Limis seemed impervious to the fact that she was now a patient in a mental institution on Earth, four hundred years in her past. She did not question that she was now Veronica Loomis. She was committed when she began having delusions her son was still alive after he was killed in the Korean War. She quickly became acquainted with Benny Russell, who was admitted to the mental hospital when he began clinging to a science fiction world he created while working for a literary magazine in Harlem. He continued writing, even though the doctors were having the manuscripts shredded. He snuck copies of his stories into Veronica’s room for her to read. But now, Benny was slowly giving that up.
“Don’t you see?” Benny insisted. “All I’ve had to show for clinging to this reality of mine is to lose my job and to be incarcerated here. Maybe now isn’t the time to start a revolution.”
“Someone probably said that before the Civil War started,” Veronica retorted, “and when the Supreme Court ruled against Susan B. Anthony.”
“I’ve now come to understand, though, the tremendous sacrifices needed to be made to change the world. I don’t know how far I’d be willing to go.”
“Your stories provide a more optimistic outlook on the future, Benny. My grandparents came to this country from Russia to escape religious persecution. Your stories give us hope for a better future. You can’t change the world overnight, but your writings can be a start.”
Two orderlies slowly paced towards the table escort Benny back to his room. “You’ve given me a lot to think about, Veronica,” Benny said, standing to go with the two heavyset men.
“Don’t let them tell you you’re crazy,” Veronica replied.
Grabowski touched Limis’s shoulders and nudged. “You still here, Captain?” he asked.
Limis blinked to absorb that she was again her real self and in the Golar Desert on Bajor. She pointed ahead with her right arm. “We should go this way,” she said.
Grabowski turned his head around to gaze at the mountains in the distance. “You sure?” he asked.
“I had another vision,” Limis explained. “It was more convoluted this time, like I was a whole different person. Then I got this sense the Orb is very close.”
They walked towards a row of dying sagebrush. One corner of a box was sticking out of those bushes. Limis threw aside some of the branches to reveal the Orb box. She absorbed her surroundings in a moment of nervousness about the next few minutes. She planted a kiss on Grabowski’s lips. “It’s been fun,” she declared, “but I need to get back to my own time.”
Limis opened the box to reveal the rotating Orb. What looked like long tendrils reached out around her. A white light quickly enveloped her, as she felt herself being pulled into a timeless realm.
The EMH in the form of a Cardassian was entering commands into the console in front of the warp core. He was constantly looking behind both his shoulders to make sure he was not arousing the suspicions of other Cardassians, and especially the Jem’Hadar, as he had been programmed with the knowledge that the Dominion was keeping a closer eye on the Cardassians now that the invasion of Dominion-held territory was underway. The holographic doctor-turned-commando’s task was to release anesthizine gas into the engineering section.
He began to think he was in the clear when he was ready to key in the final command sequence. But then he heard a voice call out from behind him. “You?” a Jem’Hadar called. “Do you have authorization to work that console?”
The startled hologram turned around to face the guard now confronting him. “Of course,” he humbly replied.
“I don’t recognize you. Name and rank?”
“Gorr, first class, Makesh.”
“I will need the First to verify this.” He prepared to contact the lead Jem’Hadar.
“Is that necessary?” the EMH asked. “Gul Hadar needs the warp engine diagnostic by 1600 hours.”
“You will wait,” the Jem’Hadar growled upholstering his phaser, “until the First arrives.”
Without looking at the console, the EMH entered the final command sequence.
“What have you just done?!” the Jem’Hadar demanded.
Gas began pouring into the engine room. Jem’Hadar and Cardassians all over the room began grabbing their own necks choking, and they quickly fell to the deck unconscious.
Mandel Morrison was crawling through one of the corridors, seemingly delirious. He caught the attention of a Cardassian who happened to walk by. He tapped his communicator to summon reinforcements in case this was some kind of ruse. The Cardassian pulled his weapon and rolled Morrison onto his back. “Get up, Starfleet,” he demanded upon seeing his eyes partially open.
Suddenly the Cardassian took two Jem’Hadar plasma projectiles in the chest. Sh’Aqba and Carson arrived on the scene armed with Jem’Hadar rifles. The two women threw themselves against the wall when two Jem’Hadar started shooting from down the corridor. Logan and Tarlazzi then emerged from a side door and quickly took them out with their Cardassian phasers.
“You guys took your time,” Morrison remarked, standing up and picking up the nearby Cardassian’s weapons.
“Now I got to come to your rescue,” Carson sneered, citing two references in which Morrison took credit for saving her life.
The group then headed for the transporter room and beamed into engineering.
“Finally,” the EMH huffed. To sh’Aqba, he said, “I think your modifications are starting to wear off.”
“Then we’ll send you back to sickbay,” Morrison replied. “You’re work here is done.”
“Thank you,” the EMH sarcastically stated before disappearing.
On the bridge, First Ruaf’izod responded to the summons he had received to get no answer from engineering. “Bridge to engineering,” he called a second time.
“Send a team down there,” Hadar ordered the Jem’Hadar at tactical.
Ruaf’izod gave a confirming nod.
“I have a plan that may coerce them into surrendering.”
“I know what you have in mind,” the Jem’Hadar First growled. “I will handle the prisoners in the ready room. I want you to lead your men to the engine room.”
“This is my operation,” Hadar insisted. “I am here in place of your Vorta. That was the arrangement.”
“Not anymore,” Ruaf’izod replied. “I will not allow you to continue to foul things up.”
Hadar wanted to strangle Ruaf’izod, but then he would likely be executed and he would not able to exact vengeance against Limis. He, instead, left the bridge and stepped onto the starboard turbolift with two other Cardassians.
“Attention, insurgents!” Ruaf’izod’s voice boomed on the engineering intercoms. “We have your commander and your chief medical officer in custody. If you do not surrender in one minute, I will execute both of the prisoners. I know that unlike the Jem’Hadar, Starfleet officers do not consider their colleagues expendable.”
All the monitors in engineering engaged to show two other Jem’Hadar guards pointing rifles at Kozar and Markalis. The officers who had secured engineering could only stare at their colleagues in disbelief. Morrison, Logan, sh’Aqba, Carson, and Tarlazzi all knew what might be asked of them in a situation like this, but they could not bare the thought of having to watch the cold-blooded murders of two of their colleagues.
Kozar, of course, was prepared to lay down his life to assure his ship did not fall into enemy hands, if only the auto destruct could engage. He continued twisting his wrists, hoping to loosen the rope that had him hanging from the ceiling. And while Markalis had been a doctor longer than she was a Starfleet officer, she knew a moment like this would come. She never considered the possibility of meeting her premature demise until now.
“Kill the woman,” Ruaf’izod ordered the guard who was pointing a rifle at Markalis.
Kozar suddenly swung forward, kicking both guards in their respective chests. Markalis then dove underneath the desk to avoid Ruaf’izod’s phaser fire. She rummaged through a drawer to find a hand phaser, and then fired it at the ceiling to free Kozar. Kozar dove into Ruaf’izod, ignoring the fact that the Jem’Hadar had shot him in the shoulder. Kozar then fired Ruaf’izod’s phaser at one of the guards, and then fired another fatal shot at the First.
The second guard swung around the desk, pointing his phaser at Markalis. But she was able to fire her phaser at him, sending his lifeless body to the deck. Markalis then remembered her phaser was still set to kill. She had never taken a life before. From an early age, she learned that humanity had overcome the need for such barbaric practices. Markalis let the phaser fall out of her hands, and she collapsed to the deck sobbing.
Kozar walked behind the desk and crouched down to console Markalis. “Markalis, listen to me,” he said calmly. “ He would have killed you. You did what you had to do.”
Markalis looked up at Kozar, tears streaming down both cheeks. “I killed him,” she murmured, remorsefully. “I took an oath to do no harm, but I just murdered a sentient being.”
“Right now, you’re not a doctor,” Kozar told her. “You’re a Starfleet officer trying to take back your ship from enemy soldiers. Sometimes that means using deadly force.”
“How are you, Captain Limis, Morrison, and the others so used to causing the deaths of other beings?”
“You hope you never do get used to it.”
The intercom then sounded. “Battle alert,” a Jem’Hadar on the bridge called.
Kozar and Markalis were hopeful that Starfleet had sent ships to their rescue.
The ship was red alert as a Sindareen battle cruiser approached the Lambda Paz.
Glinn Perrek was at Ops, while Third Retan’ikron was at tactical. Second Jamat’hiron stood in front of where both command chairs used to be, staring at the viewscreen. Hadar stepped onto the bridge, after being summoned by the battle alert.
“Where is the First?” Hadar asked.
“He has not reported back to the bridge,” Jamat’hiron answered. “We can assume he is dead. I
am in command now.”
“We’re being hailed,” Perrek reported.
“On screen,” Jamat’hiron and Hadar answered simultaneously.
Hadar’s former business partner Tor Vot appeared on the viewscreen. “You,” Hadar sneered. “What do you want? I fired you after you failed to carry out my assignment for you.”
“I remember quite well,” Tor Vot hissed. “I was promised a hefty bounty by another employer of mine, which I will not give up easily. You can keep your captured ship. Just release Captain Limis to me. If you do not comply in sixty seconds, I will open fire.”
“You would threaten the Dominion?!” Jamat’hiron snarled. “We do not take such challenges lightly, especially from our former allies.”
Hadar arched his head upward at the word allies. The last thing he, or any other Cardassian wanted to hear, was that their allies were secretly colluding with pirates such as the Sindareen. Now, though, was not the time to confront their partners about this betrayal.
“He’s powering his weapons,” Retan’ikron reported.
“Let’s grant his death wish then,” the Second replied. “Screen off.”