marcus asked anxiously, as T’Pring tapped her combadge.

    “T’Pring to Captain Oyugo.”

    “Come on, are you serious?” It was a stupid question, Marcus knew. Vulcans weren’t exactly known for joking around. He sighed. I knew having senior staff at this party was a bad idea, he thought to himself.

    Inside her quarters, Adele groaned. This had better be good, she thought, at the sound of her combadge chirping just twenty-five minutes after she had returned from her dinner with the Kellers and Julian Bashir.

    “This is the captain, go ahead, Lieutenant.”

    T’Pring’s voice was muffled, as if someone or even several people were trying to talk over her. Adele could just make out her reply. “I’m with Ensign Lindley. He claims to have seen something on the away mission that I think you should be aware of.”

    “I didn’t see anything!” Adele could hear the young man arguing with his superior officer in the background. She could also make out Iden Nix’s voice advising him to shut up. What on Earth is going on? she thought to herself. She sighed.

    “Well, what is it, Lieutenant?” she asked impatiently.

    T’Pring’s voice remained annoyingly serene. “I think he should tell you in a more private setting. We’re with others at the moment.”

    “Fine. The three of you meet me in my ready room in fifteen minutes.”

    “Which three?” asked T’Pring.

    “What do you mean, which three?” Adele replied, exasperated.

    “There are sixteen officers with me. It’s a party,” the Vulcan explained dispassionately. Adele raised her eyebrows in amusement at this, slightly disappointed she had missed out on the fun of seeing her Vulcan science chief at a party.

    “I mean you, Lieutenant Nix, and Ensign Lindley,” she clarified.

    “Captain?” Iden’s voice came through a little louder on the comm.

    “Yes, Ms. Nix?”

    “I don’t think you want Marcus anywhere near the bridge right now. He’s not at his best, if you know what I mean. And by that, I mean he’s drunk.”

    “Iden! I’m not drunk! I’ve only had one -- ”

    “Well, tipsy, anyway,” she cut him off. “Actually, Captain, I might be a tiny bit tipsy, too. You know, maybe just a little. But you still really need to hear what he saw.”

    Adele pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. This had all the makings of another very long night. “Change of venue, then. Report to the large conference room on Deck Eight.”

    “Yes, Captain,” replied T’Pring. As the comm. cut off, Adele could hear Marcus Lindley’s anguished protests. By the sacred chalice, this had better be good, she thought. Drunken ensigns were not on her very short list of desirable companions at this late hour.

    As T’Pring and Iden marched a fearful and slightly inebriated Marcus Lindley toward his fate on Deck Eight, he continued to plead with them.

    “You two are crazy. I said forty times if I said it once, it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I was only telling Ensign Eiyet about it to give her an idea of how much stress I’ve been under since the mission started! She said she was stressed and I was trying to commiserate! You are both bothering the captain over nothing. And you’re more buzzed than I am, Iden. We’re going to be in a lot of trouble and -- ”

    “It’s not against any regulations I’m aware of to drink in our off hours. No one is going to punish anyone for that,” Iden said, cutting him off. “And I guarantee you the Captain will not think this is nothing. We’ve been finding weird Borg debris all over the place, someone tried to access Commander Icheb’s cortical array, and he and the chief engineer were holed up in engineering all day trying to decrypt some Bor -- oh, damn. Forget you heard that -- seriously. I don’t think I’m supposed to say anything about that, so you didn’t hear it. Just know that whatever you saw related to the Borg, the captain is definitely interested.”

    Marcus kept his mouth shut and nodded miserably. How could he argue? Iden outranked him, even drunk.

    When they arrived in the large conference room, Adele was already there waiting for them with two steaming cups of coffee sitting on the conference table. She did not look pleased.

    “Lieutenant Nix, Ensign Lindley, have some coffee.” It was obviously an order, and both officers instantly complied, sitting down in front of the mugs and picking them up to sip the strong brew.

    “T’Pring,” Adele continued, “the only reason I agreed to this is because I trust your judgment. So why don’t you tell me exactly what Ensign Lindley said that made you think you needed to interrupt my evening at 2300 hours to hear about it?”

    T’Pring was unfazed by Adele’s impatient tone. “I apologize for the inconvenience, Captain,” she said calmly, “but I believe you will agree with my assessment. You, of course, recall that Ensign Lindley was part of the surface team at New Tyndora.”

    “Yes, T’Pring, I remember. Go on.”

    “Very well. When you separated from the rest of the group to go contact the Sol, Midran of New Tyndora led those of us who remained on a tour of the parliamentary offices. At some point, Ensign Lindley recalls having seen a Borg drone in one of the hallways.”

    Marcus couldn’t take it. He had claimed no such thing. “Permission to speak freely, Ma’am?” he blurted out.

    Adele looked at him with a combination of sympathy and irritation. She could sense that he was anxious and embarrassed, but if what T’Pring was saying was true, then he might have been sitting on a very important piece of the Tyndoran puzzle for the better part of forty-eight hours. “Please speak, Ensign. I’d love to hear it,” she said levelly.

    “For about a second, I thought I might have seen something. It looked like a drone to me, and I was about to tell Commander Ryzal, but as soon as I looked back to confirm what I had seen, there was nothing there. I’m sure my mind was just playing tricks on me, and I’ve been telling Lieutenants T’Pring and Nix that for the last half hour! The only reason I even brought the whole thing up is that I was trying to let another ensign know she’s not the only one struggling with fears about our mission.”

    Adele assessed the young officer critically for a moment, and sighed. “Ensign, I can relate to apprehensions about the Borg and our mission in general. But it isn’t your responsibility to second-guess your own eyes, even if you are feeling fearful. As a tactical officer, you’re simply supposed to use your eyes and report anything you see as out of the ordinary to your superior officers. They’ll decide what’s worth looking into. Unfortunately, Ensign, you second-guessed yourself right out of doing your duty.”

    Marcus was still a tiny bit buzzed, but the look of displeasure on the captain’s face and the content of her words, even more than the coffee she had given him, were sobering him up fast. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said quietly.

    “Now, tell me step-by-step exactly what you think you saw.”

    Marcus took a deep breath and stared into his coffee mug for a long moment, then swallowed a sip before speaking. “All right,” he began, “I was in the hallway. We had just seen an office -- I’m sorry, Ma’am, they all looked alike, it was late, I was tired and I don’t recall which office it was. Anyway, we were headed toward the hospitality room and I glanced back, only for a second, just to check out the architecture one last time. Well, when I did, I thought I saw what looked like a gray humanoid wearing black body armor, with tubes and wiring and all that, just standing there looking at us. I’ve never seen a Borg drone, well, besides the XO, but he doesn’t really count -- ”

    “No, he doesn’t,” Adele agreed, interrupting a bit sharply. “Continue.”

    “Right. Anyway, I haven’t seen one other than in the database and as holographic representations in my classes at the Academy and at tactical school. So I couldn’t be sure, but it sure looked like one to me. But as I’ve repeatedly said, I only saw it for less than a second, and when I looked back less than a second later, there was nothing there. I didn’t hear footsteps or anything like that, and the acoustics were such that I’m pretty sure I would have if someone had been there and stepped out of sight. I was certain it was just my imagination playing tricks on me.”

    Adele sighed. “Normally, I’d be tempted to agree that your assessment makes perfect sense,” she said, “but I have some evidence that there’s something odd going on with the Tyndorans and the Borg. The presence of a drone on their world might actually make sense, too, in a strange way. Of course, I have no idea what it would mean, but it might possibly explain the contents of that data chip I was given,” she said, glancing at T’Pring. “It could also explain the First Minister’s curiosity about Commander Icheb and our medical technology concerning the removal of Borg implants.”

    “So, let me get this straight. You think I really did see a Borg drone?” Marcus asked, looking rather horrified at the prospect.

    “I think we can’t rule anything out,” Adele replied, “and you really should have known better than to try and do so on your own,” she added sternly. “I’ll be speaking with Commander Ryzal about this and it’s likely he’ll put you on report. At the very least, you’ll be getting some additional training.”

    “Yes, Ma’am,” Marcus replied quietly.

    “So what are we doing about this, Captain?” Iden asked, breaking her uncharacteristic silence.

    Adele sighed. “Nothing, for the moment. I’ll discuss the matter with Commander Icheb as soon as I can. He may already be regenerating for the night. But Iden, I want you to go back over everything that happened with that comm. buoy yesterday. Not now, obviously -- drinking and duty don’t really go well together. But first thing in the morning, I want you to really go through all the data and make sure there’s nothing anomalous you’ve missed. I find the timing of that little hiccup more than a little suspicious all of a sudden.”

    “Yes, Captain,” Iden replied.

    “And T’Pring?”

    “Yes, Captain?”

    “Sickbay has ways of sobering officers up. You might want to stop there first the next time you decide to drag your fellow party guests into an impromptu meeting with the captain.”

    “Actually, Marcus wasn’t a guest, he was the host,” Iden interjected. Realizing it had been an utterly irrelevant comment, she quickly shut her mouth and looked down at the table.

    T’Pring looked surprised at Adele’s suggestion. “I apologize, Captain -- ”

    “Don’t apologize,” Adele said, cutting her off. “You were right to come to me with this. I’m just saying that in the unlikely event that you are again presented with the necessity of bringing officers straight from a drinking party to a meeting, you might give them the opportunity to refresh themselves a bit, first.”


    As T’Pring, Iden and Marcus left the conference room, Adele tapped her combadge. “Oyugo to Icheb.” She was surprised when he replied immediately.

    “Icheb here, go ahead, Captain.”

    “I just heard a very interesting story from one of the tactical officers from the away mission. I thought I’d stop by your quarters to discuss it. Would that be all right with you?”

    “Certainly, Captain.”

    “I’ll see you in a minute. Oyugo out.”

    Adele made the short trip to Icheb’s quarters and buzzed the door. Icheb met her there and opened it with the manual toggle. “Good evening, Captain,” he said, ever polite, but Adele could tell he was tired. She also realized it was the first time she had ever seen her first officer wearing anything other than a Starfleet uniform. He somehow looked even younger than usual, in a long sleeved undershirt, jogging pants and socks.

    “Hello, Icheb. I’m sorry to bother you so late, but you’re going to want to hear this. Where are you and O’Connor on that decryption?”

    “I’m actually working on it right now,” he replied, indicating the PADD he was holding in his hand.

    Adele raised her eyebrows. She wasn’t surprised he was still working at this hour, but she knew she’d have to address it at some point. For the moment, all she asked was, “Have you made any more progress?”

    “I think so, Captain, but it should go more quickly in the morning with Maren’s assistance.”

    “I have to admit I’m a little surprised she’s not helping you now,” Adele commented. “It seems she’s as bad as you are when it comes to working late.”

    “I relieved her of duty at the end of Alpha shift,” Icheb explained. “She was exhausted.”

    “Well, see to it that you don’t meet the same fate,” Adele replied. “Don’t stay up all night working on this. I need a functional first officer even more than I need to know what’s on that chip.” She paused, remembering what Julian had told her earlier, and said, “Oh, and while we’re on the subject of you taking care of yourself, I spoke to Julian Bashir earlier this evening. He says he sent you a request for an appointment. Did you make one?”

    “Not yet, Captain -- ” As Icheb started to make his excuse, Adele suddenly sensed the same thing that had bothered her about the ex-drone since before the mission had even started -- the feeling that he was trying to hide something. She cut him off before he could finish rationalizing his avoidance of the doctor.

    “You will see him within 48 hours. Is that clear? I realize half the fleet tries to stay out the doctor’s office at all costs, but I don’t put up with that kind of thing. He’s concerned about you, and you will go find out why.”

    “Yes, Captain,” Icheb replied flatly. Adele could sense his displeasure with the order she had given, but she was unsympathetic. He quickly added, “Is that why you came to see me?” The irritated, doubtful look on his face made it quite clear he knew it was not.

    Adele shook her head and smiled slightly. “No, of course it’s not,” she told him. “Let’s go sit down.” They walked over to the sitting area, where Icheb listened with interest as Adele repeated what Marcus Lindley had told her. When she had finished, Icheb looked down at the PADD in his hands.

    “That may explain the origin of this data,” he observed.

    “Perhaps,” agreed Adele. “But let’s not be too quick to jump to conclusions. I get the feeling that nothing is as it seems with those people. Let’s just get all the facts we can.”

    “Agreed,” replied Icheb. “Will we be returning to Tyndora?”

    Adele sighed heavily. She had been considering the same thing. “I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by that until we have something more conclusive than one scared ensign’s story and a chip full of data we can’t even read yet,” she answered. “We’ll be in the Delta Quadrant in a few days, if nothing else happens to trip us up. For now, we’ll just continue as planned. We’ll re-evaluate after you and O’Connor translate whatever’s on that chip. That's top priority for both of you for now.”

    “Yes, Captain,” Icheb replied. Adele rose to leave, and stopped as she neared the door, turning back to face Icheb.

    “One last thing, Icheb,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to tell you since I returned -- you did an excellent job commanding the ship while I was away. That was a lot to throw at you your first week as XO, and you handled it expertly. The gel packs, the Q, the advisory board ... I’m really impressed. It’s nice to know that if I’m not available for any reason, the ship is in capable hands.”

    At this, Icheb smiled. “Thank, you, Captain,” he said appreciatively.

    “No, thank you, Commander,” Adele replied. “Now, please get some rest. And don’t forget to make an appointment with Doctor Bashir.”

    Icheb’s smile instantly faded. “Yes, Captain,” he replied, as she walked out the door. As soon as she was gone, he headed for his alcove. If he was going to try and pass any kind of examination by the CMO, he would need all the regeneration he could get.