Captain Limis took a sip of raktajino
while looking at a padd Logan and Morrison presented her with. She placed the padd on the circular coffee table in front of the sofa on the opposite side of the entrance to the bridge. “My understanding of starship operations is a little out of date,” she said. “You’ll need to explain it in layman’s terms.”
“At 1317 hours,” Morrison replied, “my security sensors detected a subspace transmission not using any of the subspace antennas. It could not have gone far, but long range sensors detect no other ships, cloaked or otherwise.”
“Cloaking technology is always advancing,” Limis offered.
“There is more,” Logan added. “When Ensign Huckaby tried to recover the log, there was no log to recover. The message was sent through the ship’s power grid and encoded in the waste energy from the propulsion system.”
"It’s a Maquis trick to make coded transmissions harder to trace,” Limis recalled. It was how Starfleet was able to receive our distress at Athos Four. So someone on this ship is trying to cover their tracks.”
“Unfortunately,” said Morrison, “because of the illicit nature of this transmission, localizing it will be extremely difficult. This person has already demonstrated he will go to great lengths to destroy the evidence.”
“Also at 1317, the warp field was amplified by 300 percent.”
“So our warp signature was detected across a larger radius,” Limis finished. “To repeat your metaphor, Mister Logan, we were lit up like a Christmas tree.”
“That’s hardly a coincidence,” Morrison bluntly stated. “We could have a mole on board.”
“What’s the procedure for flushing out shapeshifters?” the captain inquired.
“Phaser sweeps, blood screenings,” answered Morrison. “Of course they aren’t entirely reliable."
“Get on it, though,” Limis commanded. “Logan, work with Tarlazzi and Sullivan to redouble your efforts to mask our warp trail. Dismissed.”
Both men walked towards the door to the bridge. Logan stepped through when the doors parted, but Morrison stayed. “If I may ask,” he said, “why did you and Arnit divorce?”
Limis had raised her coffee mug off the table, but then set it back down. “That’s a very personal question, Lieutenant.”
“Your intelligence file said you and Arnit had personality clashes,” the security chief explained. “It could be a matter of ship’s security.”
Limis stood up and walked towards Morrison. “Are you suggesting Arnit is a Changeling?” she snapped. “Or worse, he’s collaborating with those monsters?!”
“We can’t rule it out. Many of the Maquis felt the Federation abandoned them. Some of them may feel the Federation doesn’t deserve their help.”
“The alternative is to sit back and watch the Dominion conquer the Alpha Quadrant or help the thugs who wiped out the closest thing he and I had to family.
“Our marriage may have been a hell worse than the one the spoonheads inflicted on us, but I can tell you he is no
“Understood,” Morrison demurely replied, and walked out.
Limis walked back to the sofa. A thought crossed her mind as she sat back down. Was she still in love with her former spouse? She dismissed the thought as quickly as it entered her conscious thinking. But everything else was true even if their feelings during youth had fizzled out.
Outside the briefing room, Morrison stepped onto the bridge with a blush. That woman had a certain exuberance he found attractive. Of course, such a thought was not appropriate regarding his captain. He quickly composed himself and tapped his combadge.
“Morrison to Major Davis,” he said, contacting the Military Assault Command Officer commander, “prepare your teams to conduct phaser sweeps and blood screenings. We may have a Changeling on board.”
Kozar handed a padd he was reviewing back to Ensign Huckaby. “Changeling?” he asked Morrison.
“We have a mole on board,” the security chief replied. “The sender of that mysterious transmission.”
“The captain is showing her lack experience,” Kozar mused. “There have been no reports of Changeling infiltration in the past five months. The Dominion probably feels it can win this war without spies and saboteurs. The Klingon war set us back, as did the Borg’s attempt to change our history.”
“We can’t rule it out,” Morrison insisted.
“We’re about to take the ship into battle with a skeleton crew,” Kozar replied, tapping his combadge. “Kozar to Major Davis, disregard Mister Morrison’s orders.”
“I’m following the captain’s orders, Ronnie.”
“And I’m countermanding them. We can’t send our people chasing after a wild goose that may or may not exist.”
The rest of the bridge crew looked away from their stations. The last thing this shorthanded crew needed was a mutiny, especially in the midst of a war.
After two days traveling at warp eight, the Lambda Paz
reached the nebula. It was a large red cloud that appeared to span nearly a light year. It was the gaseous remains of a million year old supernova which enveloped planets in various adjacent star systems.”
Morrison had been pleasantly surprised to see no enemy patrol ships, even within one light-year of the Tong-Beak Nebula. “Maybe they’re all hiding inside the nebula,” he commented, watching his tactical sensors.
“Were you expecting a big welcoming committee?” Limis asked sarcastically. “I though Starfleet officers prefer to avoid
“Just something we’re not used to seeing in the vicinity of a strategically important outpost,” Morrison explained.
The comm chimed and Logan signaled. “We’re ready to begin shutting systems down,” he announced.
“Set warp and impulse engine power output at ten percent of normal,” Kozar commanded. “We want to be able to get out of here at a moment’s notice.”
Assault probes began closing in on the starship. Two of them rammed into the shields. “Quantum torpedoes, full spread,” Kozar ordered.
A wave of quantum torpedoes exploded near the twelve other assault probes destroying them effortlessly. That was almost too easy to the bridge crew.
“Conn,” said Limis, “take us to one quarter, and then let the inertia carry us in.”
“Aye, sir,” Sara Carson answered from the helm. “We’ll enter the nebula in approximately two minutes.”
“Huckaby,” Limis continued looking over to Operations, “shut down all non-essential systems.”
Huckaby complied and the lights dimmed.
From the edge of the Lambda Paz
’s sensor range, a Jem’Hadar battle cruiser was tracking their course. A Starfleet delta representing the Federation ship on Ulin’talag’s status board began fading off and on. First Teron’tokal and the Vorta Yelgrun stood in the center of the bridge observing activity in the immediate vicinity through their headsets.
“The Federation ship is getting closer to the nebula,” Ulin’talag reported. “We won’t be able to detect them once they’re in.”
Teron’tokal walked towards the pilot, Third Otan’irix. “Extrapolate its course,” he commanded, “then lay in a parallel trajectory.”
“Make sure we remain on the edge of their sensor range,” Yelgrun added.
“We’ve reached the nebula’s perimeter,” Lieutenant Carson reported.
“Kozar, get Arnit up here,” said Limis. “Let’s see what’s in there.”