I know this is a short section, but the other half of this chapter will be a longer one and I thought I'd at least whet your appetites. ------------------- The Laghur-class fast-attack ship swelled onscreen. Too much or too little thrust from either vessel or thrust in the wrong direction—and they were done. Any attempt to coordinate, any signal, and the game was up: the Jem’Hadar would detect that far more surely than they would the tiny, chemical rockets that constituted a Gălor-class vessel’s maneuvering thrusters. But even that…even that…it wasn’t natural… “Vent a cargo bay!” Spirodopoulos shouted as if moved by a sudden wind. “Or any section that you can—if—” Berat’s eyes went wide. He didn’t wait for the terhăn to finish his explanation. “Do it—Yejain!” The glinn tapped at his console. “Ventral bay venting now!” The Sherouk pitched up—relative to its orientation that moment, looking like a manta ray trying to stand on its tail. The Turrel hurtled past—mere kilometers past, from the looks of it…but it cleared. “Trajectories of all other ships stable,” Dalin Rota reported. “Two more charges have detonated in the nebula since we drifted past the flux boundary.” Excellent! Berat cheered. If they’re still wasting ammunition on stellar gases, then it’s rather unlikely their sensors can tell us from the remains of a planetary fragment. “Maintain silent running,” Berat said, “for fifteen minutes after the Jem’Hadar depart our sensor range.” He resisted a feral grin at that. The Dominion had thought they were giving their Cardassian lackeys a few harmless ‘toys’ to play with, by upgrading the sensors and transporters of the twenty Gă’ălour…but all they had proven in the end was that the Vorta were shortsighted in more ways than one. Any technology from the enemy constituted an inherent tactical advantage, however seemingly insignificant. And here on the Sherouk with minds like Onay Motreln and Yal Mirok on board? And the rest of this crew? Even dumber. Berat turned. “Commander…” What he wanted to say was, Thank you for your trust. But so soon after that tense discussion in the mess hall, he wasn’t so sure about drawing attention to the fact that the Federation commander had just shared information—however insignificant—about Starfleet readiness and procedures. “Thank you for your quick thinking.” “I’ll be a little happier once the Jem’Hadar are off of our doorstep,” Spirodopoulos replied, “but you’re welcome.” He spoke through the translator for the moment—probably best for now, while we still have to concern ourselves with potential battle, Berat thought, but there was something about that subtle dip of the head that accompanied Spirodopoulos’ statement. It was a dissonance allayed: though still tinged with that terhăn strangeness, it was almost the move one of his own species would have used. The Cardassian commander smiled, reciprocating Spirodopoulos’ nod. Dalin Rota reported, “They just went to warp, heading away from the nebula! At current speed and heading, they should be out of sensor range in another twenty minutes.” And us, potentially, from them, Berat translated; they did have the same sensors, after all—or so that Vorta had said. “Continue monitoring.” No one spoke aloud—only the faint sounds of the computer, and the shifting energy fields of the plasma conduits running near the bridge betrayed a sense of life and activity to Berat. Spirodopoulos observed at the tactical station, which had been Gul Macet’s suggestion. Macet had been duly impressed by the terhăn’s ability to grasp enough of the Zerayd’s firing controls at Lessek that with minimal instruction he could actually get a shot off without hesitation. Even with the gul doing the aiming, that was quite the accomplishment considering he was dealing with a foreign interface and, though Spirodopoulos tried valiantly to hide it, he was still functionally illiterate in the Cardăsda language. Just barely out of Rota’s line of sight, Berat caught a glimpse of Spirodopoulos mouthing some of the words on the readouts to himself in hopes of stitching them together into something he recognized. Berat busied himself with the readouts on the main screen—better for the lieutenant commander’s concentration…and his pride…that he think himself unobserved. After the first minute turned into nine, then ten, he finally started allowing himself to entertain the thought that maybe they’d actually succeeded. Berat aimed his attention towards his chief investigative officer. “Mirok, while we have a moment to breathe …coordinate with Dr. Hetalc to determine if Riyăk Iymender is in sufficient condition. If he is, route any Dominion communications we’ve intercepted from those ships to him, along with the work you’ve been doing on their viewing device. Once he’s up and around, I’ll be formally assigning him to work with you on signal decryption and some other projects.” Reverse-engineering of Dominion technology, Berat added to himself. If Spirodopoulos was this distrusting, still…how would he handle the knowledge that even these Cardassians intended to find out what made it work? And whenever they returned him, just what would the Federation think of that? “But for now…I think it may be therapeutic to give him a bit of an ‘appetizer.’” The science expert switched on a positively conspiratorial smile. She certainly knows the type! “Understood, Gul.” Glinn Yejain caught Berat’s eye then. “Might I have a word with you, Gul?” “Granted.” “I believe he should join us,” Yejain added, sweeping a hand towards Spirodopoulos. Berat assented. “Then we will confer in my office. Dalin Rota—the watch is yours for now. Alert me at once if the Jem’Hadar make even the slightestchange of course, regardless of type.” That said, it was understood that Rota would still defer to Glinn Motreln on any matters pertaining to the ship’s internal operations—she did outrank the tactical officer, after all. With his eyes, Berat indicated the office and waited until he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the terhăn to ascend the steps.