This part of the story takes place in the days immediately after the conclusion of “Sacrifice of Angels.” You’ll note Sran’s interaction with members of Deep Space 9’s
crew and civilian population, as well as more details about how the war affected life for other Federation ships involved in the engagements we’re already familiar with.
Sran absentmindedly tugged his uniform collar as he listed to Colos’ report of the ongoing repairs to Naptown
. The ship was visible through the viewport just behind him, its hull sporting several scoff marks courtesy of Dominion and Cardassian weapons fire. Operation Return had been successful. Deep Space 9
was once again in Federation hands. But the venture proved costly, seeing the destruction of over 150 Starfleet vessels. Dozens more- Naptown
included- were in need of immediate attention due to damage incurred in the now-concluded engagement.
“The starboard torpedo launcher is fine,”
Colos was saying, “but the port will need to be replaced. It’s pretty much what we thought when the damage first happened.”
Sran nodded. That the torpedo launcher had been repaired enough to be useful was a minor miracle in and of itself. It was no surprise to him that part of the system would need replacement after the battle. Such a thing might have bothered him under different circumstances- the Naptown
was brand new. But he was willing to live with a few scratches and damaged systems for the time being. It was worth it to know that the Alpha Quadrant would not be overrun by Jem’Hadar ships. Sran didn’t pretend to understand how or why an entire fleet of fighters could vanish into nothingness. In fact, the former science officer scarcely believed anything could happen without reason, but he wasn’t about to look a gift-horse from Bajor’s Prophets- if that’s what they were- in the mouth. He was too suspicious he’d find a Changeling hidden there.
Colos continued his summary. “Engineering estimates at least a week of repairs before we’re fully operational,”
he said, “but we could be space-worthy in three days if need be.”
The captain nodded again, pleased with the Andorian’s concise report. He’d never worked with Colos prior to choosing him as first officer, but he was already optimistic about how the pairing would work out. He would need more time to reflect on the overall performance of the crew in the coming days and weeks, but his first impression of his people was a positive one, no small accomplishment given his heritage. Arrogant and prideful by nature, Romulans were quick to judge and slow to forgive. They were even more stubborn when it came to acknowledging others’ prowess. Sran had lived with humans for two decades, but some habits were hard to break. Perhaps this crew would be the catalyst for such a reaction.
He strode across the small Cardassian quarters he’d been given and approached a computer terminal as Colos wrapped up his briefing. “Is there anything else?”
he heard him query.
“No, Commander,” he said. “That’ll be all for now. If you don’t mind, route the full damage report to my quarters here on the station. I’d like to have a look at it myself.”
“Will do, Captain. Colos out.”
Sran leaned over the console to call up the casualty report from the battle, relieved that only a smattering of names was listed. The most significant injuries were those of the chief engineer, Lieutenant Blix Aran. Hawk’s description of his plasma burns as “the worst I’ve ever seen” was ominous enough, but when the Naptown’s
skipper had seen the injuries for himself, he knew his CMO wasn’t exaggerating. Still, Blix mustered enough strength to tell his commanding officer that he would be on his feet as soon as possible, a declaration that drew a glare from Dr. Schultz and more giggling from Lieutenant Mayweather. Perhaps it was fortuitous that Hawk decided to assist Dr. Bashir in DS9’s infirmary, as she wouldn’t have to concern herself Blix’s delusions of grandeur. Not for a few hours, at least. Sran thought to head that way himself. Bashir was an old friend from the Academy. It would be nice to see him again. He started for the door, only to be halted by the sight of his honor blade on a nearby couch. Pausing, he stooped to retrieve the weapon and inspect it.
As the number of Starfleet vessels needing repairs was significant, Admirals Ross and Coburn assigned selected captains and other officers of command or flag rank to temporary quarters on Deep Space 9
to plan the next phase of the war. The retaking of the space station was a major achievement, to be sure. But an opponent only fought harder once wounded, Sran knew. That was the first lesson he’d learned upon being awarded his honor blade as a boy. The Dominion was tasting blood, perhaps for the first time in its history. No one could predict the response that taste would surely provoke, but if the Dominion’s prior history was any indication, the fighting with the Federation would become much more intense. With Starfleet already on the defensive, such a prospect didn’t bode well for the Federation’s military.
Elizabeth Schultz was smiling, a rare occurrence when she was inside an operating theater. But the physician was used to performing cases herself. To have an assistant as capable as Dr. Bashir made her job that much easier. She was glad of it, knowing that even the temporary luxury of another doctor to work with wasn’t something to be taken for granted. She blamed the war for that, too. Because the Federation was facing a manpower shortage, physicians with more than three years’ experience were being asked to fly solo. The Naptown’s
sickbay and crew compliment called for a minimum of two physicians on duty at any given time, but Schultz and Dr. Martin Caruso were the only medical practitioners assigned to the vessel at present. Elizabeth had complained to Captain Sran with no success, though she supposed such a thing wasn’t his fault. Maybe I should have a word with McCoy
, she wondered.
As if on cue, she noticed Sran entering the room at the far end. He was careful not to wander too near the operating table, something that would send her flying at him in anger. The days of scrubs, caps, masks, and surgical gowns were long past, but Elizabeth believed that the OR was her space. To enter into that space wasn’t something one did on a whim, especially if the offender wasn’t a physician. She supposed Bashir wasn’t that way: he gave the impression of a much more easygoing person, even when he was working. But she was nonetheless shocked to see him practically bursting with excitement as he noted the room’s newest occupant. “Sran!” he exclaimed. “I had no idea you were here!”
Her captain answered, “Well, I wouldn’t be much of a Romulan if people noticed me, now would I?” A smirk was playing at the left side of his mouth.
Bashir said, “I thought I was the spymaster these days.”
“Only in your holodeck fantasies, old friend,” Sran offered. He was still smirking.
“What ship are you with, Sran?” the doctor asked. “Last I’d heard, you were on the Lakota
“I’ve been promoted,” Sran said. “I’m commanding the Naptown
, one of the new Akira
-class ships. And,” he added, looking at Schultz, “I’m her boss.” She blushed.
“Fantastic!” Bashir cried. “I had no idea you were a captain now. As you can see,” he said, “I’m still sporting a blue uniform. We don’t get a cushy command chair where Elizabeth and I work.”
“Definitely not,” Sran said. “But you know what comes with the chair, don’t you, Julian?”
Bashir shook his head.
“Gray hair. Lots of it.”
“Well,” Bashir said, “I’m afraid I wouldn’t know about that. Captain Sisko hasn’t had hair for quite some time.” He finished suturing and handed his instrument back to the scrub nurse.
“Indeed,” Sran said, “though I’ve never actually met him. I know what voice his sounds like after yesterday, however.” The implication was clear.
Bashir nodded. “I was there, and I still don’t believe it.”
“But the reports are accurate, Doctor?”
“Absolutely,” Bashir said. “The entire fleet vanished inside the wormhole.”
“With no indication of where they went?”
“None. It’s almost as if they weren’t even there to begin with.” He took a clamp from Schultz.
Sran nodded, turning to leave. “I’ll leave the two of you to your work, but we should definitely catch up.”
“Definitely, Captain.” Bashir called after him, looking up from his work. But Sran was already gone. “Romulans,” he muttered to himself.
Schultz could only raise an eyebrow. “I don’t know how he does it, either,” she said.
Sran didn’t think he was trying to avoid being noticed. It was his experience that people who attempted such a thing tried too hard and had the opposite outcome. And as the only Romulan in the entire sector, he should have been attracting a fair amount of attention, Starfleet uniform or no. But as he walked the short distance from the infirmary to the popular dining establishment known as “Quark’s,” he realized that he wasn’t attracting any attention at all. He paused at the main entrance, the sounds of a strange gaming table spinning audible through the opening, before going inside.
He stepped up to the bar, locking eyes with a Ferengi he supposed was the bar’s owner. “What’ll it be, Captain?” he asked. “Can’t say I’ve seen many of your kind around here lately,” he added.
Sran ignored the second remark. “Mountain Dew,” he said.
Quark gaped. “Not you, too,” he said, a scowl forming on his face.
“Nevermind,” he said. Darting into an adjacent storage area, Quark returned moments later with a bottle of the popular yellow-green liquid, adding, “Pretty soon all I’m going to be selling around here are Hew-mon drinks.”
“You’d rather sell to the Cardassians?” Sran asked, slightly annoyed. What did this Ferengi care if he ordered what the humans called a soft-drink?
“No,” Quark said. “If I never see another bottle of kanar, it’ll be too soon.”
“Then I don’t understand…”
“Let me put it this way, Captain,” Quark said, “I liked it better when people ordered what I expected them to order. Your people order Romulan ale. Klingons order blood wine. It makes sense.” Indicating the bottle, he continued, “Nowadays, Klingons are ordering prune juice. My nephew orders root beer. And you,” he said, pausing, “you come in here and order Mountain Dew.”
“In that case,” Sran said as he rose from his seat, “I’ll take my business elsewhere, Ferengi. I don’t need to listen to your yammering any more than the Jem’Hadar need to eat. But it seems you’ve already been down that road.”
Quark watched him go, shaking his head. “Mountain Dew,” he repeated. “A Romulan comes into my bar and orders Mountain Dew. Is it too late to go back to selling weapons?”