Limis paced back and forth on the bridge while in communication with Epimetheus
. Screen-to-screen communication had not been possible for either vessel, so it was an audio communiqué. At a time like this, she wished Commander Selek were the ranking officer of this wing of the Seventh Fleet. As a Vulcan, Selek was a rational and logical person. The biggest surprise was that he did not contest her orders to fly both their ships deep into an asteroid to pull off a daring maneuver to take out any Jem’Hadar and Breen vessels burrowing there even if it meant crippling or destroying their ships as well. He had only joined the service just a decade earlier when the threat of a Borg incursion first loomed. Though having just turned one hundred years of age, he was relatively inexperienced despite having quickly moved up in the ranks. Unlike Limis, he had entered the more conventional way.
What’s done is done,
Limis reminded herself. All that could be done now was to try to get out of this asteroid before radiation left behind by the thermonuclear explosives killed every living thing on hers and Selek’s ships.
“Upon further assessment,”
Selek informed Limis and the rest of the crew on Lambda Paz
’s bridge, “our impulse drive wasn’t as heavily damaged as yours was. I estimate we can have half impulse in thirty minutes.
the computer ominously intoned as Limis was about to speak. “Radiation levels at one hundred fifty millirads per minute and rising. Lethal exposure in twenty-seven minutes.”
Limis sighed and rolled her eyes, mulling whether to silence additional audio warnings. “Status of your tractor beam?” she asked Selek.
“All three modules’ primary tractor emitters are nonfunctional,”
the Vulcan commander ambivalently replied.
“Why did I get the feeling you were going to say that?” Limis wondered with a frustrated scoff.
“I am uncertain.”
Kozar signed off on a repair order and handed a padd back to a Trill male crewman. He had also been listening to Limis’s conversation with Selek. “All of our tractor beam emitters are in full working order,” he offered while slowly sauntering up to the captain. “We could transport components over to Epimetheus
. “Of course, the radiation will limit its effectiveness.”
“How long will it take to remove them and integrate into their systems?” Limis asked, eager for any bit of promising news.
Huckaby was entering probability calculations at ops upon hearing this suggestion. “That’s the problem,” he chimed in. “Forty minutes.”
Limis shook her head feeling a mix of dread and amusement. “At least the ship will still be intact. But I’m still pushing for a stay of execution. Huckaby, lend a hand. One extra pair of hands won’t hurt.”
Kozar took over ops once Huckaby made a quick beeline for the port turbolift. “Radiation protocol is in place,” he said. “Hopefully with hyronaline being pumped into the air supply and sh’Aqba working to feed any power that’s available to the shields, that’ll buy us some extra time.”
“It’ll have to,” Limis retorted. “The only other thing we can do is hope to hell we won’t have to deal with any more Jem’Hadar or Breen ships.” She then sat in the command chair and stared straight at the viewscreen. The same old asteroids were pictured, but seeing them was preferable to possibly seeing Kozar’s glowering stare.
“Bridge to sickbay, initiate full radiation protocol.”
The entire on-duty medical staff gathered just outside of Doctor Markalis’s office upon hearing Kozar’s page. Markalis and EMH-Mark III stepped out of the office to address the group.
“All right, everyone,” she announced. “You all know the drill. We’re to see to the evacuation of the outermost sections of the ship. The air supply will be treated with hyronaline additives to counter the effects.
“Along the way, treat anyone showing symptoms of radiation poisoning. So keep enough hyronaline on hand. All teams, report to your assigned area. Any questions can be directed to the EMH, Doctor T’Pren, or myself.”
came the nasally feminine voice of the ship’s computer. “Radiation levels at one hundred fifty millirads per minute and rising. Lethal exposure in twenty-seven minutes.”
Markalis silently reminded herself as she returned to her office to gather up supplies. While hyposprays loaded with hyronaline, along with other medicines and a medical tricorder into a kit, she started to feel warm and light-headed. Thinking she was on the verge of a panic attack, she retreated to the head. She removed the two layers of her uniform, revealing a blue-gray sleeveless tank top, and splashed water in her face. She patted down her face, neck, and arms with a towel, but she was still sweating profusely. After a few heavy exhalations, she dunked her head in the sink.
Upon freshening up, Aurellan returned to her office, her hair still very damp, and reached into a desk drawer to administer a tranquilizer. The EMH-Mark III quickly noticed, having been standing in the doorway for the last few seconds.
“How many extra doses is that in the last six days?” he wondered aloud.
“Really?!” Aurellan snapped. “You’re worried about that
“Probably not important right now,” the hologram relented, “but this could become an addiction.”
“Maybe it could, maybe it couldn’t,” Aurellan responded with an annoyed sigh. She was certainly not in the mood for another lecture about addiction. She rose from her chair while scooping up her medical kit and heading to the primary ICU’s main entrance. “I’m still in complete control, and we have an important job to do right now. So let’s move. Move, move!”
Those firm instructions caught the attention of a few of the interns and nurses still nervously scrambling to make sure they had everything they needed in their emergency kits. They quickly went scurrying out of the primary ICU after Markalis and the EMH.
In engineering, sh’Aqba sat at a master situation console situated just to the left of the warp core. A Caitian male ensign was standing to her right, helping to assess repair needs that would help boost power to the shields and the impulse engines.
“Forward shields at forty percent, aft shields are still at ten percent,” sh’Aqba said while keeping her eyes on a display screen. She entered a few commands on the console to zoom the display to the part of the ship where the shields were the weakest, so that she could get a better idea of how to fortify the weakened aft shields. “The problem seems to be with generator fifteen-beta,” she added, looking up the ensign. “The repair techs could use some help there.”
The Caitian left her side, and Tarlazzi slowly sauntered up to her from the section’s main entrance. “We managed to get a quarter impulse for all of two seconds,” he remarked with reserved optimism.
“That’s something,” sh’Aqba responded with a light smirk. “We should check out one of the manifolds on Deck Seventeen.” She picked up a toolkit perched underneath the console, and they both headed for the nearest Jeffries tube access junction.
“Assuming we survive this,” Erhlich said to try to ignore the computer’s warning that radiation would reach lethal levels in twenty-one minutes, “and the end of the war, what do you plan to do afterwards?”
They stepped inside the access junction, and Shinar tapped a button to open the door to the nearby crawlspace. “I’d really rather not plan for ‘after the war’,” she ambivalently replied.
They both crouched down into the crawlspace, Shinar first, then Erhlich. “Doesn’t being with child constitute planning for after the war?” he rhetorically asked.
“Sure it does. But I’d rather not make any other kinds of plan. If we survive the next few months, I can worry about finding a surrogate. And if that works out, I can look forward to being a single mother. One thing at a time.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Erhlich cut in as they crawled out into another junction. “What do you mean single mother? Won’t I get to raise this kid, too?”
Shinar grinned and gently clasped his right shoulder with her thumb and forefinger. “Of course you will since you’re the father. I enjoy all the fun times we have. You’re a wonderful man, but I got into this relationship with you to flip off Andorian marital traditions, as it were. Marriage is far from my mind, even if we are having a child together. But you know, like I said, one problem at a time.”
Erhlich was about to reply while they climbed down the ladder to the deck below, when sh’Aqba realizes her choice of words. “I didn’t mean I consider our courtship a ‘problem’,” she corrected herself. “I simply never expected to become pregnant so soon. I don’t want that pregnancy to be a reason to move our relationship along too fast.”
Upon reaching the deck immediately below they head into another crawlspace up ahead. “I understand completely,” said Erhlich. “But outside of us and our unborn child, you don’t have any other plans for after the war?”
“No,” Shinar droned with prideful certainly. “I’d like to go outside, feel the frigid air of Andor on my skin again, or visit some tropical paradise.” And by tropical paradise, she meant the equatorial region on her home planet where the climate was temperate compared to other Class-M worlds. “As much as I love my work, two years on this ship has made it feel confining, claustrophobic. I can’t really think about that right now, though, can I?”
“In this crawlspace, I’m hardly in a position to disagree about how confining this ship can feel,” Erhlich quipped with a chuckle. “But why do we even assume that we’ll be alive tomorrow? It’s far from a guarantee. Planning for the future still makes life worth living.”
They arrived at a circuit housing, where Shinar opened the hatch. “That sounds like an almost Vulcan bit of wisdom,” she observed, while opening her toolkit.
“Don’t try to sound surprised,” Erhlich replied while sorting through the tools and handing her a laser drill. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can still make our own futures as best we can.”
“You’re right as usual.” While applying the drill, Shinar’s quadroscopic vision sensed some gloating on his part, as if he rarely heard her, his former wife, or other lovers say that he was right. She just grinned as Erhlich squeezed next to her to apply another tool to the circuit housing.
Sara Carson was trapped in a corridor with both her current lover and her former lover. While Morrison was scouting the area for some trap door that they could escape through, she was tending to Rebecca, who was pinned to the floor as a result of a fallen ceiling beam that had impaled her right foot. Lacking the physical strength to lift the beam up, all Sara could do was apply a dermal regenerator to the wound and inject her with extra platelets to stop the bleeding in the wound the regenerator could not access. Amid all the awkwardness in the closed off corridor, she kept her mind on the immediate task.
“Just leave me,” Rebecca calmly insisted.
“And go where?” Sara asked with a scoff. She wound up in this predicament on her way to repair one of the damaged engines, but she was in no position to even get to that damage impulse engine right now. “There’s no way out. Even if there were, I wouldn’t even think
of leaving you behind.”
“Even if it meant saving the ship?”
Morrison slowly approached them after a few futile attempts to push obstructing rubble aside. “That’s a moot point, since we’re not going anywhere for a while,” he reminded them. “I can’t even get this status monitor working, much less send a message letting someone know we’re stuck back here.”
Based on the fallen debris blocking their path in both directions, the women both knew their situation and didn’t require his recent confirmation. “Shut up, Morrison!” they both said in unison.
That was one thing they agreed on, but Rebecca persisted in her inquiry. “But would you? If I was on the deck bleeding to death and you needed to make critical repairs?”
Morrison grunted while wondering how he could make himself useful. Sara remembered asking him those kinds of probing questions. She could understand his annoyance now that she was being asked a very difficult question about a hypothetical scenario she hoped would never, ever arise.
“Don’t make me worry about that,” she snapped. “You’re not dying and I’m in no position to help the ship. Besides, you lost a husband two years ago. I wouldn’t want you to abandon me if the situation was reversed. I couldn’t ask you to go through that again so soon.”
“You’re right,” Rebecca relented. “I’m sorry.”
With that issue resolved, Sara could concentrate on more immediate concerns. Ordinarily, they wouldn’t have such a sensitive discussion around a third party. Considering the gravity of the situation, though, Sara didn’t feel the awkwardness of a former lover eavesdropping. “I might be able to get that terminal working,” she suggested to Morrison, “assuming the emergency toolkit wasn’t smashed up. Keep applying the dermal regenerator to the wound, plus a platelet injection to make it coagulate faster. And maybe you’re strong enough to lift that beam off her foot.”
“Can’t hurt to try,” Mandel assured her. He kneeled down in front of Rebecca and followed Sara’s earlier instructions first, applying the dermal regenerator and administering another injection. Then he tried to move the beam off Rebecca’s foot. “You can just hope neither of you never have to be put in that position,” he reiterated of the women’s conversation. “Even if you had already been once before…” At this moment, Sara expected Morrison would say something crass, but grinned to herself when a reminder of Michael Eddington’s sacrifice never came.
Rebecca flashed a smirk, but then let out a melancholy sigh. “I don’t know that I could put myself through that again,” she said with intense sadness in her voice.
Sara smiled at her. They stared at each other for a very long moment as if having telepathic conversation, as Rebecca’s words reaffirmed what Sara had just said. We’d at least be together in a better place,
they were seemingly thinking at the same time.
“Would you have gone against orders to save me?” Morrison wondered aloud.
Sara let out an annoyed exhalation. Maybe she was pushing her luck in hoping the subject of Morrison choosing to disobey orders and save her almost two years ago would not come up. It was a sensitive subject since their relationship went downhill after she suggested his actions were motivated by his love for her and added that she was in love with him. She did not want to take that kind of risk again with Rebecca, who only recently became a widow. “You were doing so well,” she quipped with a roll of her eyes. “As I said, I’m glad I didn’t have to make that decision.”
“I can still thank you for saving her,” Rebecca sardonically teased. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a shot with her.”
Morrison chuckled as he continued trying to lift the beam off Rebecca’s foot. Once he was able to summon enough strength to lift the beam just enough for her to move her foot away, Rebecca slid off her boot and sock. Morrison then scanned it with a medical tricorder. “It’s a pretty nasty wound,” he remarked, gathering up both the dermal regenerator and the hypospray. “But we’d better keep trying to stop the bleeding.”
In the meantime, Sara thought she was able to feed just enough energy into the terminal to get it back on-line, but the screen was still blank. She hit it in frustration, and it lit up momentarily. A status display was fading in and out. Without putting in too much thought, she entered a concise enough message. While she hit the send button, the screen winked out again. “Now, we wait and hope someone got that message,” she mused. “Which we’ve been doing for quite some time,” she added after hearing scoffs from both Mandel and Rebecca.
The deck rattled and arched a bit to the right, shaking loose debris blocking the corridor. They all exchanged feared expressions, knowing that could only mean a nearby hull breach. “I don’t suppose someone found us already?” Morrison wondered, which didn’t amuse either of the women.