Chapter 2 <cont'd>
A fraction of a second before T’Ser uttered the order to fire, the Borg cube vanished in a flash, streaking away to an infinitesimal point as it jumped to warp to escape In’Drahn station’s savage fusillade.
T’Ser retreated to the command chair, ordering, “Track them and lay in a pursuit course!”
As the other bridge officers responded in the affirmative and set about their tasks, Pell leaned over to whisper to T’Ser. “Captain, respectfully, there are thousands of people who need our help here. Pursuing the cube, especially with our engines already compromised, doesn’t make a great deal of sense when Galaxy
is still running for her life.” Pell gave T’Ser an almost apologetic expression as she added, “And what are we going to do even if we do catch up? After seeing the barrage the Amon hit the station with, I doubt they’d let us come anywhere close enough to use that Alpha Weapon on them.”
As T’Ser took a moment to digest her XO’s recommendations, Verrik reported, “Picking up multiple distress signals within the vicinity of the station, sir. Twenty-three automated disaster transponders, and five additional live requests for assistance.”
Juneau looked back from Ops. “The station is showing massive damage to load-bearing supports and its structural integrity field is fluctuating. I’m still having trouble penetrating the hull with scans, but from what I can glimpse through the breaches, they have severe casualties.”
It seemed that every cell in T’Ser’s body ached to pursue the massive Amon ship, more so now that she had witnessed in person the kind of destructive power it could wield. But now that the Amon had fled, In’Drahn was no longer immediately endangered, and the dire threat to their sister ship light-years away still loomed.
T’Ser was lost in thought for a good half-minute, clearly mulling something significant. Finally, she looked to Pell. “Computer, disarm Weapon Alpha-One and return it to its magazine.”
As the computer announced its compliance, T’Ser gestured to Pell. “Commander, take all our shuttles but two, pick some medical, engineering, and security personnel, and oversee rescue operations in and around the station as best you can. We’ll rendezvous with Galaxy
and then return here as soon as possible.”
“I’ll need emergency food and medical supplies from our stores,” Pell mentioned as she stood from her chair, “as well as someone to help coordinate the operation.”
“Take Juneau as your exec,” T’Ser instructed, prompting the Operations officer to rise from her post as an enlisted rating moved to replace her.
Juneau addressed the captain. “Sir, permission to take escape pods Alpha-One through Baker-Eight with us? We can transport the survival supplies aboard them, then link the pods together like a train. We can use them as storage and lifeboats until Europa
T’Ser gave a single, abrupt nod. “Agreed, and take one of the twenty-person ASRV’s with you as well. It’s got an EMH and a limited medical suite aboard.”
Pell and Juneau stepped into the turbolift together, coordinating their preparations as the doors swished closed.
As the two officers departed, T’Ser cast a glance over at where Lar’ragos was being revived with the assistance of the bridge’s EMH and a medical technician. Verrik and one other security officer stood watch nearby, awaiting Pava’s return to consciousness and T’Ser’s call regarding the man’s ultimate disposition.
A warbling tone from the Science station caught everyone’s attention, and heads swiveled to see Shanthi analyzing a sensor return. “We’re tracking a small cylindrical object moving in our direction. It looks to have been launched by the cube prior to its departure. The object is broadcasting a locator beacon on a Starfleet emergency channel.”
“A weapon?” T’Ser asked.
“No,” Shanthi responded, “I don’t think so. I’m picking up one life-sign…” he looked up to meet T’Ser’s expectant gaze. “Human.”
“Security sweep complete, no illicit weapons or compounds detected,”
the bridge informed Taiee’s medical team.
There were three security personnel present as well, each trying to remain as inconspicuous as a person could while cradling a phaser rifle.
“We’re standing by,” Taiee replied. “Beam him in.”
Donald Sandhurst materialized onto the examination table, encased in some manner of stasis field that shimmered ever so slightly around him like a corona of ice crystals. As Taiee approached with the scanning module from her medical tricorder, the stasis field evaporated.
Sandhurst blinked and then raised a hand to shield his eyes from the examination lighting overhead. “Hi, Doc,” he offered with a wry smile.
“Hi,” she answered cautiously, sweeping the analyzer over his body. “You certainly appear to be a damn sight more healthy than after the last time you got yourself kidnapped.”
“I can’t argue that,” he chuckled.
“In fact,” Taiee continued, “I don’t ever remember you being this
healthy. You’ve lost three-point-seven percent body fat, and gained in muscle mass. Your neural activity is fourteen percent higher than usual, and…” her voice trailed off as she stared at her tricorder.
Taiee moved to the large wall-sized viewscreen and called up a cross section scan of Sandhurst’s physiology, layer-by-layer. Having thus double-checked her incongruous findings, she turned back towards Sandhurst. “The residual scar tissue from your abduction by the Baron, and the radiation-related tissue damage you sustained last year… there’s no sign of either of them.”
“Yeah,” he said hesitantly, “it’s been a weird few weeks for me on a cellular level.”
“I’m not sure if you’re joking or not,” Taiee remarked warily.
“Funny,” Sandhurst rejoined, “neither am I.”
Pell waived to Juneau from the pilot’s seat of the shuttle Versailles
as the younger woman strode up the ramp into her sister shuttle, Rome
. The Bajoran officer quickly and efficiently carried out her pre-flight checklist as security personnel and cargo-specialists loaded crate after crate of survival supplies into the crew compartment behind her.
Her compin chirped, “T’Ser to Pell.”
Pell continued to multitask as she double-checked the cargo manifests to confirm the logistics for her rescue mission. “Go ahead, Captain.”
“We just intercepted an escape capsule from the Amon ship, Ojana, and Donald was aboard. Taiee reports that he’s awake, apparently uninjured, and wasn’t harmed during his captivity. I thought you should know.”
Her head dropped and her lips moved silently as Pell offered a prayer of thanks to the Prophets. Then, she said out loud, “Understood, sir. Thank you for the update.” She paused just long enough to wipe away a single tear that escaped the corner of her eye before getting back to the task at hand.
Pell knew she dare not go to Sickbay to see him, no matter how badly she yearned to. An extended mission away from Europa
would be exactly what she needed right now in order to rebuild the emotional barriers she’d erected between herself and Donald. Her objectivity as well as Sandhurst’s own were at risk, as both had been compromised when they’d allowed their romantic relationship to flourish aboard Gibraltar
She had vowed that it would not recur during Operation Vanguard, and that was a promise she fully intended to keep.