Chapter Four (Part One)
Yelgrun sat at the head of a meeting table in his office, reading status reports from Thot Drelf on a several different padds.
In the course of the Dominion and Breen representatives’ exchange of military information, two Jem’Hadar guards were behind the Vorta, standing motionless and eerily silent like statues. The same was true of the two Breen guards standing behind Drelf. They were dressed in full military armor, including helmets, and, for all anyone else knew, they were eyeing the Jem’Hadar suspiciously.
Drelf, however, had chosen to remove his helmet during this session with Yelgrun, though his face was a site that the Vorta had found revolting. Drelf’s face could have been described as gorilla or Neanderthal-like, but far more hideous without very much resembling hair or fur. The closest thing to hair on his face appeared in the form of inch-long follicles visible to the naked eye throughout the face. Where there was usually a nose, was instead a vertical arrangement of gill-like slits. Along his chin was a row of inch-long mandibles just below his dark gray lips. The eyes looked humanoid in shape and size, and his skin was largely brownish gray with hair-like follicles extending back towards his scalp. His ears were at least six inches in diameter, extending outward across both sides of his head.
Yelgrun did his best to hide revulsion while discussing more pressing issues with his Breen counterpart.“How are your efforts to move deeper into Klingon and Romulan territories proceeding?” he inquired.
“Romulan battle groups in sector four-eight-three and five-zero-seven quickly defeated,” Drelf replied. “Klingon armada in star system Tranome Sar also quickly defeated. We are in position to attack outer core systems.”
“Excellent. The reinforcements of ships have put the enemy back on the defensive. But the Klingons continue sneak attacks on the outer reaches of our territory; possibly because they are not as susceptible to your energy dissipaters.”
“More ships to Quenor system we can commit certainly… promises of success we will not yet make.”
Yelgrun nodded while setting aside one padd on a stack and studying the one immediately below it. “And while we’re at it,” he said with his eyes concentrated only on the padd, “we can find out if the reports of a rebel Cardassian base on the seventh planet are true.”
“Efforts to stop our own rebellions not yet succeeding,” Drelf replied. “New civil uprisings reported on Paclu planet Gorsach.”
“We can spare Jem’Hadar troops by increasing production at the Thalot hatcheries by twenty percent.”
“Good. We are in your debt if Jem’Hadar succeed.”
Yelgrun was a bit taken aback by the conditional nature of that last statement. Dealing with the Breen required almost infinite patience, he knew. Their language structure made them sound almost infantile or lacking in intelligence. Of course, that was the result of the universal translator. But what he found most interesting was the strong similarities in the languages of two different species of Breen—the insectoid Amoniri and the Neanderthaloid Paclu. That two unrelated sentient species had similar grammar and syntax in their respective languages at all was itself a strong improbability.
The room suddenly started shaking. Both Yelgrun and Drelf looked around the room curiously and apprehensively before looking at each other. Drelf grabbed his helmet while he and his personal guards scrambled towards the door. Yelgrun tapped a comm-panel on his desk to hail the bridge.
“Bridge, what’s happening?” he anxiously demanded.
“Something just collapsed our warp field,”
a masculine voice responded. “We’re picking up spikes in gravimetric energy all around us.”
Yelgrun and Drelf marched onto the bridge, where a younger male Vorta stood at the center console. On top of his right shoulder was a large eyepiece device that allowed him to monitor shipwide status reports and communications with the two Breen heavy cruisers flanking the Dominion heavy cruiser. The Jem’Hadar First was on his left, wearing the same device, and monitoring sensor readings on the main console.
“Status report,” Yelgrun requested of Torgroth.
“Some kind of the subspace instability suddenly appeared right on top of us,” the younger Vorta responded, handing off the eye device to Yelgrun.
Yelgrun stared into the eye device and saw a black spatial anomaly in the shape of a funnel. The funnel was slowly dispersing, and a large structure emerged. He muttered something inaudible when a large cylindrical object that dwarfed even his own monstrosity of a Dominion heavy cruiser had fully taken shape.
His attention to what was happening outside the ship was diverted when lights started flickering out on the bridge. “Now what?” he griped.
“The object is putting out massive amounts of gravimetric energy,” First Mirak’tiral explained, “which is interfering with main power.”
“Pilot, back us off, quickly,” Yelgrun shouted to the Jem’Hadar manning helm, directly in front of the main center console.
“Nothing,” the pilot reported. “The interference is jamming most of our propulsion systems.”
“Flood as much emergency power as you can into them,” Yelgrun snapped. “Thot Drelf…”
Drelf, now with his battle helmet covering his face, made a buzzing noise upon hearing his name spoken that only Yelgrun could seem to understand.
“Have you been able to contact your ships?” the Vorta asked.
Drelf uttered a quicker buzzing tone, which the Jem’Hadar on the bridge assumed meant either yes or no.
“Tell them to route whatever power they can into their plasma torpedoes,” Yelgrun instructed. “See if that will be enough to disable whatever this is.”
Drelf buzzed in acknowledgement of that instruction, to which Yelgrun shook his head in annoyance of how snide the Breen’s reply was.
The two Breen heavy cruisers flanking the Dominion capital ship fired swarms of plasma torpedoes at the large structure. Some of them missed the target entirely, while others just grazed the hull. But the torpedoes that did score a direct hit managed to short the structure’s energy sources.
“All systems coming back on-line,” Torgroth reported, which Yelgrun could deduce by the lights once again illuminating the bridge.
“Very good,” Yelgrun replied. “Take a team of Vorta engineers aboard that object, Torgroth. Mirak’tiral, take a squad of Jem’Hadar along as well. And use all necessary precautions in case the inside of it doesn’t have breathable atmosphere. We need to find out what in the Founders’ name this thing is.”
Limis sat on a sofa in one of the small crew lounges, sipping a martini. Rebecca Sullivan was seated on her right, also with a martini in hand. It had become something of an evening ritual for the two best friends, that is whenever the captain could get away from the bridge before Rebecca’s bridge shift started.
Vircona had just confided in Rebecca about when she had been pulled seven hundred years in the future and went on a long journey across the desert to find the Orb of Time with Grabowski. She added how she and Jonas had developed a certain mutual admiration for one another, and how the moments of awkward silence became a sexual liaison. “You’d think he’d show more restraint considering his group is supposed to preserve
the timeline, not screw with it,” she remarked.
Vircona and Rebecca exchanged devilish smirks in response to the crude innuendo that was used. “He says he ‘never experienced that timeline’,” she added. “Later, he showed me that his organization can
examine alternate timelines, but that man wasn’t him.”
“You said yourself that it didn’t mean anything,” Rebecca offered. “So why does it bother you that he doesn’t remember?”
Vircona sighed, completely at a loss for words. “I don’t know,” was all she could say.
Rebecca set her glass down on the nearby coffee table and clasped her friend’s right hand. “Could it be because he’s someone who accepts you for who you are without judging you or your rocky past?” she suggested.
Vircona flashed a smile, suddenly able to articulate an answer she could not just a few moments earlier. “Now that I think of it,” she said, looking away from Rebecca. “He has a certain fascination with me from a historical perspective. I seem to play role in his history. We can’t help but admire a lot of those famous names. And, yes, he is one of the first men in quite a while who isn’t so concerned with all the baggage.”
“Just like me and Sara,” Rebecca replied, with a light grin and a blush in her cheeks.
Limis put her beverage glass aside on the table and stared at her friend for a very long moment, flabbergasted that she didn’t know this before. For the last few months, Limis had suspected there was something between her alpha and gamma shift helm officers, but always assumed it was the usual kind of friendship between two women. “Lieutenant Carson,” she simply said with wide-eyed inquisitiveness.
“Of all the Starfleet vets on this ship,” Rebecca answered with a nod, “she doesn’t seem all that presumptuous.”
“I guess I just didn’t think you’d find anyone so soon after Michael died.”
“Neither did I. But you don’t always plan these things.”
The two friends smiled and clasped both of each other’s hands. “I am happy for you, Becca,” Limis said. “At least one of us has someone special in their lives.
Erhlich Tarlazzi entered sickbay and headed straight for the biobed where sh’Aqba was being examined by one of the nurses. She was still in uniform rather than a surgical gown and conscious enough to be sitting up with her back against the headboard. She smiled as he entered the cubicle. The Denobulan female nurse had just completed her examination and left the cubicle to allow the two of them some privacy.
“Look who’s back in sickbay,” Erhlich joked as he nodded in the nurse’s direction. “Light duty doesn’t appear to be doing trick.”
“The doctor says it was a stress-related fainting spell while I’m still recovering from Turrelian fever,” Shinar explained with an amused grin.
“Hope you get well soon. They miss seeing that smile down in engineering.”
Shinar’s eyes narrowed, indicating she wasn’t buying that remark since she hardly ever smiled while on duty.
“All right, I
miss seeing that smile,” Erhlich corrected himself while he pulled up a chair. “You really had me worried. We would certainly hate to lose one of the best engineers in Starfleet.”
Shinar smacked him on the shoulder. “Oh, stop it,” she said with a giggle. They leaned in closer to each other and kissed. While they exchanged a few pecks on the lips, she the coaxed the curtains on both sides of the cubicle forward. With a frisky smile, she whispered, “You want to do it right here?”
“Whoa,” Erhlich gasped, pulling away from her. “I don’t want to cause any future ‘stress-related fainting spells’. Besides, the ice queen would never allow it.” He pointed his thumb in the direction of the office where he had seen Markalis step in from the corner of his eye.
Aurellan looked through the glass in their direction, wondering if Shinar will tell Erhlich she was pregnant and that he was the father. She looked away to avoid letting them think she was giving them disapproving looks and saw the EMH walk in through the office’s entrance from the lab.
“Why doesn’t she just tell him the truth?” Aurellan wondered aloud. “They’re not married, but he still has a right to know that he’s fathering her child.”
“Ideally, she would,” the hologram replied while he was gathering up some padds on the desk. “And they’d live happily ever after as mommy, daddy, and baby. All my programming says that is what she should
do. But you were the one who told me that people will not always make the rational decision after a little dust up with hers truly.”
Aurellan gave a relenting sigh. “You’re absolutely right,” she said, remembering when the EMH confronted sh’Aqba in engineering about missing an annual physical. Aurellan had then told him that sentient beings couldn’t always be expected to make rational choices, even adding that doctors tended to make the worst patients. “My programming says the same thing,” she added, “even if doctor-patient confidentiality says not to get too involved.”
“Should I be worried you’ll do something even more irrational than you believe Lieutenant sh’Aqba is being?” the EMH asked.
“No,” Aurellan gasped, with a look of confusion by the question. “No, no. Of course not. It’s simply a frustrating conflict. I can’t help but want what is best for my patients, but certain rules in the profession prevent us from going too far. This isn’t the first role conflict I’ve faced, and it certainly won’t be the last for you or me. How would all your heuristic algorithms resolve such a conflict?”
The Mark III crossed his arms across his chest to carefully consider the question. “I don’t necessarily have your idealized view of the universe,” he explained. “But my programmers have designed all sorts of algorithms designed to help me make an informed choice that doesn’t cause repeated loops in my memory and behavioral subroutines. Of course, whether that process is the same for the brains of biological organisms is a question best answered by philosophers.”
Aurellan smiled, as she was still somewhat surprised by hologram’s rather humble response. “Would those algorithms include praying Lieutenant sh’Aqba makes what you or I would consider the right choice?” she inquired.
“Not sure I’d put it that way,” the EMH retorted. “What sort of prayer ritual do you have in mind?”
“In this context, the word ‘pray’ is synonymous with ‘hope’,” Aurellan explained. “I can only hope
she makes a rational choice.”
The Mark III smiled and nodded as he was trying to make sense of a common colloquialism. Aurellan grinned sheepishly, trying not to laugh, as she had often dealt with mocked and ridiculed for her non-conventional means of verbal expression. She was reminded at this moment how much the holographic doctor made her laugh, but felt this instance was not appropriate, having experienced being laughed at as a form of humiliation.
While lost in these thoughts, she was brought back to reality when a red alert sounded.