Stardate 57381.06 (January 1, 2381)
“Happy New Year, Benjamin.”
Jadzia Dax picked up the holopicture frame. Ben Sisko, with his arm around his son Jake and a winning smile. There they were, on the DS9 Promenade, posing for a picture just as the great Bajoran wormhole opened. It was an incredible shot, and it was one of the personal items Dax had made sure to grab during the frenzied evacuation of Deep Space Nine years earlier.
A lifetime ago.
Such an interesting role reversal, Dax thought. Once upon a time, I—well, Curzon—was the one giving advice to an impetuous young man named Benjamin Sisko. And now, here I am in another body, another life, wishing for just five minutes to speak to that man again and hear the wisdom of his words.
Dax placed the picture back down on the table. Another long, hard day beckoned. A day of reviewing sensor logs, reading reports, and updating star charts—well, no one had ever said a life of exile would be fun.
Dax dressed quickly and left her quarters. As she made her way to the Operations Center, she prioritized her list of duties and tried to push the image of Ben Sisko out of her mind. Focus.
The core of the Operations Center was, in actuality, the stripped-down bridge of an old Constitution
-class ship, the Exeter
. Interestingly, the ship had been abandoned over a hundred years before during a deep space mission. Someone had finally gotten around to salvaging the vessel and eventually Starfleet had reactivated her during the last desperate days of the Dominion War. After serving with distinction in several battles, Exeter
had been one of the refugee ships that had fled the Alpha Quadrant.
That’s how desperate things were at the end, Dax thought to herself. Raiding the Starship Museum for ships fit to fight.
As she entered the Operations Center, some of the Starfleet personnel snapped to attention. “At ease, everyone,” Dax said. She turned to the officer on duty, a Bolian commander named Holl. “Is Admiral Ross in his office, Commander?”
“Yes, sir,” the Bolian replied. “I have to warn you, though, Captain. The Old Man isn’t in a very good mood today.”
Dax couldn’t help but smile. “Well, I suppose that wouldn’t make today much different than any other day, now would it?” The Bolian smirked. No one could remember a time when Ross had been in anything resembling a good mood.
“Dax!” Admiral William Ross stood at the door to his office, the former ready room of some 23rd century Starfleet captain. “In here, please!”
Dax shot a knowing look at the Bolian commander and said, “Yes, Admiral, of course.” She strode into the office, the door swishing shut behind her. Ross wearily sat at his desk. There were no other chairs in the office, so Dax stood at attention, hands clasped behind her back.
“One of our cloaked sensor buoys picked up an intriguing reading early this morning,” Ross said. He tossed a PADD in Dax’s direction. “What does that look like to you?”
Dax picked up the PADD and studied the readings for a moment. “That’s strange. It looks like the warp signature of a Starfleet vessel.”
Ross nodded gravely. “It’s too far out to make a positive identification. All of our vessels are accounted for, and we can’t risk contacting the ship without giving away our location.”
There was only one way to be sure, Dax surmised.
“I want you to take the Defiant
out there,” Ross said, confirming Dax’s thought. “Take a skeleton crew and make visual contact with that ship. If there is even a slight chance it’s a Dominion trap, do not make engage that ship--return to Erehwon immediately.”
. Dax felt a tinge of sadness, mixed with the excitement of going out on a deep space mission for the first time in years. The Defiant
was Ben’s ship.
She wouldn’t let him down.
“Aye, sir,” Dax said. “When do we leave?”
“As soon as possible,” Ross replied. “Not a word of this to anyone not selected for the mission, Captain. I don’t need rumors spreading panic throughout the base.”
“Of course, sir.”
Ross turned to his computer terminal. “Notify me when you depart, Captain.”
“Yes, sir.” Dax turned to leave the office.
She turned back around. “Sir?”
Ross looked up at her and smiled wanly. “Good luck, Jadzia. Godspeed.”
Dax smiled and exited. As she made her way out of the Operations Center, the Bolian Commander cleared her throat. “Um, everything all right, Captain?”
“We’ll see, Commander,” she replied. “We’ll see.”