In Orbit of Planet Erewhon
Stardate 57385.37 (January 1, 2381)
The U.S.S. Defiant
was not one of the vessels that remained cloaked in orbit of Erehwon at all times, ostensibly to defend the settlements on the planet below. The energy requirements for such a task were simply too enormous for this particular branch of Starfleet-in-exile. The crew of the Defiant
had landed the ship in a canyon about 150 miles from Starfleet Command when the fleet had arrived at Erehwon; not to hide it from view, but simply to protect it from the elements. Any hostile conducting the most basic sensor sweep of the planet would have picked up such an overpowered vessel sitting there on the surface.
Of course, any hostile that close to Erehwon would already have the Defiant
shooting quantum torpedoes down their throats.
It was standard Starfleet policy in this new era to keep all of its ships—the meager few that were left, anyway—on constant stand-by alert. So even with Defiant
on the ground, it only took Captain Jadzia Dax a couple of hours to select a crew, debrief everyone on their mission, and lift the ship into orbit.
“Status report, Commander Nog,” Dax ordered.
The young Ferengi —barely a cadet when the war began, now a battle-hardened Lieutenant Commander—looked up from his console. “All systems are functioning at full capacity, sir. All departments have reported in and are ready.”
Dax was amused. “All departments, Nog? There are only fourteen people aboard this ship.”
Nog stared at her and blinked twice. “Nevertheless, Captain, all—“
Dax held up her hand. Levity was like a muscle. If you didn’t use it, you would lose it. “Never mind, Commander. Very good.” She sighed. “Helm. Set an intercept course for the bogey. Warp nine.”
The helm officer, a young Vulcan, nodded briskly. “Course laid in, sir.”
Dax sat back in her chair. “Engage.”
, for the first time since the fleet’s arrival at Erehwon, leaped into warp. Dax swore she could feel it do so, and she smiled broadly.
“The old lady’s still got it,” Nog cried out happily, clapping his hands together.
“You had better not be talking about me, Commander,” Dax said. In spite of himself, Nog laughed, a hearty Ferengi guffaw that reminded Dax of home. She grinned at him and felt a warmth she hadn’t experienced in a long time. There was a time when camaraderie like that was the norm on Defiant…back when…no. Dax pushed the thought out of her head. Focus, Dax, focus.
raced towards the unknown Starfleet vessel. It would take about seven hours to intercept the ship. Dax found herself wondering about the nature of the ship. Was it a temporally displaced vessel from the past? A Starfleet ship from an alternate timeline? A lost ship that had never heard of the Dominion? Or was it a Dominion trap, baiting someone to come out and reveal the location of the hidden Federation base at Erehwon? In a universe this harsh, the latter possibility was probably the correct one. Dax couldn’t help but feel optimistic, though. For some reason, Federation starships had a strange tendency to pop up in places they simply shouldn’t be.
The turbolift doors opened and Elim Garak walked onto the bridge. Captain Dax had selected Garak to be a part of the crew hoping that if the bogey was a Trojan Horse, Garak would be able to see through the ruse quickly. Perhaps a Betazoid would have been better, but none had accompanied the fleet to the Delta Quadrant. Even without a Betazoid in the fleet there were probably more qualified personnel for this mission, but it felt good having a familiar face aboard.
“Garak,” Dax acknowledged.
“Hello, Captain,” Garak replied. The Cardassian looked slightly queasy. “I must say, I have not missed the rather claustrophobic feeling of riding aboard a starship.”
“Have you talked to Julian?” Dax had made sure to select Dr. Julian Bashir for this mission—familiar faces.
“I don’t believe there will be a need to avail myself of the good doctor’s services.” Garak stood by the captain’s chair. “Surely this mission won’t take up too much of our time.”
“All you have is time, Garak,” Nog grumbled from the ops station. “What is it that you do when we’re planetside, exactly?”
Garak glanced over at the Ferengi and murmured sotto voce
to Dax, “You know, I find myself missing the young, enthusiastic Ferengi boy I once knew.”
“I heard that,” Nog snapped, turning back to the ops panel.
“Well, I think we all miss our younger, more enthusiastic selves,” Dax said wistfully.
Garak shrugged. “Perhaps I just have the dubious advantage of living in exile long before all of you. I suppose I am simply…more used to feeling displaced.”
“Speaking of displaced,” Dax said, changing the subject, “where do you think this Starfleet vessel is from? Or when?”
“I’ve no idea. If it isn’t in fact a Dominion trap, there are several hundred options from which to choose—and that’s just Starfleet’s list of vessels that have been declared missing in the last several hundred years.”
“The long-distance scanners are still too out of range to pick up anything more than a warp signature,” Nog interjected. “Once we get closer, we’ll be able to make out more details. The ship is traveling at warp six, so it won’t be too long.”
“If it is in fact a Dominion trap,’ Garak said, “what exactly do you plan to do, Jadzia?”
“Follow orders to the best of my ability,” Dax replied. “If we get the willies, we’ll turn tail and head home. There’s no sense risking everything for one ship.”
“If indeed this vessel is a trap, it is quite an ingenious one,” Garak commented. “We escort it to Erehwon, and a Jem’Hadar fleet follows. Simple, but devastatingly effective.”
“The good news is, there aren’t any signs of Jem’Hadar anywhere in this sector,” said Nog.
Garak shook his head. “I don’t think underestimating the Dominion would be a very wise choice.”
“Me either,” Dax agreed. “I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.” She stood up. “I’m going to check on Julian in Sickbay. Care to come along, Garak?”
“Good. Commander Nog, you have the bridge.”
Nog stood up. “Aye, sir.”
As Garak and Dax entered the turbolift, the Cardassian whispered, “Did you ever think you’d be leaving Nog in charge of anything, let alone the bridge of a starship?”
As the doors closed, Dax smiled. Nog sat down in the captain’s chair.
“I heard that,” the Ferengi mumbled to himself.