Limis Vircona sat at one end of a meeting table in one of Starbase G-6’s briefing rooms. She was among a dozen starship captains in a teleconference with Admirals Phillip GŁndersen and Edward Jellico discussing plans for a follow-up operation to what was becoming known across the Federation as the Battle of Three Suns. It was a much-needed morale boost after allied forces endured one defeat after another at the hands of the Breen.
The News Service reels had provided brief highlights of the offensives at Zhamur, Daxura, and Chin’toka. However, Admiral GŁndersen provided more firsthand accounts of the battle and how much they had taken the enemy by surprise. “The Breen were more cautious at Chin’toka than at Zhamur or Daxura,” the admiral explained. “They used the energy dissipaters a lot more sparingly. The result was still very much the same. For every one of our ships in the first wave we lost, we took out four of theirs. Overall, we still took heavy losses. They’ve moved deeper into the system, so we should expect that they’ll be coming after us again.”
Those last words were a humbling reminder to Limis that any kind of military victory in the war was not enough of a reason to celebrate. The Dominion always had something in their bag of tricks, and so no captured star system was secure until the last vestiges of enemy resistance. It was a strategy that had been employed ever since the allies began a push into Dominion-held territory. Continuing to fight for a lost cause seemed foolish to Limis, even when she was willing to go down fighting. After all, what good would come from literally fighting to the last man? Perhaps, the thinking was that the price of defeat was too high. In the Founders’ case, they were a race facing extinction courtesy of a debilitating disease.
She took a glance at her former Bajoran Underground colleague and fellow starship captain Lenaris Holem, wondering if he was thinking the same thing. Lieutenant Commander Selek, on the other hand, appeared calm and collected even if similar thoughts were racing through his mind.
“We should have replacement ships from the Seventh Fleet there within a day, Phil,” Jellico informed GŁndersen.
“That should help,” replied the higher-ranking admiral, “but they’ll come at us harder next time.”
“Meanwhile, the Dominion holdings at Kalandra are down to almost nothing,” Limis chimed in while she was consulting a padd containing details of the battle. “We have them all but bottled up in the Zhamur system.”
“Which made them all the more determined to destroy the reinforcements there,” GŁndersen added.
and the 272nd tactical wing will be providing reinforcements at Zhamur within the next twelve hours,” Jellico replied. “When can the 273rd depart the starbase for Daxura?”
“We’re sending as many ships as are available now,” Limis told Jellico. “The Lambda Paz
will need another day’s worth of maintenance. How go the repairs on the Derna
“We’ve had a few setbacks in getting our maneuvering jets up to snuff,” said Lenaris. “But the repairs aren’t too far behind yours.”
“We have a few tests to run on the multi-vector assault mode,” Selek added. “Our departure time should be the same as yours.”
“Do whatever you can to speed matters along without compromising key systems,” Jellico suggested. “The Daxura system’s a hell of a challenge with multiple asteroid belts. Just get it done.”
“Godspeed,” GŁndersen added.
And at the exact same moment, both transmissions ended, leaving the ship captains attending the briefing to confer amongst themselves.
USS Lambda Paz
Shinar Sh’Aqba lied down on a biobed in sickbay for her latest prenatal exam. She was wearing a gray sleeveless tank top while her uniform layers were tucked away at the foot of the bed. Monitoring devices were attached to her neck, shoulders, chest, and abdomen to allow Aurellan Markalis to monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse rate of the mother, along with the health of the embryo. This exam was fairly routine, but Sh’Aqba swore it was far more exhaustive than most routine prenatal exams, but still necessary since she was carrying a rare hybrid baby, while not being anatomically equipped to carry the barely developed infant to term.
“Take a deep breath,” the doctor instructed.
Sh’Aqba inhaled slowly through her nose and exhaled through her mouth.
“One more,” Aurellan added, while keeping a glance on the vital sign monitor. “Quack like a duck.”
“What?” Shinar gasped, looking utterly baffled.
“Medical humor,” Aurellan awkwardly explained, sensing that Shinar was not amused. “It would help if you could loosen up.”
“Doctor?” called a Denobulan female nurse.
“One moment,” Aurellan said to Shinar. With a somewhat forced friendly smile, she turned her attention to the nurse. “Yes?”
“The last of the medicines are in Cargo Bay Four for your inspection,” the nurse informed her.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“You keep saying,” Shinar insisted, “but there seem to be completely random emergencies in engineering everyday.”
“How has that meditation program worked out?” Aurellan inquired after seeing off the nurse.
“It’s helped,” Shinar answered with a hint of hesitation. “Sort of.” She then became perturbed that her doctor was more focused on a padd a human male nurse handed her.
“I still have a few I think you should try,” Aurellan said as she handed the padd back to the nurse.
“Doctor?” came another voice.
”What?!” Aurellan impatiently shrieked. She quickly calmed herself when she saw Emergency Medical Hologram standing at the foot of the biobed. “Oh, I’m really sorry,” she contritely said.
“We’re ready to set up the new triage equipment in vacant quarters on deck seven,” the EMH informed her, seemingly oblivious to having been snapped at.
“I’ll stop by there as soon as I can spare a few minutes.”
“You sound a little stressed out yourself,” Shinar offered.
“I’ll be all right. Don’t worry about me,” Aurellan assured Shinar while gathering up the monitoring devices attached to her. “You’re free to go, Lieutenant.” She quickly handed Shinar her uniform while focusing on the holographic doctor. She followed him into the office, still feeling a need to apologize for snapping at him.
“Again,” she told holographic boyfriend. “I’m really sorry about that.”
“You needn’t try to spare my feelings,” the EMH insisted. “I have no ego to bruise… at least not what Freudian psychologists define as an ego.”
Aurellan circled her desk and gathered up padds on the desk for no other reason other than strongly valuing neatness. “How can you be sure?” she asked the hologram with a teasing smile.
“I’m simply a computer program,” the EMH attempted. “It’s not the same thing as the humanoid brain.”
“Maybe not in the technical sense, but all your heuristic algorithms and medical knowledge are stored and processed in much the same way as how the humanoid brain functions. You’re even programmed to emulate various humanoid emotions and facial expressions.”
“As you say, I only emulate humanoid behavior as accurately as possible through all sorts of complex programming.”
“Humanoids are ‘programmed’ with certain behaviors through millions of years of evolution. Sentient beings have even evolved the brainpower to decide whether our primordial instincts are reflective of an appropriate course of action. The brain’s frontal lobe, or in Freudian terms, the superego mediating conflicting desires of ego and id.
“But my point was this,” Aurellan added with a realization that she had strayed too far off the intended topic. “As social beings, we humanoids can never apologize too much. It’s a behavior that’s more or less programmed into us, even around a holographic projection that looks like a humanoid.”
“Then your apology is very much appreciated, even if it is unnecessary.”
Aurellan almost giggled, but then clasped her mouth to avoid attracting outside attention. She leaned in closer to the hologram with a seductive smile. “Even if you don’t have an ego, you still desire me,” she said, “do you not?”
“Of course, I do,” the EMH flatly replied. They were about to kiss, but Aurellan backed away. She was largely averse to public displays of affection, even though they shared their first kiss in this office. They just stared silently at each other, a form of PDA that did not involve physical contact of any kind.
Rebecca Sullivan was on her back in an access tunnel rearranging circuits. She and Sara Carson were overseeing a few shipboard systems checks in one of the flight control maintenance rooms. In anticipation of close quarters exchanges in the Daxura asteroid belts, they were making a few minor adjustments to various systems to make the constant course changes less nauseating for the crew.
Rebecca slid her way out of the tunnel and placed the access hatch back on the opening. She then took a look at the status readouts on the above console.”
“Sensor resolution?” Sara asked while looking up from a padd.
“Two point eight-nine terrahertz,” Rebecca answered.
“Signal enhancement modules?”
“Inertial flight dynamic stabilizers?”
“Two percent above nominal,” Rebecca said with a slight hesitation, “…most of them.”
“‘Most of them’?” Sara impatiently repeated. She was working two padds at once, and she handed off one of them to a nearby technician. “We’re going into a solar system with three
asteroid belts,” she reminded Rebecca. “We can’t have people being thrown against the bulkheads and puking their guts out every time there’s a course correction.”
“Thank you for reminding me,” Rebecca sarcastically shot back with a roll of her eyes.
“Sorry for that,” Sara said more calmly. “Really. We just have a lot of preparations to make and we don’t want any slip-ups. You know what? I’ll head to the bridge and start running computer simulations anyway.”
“And I’ll head to thruster control and see what the problem is.”
They both suddenly realized that people were staring at them. Rebecca turned around and walked away even knowing that didn’t fool anyone.
“Back to work, everyone,” Sara told all the three technicians working in the room. She headed out the door and caught up to Rebecca down the corridor, all the while making sure nobody else is around. “Becca, are you okay telling people about us?”
“Of course,” Rebecca gleefully assured her. “When I was in the Maquis, there were hardly any secrets within our group.”
“On a Starfleet ship, it’s not as make it up as you go,” Sara hurriedly replied, but then wanted to curse herself for saying that.
Rebecca gasped in astonishment. “What is that supposed to mean?” she snapped.
Sara sighed apologetically. “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out right,” she said. “That some people may be talking about us just reminds me how embarrassed I was that time I was late for a shift.”
Rebecca leaned in towards her lover and touched Sara’s shoulders. “I promise I won’t make you late to any of your shifts, Sara,” she assured her. “It would help if you weren’t so uptight. Maybe after the war is over…”
Sara coaxed Rebecca’s hands off her own shoulders. “Let’s plan for after the war after the war,” she gloomily suggested.
“That’s reasonable,” Rebecca quickly relented, not wanting to read too much into how worried Sara suddenly sounded considering she herself lost a spouse just two years earlier. “I’ll let you get to the bridge.”
“Sure,” Sara said with a quick wave. “Bye.” They leaned in for a kiss, but Sara slowly pulled back a second later and made a beeline for the turbolift.
Unbeknownst to Sara until after she had stepped into the turbolift, her former lover Mandel Morrison had entered the same lift.
“Commander,” she said nonchalantly. “Bridge.”
“Lieutenant,” Morrison flatly answered. Headed to the bridge? were the next words on his mind.
Sara wanted to ask if he was headed for the bridge as well, but she quickly stopped herself. Duh! I said ‘bridge’ and he didn’t request any other deck of the ship.
Mandel had another topic of small talk on his mind, but still kept quiet, staring at her blank expression. Sara had a similar idea of what to say to him, but also remained quiet. They knew each other’s duties on the bridge, so no need to ask the other as if they didn’t know. The same old boring and mundane topics of conversation had worn out their usefulness while they took the turbolift up to the bridge at the start of alpha shift.
Once the doors slid open revealing the bridge, the two of them stepped off the turbolift at the same time and exchanged courteous nods before they headed to their respective stations.
Erhlich Tarlazzi sauntered into engineering through the warp core chamber where he saw Sh’Aqba conferring with two of her officers. She handed off a padd to a human male ensign and cordially dismissed him. She then sighed emphatically and handed off a second to a Denobulan male technician.
“I want those axis coils functioning properly before
we leave starbase,” she hissed at him, “not after
we arrive at Daxura.” As she headed for a nearby console, she muttered an Andorian swear word as Tarlazzi approached. He flashed a light grin that always that relieved Shinar’s most stressful of mornings as he rested his wrists on the front of the console.
“You doing all right?” he inquired.
“Of course,” sh’Aqba said with a reluctant smile while still concentrating on her console. “I wouldn’t be here if the doctor hadn’t cleared me.”
“I just hope you don’t stress yourself out,” Erhlich offered while lowering his head so his eyes met hers.
Shinar lifted her head so that his gaze met hers. “I’m fine, Erhlich,” she calmly insisted. “There’s no sense in both of us being stressed out.”
“I understand. It’s just that this is my kid, too. And you need to exercise caution with a rare hybrid.”
“Enough!” Shinar snapped. Noticing the increased volume in her voice, she looked around to make sure she did not attract any attention. Satisfied no one was watching she lowered her voice to a hushed tone. “We won’t need to make the harder choices until the third or fourth month of the pregnancy.”
Erhlich lifted himself back into a straight standing position and raised his hands in surrender. “I get it,” he conceded. “Look, after we get some time off, we could go to Risa or Casperia.”
“Sounds like a date,” Shinar replied. She clasped his hands with hers and smiled. For as long as she remembered, she was most often in a very foul mood. And though it took her a year and a half to acknowledge it, being around Erhlich Tarlazzi and his easygoing nature gave her a reason to smile. He was a part of her life she wanted to cherish, knowing he could very easily be gone tomorrow.
Limis was lying awake in her quarters, in uniform with the two outer layers zipped all the way down. As much as she wanted to, she could not fall asleep. If today was tense, tomorrow would even more tense, especially while her ship was battling the Dominion in the Daxura system. Walking onto the bridge tomorrow morning without having gotten a few hours of sleep was not an option.
Her eyes still remained wide open, staring out of the upper edge of the diagonal viewport. Maybe something greater was on her mind. For two and a half years, Limis had envisioned settling the score with the Dominion for eliminating the closest thing she had to family. And with the Federation Alliance going back on the offensive, the end of the war was becoming closer to a reality. The biggest question now on her mind was whether she would live to see the final victory. Or better yet, would this ship and her crew live to see that victory?