Captain Limis sat at the head of the meeting table in the makeshift ready room. Every once in a while, she looked up from the padds displaying personnel files to consider why the Lambda Paz
was sent into action shorthanded. The Maquis had to make the most of the little resources they had. Starfleet knew of the threat the Dominion posed for three years. Last year’s conflict with the Klingons and the most recent confrontation with the Borg should have been incentive to redouble shipbuilding efforts.
On the other hand, the Dominion’s ingenuity and resourcefulness caught everyone by surprise, including and especially Maquis. The idea that her former spouse had information that could end the war in one fell swoop seemed absurd. But despite their personal and ideological differences, Vircona had to hear Arnit out. Any change to kick a formidable enemy that destroyed nearly everyone and everything she cared about while it was down had to be taken.
Two human male security officers entered through the side door behind the monitor overlooking the other end of the table. They escorted Arnit into the briefing room. “Vira,” he said with a smile.
“Gentlemen, please wait outside,” the captain ordered the guards. They complied, and Limis stood up to walk towards Arnit. “No one has called me that in years,” she lied.
“That uniform looks good on you,” Arnit said wryly, while thinking how much he had no love for the sanctimonious Federation.
He placed his right hand Vircona’s left cheek. She began to fall into a trance. They began reliving one of their moments of intimacy. She felt as content as when they held each other in their arms when they were much younger. But she was seeing the middle-aged man with slightly grayer hair who had just entered the room.
She pulled away from Arnit and slapped him in the side of his face. “Those merote
herbs will kill you one of these days,” she stated, referring to a plant indigenous to Bajor that had hallucinogenic properties similar to LSD on Earth. No one could explain why someone who took them was able to allow others to experience their own hallucinations.
“They kept most us going during the occupation, Vira,” Arnit answered. “You took them, too.”
“I quit them when I damn near fell into a coma five years ago. But you came to me about a very important matter regarding the war.”
Arnit grinned. He admired Vircona’s preference for people to get to the point. “Most of us who survived have done what we can to find any weaknesses the Dominion may have,” he explained.
Arnit’s words piqued Limis’s interest, and she sat back down. Arnit sat in a chair on her left. “We bribe our way onto freighters from non-aligned worlds between the UFP and the Cardassian Union,” Arnit continued. “We provide whatever services we can, all the while gathering intelligence on Dominion-held territory.
“As the whole Federation knows, the Dominion’s seizure of Deep Space Nine has been meaningless as long as they are cut off from the Gamma Quadrant. The Founders are scrambling to build more breeding facilities and ketracel-white manufacturing plants in the Alpha Quadrant.”
“This breeding facility is on a Class-M planetoid in the Tong-Beak Nebula
,” Arnit stated at a staff briefing also attended by Kozar, Morrison, and Logan. “They’re protected by automatic defense systems at the nebula’s perimeter. Only about five fighters travel in and out. The Cardassians may not know about it.”
A star map of the nebula and the surrounding area was displayed on the monitor. Prior to the Defiant
’s arrival, Arnit ejected his shuttle’s recorder marker. The Defiant
then retrieved it after repelling the Jem’Hadar.
Kozar, seated at Limis’s left, was the first to speak. “The Dominion isn’t being entirely forthright with their own allies,” he mused.
Arnit rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Ah, yes, typical Starfleet officer who is hoping some kind of wedge can be driven the Dominion and the Cardassians,” he sighted. “The tactic does merit. Most of us have mastered Cardassian encryptions. The Cardassians are also more likely to defect. Keeping them out of the loop is an effective backup plan.”
“We’re not concerned with that, Arnit,” Limis chimed in “Our immediate priority is entering the nebula safely without drawing attention to ourselves.”
“Modifying our shields to protect us from the theta radiation won’t be that difficult,” Morrison offered.
“Even so,” Logan added, “when the plasma exhaust bonds with the nebula’s disulphates, we’ll be lit up like a Christmas tree.”
“That sounds like a challenge for you, Logan,” Limis retorted. “Morrison, consult with Doctor Markalis on the potential effects of theta radiation poisoning."
“We’ll meet back here in three hours, gentlemen. Dismissed.”
Kozar stayed behind after the others left. Limis immediately deduced he had wanted to address some concerns privately. “Something else, first officer?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Would the prudent action be to contact Starfleet and request instructions?” the second-in-command inquired.
“What would be the point?” the captain asked rhetorically. “That may be the protocol, but we don’t know when that breeding facility will go online. When it does, taking it out will be much harder.”
“We should probably still call for reinforcements.”
“I’ll suggest having reinforcements wait at a secondary position. Sending one ship is still the best strategy because Arnit’s intelligence may not be entirely accurate. It could be a means of throwing us off. The Dominion knows the Federation does not desire a long and drawn-out conflict.
“I appreciate your input, Commander. I may need it her and there, but going by the book is not always the best and most practical.”
“Understood,” Kozar said flatly with a nod.
“Set a course for the Tong-Beak Nebula, Mister Kozar.”
Following the briefing, Morrison spent the lull in action aboard the ship to conduct routine diagnostics of the security sensors. This included checking the communications logs for any unusual activities. Each of the logs looked perfectly normal, but then he scrolled over a gap in the log. He scrolled back up to confirm what he thought he saw. “This is strange,” he muttered.
Kozar stood up from the captain’s chair and walked over to the station to learn what Morrison had discovered. “It’s some kind of unidentified transmission,” Morrison reported.
“Can you localize the source?” Kozar asked.
“No, sir. All I can tell is that it originated inside the ship.”
“Ensign Huckaby,” Kozar said, looking over at Ops, “any idea where it’s being sent?”
“Negative,” the young dark-skinned ensign answered. “It didn’t use any of the subspace antennas.”
“Nevertheless, we should get to the bottom of this,” Kozar offered. “Run a signal correlation trace
to try to recover that log.”
A blip appeared on Second Ulin’talag’s status board. The text below it indicated a Federation starship was en route to Sector 21607. “First,” he called to the Jem’Hadar commander. “Another Starfleet ship is moving towards this sector. It’s on a direct course for the nebula.”
“Only one ship?” First Teron’tokal inquired.
“Yes, First. I don’t see why since they should know of our facility by now.”
“They want to make sure their intelligence is accurate,” the First explained. “Then they will bring others. We must follow the plan the Founders have laid out for us. Obedience brings victory.”
“And victory is life,” the Second finished.