Logan and Tarlazzi were soon able to establish audio contact with Morrison and Lieutenant Sara Carson. Those four had also managed to send printout instructions to Lieutenant Shinar sh’Aqba and Doctor Aurellan Markalis. They all had a plan for retaking the ship. The biggest obstacle to implementing that plan, however, was getting themselves out of their quarters. “It’s a standard Cardassian counter-insurgency program,” Tarlazzi explained to the others with whom he had audio contact, while tinkering with a tricorder to maintain the link with the ODN lines. “And by ‘standard’, I mean total pain in the ass. I was able to force the door open and a forcefield went up.”
“Then we should concentrate on shorting out the forcefield generators?” Morrison suggested.
“That’s where sh’Aqba comes in,” Logan answered. “She’s rigging up a few phaser power packs for that job. But we’d have to do it on the outside. Someone would have to get into the air ducts. A child could fit in there, or maybe… “
“Carson,” Morrison suggested.
“Oh, no,” Carson replied. “You know how claustrophobic I am, Mandel.”
“So, I’m still Mandel,” Morrison quipped in regards to his ex-girlfriend addressing him by first name. “How flattering.”
“Oh, go to hell!” Sara spat into her speaker. “You have the ego of a Cardassian.”
“Can you put the divorcée quarrel on hold until after
we’ve retaken the ship?” Logan asked.
“Logan’s actually right,” Tarlazzi chimed in. “You’re the best for this job, Carson.”
“Fine, I’ll do it,” Carson relented. “How far to sh’Aqba’s quarters?”
“Forty meters,” Logan answered. “And Morrison’s another twenty.”
“See you soon,” Carson sarcastically remarked to Morrison, removing the top two layers of the top of her uniform.
Carson began crawling through the air duct with no room to maneuver her body, except forward. When she reached the Andorian engineer’s quarters, she banged on the ceiling grate. Sh’Aqba’s antennae stiffened upward at the noise. She stood on the coffee table to reach the ceiling and opened the grate.
“Sara?” sh’Aqba called out.
Carson reached hand through the hole to grab the power packs. “If you don’t mind,” she snapped, “I’d like to get this over with.”
“No need to get snippy,” sh’Aqba shot back, placing two of the packs in Carson’s hand.
“I’m in a passageway that I can barely fit in. I’ll get snippy if I damn well feel like it.”
Less than a minute later, Carson was above the corridor outside Morrison’s quarters. It was a part of the ship she knew all too well, having broken into his quarters to surprise him before announcing she was breaking up with him. Now, she was breaking into his quarters for a different reason. She slipped her through the hole in the ceiling. But her sleeveless tank top got stuck as she slid down.
Morrison opened the door to his quarters to see Carson holding her hands over her bare chest. He did not need to have an expression on his face for her to know what he was thinking.
“Get your mind out of the waste extraction system,” she snapped, “and find me a shirt.”
Two Jem’Hadar soldiers were busy knocking padds and hyposprays off the desk in the chief medical officer’s office in sickbay. They were checking to make sure nothing in the room was booby-trapped. They knew that was a Cardassian strategy, but they could never be too careful given Starfleet’s resourcefulness. And while the Cardassians were their allies, they were not to be trusted.
Their ransacking of the sickbay was interrupted by the sound of the doors to the adjacent science lab sliding open, and then closed. One of the soldiers went into the lab, while the other walked to the door to the primary ICU in case the possible intruder in the lab was a diversion.
The Jem’Hadar in the lab crept around to see if an intruder was waiting for the right moment to strike. He gave a quick visual survey of the consoles in the lab while listening for the sound of breathing. As he was turning around and creeping towards the door leading to the corridor, sh’Aqba snuck up from behind and jammed a dagger into the enemy’s soldier’s back.
Unfazed by the effort of cutting through his thick reptilian skin, the Jem’Hadar lunged around knocking her over. Without looking up, sh’Aqba grabbed the phaser from her holster and fired a lethal blast into his chest.
The melee caught the attention of the other Jem’Hadar. But before he could come to his colleague’s aid, Markalis burst out of the access tunnel leading directly to sickbay and fired her phaser. Because the phaser was set on stun, she needed to fire three times to incapacitate him. “Activate Emergency Medical Hologram,” she called.
A youthful-looking blonde-haired man in a Starfleet medical officer’s uniform fizzled into existence. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” he said, per his programming.
“We’ve been taken over by Dominion forces,” sh’Aqba explained, walking swiftly towards the main diagnostic console. “We need you to secure engineering for us.”
“Excuse me, but I am a doctor, not
a commando,” the hologram insisted.
Sh’Aqba quickly accessed the available transport logs of Dominion personnel. She then added some of that data to the holographic doctor’s image projectors. The EMH partially disappeared, and then reappeared as a Cardassian. “You are now,” she retorted.
The EMH disappeared entirely, having been transferred to engineering. Sh’Aqba then raced towards the hatch through which she entered the sickbay, with Markalis right behind her. Markalis was then tackled by the Jem’Hadar she incapacitated.
Sh’Aqba tried to come to the doctor’s rescue, but the Jem’Hadar quickly stood upright and fired his hand phaser at her. She ducked behind a biobed. Markalis attempted to lunge at the large enemy solider. The Jem’Hadar then grabbed her the neck, holding her three feet off the ground, while firing more shots towards sh’Aqba. She crept up to fire her phaser, but it was shot out of her hand.
“Go,” Markalis implored, weakly. “Save yourself.”
Without a working phaser and going against a Jem’Hadar twice as strong, sh’Aqba compliantly dove into the hatch and closed the door.
The Jem’Hadar guard loosened his grip on Markalis’s neck, sending her plunging to the ground. He tapped communication device on his left wrist to contact Ruaf’izod. “First, at least two of the crew have escaped,” he reported. “I have one of them in my custody.”
“Bring that person to the bridge,” Ruaf’izod responded.
Hadar ascended from the command chair and tapped his wrist communicator. “I will conduct the interrogation myself.”
“Carry out my orders,” Ruaf’izod ordered the guard in sickbay.
“The Vorta instructed me to keep you on a short leash,” Ruaf’izod told Hadar. “Now that your incompetence has allowed two of the Starfleet crew to escape… “
incompetence?” Hadar interrupted. “I employed one of the most sophisticated of computer programs to counter any tricks the Starfleets attempted.”
“That is beside the point. We should have executed
the crew the minute we took the ship.”
“We should not waste time debating what could
have been. Right now, we need to concentrate on holding this ship.”
Markalis and her captor then entered the bridge through the starboard turbolift. That distracted him from wanting to deck his Jem’Hadar counterpart. “Take her the ready room,” he commanded. “I will show her the price of defying us.”
Markalis was escorted into the ready room, where she gazed horrifyingly at Kozar hanging from the ceiling unconscious. Hadar then grabbed a hypospray off the desk and used to wake the first officer. He then asked the technician responsible for the torture device to prepare the equipment. To Markalis, he said, “Now, I don’t want to bruise that pretty face of yours. But you and your commander will suffer horribly if you do not tell me how many of your crewmates have escaped confinement. Isn’t your oath as a doctor to do no harm?”
“Lieutenant Aurellan Markalis,” she responded. “Serial number two-six-eight-seven-three-five-four.”
“You’ll regret that answer,” Hadar said, coldly, as he slapped Markalis on the left cheek. He then jammed the electrical cable from his torture device into Kozar’s chest, again sending electrical currents through his body.
Limis was in the process of dressing while she stared down at Grabowski While the spots that distinguished a Trill were not as pronounced as on a full blood Trill; they spread all the way down his body. Limis now felt as devastated as the Bajoran in Grabowski was when he inadvertently altered history. She fought against an oppressive force that ravaged this planet, and she hated to think a similar fate to befall her home in the coming centuries because she was not present to make a difference.
Grabowski was still groggy as he was waking up. “What time is it?” he asked.
“Almost sunrise,” Limis replied. “We should get a head start before the temperature shoots back up.”
“Right,” her traveling companion responded while visually locating his clothes.
Limis and Grabowski continued their long march through the desert. They exchanged no words for nearly seven hours, even while stopping to take a break. When the silence became too boring, Grabowski spoke up. “Do you regret last night?”
“No,” Limis answered while continuing to gaze ahead of her. “It happened. We can’t undo it, even though you are a master at time travel.”
Maybe so, but she still acting out that age-old maxim that sex changes everything. “You haven’t said a word to me since this morning,” he insisted.
“It’s a natural reaction. We got caught up in the moment and had a spur of the moment intimate encounter. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Of course not. We’re from different time periods.”
Limis then came to a stop and gazed absently as if having another epiphany from the Prophets. “It’s very near here,” she said. “I can feel it.”
“It’s still a desert,” Grabowski retorted. “How do you know where the Orb would be if you consider yourself an agnostic?”
“Back at the library, I mentioned taking a leap of faith. Sometimes you have to when not afforded the luxury of coming to an informed decision. I tried it in the Briar Patch and may as well have destroyed my ship. I’d still rather take my chances in my own time period.”
“Maybe the doctors are right,” a baritone voice said. “Those stories aren’t real. I should focus more on what is real.”
“Did you just say something?” Limis asked Grabowski. That voice did sound like that of Benjamin Sisko’s, but Grabowski was the only other person present.
“No,” Grabowski replied. “Maybe the heat is getting to you.”
“I may be getting old, but I’m not quite ready for senility.”
“I had this dream of a better world,” Sisko’s voice continued. “But that is four hundred years from now. Maybe it is just wishful thinking.”
Limis suddenly found herself in a dingy eating area with Sisko sitting across a table from her. But he was not Benjamin Sisko and she was not Limis Vircona. “Don’t say that, Benny,” she said to Benny Russell.
Suddenly, she realized that the world around her had changed. She was not on Bajor in the 31st century, but on Earth in the 20th. Limis was now Veronica Loomis, a human woman and a patient at a New York City mental hospital.