If I could do it over again, I would have tried harder to save those people in that burning building. I had to have at least tried harder. The Cardies were massacring the whole settlement on Setlik Three without a single care as to whether their targets were military or civilian. Even those kids being escorted to safety with me were slaughtered. Those Cardassians put those people in that kind of peril, not me. But, by God, I found them by accident, and it was still my responsibility to try to save them. Instead, I was too overly concerned with my saving my own life. I gave in to the most primal of human fears.
But why am I beating myself up over this thirty years later? I was just a kid nowhere near as courageous the man I am now. I’ve faced death countless times since Setlik Three. But it might have set a pattern in motion that has manifested itself throughout my service in Starfleet. I aced the psych-test when I applied to the Academy, having been in the position to order one of my subordinates to his death. It made my cowardice on Setlik seem like a distant memory. I was given no warning that what I was about to face wasn’t for real. Still, I did what I thought was necessary to accomplish the mission. That was only one person who “died” during that unannounced exam. At Coridan, though, my people were dropping like flies. Fifteen hundred miners trapped below ground. We had a duty to try to save them. But not one of them made it out alive. None of us would have made it out alive either. I should have tried harder,
I guess I never truly overcame such a fear. That much became clear after my own carelessness got Major Davis killed. I couldn’t bear to live with myself should Neeley meet her demise the same way even if our personal relationship is only friends with benefits. As third-in-command, I could potentially have to make those choices on a larger scale. As we get closer to Zhamur, I know the Jemmies will make us fight hard for every cubic millimeter of the system. I can’t second-guess myself now. I have to face each situation as it occurs and focus on the mission at hand. As much as I want all of the troops under my command to come back alive, I know that’s not realistic. Knowing that in the hypothetical sense is one thing. Putting it into practice never gets easy. I should keep reminding myself of what the captain told me after the Coridan incident; that Bajor would not have defeated the Cardassians settling for twenty percent casualties.
“Mister Morrison,” he heard a voice call to him. “Fire!”
Mandel Morrison was brought back to reality—the battle scarred bridge of the USS Lambda Paz
. His thoughts had briefly gone back to the Setlik Three Massacre, as well as his decision to scrap a rescue mission Coridan, and the death of a fellow officer that haunted him for nearly a year. And now, the Seventh Fleet was battling the Jem’Hadar in close quarters just outside the Zhamur system. Once again, he was in a very dangerous life and death situation. The enemy had already destroyed fifteen small fighters and nearly a dozen Akira
-class destroyers. A number of dead and unconscious bodies were sprawled across the deck throughout the bridge. What Mandel was responsible for now was assuring that lives could be saved by defeating the relentless Jemmies in this particular battle.
“Aye, sir,” Morrison stammered. “Quantum torpedoes targeted. Dispersal pattern tango.”
A swarm of torpedoes erupted from the ship’s dorsal sensor pod and spread across a formation of three attacking Jem’Hadar fighters. All three of the ships absorbed most of the hits, while a few torpedoes slipped through the shields tearing into their hulls. The fighters continued firing disruptors at the Lambda Paz
and surrounding Akiras
and Klingon Birds-of-Prey
. The Starfleet and Klingon ships responded with phaser and disruptor fire. The Lambda Paz
then broke formation while the surrounding ships spread out to confront Jem’Hadar fighters in squads of three and four head-on.
The Lambda Paz
entered a formation with four other Luna
-class ships, along with half a dozen Akira
-class ships along the outer formation to confront a large Dominion heavy-cruiser.
“How close, sir?” Sara Carson asked, keeping a firm grasp on the helm.
“Right up his throat,” said Commander Ronnie Kozar, the acting captain in Limis’s absence. He then exchanged approving glances with his acting first officer, Commander Chaz Logan.
“Morrison, ready all weapons,” Logan added. “Fire on the captain’s command.”
“Weapons lock calibrated,” Morrison said calmly. “Ready to fire, sir.” He looked in Carson’s direction while she kept her glance on her station. They had been separated for almost a year, but he still deeply cared for her as much as his current significant other. And while he and Lisa Neeley were having nothing than a physically intimate relationship without romantic love, her welfare, as well as Sara’s was of greater concern to him than the welfare of any other fellow officer’s.
Kozar gave a firm at the tactical display on the console to the right of his chair to coordinate with the other ships in the formation. “Now,” he snapped. “Fire all weapons. Helm, move us off!”
The tactical and helm officers on all ships in formation carried their orders with clockwork precision. The ships fired swarms of phasers and quantum torpedoes at the heavy cruiser at close range while quickly veering off.
“Moderate damage to forward sections,” Morrison reported as the bridge continued rocking from enemy weapons fire.
“Keep pouring it on,” Kozar insisted. “These ships are as resilient as Borg cubes. We don’t want to let up.”
“Shields are buckling, sir!” Willis Huckaby shouted over the myriad of explosions and shaking throughout the bridge.
Carson dodged an eruption of sparks at her station, as well as shrapnel that came her way from the port engineering station. The human male officer at that station wasn’t so lucky, falling hard to the deck. Morrison glanced over in that direction with a brief feeling of guilt that he was more concerned for Sara than the ensign who may have just perished. He also felt thankful that he was not giving the orders to keep firing despite the condition of his ship.
The Lambda Paz
and the surrounding ships moved in for another pass with continuous bursts of phaser fire in order to at least inflict minimal damage to the heavy cruiser. The heavy cruiser was just as relentless in firing its plasma torpedoes destroying two Akiras
and two Defiants
Morrison’s hands danced around the console, continuing to fire the ship’s phasers and coordinating various sensor readings with the other ships’ tactical officers. The bridge rocked hard and an officer at the starboard mission ops station on Morrison’s right fell to the deck. He smacked his console in frustration when one of his commands failed to compute. He looked in Sara’s direction again while attempting a manual recalibration.
“I see a weakness in their structural integrity,” Logan remarked from the mission ops station previously occupied by one of the incapacitated officers.
“Got it,” Kozar replied inputting commands on his panel. “All other ships, target all weapons on the following the coordinates.”
The Lambda Paz
and the remaining Starfleet ships in the formation were joined by three Negh’Var
-class Klingon attack cruisers to port and three D’deridex
-class Romulan warbirds to starboard. All the ships confronting the Dominion heavy cruiser fired continuous swarms of phasers and torpedoes, not stopping until the large ship was completely destroyed.
Shinar sh’Aqba and her four-person engineering team materialized in the transporter room of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey
. Commander Karlek promptly arrived in the chamber to greet the Andorian chief engineer of the Lambda Paz
and the rest of her group, which consisted of a human male, a Tiburon male, and a Ktarian female. With much of the Klingon vessel’s engineering staff either dead or in the medical ward, officers from other Starfleet and Klingon ships came aboard to offer assistance during even brief lulls in combat.
“At last,” said Karlek, giving sh’Aqba a firm pat on her left shoulder. Then to the other Starfleet engineers, he added, “My engineering staff… rather what’s left of it… will guide you to the areas of the ship most in need of repairs.”
Three other officers followed Karlek and escorted the three ensigns off the transporter pad. One of them greeted the Tiburon male with a friendly arm around the shoulder, to which did not entirely take kindly. “Come join us,” another Klingon growled to the human male.
“Yes,” the third Klingon added, addressing the Ktarian. “Help fix our vessel so it can fight again.”
Sh’Aqba could tell that the rest of her team was not exactly thrilled by the high level of enthusiasm from the Klingon officers considering the damage the vessel had taken. They would certainly welcome any assistance if their ship rendered derelict, but they probably would not be in that kind of mood. It was a trait that sh’Aqba about Klingons. A positive attitude despite heavy losses at least demonstrated that the warriors aboard the vessel were willing to continue to fight. Many of the greatest Andorian warriors from the pre-Federation Imperial Guard were just as mentally resilient.
“And how goes the battle on your ship, Lieutenant sh’Aqba?” Karlek jovially asked, putting his arm around the Andorian woman’s shoulder as walked through a corridor, weaving through Starfleet and Klingon medical personnel carrying corpses on gurneys.
“Our warp drive was badly hit,” sh’Aqba answered with the same air of optimism. “But I trust my assistant not to make it worse,” she added in reference to Erhlich Tarlazzi and his rather care-free, make-it-up-as-he-goes attitude.
Karlek laughed raucously with a nudge of sh’Aqba’s shoulder. “I have nothing but the utmost confidence in your gallant engineering crew,” he said.
“And I in yours, Commander,” sh’Aqba said. “I cannot stay long, though. I’m only here to give an assessment of your repair needs and delegate reassignment of personnel.”
“I am appreciative of any assistance you can provide, so every vessel that is still intact and every able-bodied warrior can destroy the enemy or die honorably in the field of battle. Do you not agree?”
“Chech chew jaj-Vam jaj-kak!
” sh’Aqba said, echoing the Klingon slogan, “Today is a good day to die.”
Back on the Lambda Paz
, Rebecca Sullivan was supervising the work of a skeleton crew in engineering. Many of the department’s personnel were either helping to repair ships with far worse damage or conducting repairs in other sections of the Lambda Paz
. While reviewing a repair schedule on a padd with a human male petty officer, Rebecca saw Sara enter the engineering section through the main entrance. She gave the lieutenant a light nod and turned back to reading the padd and highlighting various items on the readout screen with a stylus. “Make replacing the graviton stabilizers in those sections your priority,” she instructed the engineer as she handed him the padd and stylus. “The crews repairing the field stabilizers won’t do such a good job if the gravity keeps fluctuating.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the enlisted man replied.
“Rebecca, we have a problem over here,” another human male called to her, while working on the dilithium articulation frame.
Rebecca raised her forefinger in Sara’s direction to indicate she would be with her in a few moments while walking over to the warp core. The ensign handed her two small dilithium crystals that had been cracked in many different places. “They still came out that way even after recrystallization process,” he explained.
“Oh, yeah, they’re shot,” Rebecca affirmed holding one crystal in each hand. “Try to make as much use out of the good ones as possible. Meanwhile, I’ll see if Lieutenant Tarlazzi can lend a hand.” She then handed the crystals back to the ensign and quickly attended to Sara.
“Did he just call you by your first name?” Sara asked.
“Maybe you should report him and me to your ex-boyfriend,” Rebecca quipped. “For someone with messy quarters, you’re sure a stickler for protocol. Let me guess, the helm command processors are acting up again?”
“That and the thruster controls,” Sara replied. “I’d work on it myself, but my crews are too busy with the deflector.”
“Don’t worry, Sara. I’ll get on it myself as soon as I can be spared.”
Sara’s eyes widened at hearing a subordinate officer address her by first name while on duty, but she chose to ignore it, meaning one less interaction with said ex-boyfriend.
“Sullivan to Tarlazzi,” Rebecca said, tapping combadge. “Get your ass back down the engineering, Lieutenant.”
“That’s no way to speak to a superior officer,
Tarlazzi half-jokingly replied.
“Nevertheless, we need our dilithium maintenance specialist
in here, which is you
“All right, Becca. When you put it that way…”
Sara slowly headed for the exit, thinking that Commander Kozar would not respond to such rudeness with the same lenience. But she couldn’t help but envy Rebecca’s rather cavalier attitude towards these relatively trivial infractions.
Crell Moset sat in a chair with his hands behind his back, his wrists tied together. Limis was now in the process of bounding his ankles together. Once she was certain the knots were secure on both sets of rope, she seated herself on the sofa. She removed her phaser from its holster and pointed in Moset’s direction, close enough for him to see that it was set to kill—not high enough to vaporize him, but enough to blow his head off as she had threatened.
“Any setting above level eight will set off the security alarms,” Moset taunted with a cheerful grin.
“Do you think I’d be foolish enough not to disable them?” Limis rhetorically asked with a cold stare.
“Of course not. You knew to disable the primary and the secondary sensor nets before I got here. But Cardassian computer systems are so unpredictable. You might have tripped a dozen silent alarms already.”
“I guess I’ll have to take that chance,” Limis fired back with a sly grin. “Still, I feel honored right now. A descendant of Bajor’s first kai. I had never considered that.”
“How highly someone who doesn’t even believe the entities inside the Wormhole are gods thinks of herself. How do you know it’s not the boy’s father who is descended from ‘the first person touched by the Prophets when they first revealed themselves?’” Moset then let out a snicker wondering if that would provoke a response.
Limis just rolled her eyes, making sure to keep the phaser trained on Moset. “And just how is using my kid’s genes going to reopen the Wormhole to Dominion reinforcements?” she asked, standing up and pointing the tip of her phaser straight at Moset’s forehead.”
“It’s complicated,” Moset plainly stated. “My expertise is in the exobiology portion of the field tests. I don’t think I can explain the rest of it to you.”
“Try me, sir,” Limis hissed poking the phaser against Moset’s left forehead ridge. She did not for one minute buy his attempt to evade this line of questioning. “Surely, you know something
before you went all mad scientist on my boy.”
“You portray me as some kind of witch doctor, Limis. I cured a rampant outbreak of the Fostossa virus on Bajor.”
“Using live suspects!”
“Yes, many died in those experiments, but I saved
a lot more lives because of my work.”
“And you expect me to give you a goddamn metal for that?” Limis snarled, squeezing Moset’s neck. She then slammed him against the back of the chair.
“Now let’s be honest with each other, Limis. You sacrificed a few of your countrymen for the benefit of the entire Bajoran populace.”
“I didn’t subject them to the kind of torture you did. But we’re not talking about me. As of now, your little ‘witch doctor’ experiments are over. You will release my son. Then you will surrender yourself to me as a prisoner of war.”
Moset let out a long, sustained snicker “And how do you expect to get off and safely back to Federation space?” he asked completely beside himself. “The rest of your strike team is either dead or captured. Station security is after you. You are on your own against the entire Betazed occupational army.”
“We expected Thalek to sell us out. That’s why we have reinforcements on the way. And that’s no bluff.”
It was a bluff. But it was the best bluff she could come up with in order to assure Moset’s cooperation.
As if on cue, the doorbell chimed. “Doctor Moset,” a masculine voice called on the other side of the door. “Are you all right in there?”
“Answer it,” Limis whispered, untying her hostage. “Say you were fast asleep. And don’t try anything because I’m the one holding the gun.”
“Be right there,” Moset shouted towards the door after the third chime.
Once the door slid open, a Cardassian officer stepped inside while a Jem’Hadar guard remained in the corridor. “Is everything all right here, Doctor?” the Cardassian asked, taking guarded looks around the cabin. “You weren’t answering your comm. And we were told one of the intruders would come after you.”
One of the intruders,
Limis silently repeated to herself while concealed underneath a cloth-covered table. Then maybe some of the others can still carry out the original mission to destroy the station from the inside.
“No one else has been here,” Moset replied shaking his head. “I was fast asleep. Long day, you day. Must not have heard anyone’s pages.” He then looked around the main living area to see if Limis was in any position to carry out her threat. “Oh, but the Bajoran is
here by the way,” he said in a hushed tone.
The guard walked further into the room and gestured for his Jem’Hadar colleague to come in as well. The Cardassian tiptoed over to the table under which Limis was hiding. Before he had a chance to raise the cloth, the table flew off the floor and knocked him over. The Jem’Hadar raised his rifle and fired three plasma bolts, all of which missed with Limis rolling towards the sofa. She threw off the cloth, aimed her weapon, and fired a lethal blast at the Jem’Hadar’s chest.
The Cardassian composed himself and grabbed Limis by her uniform collar lifting her on her feet. During this commotion, Moset walked over to the desk and loaded a hypospray. Before he could get near her to administer the sedative, Limis poked the guard’s right thigh with her neural truncheon, loosening his grip. She then grabbed the dead Jem’Hadar’s disruptor pistol and fired killing the Cardassian guard.
“I’ll need this place re-carpeted,” Moset said of the burns left behind by the Jem’Hadar’s weapons fire.
Limis fired her disruptor four times at the ceiling sending down a grate to the air vent above. “Shut up and get inside,” she instructed. “I have a more lethal gun this time, so don’t try anything foolish.”
Moset obligingly stepped onto the chair and climbed up into the air vent. Limis then climbed onto the chair and followed her hostage into the air vent.