Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by kes7, Jul 18, 2009.
No pressure - just want you to know what a pleasure it is to see another installment pop up!
Two days into the roughly two-week journey to their arrival point in the Delta Quadrant, the soft blue glow of the quantum slipstream constantly visible outside every window was starting to feel monotonous to Maren O’Connor. She had been on starships at warp before, of course, even for days at a time, but as irrational as it was, the slipstream felt vaguely different to her somehow, and she found herself growing restless. As she assigned one more crewman to replace yet another set of failed gel packs, it occurred to her that she could really use some recreation.
The reality of her life as chief engineer of the USS Tesseract was somewhat different than her childhood daydreams of space travel. As a little girl growing up on her family’s farm outside Morgantown, she had watched the dazzling rural skies at night and marveled at the hundreds of tiny lights that danced across the blackness with such astonishing speed -- humans just like her, going on adventures throughout the galaxy. She had never doubted for a moment that she would join them up there one day. In her imaginings, however, she had been a bold adventurer, flying a little ship of her own, plotting her own course, looking out the front window, seeing stars and galaxies whiz by. She hadn’t understood at age seven that her daydreams violated half a dozen laws of physics and hundreds of Starfleet safety protocols. She just knew she wanted to be up there with the pretty lights, seeing new worlds and new species in person, instead of always looking them up in the databases at school.
Throughout her growing up years, she had studied harder than any of her classmates with one single goal in mind, to earn herself a spot at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. She had been giddy with excitement when she found out she had passed the Academy entrance exam. Upon starting classes, she had quickly realized that her less-academic childhood pursuits were what would enable her to shine as a Starfleet officer. Her summer days spent tinkering with and repairing all manner of sophisticated farm equipment and other random technology were perhaps an early sign of a natural aptitude for engineering that was unparalleled in her class. Maren seemed to have an innate talent for figuring out how to make machines and systems work when no one else could. Her skill had served her well, for here she was, chief engineer of the most advanced ship in the fleet, about to explore a region of the galaxy few humans had ever seen before.
Though she enjoyed the work she was doing and wouldn’t trade her spot on the mission for anything, she had to admit it had been a difficult start. The ship’s bio-neural gel packs had been plagued by constant failures, and while the sickbay doctors had a few ideas about what could be going on, they hadn’t actually solved the problem yet. Then there were her issues with the ship’s first officer. She had gone out of her way to avoid Icheb since he had come to her quarters his first night on board. This had required significant planning and occasional improvisation on her part, given their prominent roles on the ship, and she was mentally exhausted from the effort. Not only that, but she had been more worried about him than ever since Julian Bashir had enlisted her help to create a device to constantly monitor Icheb’s neural transceiver and shut it down in an emergency. She knew the basics of what had happened on the away mission, but she didn’t know how it had affected Icheb, how he was dealing with any of it, or how the rest of his implants were doing after all this time, and the worry she felt for him was driving her crazy.
Maren needed a break, badly. When her shift ended at 16:00 hours, she tapped her combadge as she headed for her quarters. “O’Connor to Quigley,” she said.
“Maren! Where have you been?”
“Working too much. Are you on duty?” Maren asked.
“I just got off. What about you?”
“Same. Want to grab something at the replimat and go do something?”
“Sure, what did you have in mind?”
“I don’t know,” said Maren, stepping into the turbolift, “but if I don’t get away from malfunctioning gel packs and quantum field calculations for a few hours, I’m going to go insane.”
“Want to hit the holodeck?” John asked.
“I gave all my hours away,” Maren replied apologetically.
“In two days?”
“Well, six days, when you count the pre-launch stuff. I gave them away as bonuses for exceptional performance.”
“Smart. I bet the enlisted staff love you.”
“I don’t know about love, but they’ve certainly been efficient.”
“Okay, Icheb,” John replied, teasing her. He loved to make fun of her whenever she sounded even remotely stereotypically Borg, knowing that it was Icheb’s appreciation for efficiency and order -- along with a bit of standard Borg vocabulary -- that had rubbed off on the formerly chaotic and disorganized Maren during their five years together. Words that invited instant harassment included “Clarify,” “Explain,” “Efficient,” and “Comply.”
“Shut up, John,” Maren laughed despite herself, realizing she had set herself up for that. “I’ll meet you in fifteen minutes. I want to get out of this uniform.”
“See you then. Quigley out.”
Maren reached her quarters a moment later and removed her flight suit, hanging it up neatly in the closet. She changed into civilian clothing, slipping a warm, nearly knee-length cream-colored tunic over her dark gray high-necked off-duty undershirt and pulling on thick gray leggings. The soft layers warmed her up immediately, which was a relief. She was always cold in space. The environmental controls never seemed to be set the way she preferred them. She attached her rank pips to the collar of her undershirt and pinned on her combadge before slipping on her shoes and leaving the room.
When she arrived at the replimat, John was waiting for her, also wearing civilian clothing. Maren noticed the many young crewwomen checking him out and couldn’t resist a grin. John, for all his tall, rugged good looks made him a center of female attention, was a terminal failure with women. In the seven years they had known each other, he had gone through 32 short-lived “relationships” and at least as many one-night stands, at least according to Icheb’s last calculations two years ago, which Maren could only assume had been correct. She could only imagine how many alien girls he had crashed and burned with during his time on the Titan -- she’d have to ask him about it sometime. John’s problem had never been getting the girl -- keeping her was the problem. Maren was at a loss as to how to explain the phenomenon, fond as she was of her friend, but clearly, he was doing something wrong.
John grinned back at her as they walked toward the line for the replicators. “What are you smiling at?” he asked with amusement.
“You, and the way every girl in here is looking at you,” Maren replied.
“You should thank me for making you look good,” John said jokingly. Maren rolled her eyes.
They ordered their meals and carried the trays over to an empty table just outside the entrance to the replimat. From this vantage point, they could see almost everything happening on the recreation deck. They both sat in silence for a moment, eating and watching the living scenery pass by.
“So how was your first meeting with the counselor?” Maren asked. She knew John had been apprehensive about it.
John gave a noncommittal shrug. “It went okay. She asks a lot of questions that I don’t know how to answer.”
“I don’t know, just questions.”
Maren gave John a look. “Okay. I’m not your counselor. You don’t have to tell me anything. But I think the captain might be on to something, having you do this. You’re the consummate peacemaker until you’re not, and then you’re really, really not,” she said, recalling the horrific fights he had gotten into at the Academy. “It’s always kind of amazed me. Maybe you need to start expressing your true feelings more, or something.”
John made a face and scoffed at this, even though Maren’s words were eerily similar to the ones the counselor had actually used. “Yes, I’m sure the new, sensitive John Quigley will be a hit with the other security and tactical officers,” he said sarcastically.
“You’re hopeless,” said Maren. “Seriously, I think a seeing a counselor is a great idea. Maybe I’ll start seeing her, too,” she added nonchalantly, taking a bite of her stir-fried noodles.
“I think you should,” replied John. “Maybe she can convince you to quit with that ice queen shit you’ve been pulling on Icheb since we all got here.”
“He told me to keep things professional,” replied Maren matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, well your behavior has been anything but.”
Maren put down her fork and stared at John in surprise. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. You’re the only chief engineer in history who sends underlings to take status reports to the captain. Every other chief jumps at the chance to remind the captain she exists, but not Maren O’Connor. She’s too busy avoiding the XO. For fuck’s sake, Maren, don’t the both of you have enough to worry about on this mission without this ridiculous drama? Can’t you two just talk about it like adults?”
“We tried that already.”
“Before the away mission? Icheb told me about that, but he wouldn’t tell me what happened.”
“I’m not surprised, since he wound up kissing me and then I slapped him so hard I almost broke my hand on his cortical array.” It was John’s turn to look surprised.
“No, he didn’t mention that part.” He looked down at his plate for a moment, then looked back up. “You really hit him?”
“Not my proudest moment, that’s for sure, but apparently lack of closure turns me into a real bitch,” Maren said ruefully.
“So, wait a minute -- he just walked in there and planted one on you?” John smirked wickedly. “Go, Icheb!”
Maren rolled her eyes. “That’s not what happened. Well, not completely. He came in saying something about keeping things professional between us, and I got kind of mad at him and then he just kissed me.”
“Did you kiss him back?”
“John! No, of course not!” She sighed. “Well, for a second, maybe. I was really shocked and confused. But I stopped him right away and then ... you know, hit him.”
“Do you think he still loves you?”
Maren sighed again. “I don’t know. Does it matter?”
“Does it matter to you?”
Maren looked down at her plate and dejectedly pushed her food around with her fork. “He’s our XO,” she said unconvincingly.
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Yes, okay? Fine, yes, of course it matters. We wouldn’t be talking about this if it didn’t. God, you have been seeing a counselor. You sound just like one.”
“You should talk to him,” said John, undaunted.
“And say what? I still love you and want to marry you even though you’re my commanding officer, as well as a jerk who left me without saying goodbye?”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
“And when was your last successful relationship, again?”
“Touché. And ouch.” John put on an exaggerated expression of hurt.
“That’s what I thought. Are you finished with your dinner? Maybe we should get out of here.”
John nodded and wiped his mouth, then grabbed his tray with its half-eaten French fries and headed for the recycler. Maren followed closely behind. “You know, we both clearly need to blow off some steam,” John said. “How about some sparring?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me," Maren said, rolling her eyes. "You’re twice my size, that's hardly a fair fight.”
“All the more reason for you to practice with me. If we ever run into a real combat situation, I don’t think a hostile alien is going to give you a break just for being a lightweight. Come on, I’ll go easy on you to start.”
“If we ever get into a real combat situation, I plan to be well-armed,” Maren shot back. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“You can’t plan your battles, Maren. You’ve always been weak in tactical, I’m giving you a chance to learn from the best.”
“Who says you’re the best?” Maren protested.
“I do,” replied John. “Captain Riker did too, once, I overheard him talking to someone about me. Can't get a better reference than that, my friend," he said proudly, quickly adding, "Don’t worry, we’ll do something with padding so you don’t get hurt.”
Fifteen minutes later, Maren and John faced off in one of the practice rooms off the large physical training area. The rooms were reserved for physical activity and training only, and were effectively tiny holodecks with limited program options that could be used first-come, first-served in thirty-minute increments instead of the usual two hours reserved well in advance for full holodeck programs. John set the room up for a sparring program and had Maren change into a lightweight protective suit before helping her onto a small platform. He took his tunic off, leaving him wearing his slacks and his fitted off-duty undershirt.
“Okay, your job is to stay up here,” he said, “while I try and knock you down.”
Maren looked at him in disbelief. “You’re serious.”
“Yes. You spend half your waking hours up on that stupid catwalk in engineering. What if you were up there and a hostile intruder tried to push you over the side?”
Maren sighed. “This is ridiculous. Fine. If it makes you happy, go ahead and push me off.”
“The point is to stop me,” insisted John.
“Oh, that should be a piece of cake,” retorted Maren sarcastically as she eyed his wiry 6’4” frame.
John had the computer count down to start. When the buzzer sounded, he predictably had no trouble sweeping Maren right off her feet and tossing her over the side of the platform. She landed hard on her shoulder, protective suit preventing injury, and popped back up with an annoyed look on her face. “This is stupid,” she said angrily.
John reached down and helped her back up onto the platform. “You didn’t even try, Maren. As soon as that buzzer sounds, you should be rushing at me. You’ve got to be aggressive and get the element of surprise, especially since you’re so much smaller. Get below my center of gravity; take me out at the knees. You can do this,” he encouraged her.
Maren took a deep breath and adjusted the lightweight helmet she was wearing. Again they waited for the buzzer to sound. This time, she started running at John before the countdown was finished, only to have him effortlessly leap out of her way, her momentum sending her crashing off the platform once more. “You ass!” she cried. “What was that? I did exactly what you told me to do!”
“That was your first mistake,” John said calmly. “Never trust your adversary. Besides, you think an attacker is really just going to stand there while you get a running start and barrel into him at top speed?” Maren stood with her hands planted defiantly on her hips and made no reply. She was frustrated and embarrassed. She hated sparring, hated any kind of physical confrontation. Slapping Icheb had been a complete aberration for her. She was starting to want to hit John, though.
“Fine,” she said finally, reaching up for his assistance. “Let’s go again.”
“That’s the spirit,” said John with enthusiasm as he pulled her back onto the platform.
This time, when the buzzer went off, Maren stood her ground. As John went to grab her, she ducked down and elbowed him hard between the legs, then shifted her body weight forward to shove him off the platform. To her surprise, it actually worked. He fell off the platform, grabbing his groin and moaning, while laughing at the same time.
“Maybe ... I should have ... worn ... a protective ... suit ... too,” he choked out between gasps and pained laughter. He caught his breath and added weakly, “Nicely done.”
Maren jumped off the platform and removed her helmet, placing her hand on John’s arm. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry!”
“No, no, don’t apologize, that was exactly what you were supposed to do. I just didn’t think you’d actually do it,” said John, pulling himself into a sitting position.
Maren grinned at him. “Don’t underestimate me, J.Q.,” she said, using the nickname she’d given him at the Academy. “Want to go again?”
John looked at her in surprise and laughed. “I thought you hated this,” he teased her.
“I’m starting to feel like I’m blowing off steam,” Maren replied gamely. They climbed back onto the platform and faced off several more times, with Maren now giving as good as she was getting. John still won most of the spars, but Maren stayed up longer and longer each time, and a couple of times managed to knock him off his feet again. He noted gratefully that she was kind enough to avoid the groin area as they continued.
Twenty minutes later, they were both sweaty and exhausted, and both smiling from ear to ear. “Better than sex,” claimed John as he waited for Maren to get dressed again, behind a small partition.
“I don’t know about that,” replied Maren as she twisted her slightly damp hair into a loose bun. “But it was definitely exactly what I needed today. Thanks, John,” she said sincerely.
“Anytime,” he replied. They shut the holo-emitters down and left the practice room together.
This is the kind of genuine character interplay that creates 3-dimensional people, not just fictional caricatures. I think I learned more about both Maren and Quigley in this segment than anytime previously. Both have their issues, their strengths, and their weaknesses, but they're going to need to build upon the trust they have in each other for the crises that are surely to come in the next seven years.
Really top notch stuff!
I couldn't agree more, with all Gibralta said. And am I crazy or do Maren and John have some chemistry? It was so subtle, as if they haven't even realized it yet themselves.
You deserve kudos not just for the characterization, but for the kind of writing that nods respectfully to the reader's intelligence. I always wondered how they worked it out on the Enterprise D or on Voyager, having two or three holodecks and, in the case of Enterprise, almost a thousand people. Your brief explanation of how the Tesseract's miniholodecks work with so large a crew was a deft and appreciated touch.
Thanks so much for another terrific chapter, Kes. I am more interested in all of these characters the more you are generous enough to gift us--and you had me from the start.
This smooth, playful interlude makes me all the more eager and anxious to see more of the Admiral.
Please, Kes, can I have some more?
I enjoyed this. I think character development interludes are equally important to sequences where really big things happen. It gets us invested in them as people. Very nicely done.
As posted over on Ad Astra:
I loved this chapter kes7. The interaction and dialogue between JQ and Maren was fun and illuminating. They said a lot about the other's character and traits. Obviously knowing each other so well means that they have a good read on one another. His concern to fill in her tactical training is touching but I think he also knew that she needed and opportunity to blow off steam and to be hitting something. I loved to how she was embarrassed about hitting Icheb but decided she was liking hitting John as the training progressed. There were lots of other funny lines and moments peppered throughout their conversation.
Likewise, I was impressed at Maren's recollections of youth and her aspirations to go out into the stars. It was related in a very clear and simple way but bespoke a lot of her character and dreams. It was very well put together chapter encompassing quite a lot, with different little scenes but devoted to characterisation. A real strength to your writing plus it gives the reader a happy contented feeling. Well done and I like the time out to explore the characters more. Hopefully this transit to the DQ will afford some more pieces like this. But that's just me being greedy.
Great slice of life / character development! Always such a pleasure! Maybe you're selling yourself too cheaply here - Clark & Palmieri won't pay you when we get it for free - lucky us!
Well, if this story didn't violate their rules of submission about five different ways, I might have tried to sell it to them! But I'm having fun telling it anyway. Considering this is the first time I've done anything like this, I could probably use the practice.
Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I was nervous about posting this chapter because of the lack of plot development, but there's simply not much going on yet on the long trip to the DQ. (Operative word being yet. Insert foreboding, maniacal laughter here.) Now is the time to get to know some people a bit better.
Well..good. I like good character development so its fine with me. And you do it well..
Character development lets you care about fictional characters and give a damn if they are in danger or get hurt or fall in love. It's the difference between Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Great vs pretty good.
Standing in line at the replimat, Icheb looked out at the post-Alpha shift crowds milling around the recreation deck. He noticed John and Maren walking down the concourse toward the turbolifts, and experienced a small pang of jealousy as he saw John gently put his hand on Maren’s back as if to guide her through the dinnertime crowd while the two friends strolled past the packed replimat, laughing and chatting nonstop. It wasn’t that he suspected John of having any intentions toward Maren, but it hurt a bit to see them so easily picking up their friendship where it had left off, while Icheb and Maren couldn’t be in the same room together without Maren shutting down completely.
He knew he had to figure out what to do about their situation. The first officer and the chief engineer could not go seven years without speaking, that much was obvious. The problem was, he didn’t know how to go about solving the problem. What he wanted, what he was supposed to do, and what was actually likely to happen were three such very different scenarios that he couldn’t begin to calculate probabilities of success.
If he was honest with himself, he had to admit that he wanted everything to go back to the way it had been back on Earth, before The Doctor had given him the worst news of his already remarkably difficult life and he had stupidly reacted by running away from the best thing that had ever happened to him. Until he had come face-to-face with her on the bridge of the Tesseract, he hadn’t truly realized how much he had missed Maren. She was one of the very few people he’d met since his arrival in the Alpha Quadrant who actually saw him for who he was -- not an ex-drone, not a biological weapon, not a genius, not a curiosity, not a liability or an asset. To Maren, he had somehow always just been Icheb, and to his amazement, she had loved him for it. When he thought of how rashly he had made the decision to leave her, and how stubborn he’d been in adhering to it, he wished he could bend time somehow and start over again -- or, failing that, just put the ring back on Maren’s finger and pretend the last two years had never happened. Obviously, that was a fantasy that could not and would not come true.
He had been tasked with ensuring their professional interaction. So far, he had failed. He had crossed the line that night in Maren’s quarters by kissing her, and since then, he had only come face to face with her twice, once at a senior staff meeting and once by accident. The first time, she had studiously avoided looking at anything but her PADD for the entire hour-long meeting, and the second time, she had left the area so quickly that if it hadn’t been for his cybernetically-enhanced memory, he might have believed he had imagined her presence.
As for the likely outcome, Icheb wasn’t certain. It had only been less than a week since he and Maren had both arrived on the Tesseract. A lot had happened since then, but not much time had passed, and it was obvious Maren needed some more time to process her emotions before he could expect her to really talk to him. Unfortunately, time was something he didn’t feel he had a lot of these days -- not that he had ever been a very patient person to begin with. It was torture waiting to see if she would come around, and seeing her so seemingly happy as she walked with John was like rubbing salt in the wound. He was glad to see her smiling again, but he couldn’t help but wish it was at him.
As he reached the front of the line for the replicators, Icheb ordered a liquid nutritional supplement and sat down with a stack of PADDs. He had several department reports to read through. He chose a seat in a relatively quiet corner and sat down to review the reports, sipping the thick white drink through a straw as he read.
Ten minutes later, Adele Oyugo walked into the replimat, inadvertently creating a panic. “Captain on the deck!” someone shouted, and the smarter two-thirds of the officers and crewmen snapped to attention while the slower one-third and the handful of civilians present merely gawked. It was the first time the captain had made it down to the recreation deck, and she realized with a start what she had done.
“At ease!” she said loudly, putting her hand up as if to beg them to stop. “As you were,” she emphasized, when they failed to immediately resume their activities. Gradually, the officers and crewmen settled down, but many of the lower-ranked personnel spoke in hushed tones and nervously glanced the captain’s way every so often. Adele ignored this and looked around until she located the person the ship’s computer had told her she would find here. She was somehow unsurprised to see him sitting alone, working. She strode casually over to his otherwise empty table.
“Commander, is this seat taken?” Adele asked.
Icheb looked up in surprise. “No, Captain,” he said. “Please sit down.”
“We’re off-duty, please call me Adele,” she said, settling into the chair across from her first officer.
“Then you call me Icheb,” he replied reasonably, setting down the PADD he had been reading.
“I’ll do that. I was hoping, Icheb, that you and I could talk a bit about the advisory board, among other things. Are you busy?”
Icheb shook his head and pushed the PADDs aside. “I was just reviewing these department reports. It won’t take me long to finish, it can wait.”
“Anything exciting happening?”
“Astrometrics found a wormhole. It’s highly unstable. We’ve been urged to steer clear. Sickbay reports an outbreak of Levodian flu. Three cases so far, all quarantined in sickbay until the risk of contagion is over. The Engineering crew is working with remarkable efficiency. I’m not sure what Mar -- Lieutenant O’Connor -- did, but --”
“Icheb, I’m aware you’re on a first-name basis with the chief engineer,” Adele interrupted. “Please don’t feel like you have to hide it from me.” Icheb looked at the captain in surprise.
“Respectfully, Captain -- I mean, Adele -- what are you saying?”
“I’m saying you can call her Maren in front of me, and anything else is your business as long as you keep it your business.”
“Clarify,” Icheb requested cautiously.
Adele sighed. “Due to John Quigley’s behavior on the away mission, I spent an inordinate amount of time the other day looking through his personnel file, which inevitably led me to dig a little deeper into yours and Maren’s. The transcripts from Lieutenant Quigley’s Academy disciplinary hearings paint a pretty vivid picture. Miss O’Connor must have been very fond of you to stick by you through all that,” she said sympathetically. “It sounds like she took some significant abuse from other cadets over her relationship with you. I’m terribly sorry you both had to experience that.”
Icheb stared at Adele and said nothing, caught off guard by the sudden intimacy of the conversation.
“Listen to me, Icheb,” continued Adele. “If you want to pursue a friendship or romantic relationship with Maren O’Connor, I am not going to interfere as long as it doesn’t spill over into either of your duties or become a shipwide scandal. You’re both remarkable young officers and I believe you’re capable of handling something like this with discretion.”
“We’re not involved anymore,” said Icheb.
“That may be true. But I’m an empath, Icheb. I know you two have feelings for each other. So all I’m saying is, if this is something you choose to pursue, I’m not going to be the one to stop you, unless you let it interfere with your work. I lost someone I loved dearly when I was about your age, and as a result, I’m not in the business of keeping people apart. Life’s too short.” Icheb winced at the specific poignancy of that particular Earth cliché. If Adele noticed his discomfort, she didn’t let on.
“You said you wanted me to keep things professional,” he said, looking puzzled.
“Professionalism doesn’t preclude romantic relationships, pursued in your off hours, with proper boundaries between work and play. Professionalism does preclude intentional avoidance, the silent treatment, and angst-filled stares, all of which you two have been indulging in to a ridiculous degree since you both arrived on board. Please, get a handle on it,” Adele replied with a hint of exasperation. Icheb blushed and nodded.
“Good. Now that that’s out of the way, can we discuss the advisory board?” she asked.
“Certainly,” Icheb answered, cheeks and ears still tinged red with embarrassment.
“Excellent,” replied Adele. “I want to know what you think of them.”
“What I think of them,” repeated Icheb.
“Yes, what is your assessment of the advisory board? Do you think their advice is sound? Do you think they have a strong understanding of the nature of this mission? If not, do you think there’s anything we can do to help foster that? We’re stuck with them for seven years, Icheb, we need to present a unified front and get a handle on our interactions with them now. I wasn’t happy with the way that meeting went after the launch ceremony.”
Icheb recalled the meeting. It had been rambling and all over the place, and much of it had consisted of a blonde lawyer named Eleanor Gentry peppering him with loaded questions about his Borg implants while the flag officer, Admiral Shane Beckley, sat in a corner smirking at either her questions or Icheb’s answers -- he hadn’t been able to tell which. The two retired Captains had sat quietly for the most part, and the Betazoid counselor had spent the entire time tapping intently at a PADD, seemingly lost in another dimension. No, Icheb had not liked the way the meeting had gone, either, and he told Adele so.
“So what would you suggest we do?” asked Adele. Icheb thought a moment.
“First of all, I’d call as few of those meetings as possible. They’re inefficient and a waste of time.” Icheb was completely serious, but Adele laughed as if he had said something very funny.
“I agree completely. What next?” she asked.
“I would prepare specific questions targeted to the area of expertise of each board member, in advance.”
“Excellent. From now on, that’s your job,” said Adele. “What else?”
“Maybe we should have some sort of formal guidelines for their questions, some kind of structure or procedural rules. Eleanor Gentry was completely inappropriate in her questioning of me at that meeting. I almost yelled at her,” Icheb admitted.
Adele looked surprised at this. She had been so busy trying to get a read on the silent Admiral that she hadn’t paid much attention to how Icheb was feeling during Eleanor Gentry’s courtroom-style grilling. Eleanor had indeed made the interrogation almost personal, displaying an obvious bias against the very idea of an ex-drone serving on a Federation starship. It made sense that Icheb would have felt attacked, and she knew she herself would not have been nearly as polite as he had been under the attorney’s aggressive scrutiny. She made a note to pay better attention next time so as to intervene before things progressed to the point of hurt feelings. The last thing she wanted was for Icheb to break his calm demeanor and give the advisory board something else to worry about.
“Okay, these are all good suggestions,” Adele said, taking out her own small PADD and making some notes. “Anything else?”
Icheb thought for a moment and slowly shook his head. “I can’t think of anything else right now, but if I come up with something, I’ll let you know,” he replied. “What about you?” he asked. “What do you think of the board?”
“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen and a total pain in my ass,” Adele replied honestly. “I think Eleanor Gentry is obnoxious and Admiral Beckley scares the hell out of me. But I’m glad they’re there if we need them. There are some decisions I wouldn’t want to have to make alone.”
“Such as?” asked Icheb, curious.
Adele hesitated. She had been thinking mostly of decisions Admiral Janeway had been forced to make during her time in the Delta Quadrant with regard to the Borg, not the least of which included the time she had been forced to decide whether to use a weaponized deadly pathogen on a group of immature drones. Icheb had been one of them; in fact, Adele had seen the file from the incident, which contained a holographic image of a very young Icheb as he had looked as a Borg drone -- nightmare fodder, as far as she was concerned. Adele was not certain that in the same position, she would have made the same decision Janeway had, a decision that had saved Icheb’s life and liberated him from the Collective. She absolutely could not tell him that.
“Let’s just say your former Captain had to make a lot of hard choices in the Delta Quadrant all on her own, and I’m grateful I won’t be as solely responsible as she was if we’re forced to make those kinds of choices, too,” she said. She added sincerely, “For one thing, I’m glad I have you here with me to help.” Icheb smiled at this, and Adele was glad she had made the effort to locate him after hours and come talk to him in a more relaxed setting. She felt a bit more connected to her first officer, far less wary and distrustful. “Is that all you’re eating?” she asked, pointing to the empty glass that had held Icheb’s nutritional supplement. “I know a place where we can grab some dinner,” she joked, pointing to the wall of replicators behind her.
Icheb had other plans. “Actually, if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go catch up with a friend.”
Adele gave him a knowing look. “Just remember to be discreet, Number One,” she reminded him. Icheb reacted with surprise at the traditional nickname for a first officer, which he had, of course, never heard used in reference to him before. He found he liked it, despite, or maybe even because of its odd similarity to a Borg designation. He smiled appreciatively at Adele.
“Thank you, Captain,” he said. He grabbed his stack of PADDs and walked out of the replimat with a sudden abundance of nervous energy, trying to formulate the words he would say to Maren, if he could possibly get her to listen.
KES 7!!!!! That was pitch perfect, the interaction between the Captain and Icheb. I love getting to read these chapters for free, but if certain someones decide to pay you for your work, I will be first in line at the register.
I find myself trying to cast the characters. Perhaps some of your army of fans have ideas.
By the way, the second my mind registered the words "Number One," I felt a swelling in my chest, and a connection stretching from Adele and Icheb, through Picard and Riker, all the way back to Pike and the original "No. 1." Come to think of it, Icheb and the original No. 1 share certain personality traits: precision, clarity, forthrightness, manifold superlative technical proficiency, and an endearing, emotionally ergonomic interpersonal awkwardness.
Thanks again, Kes, and again, and again, and again, for as many times as you keep making my days with these chapters. Great stuff.
That was a very nice, very laid back captain and first officer moment. For all his intelligence, knowledge of the Delta Quadrant, and Borg-savvy, Icheb is emotionally very young (as his interactions with Maren have underscored). I appreciated that Adele is able to use her own personal history to encourage appropriate relationships among her senior staff, rather than freezing any possibility of a reunion between those two for seven long years.
As she herself realizes, she's going to have to trust in him, in his loyalty and his judgment, or this mission doesn't have a chance at success.
And as much as I worry about Adele's being able to stand strong against a unified advisory board, what happens the first time the captain is abducted or incapacitated, and Icheb has to take a stand against them? Will they usurp his authority? And part of me wonders if the attorney wasn't directed by the admiral to savage Icheb while he observed, probing for weaknesses.
Wonderful material here with very strong characterizations filling in the gaps in our knowledge of these very real characters.
Diogenes, thank you for the extremely kind comments. I'm so glad you're liking the story, and I love your comparison of Number One and Icheb -- very perceptive on your part, I hadn't really thought about their similarities.
Gibraltar, I love how you assume Adele's abduction and/or incapacitation (multiple instances, as indicated by your use of "the first time") is a foregone conclusion. You must have heard the nasty rumors about the DQ not being such a great neighborhood.
Loved the "number One" thing too. Although, unbidden, it made me wonder if poor Mr. Quigly is #2?
A wonderful installment - the more you show us of both Icheb and Adele the more I like them.
I'm merely using the last mission to the Delta Quadrant as a statistical baseline.
Over the passed two days I've finally caught up with the latest chapter and I have to say this has been an excellent read. I like all the characters so far; and having Bashir and Icheb as part of the crew was a pleasant surprise, they are two characters I didn't dislike from their respective series, and wondered how things would be down the road for them. Good job.
Adele is a pretty good and competant Captain, I look forward to seeing more of her growth throughout these next seven years.
Maren and J.Q. do show a good chemistry together, makes me curious if a love triangle will ensure between her, J.Q. and Icheb.
What kinds of weapon systems does the Tesseract have anyways? O.o I'm very curious about this too.
I have just sat in the past six hours and read all of the installments so far - kudos, you've got me willing to read the rest of the adventures of the crew of the Tesseract.
Only thing I didn't like - in direct contrast to most people - was the Council which seemed, by and large, pointless. If Starfleet was concerned about putting such a relatively inexperienced person in command of the ship, then they ought to have just assigned someone more experienced - and if they were worried about diplomatic issues, assigned someone from the Federation Diplomatic Corps.
One question - we've had a scene set on the Bridge, but what does the Bridge look like?
I'm so glad!
I don't think they're worried so much about Adele commanding the ship, hence the Admiral's supposedly limited role there. Simple diplomacy isn't really the issue, either. I think the advisory board is much more a reaction to the massive impact Janeway had -- for good and for bad -- as a single starship captain in a quadrant we knew little about. From Starfleet's perspective, they have a bunch of adversaries in the DQ now, and only the word of Janeway and her tight-knit crew (including former Maquis and Borg) as to what actually happened there. Adele has the potential to have even more influence, given the size of the ship and crew she's commanding. They wanted someone to be able to override her (the Admiral), someone who was well-versed in Federation law to point out potential ethical and legal violations (the lawyer), someone who could monitor the Captain's emotional well-being under pressure (the counselor) and a couple of extra strategic minds that don't answer directly to Adele in order to help her objectivity. You're not alone in disliking the concept -- Adele and Icheb aren't thrilled with it, either.
Honestly, you can imagine it any way that makes you happy. The way I imagine it is "Intrepid class meets nuTrek," only bigger. It's square like the ship, fairly large, and very high tech. More floating holographic displays than screens, significantly upgraded LCARS interfaces. Remember that this is a good fifteen years after Voyager was commissioned and much of the ship has essentially been reverse engineered from advanced alien and future technology -- it's a lot slicker and more complex than the Intrepid class was. Another inspiration for the look I'm imagining is Voyager's Astrometrics lab. Advanced technology, extremely functional, but still kind of pretty.
These are all my imaginings. Your mileage may vary. If slick and shiny turns you off, you can imagine it looks different and it won't affect the story that much. That's the fun of reading as opposed to movies sometimes -- didn't you ever read something and then the movie came out and you were like "THAT'S not what it/he/she looks like!" Same deal.
I'm really glad you like it. Regarding any speculation regarding romances and character development, I'm keeping my mouth firmly shut so as not to spoil the fun. Regarding weapons systems .... we'll get to that. Suffice it to say for now that they're about as well armed as it gets for Starfleet.
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