Stardate 57385.50 (January 1, 2381)
“What I wouldn’t give for a decent cup of raktajino right now.” Dr. Julian Bashir leaned against a biobed. “Freshly brewed.”
“Iced,” Dax added. “With extra cream.”
“A truly vile beverage,” Garak said. “The Klingons may have been great warriors, but their coffee was nothing short of dishonorable. Now, a hot cup of Rokassa juice…well, that would certainly be a welcome treat. However, Cardassian refreshments are in…understandably short supply.”
“Yes,” Bashir murmured. “They are at that.”
A moment passed. Conversation did not come as easily as it once had, back when the universe made sense. There was a great deal of history between the three individuals in the Defiant
’s sickbay, and Dax was well aware that even being in the same room together evoked some very uncomfortable memories.
But one had to push on into the future eventually. Captain Dax smiled at Bashir, exclaiming, “You know, it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to really sit down and talk, Julian. How are you these days?”
Bashir shrugged. “As good as anyone, I suppose. I’ve spent the last few months helping eradicate a nasty mini-epidemic of Jauntaride influenza out in the camps. Honestly, it’s nice to get back out into space and away from that disease-infested planet for a while.”
“I heard about that flu,” Dax said. “As I recall, there were no fatalities.”
“Not this time,” Bashir sighed.
Dax couldn’t help but feel concerned at the visible change in her friend. When she had first met Bashir all those years ago on Deep Space Nine, he had been an optimistic young man brimming with energy, eager to practice what he had referred to as ‘frontier medicine.’ This man before her today was so different that he seemed like another person entirely. Older…beaten down. It was sad.
“Still, nice work, Julian,” she offered.
Bashir curtly nodded and managed a wan smile. “And you, Jadzia? Obviously you’ve made Captain.”
It was Dax’s turn to be ambivalent. “Yes…well. There are lots of captains in the fleet, but not a whole lot of ships.”
“You’re being altogether too modest, Jadzia,” Garak said. “From what I’ve heard, your work in organizing the various sensor arrays around the Erehwon’s system Oort Cloud has been nothing short of miraculous.“
Dax chuckled. “Well, thank you, Garak, but in all honesty it was extremely dull work. I performed more complex tasks as a student at the Academy.”
“All of our tasks have taken a turn for the mundane, I’m afraid,” Bashir said. “I suppose the days where we would gallivant around the galaxy searching for adventure behind every nebula are behind us now.”
“Perhaps,” Garak replied, “But we also must consider ourselves extremely lucky to be alive and free, as opposed to rotting in a Dominion prison camp somewhere.”
Bashir glanced at Garak, who met his gaze with a knowing look. The two had spent some time in such a prison camp before the war. It was there that Garak’s father and mentor, Enabran Tain, had perished. It was there that Bashir had languished helplessly while, back on Deep Space Nine, his changeling doppelganger had successfully completed his deadly mission.
“And hey, look on the bright side, Julian,” Dax said. “There may not be any nebulae around, but we’re out here in the galaxy, gallivanting.”
Bashir couldn’t help but smile. “So noted, Captain.”
Dax’s communicator chirped. “Nog to Captain Dax.”
“Go ahead, Nog.”
“Preliminary scans are coming in on the unknown vessel.”
“I’ll be right there.” She glanced at the two men. “Coming?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Bashir muttered.
On the bridge, Nog stood hunched over a mini-viewer at the Ops station. Dax sat in the captain’s chair as Garak and Bashir stood on either side of her. “What do you have, Nog?”
“It’s still a little fuzzy, sir,” the Ferengi replied. “But I can give you a visual.”
“On the viewscreen, Commander.”
The large viewscreen at the front of the bridge came to life. A tiny blob appeared in the middle of the screen, surrounded by tiny pinpricks of white light.
“Can you magnify that image, Nog?”
This time the image was clearer. Dax could definitely make out the lines of a Federation starship.
“Captain,” Nog cried out. “The bogey! It’s changing course.”
“Helm, adjust course to intercept. Nog, what’s the bogey’s new heading?”
Nog checked, and check again. Dax looked over at him. “Nog?”
The Ferengi met her gaze. “It’s on an intercept course for us
“This is certainly a troubling development,” Garak said.
“How could they have detected us?” Bashir walked over to Nog’s station to confirm his readings. “We’re cloaked!”
“Their long-range sensors must have picked us up despite the cloaking device,” Dax surmised. “If they have a bead on us, it doesn’t make much sense to run now.”
The Vulcan at the helm turned around and said, “Orders, Captain?”
“Maintain an intercept course.”
The lieutenant at Tactical, an older human female, spoke up. “Captain, the bogey is now at warp nine. Estimated time of intercept…twenty-two minutes, sir.”
“Red Alert,” Dax ordered. “If this other ship comes in shooting, I want to be ready for it.”
The bridge was bathed in red light. “Commander Nog,” Dax said, “Now that the cat is out of the bag, perform an active long-range scan and get me some details.”
“Aye, sir. Scanning.”
An active scan would normally give away the location of any cloaked vessel. In this case, the point was moot. Defiant
stayed cloaked, but extended its sensor reach to its full capacity.
Nog completed his scan "Captain. It’s an Intrepid
-class vessel. The...U.S.S. Voyager
?” Dax looked up at Bashir, who had resumed his place at her side. “Do you remember a ship by that name, Julian?”
“Yes,” Julian replied matter-of-factly. “She docked at DS9 a couple of years before the war began, on a mission to locate a Maquis raider in the Badlands.”
“Confirmed,” Nog stated. “Starfleet last made contact with the U.S.S. Voyager
on Stardate, um, 48315 while the vessel was on a search-and-retrieval mission in the Badlands. Voyager
was declared missing in action on Stardate...48500.”
Dax’s eyes widened. “So that ship has been in the Delta Quadrant for almost ten years?”
“Give or take,” Bashir noted.
Garak frowned. “Ten years ago. Would our friends on Voyager have known about the Dominion?”
Bashir nodded. “Voyager docked at DS9 a couple of months after the Jem’Hadar destroyed the Odyssey. I’m sure they know about the Dominion…but certainly not about the war.”
“If they are who they say they are, that is,” Garak replied. “We still can’t be sure this isn’t some kind of Dominion ploy.”
The tactical officer called out, “The vessel is hailing us, Captain!”
Dax couldn’t help but wonder what Benjamin Sisko would do in this situation. Focus, Dax, focus, she thought to herself. Ben isn’t here. It’s your ship now.
“What the hell,” Dax muttered. “Onscreen.”