The five ships crept slowly towards the Lambda Paz
. On the bridge, the captain sounded red alert. The entire bridge crew stood at attention over their respective stations. As Limis expected, the Ops console chimed.
“Captain,” said M’Rev, “you are being hailed, by name.”
“Put it up,” Limis replied, ascending from the command chair.
Gul Enic Hadar appeared on the viewscreen, standing proudly on the bridge of the Dominion heavy cruiser. “Hello, Captain Limis,” he said ominously. “I’ve waited for this moment for nine months.”
Hadar snapped his fingers. Two Jem’Hadar appeared on the screen with an unkempt blonde Bajoran boy. Limis instantly recognized the young man as her son.
“You will transport yourself aboard my vessel,” the hulking Cardassian declared. He then pointed a Jem’Hadar hand phaser at Yanith’s head. “Or your son dies.”
“You’re bluffing, Hadar. You and those four other ships can easily take out my ship.”
“Bajorans do not surrender even if the odds are against them. Do you really want to take a chance with your child’s life?”
“I know you didn’t plan all this to discuss adversarial strategy. But if you want me, you’ll have to pry me off my cold dead ship. End transmission.”
Limis walked slowly back towards her chair. “Captain,” said Kozar. “Rule of acquisition number sixty-two: the bigger the risk, the bigger win. But an addendum to that rule should be not gamble away what you cannot afford to lose.”
“You know the Rules of Acquisition?” Limis curiously asked.
“I am a graduate of Starfleet Academy.”
Limis did not understand the humor behind that response. She shot quick glances at the officers manning tactical, ops, and conn. “Take the conn, Kozar,” she commanded. “Try and back us off.”
Kozar stood up from the first officer’s chair and relived the human male ensign at conn. He then entered commands to move the ship out of the metreon clouds that distinguished the Briar Patch. The enemy ships began firing barrages of phasers and plasma torpedoes.
The brige took heavy damage. One auixiliary station on the port side exploded sending an officer to the deck. Much of the remaining bridge crew had to tightly grasp their consoles with each hit the ship took.
“Damage report?” Limis requested.
“Hull breaches on Decks Five, Eight, and Ten,” M’Rev responded. “WE have plasma leaks in the starboard EPS lines. Attempting to bypass.”
“Fire dorsal and ventral phasers,” Limis ordered Morrison, “with a simultaneous spread of quantum torpedoes.”
The dorsal phasers of the saucer fired in three beams at the Jem’Hadar, while the secondary hulls of the ventral phasers fired in two beams at the Cardassians. A spread of torpedoes tore into the hulls of all five ships. Unencumbered, they all returned fire.
The bridge rocked violently. “Forward shields are down twenty-eight percent,” Morrison shouted over the commotion.
“How deep into the Patch are we?” Limis asked of Kozar.
“Five million kilometers,” Kozar replied. “We’ll need at least another minute before we can form a stable warp field.”
“Gul Hadar’s not going to very accommodating,” Morrison offered.
“Keep firing, Morrison,” Limis ordered. “Try to do as much damage as possible. Bridge to engineering.”
“Logan here,” the chief responded while feverishly monitoring the antimatter containment.
“We can’t go to warp,” Limis stated, “but can we saturate the region with low level warp particles?”
“Yes, but given the volatile nature of metreons, the resulting eruptions could encompass us.”
“Never mind the risks, Logan,” Limis snapped. “Get it done!”
The metreon gases around the warp nacelles began whirling. Electrical crackling filled the area. One Cardassian and one Jem’Hadar ship were destroyed. The crackling also plowed into the hull of the Lambda Paz
Some of the ceiling on the bridge gave way. The display of the master situation monitor toppled over the command chair. Limis had to dive out of the way.
She quickly gathered herself and stood up. “Open a channel to the lead ship,” she told M’Rev.
“You want me, Hadar?” she sneered at the barely functioning viewscreen. “I’m beaming aboard spare my crew.”
“A wise decision, Captain,” Hadar gloated.
Kozar stood up from the conn and walked towards Limis. “Captain,” he said, “is this really necessary?”
“If there was another way,” Limis replied. “While a single life is significant, I cannot risk any more lives for just one person.
“Besides, Kozar, You’ll get the starship command you always wanted.”
“If only it wasn’t under these circumstances,” Kozar replied.
Limis stepped onto the port turbolift. She told the computer to take her to Deck Four. The lift stopped at the lower deck as instructed. She walked through the doors and was blinded by a bright light. She shielded her eyes with her right arm. She turned around and saw no turbolift doors.
In fact, Limis was no longer aboard the Starfleet ship. From the light brown stone walls, Limis deduced that she was in a Bajoran monastery.” “The Ashalla Monastery?” she wondered aloud.
Although, it looked different from the last time she had visited there shortly after the end of the Occupation. Debris and shrapnel were scattered throughout the floor. Table had been knocked over.
“Not how it looked a few minutes ago,” a terrified voice replied.
That voice belonged to Jonas Grabowski, standing in a corner. Instead of a Starfleet uniform, he was dressed in a partially tattered and torn black jumpsuit. “An orb was over there,” he said, pointing to an empty metal stand that normally housed one of the Tears of the Prophets.
Ignoring him, Limis paced over to the open wall overlooking the surrounding city. It lay in ruins; buildings half destroyed and fires erupting.
Back on the Lambda Paz
, M’Rev reported a hail from the lead enemy ship.
“On screen,” Kozar replied.
“You’re playing a dangerous game, Commander,” said Hadar on the viewscreen.
“I don’t follow. Captain Limis should be aboard.”
“But she isn’t”
Morrison looked up grimly from his tactical display. “He’s targeting the warp core,” he warned. “They’re all targeting the warp core.”
Kozar tapped his combadge. “Bridge to transporter bay,” he called. “Did the captain beam aboard the lead Jem’Hadar ship?”
“Negative, sire,” the male technician answered. “She never even got to the transporter bay.”
Kozar and Morrison exchanged mystified glances.
“Where the hell am I?” Limis demanded.
“You’re on Bajor,” Grabowski answered, “in the thirty-first century. I was instructed to bring you here. And I ended up causing what I tried to prevent.”
“And this just happened?” Limis asked of the citywide wreckage.
“History has been changed.”
“Then send me back if bringing here did this to Bajor.”
“All the time transporters are gone,” Grabowski stated ruefully. “We can’t send you back.”
Limis looked again at the city in ruins contemplating being consigned to a purgatory from which she could never escape.