“No, no, no. This will not do.”
Commander Ronnie Kozar stood on the bridge of the Lambda Paz
reading a status report from Chief Engineer Charles Logan
. He had an urge to slam the padd in his right hand onto a table before noticing there was no table in front of him. He glanced at Commander Logan on his left and Lieutenant Morrison on his right. He then sauntered towards the conn station and stared at the station’s status board. “And they expect us to launch in 24 hours?” he asked, letting out a frustrated sigh.
“Starfleet needs all the ships it can muster,” Morrison offered, even knowing that was of little consolation. Anything less than perfection wounded a CO’s pride even if Kozar had not been officially named this ship’s captain.
“We’ve had three years to prepare for a war with the Dominion!” he shouted across the bridge. “Add to that, the continuing Borg threat. And Starfleet is sending out substandard ships?”
“With all due respect, sir,” Logan offered, “the Luna
-class starship was initially designed for exploration rather than war.”
“I don’t want to hear excuses, Mr. Logan,” Kozar replied gibing the engineer a stern look. “See what progress you can make in the next 24 hours.”
Logan nodded and headed for the port turbolift. Kozar took another look at the padd muttering, “I’d like to give Doctor Ra-Havereii
a piece of my mind.” Looking up at Morrison, he said, “Morrison, I need you to see that the phaser and quantum torpedo guidance systems are up to specs. I don’t want to run into any problems at our first run-in with the Jem’Hadar.”
“I’ll see what we can do,” Morrison gently replied. He headed for the tactical station on the starboard side of the bridge just as the communications board chimed. He peered over to see whom the message was from. “Message from Admiral Jellico, sir.”
Kozar had been expecting this communiqué from Jellico for a while. The admiral had recommended him for starship command, and this call would be confirming that. “In the observation lounge,” he said, brimming with confidence that his promotion came through.
Kozar sauntered into the observation lounge to see two human male engineers at the main computer terminal far to his right. “Take a break, guys,” Kozar commanded.
Once the repairmen vacated the room through the side door on the right of the terminal, Kozar pushed a control to the right of the terminal. The face of Edward Jellico appeared on the screen, maintaining a professional and stoic demeanor almost resembling that of a Vulcan. He was like that even when he was making personal conversation. Kozar was still sure Jellico had good news.
“Commander, what’s your status?”
“We should be ready to launch in 24 hours,” Kozar replied, “although I’m not certain everything will be up to par.”
Jellico grinned. “Sometimes I think engineers don’t know the difference between expediency and efficiency. I also have important news.”
Kozar braced himself for the announcement of his promotion, though his expression remained neutral.
“I’m afraid you’ve been passed up for command,” Jellico continued.
That hit Kozar like a punch in the stomach. “There must be a mistake, sir.”
“I wish that was the case. Limis Vircona was given the job as Lambda Paz
“Sir, I have been with this ship every minute of every day. Not to mention, giving an ex-Maquis command of a starship is ludicrous.”
“I raised that objection myself, but the decision’s been made. Her leadership skills and experience behind enemy lines are major assets. The good news is you’ll stay on as first officer.”
First officer? But I’ve been a captain already.
At least that was something. The new captain would need guidance from someone who knew the ship well. “I am granting you expanded executive autonomy,” Jellico added.
Kozar’s eyebrows rose. “What sort of expanded autonomy?”
“You have my authorization to relieve Captain Limis of command if you should deem it necessary. No questions asked. She’s a loose cannon whose first Starfleet career was a short one.”
“Got it,” Kozar calmly replied. He drooped his head contemplating this grave injustice. He had earned a captaincy, yet Starfleet Command shortchanged him.
“Good luck, Ronnie. Starfleet out.”
was a drab barren planet, barely able to support humanoid life. Its initial inhabitants were survivors of a long lost Earth prison ship that crashed there during the late twenty-first century. Like the first English colonists in Australia, this band of criminals from the last world war took the first steps in creating a hospitable environment out of a hellish one.
In accordance with the current Earth paradigm that any criminal could be rehabilitated, prison facilities were built on Jaros to honor those colonists once considered unredeemable. That philosophy was one of many Terran philosophies Limis Vircona found too idealistic. The Cardassians were oblivious to the suffering they had inflicted on her people. Worse, the Jem’ Hadar were utterly beyond remorse and redemption as the amoral servants of the Founders.
She had continued to undergo counseling at the prison facilities, along with a crash-course in Starfleet protocols and rules of conduct a month after the pardons were issued. The prison therapists deemed her filled with anger and bitterness. My desire to hurt the Dominion and the Cardassians the way they hurt me would be an asset to Starfleet,
she thought as she read the Federation News Service reports about the war.
Her “prison cell”, if one could call it that, looked more like military living quarters with a comfortable bed, a desk with a computer terminal, and sonic shower in a side alcove. She probably wouldn’t show the spoonheads that kind of mercy. She was lost in that thought when Captain Sisko stepped in accompanied by a civilian guard and a Starfleet security officer.
“Captain Benjamin Sisko,” she said, immediately recognizing the Starfleet officer who came to her rescue three months ago.
Sisko grinned at the mention of his own name. “You know, you’re one of the few Bajorans…”
“Who doesn’t call you ‘Emissary’,” Limis answered, rolling her eyes at the title other Bajorans gave Sisko when he first set foot on Deep Space 9. “I never believed that nonsense,” she huffed, flinging a padd on the desk.
Sisko turned to the guards. “If you will excuse us.” The trim male Starfleet security guard nodded and stepped outside. The heavy-set civilian guard followed with the doors closing behind them.
“I guess Starfleet sent you to pick me up,” Limis said, thinking that she still resented Sisko for his nearly yearlong hunt for Michael Eddington. “I’m not that excited about returning to Starfleet. But at least this’ll get me out of those damned counseling sessions. ‘You should accept that you lived. Embrace life.’”
Sisko was all too familiar with that cliché while mourning his wife’s death at Wolf 359. Hearing that even during feelings of survivor guilt got tiresome after awhile. “I know what that’s like,” he said. “But I’m not just here as an escort.
“Three days ago, Starbase 375 intercepted a message you might find interesting.” He lifted up the padd in his right hand. Limis grabbed it and pressed the activate button.
The message from Hassin Arnit appeared in the same sloppy condition as when Sisko first viewed it. Three sentences into the recording, she harrumphed and hit activate button again stopping the playback. “My ex-husband is a fool,” she sneered. He always
gets in way over his head. He never knew the difference between taking a risk that could pay huge dividends and just being reckless.”
“Speaking of taking risks that could pay huge dividends,” Sisko replied, “the Dominion didn’t count on Starfleet cutting off their supply line to the Gamma Quadrant. They need time to prepare for a long sustained conflict that is confined to the Alpha Quadrant. We need to continue to hit them when they’re most vulnerable.”
“I’ve read the reports, Captain. They remain very resourceful, as their attempts at creating artificial wormholes
will attest to.”
“You don’t strike me as the giving up type. That’s why I recommended you for this commission in the first place, along with your ability to lead others in fighting against difficult odds.”
“I left that in the Badlands when the Jem’Hadar persisted in wiping out what was left of the Maquis.”
The time for tact was over. “Fine,” Sisko huffed. “Stay here and wallow in self pity.”
Limis stood up and looked straight at Sisko. “I’ll lead this mission,” she said, “on the condition that two of my most trusted colleagues are also on board. And understand that I am not doing this for Starfleet or the Federation. I want the spoonheads and their new allies to pay for destroying the only thing that mattered to me.”
Rebecca Sullivan rubbed trickling sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand while performing maintenance on one of the weather control circuits. She wanted to curse the warden for telling her this planet’s heat was a dry heat. As if that made things better. Though the pressure domes and environmental controls made the environment more bearable, the scorching sun still made parts of the artificial habitat ridiculously hot. She actually longed to be traipsing through the damp jungles of Sindorin
“Could you hand me that laser drill?” she asked Erhlich Tarlazzi on the catwalk hauling up tools that would later be used to reinforce the dome’s transparent aluminum alloy. The middle-aged Rigellian showed no visible signs of fatigue.
“Do you ever break a sweat?” she asked. She knew Rigellian physiology could endure great heat. She still couldn’t help but envy him.
“As an offshoot of Vulcans,” Tarlazzi stated, ”Rigellians have a higher tolerance for heat. I’ve told you this before.”
“I know. That can be irritating sometimes.”
Limis sauntered up to their work area catching the last bit of the conversation. “You won’t be on this god forsaken planet for much longer.”
Rebecca’s eyebrows perked up. “And how did you arrange that?”
“The vaunted Captain Sisko made an appearance,” Limis explained. “He’s getting approval from his superiors, but I said I would only accept this particular mission if the two of you accompanied me.”
“Not that I’ve complained of the conditions on this planet,” Tarlazzi declared, “but serving on a starship is far more appealing.”
“I’m in as well,” said Rebecca. “If it gets me off this planet.”
The runabout Rio Grande
streaked into warp upon leaving the Jaros solar system. Limis, Tarlazzi, and Sullivan accompanied Sisko on the runabout. But none of them said a word to each other for four hours. Perhaps it was the awkwardness of again being on a Starfleet vessel the captain was piloting.
Sisko ordered a raktajino
from the replicator in the back of the cockpit. When he returned to the pilot seat, the status board indicated the runabout would arrive at the shipyard housing the Lambda Paz
in six hours. Six more hours of silence.
“Captain, if I may ask,” said Limis, seated at Sisko’s right, “why did you recommend me for this command? You were never too fond of the Maquis. I’m sure there are Starfleet veterans more qualified.”
“That’s true,” Sisko replied, “but if this war turns out to be a long, drawn-out conflict, we’re going to need people who were able to survive against tough odds with far less resources.”
“What’s interesting,” Tarlazzi chimed in from the aft station behind Sisko, “is that the Federation turned its collective back on those colonies turned over to the Cardies, and now the Feds want our
“Think of it as an opportunity for redemption,” Sisko suggested.
Sullivan, seated behind Limis, smirked. “That works for me,” she said. Turning to look at Sisko, she said, “Captain, I should apologize for my outburst. You admired Michael more than I gave you credit for.”
“It’s quite all right,” Ben responded, turning his seat to look at Rebecca. “Seeing Jennifer from a parallel universe die was like losing my wife all over again.”
Six hours later, the runabout arrived at dry dock that housed the Lambda Paz
. Work-bees and technicians in space suits were putting the finishing touches on the exterior of the ship. From the Rio Grande
’s cockpit, Tarlazzi and Sullivan stood up and crouched down slightly to peer out the front viewport.
“Behold the Lambda Paz
,” Sisko declared. “Twenty decks, crew compliment of approximately 700. Luna
Limis repeated. “Weren’t they the fleet of explorer ships built after the discovery of the wormhole.”
“They were re-allocated towards a potential war effort with the growing Dominion threat,” Sisko explained.
Limis gazed in awe. She had commanded many missions before, but in older smaller ships. This ship was a whole different story.