13 years before the launch of USS Redemption
Somewhere in slipstream space
As he sat in the private viewing room aboard the Allied War Ship (AWS) Benjamin Sisko
, Ba'el Sarine could only admit to himself that the war was not going well.
Almost twenty years had passed since the Alliance of Free Worlds burst from the ashes of justice, freedom and righteousness. Of course, back then, the flames had burst into bright light in the aftermath of the Topakin Massacre. When the Jem'hadar exploded that subspace distortion bomb and destroyed Topakin III, dozens of worlds had flocked to the Alliance. For the first time, it had been possible to imagine that the time had finally come to throw the Dominion from the Alpha Quadrant.
Ba'el grunted. Now where were they? Stuck in a stalemate. They had recaptured worlds, they had freed entire races, but the Jem'hadar exacted a toll for every planet, moon or asteroid that the Alliance reclaimed. A toll paid in billions of lives. A toll paid in blood.
Ferenginar. Cardassia. Tholia. Qo'nos. They had all suffered from the Jem'hadar's "scorched Earth" policy. And Earth, of course. 350 million citizens - gone. Amongst them...
No. He blocked the thought before it had even entered his brain. He wasn't going to think about that. Much safer to think about the mission and how much he wished he could be anywhere else than aboard this ship. Actually, no. Not anywhere else. A very specific somewhere.
Banishing those thoughts as well, he stared out at the flickering blue of slipstream space. How that stolen QSD drive stayed active was beyond him. He had been down to the engine room when he beamed aboard and had a look around. There were so many wires and tubes running from the thing that it almost seemed like it had become Borg and had begun a campaign of assimilation.
Reaching up, Ba'el brushed his hair away from his face. He caught sight of his reflection in the glass. In his forties, he had begun to look more and more like his father. He only knew that because of holos, of course. His father had disowned him when he was a child, the day he threw Ba’el’s mother, a slave girl in his household, out on the streets. Ba’el hardly remembered the man. He wondered whether he was still out there somewhere, still serving the Dominion, still trying to maintain the status quo.
Ba’el’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door swishing open. He didn't turn around - no need. He knew exactly who it would be.
Reflected in the glass, he watched Prin sit down in the chair beside him. She tucked one leg beneath her, then raised the other and rested her foot on the glass.
He glanced at her. She wore black trousers beneath a green tunic and a long brown coat hung on her shoulders. Everything fit her very well, he couldn't help but notice, but he did no more than that. He knew that things could never be the same between them, not since he met Elera.
He thought that she might actually leave him in peace and quiet for once, but no such luck.
"We're almost there."
Ba'el's only reply was a grunt. He had no intention of letting her badger him again. She turned her head to look at him, and he pointedly ignored her.
Prin, though, had no intention of being ignored. As usual.
"You do realise how huge an opportunity this could be?" she asked.
He didn't bother to answer - there didn't seem to be any point. They both knew very well what was at stake and Prin also knew that he knew that. She just wanted to get a reaction out of him, and Ba'el had no intention of giving her what she wanted.
She watched him for a moment, and then sighed, turning back to stare out the window. They sat there in an almost-companionable silence until Prin sighed again and turned her whole body to face him. She slid her leg through the gap between the chairs, setting her foot on the deck plate.
"You've been in a bitch of a mood ever since we left Earth, you know that?" She snarled at him, one lip rising to reveal her teeth, her facial ridges twisting slightly. "You've got to snap out of this!"
, Ba'el thought. This had been building for days. If she wanted to have this out... He turned so that he was face to her, as well.
"Why?" he demanded
Instead of answering his question, Prin threw up her hands like she had witnessed a miracle. "He speaks."
Ba'el started to turn away again. "If you've just come to break my balls, Prin, I don't--"
She reached out and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop. "If you're about to say that you don't need someone to break your balls from time to time, you're wrong. That's exactly what you need." She tried to take the bite out of her words by assaying a forced smile. "But no, that isn't the only reason I've come. I came to tell you that you need to pull it together. You're the only reason this whole thing has gone ahead. If you hadn't pushed the Council to make those overtures to the Laurentii, we might never have learned about this weapon."
Ba'el sat back down and Prin let go of his arm. He reached up with one hand, massaging his temples. "That was years ago," he said. He knew it would sound as though he were moaning, but he didn't care. "Why the Council feels I need to be the one to take care of this--"
"Please tell me you're not that naive," Prin said sardonically. "You know that you're the best strategic thinker we have. You're our best chance of finding some way of stopping the Dominion before they burn ever planet in the quadrant the same they did..."
She trailed off, obviously realising that she had ventured into dangerous territory. Ba'el felt a chasm opening up before him and was surprised to find that this could still hurt as much as it ever had. It had been years, after all.
"Like they did..?" he pushed.
Prin didn't back down, but spoke through gritted teeth. "Earth."
He scowled. He could still remember receiving the transmission. He had been aboard the Jasard
, Kovat's ship, out near the former Klingon Empire. He had heard about the rebellion blazing on Earth, but had not been aware that the resistance cells there had been so close to overthrowing Dominion control. When he had seen his aunt Judith on the comm, her face almost lost amidst the interference that affected pretty much all communications, his stomach had dropped and he had known.
His mother had died trying to protect the hospital where she worked, his aunt had told him. A Jem'hadar soldier had stabbed her, then her body had been lost in the blaze that engulfed the hospital. It had never been found.
Prin reached out and gently placed a hand on his arm again. "I know you miss her, Bay. We've all lost people in the past few years. But that isn't a reason to give up. In fact, it should be all the more reason to find a way of stopping those damned hornheads before they do any more damage."
Although he didn't want to, Ba'el nodded slowly. Prin was right, he knew that but...
"I swore I wouldn't leave them again."
Prin hesitated for a moment. Elera had always been a sore subject between them. Still, she pressed on, unwilling to let this opportunity pass.
"Surely they understand that you have to--"
"Of course they do," Ba'el snarled. He turned on Prin, his eyes ablaze. "Elera almost forced me out of the door at phaserpoint, telling me that I was needed. But Torvol cried when I left and I could tell that it was killing Elera to see me go again."
"Of course it did," Prin said gently. "Of course they did. They love you. They don't want to see you get hurt."
Ba'el didn't even hear her, his mind a billion billion miles away. "I told them when they offered me Enterprise
," he said, his voice distant. "I gave up that part of my life when Elera and I got married. I did my part. All I wanted was to help the Alliance from behind the scenes. Design ships, make sure that Earth remained intact. No more wild adventures."
"But the war isn't over, Bay. Whatever you may think. Earth is free, but how many other worlds are still suffering?"
"You think I don't know that?" Ba'el's voice rose. "But I served my time, dammit! After the Breen joined us, I thought that--"
Whatever he had been about to say got cut off by the sound of the intercom.
"Attention all..." The intercom cut off in a burst of static, the old equipment playing up. "This... Captain. Prepare for reversion to... space, and for battle stations... neccessary."
Ba'el picked out enough of the communication to make sense of it. He glanced at Prin, and they both stood at the same time. Ba'el led the way. Finally
, he thought as he walked out the door. I can get this mission underway.
As he made his way through the dim, badly lit corridors of the Sisko
, he thought back on what Prin and he had been talking about. Although he knew that she was right, his priorities had changed. He still cared about the war effort, and he understood that none of them would be safe until the
Dominion was defeated, once and for all. But he also knew that he was more useful to the war effort behind the lines, organising Allied forces, keeping the Council from killing one another and looking for ways to throw the Dominion from the Alpha Quadrant once and for all.
At the end of a corridor whose flickering lights seemed about to die, the smell of oil and fuel filling his nostrils, Ba'el swung onto a ladder that climbed through a cylinder of metal and up to the bridge of the Sisko. Prin behind him, he clambered up and out, setting foot on the dark-grey deck plates.
Like most of the Allied ships, the Benjamin Sisko
had been cobbled together from salvage from before the war. A circular module, the bridge was cramped. Holographic displays stolen from the Dominion vied with 24th century bridge consoles, a strange mishmash of different technologies.
Heavily armed MACO's lined the walls, toting large phaser rifles and even more antique weaponry. Apart from those stern-faced soldiers, no one on the bridge wore a uniform, not even the captain, a large dark-skinned man who turned to face Ba'el and Prin as they arrived.
"Glad you could join us, Captain," Captain Theodore Robau quipped.
Prin threw Ba'el an I-told-you-so
look, then walked over to a free seat near tactical. Ba'el ignored her, his attention focused on Robau.
"Are you expecting trouble, Captain?"
Robau spun his chair back to face the forward viewscreen. "I always expect trouble."
Ba'el grunted, then glanced around the bridge again. All of the positions were filled and a handful of replacement officers stood by in case anything went wrong. The clothing was sombre and simple, ranging from dark brown shirts and pants to tightly fitting Starfleet jumpsuits from before the war. One large Klingon over at tactical even wore a captured Jem'hadar uniform.
A young Andorian thaan called out from the helm, bringing Ba’el back to the current situation. "Reversion to real-space in five."
Ba'el continued the countdown in his head, then watched as the blue slipstream tunnel collapsed, giving way to the regular starfield of 'real’ space. A dying star, its light phase shifted into the red spectrum which gave it the appearance of a collapsing ember, spun before them. Ba'el could just about make out the dark mass that would be Onyx Station floating in space in front of the star.
Robau spoke up from his central position. "Scanners, confirm our position."
A female Ferengi with small lobes and wearing a long flowing yellow robe cupped her hands around an old scanning device from the 23rd century and peered into it. After a few moments, she straightened and turned to the captain.
"Local star positions confirm that we are at Zeta Gamma Pi 7, Captain."
Otherwise known as Laurentii 12
, Ba'el thought. Onyx Station
The comm officer, a grizzled old human woman with dark skin and long grey hair tied in a ponytail, called out from her position on Ba'el's left. She had an earpiece in her ear, and she held her finger pressed to its side.
"We're being hailed, Captain. The computer indicates that it is a Laurentii signal frequency."
Robau seemed to consider this for a moment, then nodded. "Scramble things from our end anyway, Lieutenant."
That seems a bit paranoid
, Ba'el thought. Still, as the communication's officer did as she was told, he stepped up behind Robau's chair to make sure he would be included in any conversation between the captain and Laurentii. This was his mission, after all, and he didn't want some insecure rebel captain screwing this up. This needs to go quickly, Bay
, he told himself. In and out, then back home to Elera
Robau glanced at him with a raised eyebrow, as if wondering what Ba'el was doing, but Ba'el just stared back until the other man grunted and turned away.
The viewscreen, another relic, rippled slightly, then replaced the view of the star with that of an alien being. Though only visible from the neck up, he was obviously a Laurentii. Though basically humanoid, his facial features were far from human. A single silver strip surrounded his face where his eyes should have been according to most humanoid standards. Ba’el knew that the strip was actually a complex sensory organ that acted as both eyes, nose and ears. Two small breathing dots sat between that strip and the mouth, which was filled with very pointy, dart-like teeth.
"My name is varec Asuph," the Laurentii male said. "I speak for the yazsmoot of Ispaoreai Hyps’rat. To whom am I speaking?"
Before Robau could speak, Ba'el took a step forward. "My name is Ba'el Sarine. I represent the Alliance of Free Worlds."
Robau turned and glared at Ba'el, then turned back to face the screen. "And I am Captain Theodore Robau, commander of this vessel. We thank you for your welcome. Permission to dock with your station?"
"Denied," varec Asuph said. Ba'el saw Robau tense up as the Laurentii looked past him at Ba'el. "Captain Sarine, the kruin of this hyps'rat has been expecting you. You may beam aboard when ready."
"Now wait a goddamned minute," Robau began, but Ba'el cut him off before he could antagonise the Laurentii any further.
"I'll need to bring one or two people."
Varec Asuph took a moment to think about it, his face tilting back slightly and his silver strip rippling slightly in thought. Robau glanced back at Ba'el again, and Ba'el realised that the two of them would be having words once this was over. So be it
, he thought. He just wanted to get this over with. Finally, Asuph nodded.
"One other may accompany you. No more."
Before either of them could say anything else, the screen rippled again and reverted back to the former view of the star. The Benjamin Sisko
had been drawing closer throughout the conversation, so that Onyx Station was now clearly visible. Ba'el glanced at it, taking in its highly organic, bulbous form, then he turned to leave the bridge.
He had only taken a single step, though, when Robau spoke from behind him. "In my ready room, Captain. Now."
His voice sounded like crackling ice in midwinter. He was not happy. Ba'el had been hoping to avoid this confrontation until he returned, but if it had to be now, it had to be now.
Following Robau across the bridge to a small door, Ba'el glanced at Prin who just sighed and shook her head. I tried to warn you
, the gesture seemed to say. Ba'el looked away, then stepped into the tiny office.
The door closed behind him, leaving Robau and he in a small, cramped space, barely the size of a large closet. There was hardly the room for a small table and two chairs. Robau had put his own mark on the room, though, adding two tiny photos on the wall, both of an attractive Klingon woman and two children of obvious mixed heritage. Robau's family. Ba'el felt a pang, thinking of his own wife and son waiting for him back home.
Robau had taken up station behind one of the chairs. Hefting it easily, he spun it around in the air and slammed it down. "Take a seat, Captain
, take a seat."
Ba'el debated whether to push the issue - after all according to Alliance protocols and the orders Robau had received, Ba'el had final decision on anything. Still, there didn't seem any point in antagonising the man any further than he already had. He walked slowly over to the chair and sat down. Robau loomed over him for a moment, then walked past him to the other chair and sat down.
"Now I think we need to get a few things clear, Captain
. I don't care about your issues with Allied Command. I don't care that the High Councillors feel that the sun shines out of your arse. I don't even particularly care about this mission to the Laurentii. Do you know what I care about?"
Ba’el held back a sigh, but couldn’t resist saying, "I assume you're going to tell me."
Robau smiled. It was a dangerous smile. "I care about this ship. You probably don't remember what that feels like, now that you have your cushy little deskjob, but out here in the real world, this ship and her crew are my only concern. I make the decisions on that bridge, Sarine. Not you, not Alliance Command, not even the bloody Alliance High Council. You got that?"
By the end of it, Robau was snarling but Ba'el couldn't help but smile. He could remember what it felt like, actually. And he decided that Robau reminded him of Kovat. A lot. He nodded.
"I think I do."
Robau stared at him for a moment, as if gauging how serious Ba'el was actually being. Then he nodded, apparently satisfied. "Good. Now then, are you sure about going over there alone?"
As quickly as that, the confrontation was over. Ba'el hid his smile this time. Definitely reminds me of Kovat.
"I can handle the Laurentii," he said after a moment. "I served with a couple during the Casili campaign, which is probably why they insisted I come out here to discuss this mystery weapon of theirs. They have some strange ideas, but if you respect their command structure, they're generally alright."
"Any idea exactly what this mystery weapon actually is?"
Ba'el shook his head. "No idea. That's what I'm here to find out."
Robau sat forward in the chair, gaze intent. "Well, I have to say that if it's anything like that station out there, it'll be damned impressive." He stood up, holding out his hand. "We'll hold station as close to Onyx as they'll let us, Captain. At the first sign of trouble..."
"You run as fast as you can."
Robau raised an eyebrow at that, eyeing Ba'el. "You sure about that?"
Ba'el hesitated a moment, his eyes flickering to the photos of Robau's family. His thoughts drifted inexorably to Elera and Torvol, and the look in Elera's eyes when he beamed out. He nodded. "Like you said, this ship is all that matters. If anything goes wrong, you run. Is that clear?"
Robau smiled. "Crystal. Good luck, captain."
To both of us
, Ba'el thought.