The ward room at Starbase 375 was filled with high-ranking Starfleet officers meeting with the senior most crewmembers of the Lambda Paz
. The purpose of this meeting was to debrief the Lambda Paz
captain and first officer and decide what course of action to take next.
Captain Limis felt more out of place than the two Klingons seated at the opposite side of the circular table. The Klingon wearing a Starfleet uniform was obviously Worf, the service’s only Klingon. She did not recognize the other Klingon dressed in military armor and missing his left eye. The only other Starfleet officer she recognized was Benjamin Sisko, seated amongst four unfamiliar rear admirals.
Admiral Ross entered the meeting room accompanied by a human woman with the rank of captain. He handed the padd he was reviewing to Captain Joanna Bennett and stood at the end of the table nearest the door. “Thank you all for coming,” he said to the rest of the group. “Two days ago, the Starship Lambda Paz
conducted a reconnaissance probe into the Tong-Beak Nebula. Her captain is here with us.”
Ross raised his left hand to point out the Bajoran captain. She told all other present about the breeding facility on a planetoid inside the nebula. She then turned the floor over to Kozar. Kozar walked over to the monitor screen to show a set of schematics he had prepared for the briefing. On the left side was a topographical map of the area where the facility was located. The right showed a vertical layout of a standard Jem’Hadar breeding facility.
“If this is such an important facility from which to breed troops,” General Martok, the one-eyed Klingon stated, “It makes very little sense that it would have minimal defenses.
“During my first voyage aboard the Rotarran
, I ordered that the nebula be avoided
because of reports the Jem’Hadar were using it as a base.”
Martok glanced over at Worf, who was also familiar with that mission. Martok repeatedly ordered that the ship avoid combat situations while in search for a missing Klingon battle cruiser.
“Perhaps the Jem’Hadar altered their patrol routes since the war began,” Worf suggested, “but not if this nebula had strategic importance.”
“A number of strategies seemed uncharacteristic,” said Limis. “Two Jem’Hadar ships were firing at one of our shuttles. We came at them with quantum torpedoes and they retreated without a fight.”
“They’ll do that if they have bigger goals in mind,” Sisko explained. “When I made first contact, the Jem’Hadar passed off their Vorta
as one of their prisoners. They wanted us to escape so that she could serve as a spy in the Alpha Quadrant.”
“You’re suggesting that was for our benefit?” Limis asked with a bewildered look. “And that we’re being lured into an ambush?”
“It’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” Sisko grimly suggested.
“So, do we launch this assault or not?” Rear-Admiral Coburn inquired. “Your ship, Captain Limis, did encounter minimal resistance, but that could change by the time our fleets arrive.”
“Weigh that against the consequences of doing nothing,” Admiral Jellico added. “Unless we act, the Dominion will have no problem creating Jem’Hadar in the Alpha Quadrant.”
“We could still end up losing as many ships as we did at Toros Three,” said Vulcan Admiral Sitak.
“It’s worth the risk if we can set the Dominion back even further,” Andorian Admiral ch’Mak insisted.
Soon everyone began talking at once arguing the costs and benefits of a possible offensive. Neither side would relent. Ross tried in vain to quiet the crowd.
“I, myself, went through making these tough decisions enough for an entire lifetime,” Limis interjected, which quieted the crowd. “It’s never easy. I lost many friends on Bajor. And we may take huge losses. We’ve got to keep the momentum on our side.”
Sisko raised an eyebrow at Limis’s last statement, even though she wasn’t intending on using a baseball metaphor. Addressing the admirals, Limis continued. “You made a statement when giving the order to mine the wormhole. I started to have my doubts when too many things seemed to go our way. We are at war. We can’t afford to second guess ourselves.”
“All those in favor of an attack,” Ross said to the lower ranking admirals. All four of the rear admirals approved an offensive.
In the absence of the captain and first officer, Mandel Morrison had command of the Lambda Paz
. He had taken this time to oversee repairs and diagnostics of tactical systems. As second officer, he awaited daily reports from all department heads to assure the captain the ship would be in perfect condition to fight a larger battle.
Morrison observed Huckaby running a diagnostic on the structural integrity fields when relief tactical officer Jovis Ren reported from the opposite side of the bridge. “Commander Morrison,” the Bolian called. “I’m getting those readings you told me to look for. Someone is using the EPS taps to send a subspace transmission.
Morrison looked back at Huckaby. “Ensign, call up the power allocation logs,” he said.
Huckaby pushed a few controls to access those logs from the last few minutes. “Confirmed, sir,” the ensign replied.
“Run signal correlation traces, Ensign. We may be able to narrow it now that our mole made a second transmission.”
Morrison headed for the command chair to contact the captain. “Bridge to the captain,” he said after tapping the comm panel.
“I’m just returning to the ship,” Limis answered. “I’m in transporter room one.”
“Good, I need to see you as soon as possible in private.”
Although low on the priority list, engineering crews finally put the finishing touches on the ready room off the starboard side of the bridge. The sofa and coffee tables from the briefing room materialized behind the viewport just as Limis, Kozar, and Morrison entered.
Kozar gave a quick visual survey of the room almost wishing this was his. Luckily, he had no opportunity to personalize this office. Limis also took in the rather Spartan setting, thinking one redeeming quality Cardassians had was greater creativity in terms of interior design.
“Our mole has sent another message,” Morrison reported once the doors closed. “This time Huckaby has traced it to a specific section.”
“As I said before,” Limis stated, “this is an old Maquis trick. The guilty party most definitely covers his or her tracks well.
“Mister Morrison, have your people poke around. Proceed with caution. We don’t want to tip our hand too much.”
“Yes, sir,” Morrison compliantly replied before leaving.
“How will this affect the mission, Captain?” Kozar inquired.
“It shouldn’t,” Limis replied, taking a seat behind the desk. Kozar took two steps towards the two desk chairs. He then decided to stand, feeling he was on the wrong side of the desk.
“We should just be extra careful to code all internal and external communications,” Limis continued. “I’ll mention it to Admiral Jellico and the other fleet commanders. But I want the mole found before we reach the nebula.”
“Very good, sir,” Kozar replied.
Limis smirked at being called “sir.” She saw no point in such a practice, though Bajor had more gender egalitarian society for more than ten millennia, before the rise of the first ancient civilizations on Earth. Maybe the masculine appellation was symbolic of making some kind of headway with a first officer constantly second guessing her.”
Kozar motioned towards the door, but then stopped and turned around to address the captain on one more issue. “If I may make a suggestion,” he said. “We launch several probes ahead of two of the four fleets. If a large fleet is massing and we’re being lured into ambush, we call for backup.”
“I’ll propose it to Admiral Ross and the fleet commanders.”
Kozar nodded in agreement and left the ready room. Limis felt some wave of relief both that the admiralty had approved the offensive and that certain safety precautions would be taken. She still felt apprehension that something would go horribly wrong.