The away team entered the sleeper ship’s control room and Sara Parker lifted her tricorder out of its holder and began to scan the room. In here there were six cryo-stasis units, designed to hold the ship’s crew, who would normally awaken first when the ship reached its destination. Looking into each one Sara saw that they were all empty.
“Do you think the crew already woke?” asked Parsons, but Sara shook her head.
“No,” she replied, “These have all been disconnected. Go and check the ones in the other sections, will you?”
“Aye,” he replied and headed off down the ladder again towards the passenger stasis compartment decks.
“Fascinating,” said Simok from the ships main control consoles. “It would seem that this ship is running almost entirely off 24th century technology. It has been integrated into almost every system.”
“Have you found the controls for the security system?”
“I believe so,” he replied, working a group of controls. He straightened up from the console, “It should now be disabled.”
Sara tapped her commbadge, “Parker to Argus, please respond.”
This time the combadge gave a chirp, indicating a successful connection and Lieutenant Davis’ voice came through the device’s speaker, “Argus here. It’s good to hear you voice, Sir.”
“Likewise Carol,” replied Sara. “Where’s Commander Patel?”
“Currently speaking with Starfleet Command,” she replied. “I’ll inform him that you’ve made contact.”
“Understood,” she said. “Tell him we’re still exploring and will have a full report in fifteen minutes. Parker out” She tapped the badge closing the connection.
“Parsons to Lieutenant Parker,” called Parsons over the communicator a moment later, “I think you better get down here. You need to see this.”
“Stay here,” she told Simok, before tapping her combadge again to respond to Parsons, “I’m coming Lieutenant.”
Sara left the control room and started the climb down the ladder. She passed the level with the airlock and soon found her way the first deck that contained passenger stasis compartments. Like the control room, the corridor was plain with no aesthetic embellishment, a typical feature of Earth’s early interstellar vessels. They were designed primarily to get you there and as you spent most of the time unconscious didn’t require any facilities for the journey. It reminded Sara of the S.S. Asgard, a DY-100 class that had been preserved and was on display at the Starfleet museum. It had been nearly half the length of this ship but the design was almost identical.
This wasn’t a surprise though. The DY class family of ship designs were well known for sharing a common design aesthetic, thanks to each successive version simply an upgrade of the previous. When the DY-100 had proven unsuccessful the unused hulls were upgraded to DY-200’s in the 2020s. With the advent of warp drive simply adding warp nacelles to a DY-400 had created the DY-430. As a result design legacies remained with the class all the way to the DY-1200, when it was eventually retired.
Unable to see Parsons, Sara called out, “Where are you, Lieutenant?”
“In here,” he responded from the first doorway.
Sara quickly approached and entered, “What have you…” She didn’t complete her question, cut off as she noticed that the stasis units were occupied. “How many?” she asked instead.
“Seven in here, sixteen more in two other units along this deck,” Parson’s replied, “but that’s not why I called you down here.” He indicated to the six of units around the room in turn, starting with the one at the top to the wall on the left of the entrance, “That’s Arkin Jora, James Dulmis, Michael Bower, Antony Richmond, Kate Sheridan and…
“Jonozia Lex,” finished Sara, her eyes fixed on her husband’s unmoving form in the lower unit to the right of the door.
The small desk screen returned to the familiar seal of the United Federation of Planets and Thomas Patel leaned back in the seat, letting out a deep sigh. With Temporal Investigations involvement hadn’t been completely unexpected, but he’d at least thought that it would have followed his preliminary report. That they’d contacted him before the away team had even checked in made this a much bigger situation than he was comfortable with.
“What the hell have you got yourself mixed up in Lex?” he muttered to himself.
“Bridge to Commander Patel,” came Lieutenant Davis’ voice over the comm.
Patel tapped his communicator, “Patel here. Go ahead Lieutenant.”
“Captain, the away team has made contact.”
“On my way,” he responded, rising from the chair and exiting to the bridge. He quickly ascended the steps to the higher level and replaced Davis in the centre seat. “Report.”
“Lieutenant Parker reported in,” said Davis. “She said she’d have a full report for you in ten minutes time.”
“Patch me through to the away team,” Patel ordered and a moment later Davis nodded. “Patel to away team. Status report.”
“Parson’s here, Captain,” came the deputy security chief’s voice. “We’ve got something of a situation over here.”
“What kind of situation and where’s Lieutenant Parker?”
“She’s currently analysing the ships cryogenic systems,” he responded. There was a clear note of hesitation in his reply that told Patel there was more, annoying him that the full story wasn’t forth coming.
“Lieutenant, what the hell is going on?!”
It wasn’t Parson’s who replied, but Parker instead, “We’ve found twenty three people in cryogenic stasis,” she said. “All but one of them are Argus crewmembers, including Captain Lex,” her voice was detached, especially when she mention Lex. “I’m analysing the systems to see if it’s possible to revive them.”
Oh no, thought Patel, she’s not going to like this.
“Negative Lieutenant,” he replied. “Prepare to beam back to the Argus with Simok immediately.”
At once Sara’s façade of detachment dropped, “We’re not leaving them, Captain.”
“They’ve been in stasis for over three hundred years,” he replied, “a couple more hours isn’t going to make any difference.”
“Aye, sir,” she replied.
“Parsons, I want you to pilot the Radcliff back.”
“On my way.”
Fifteen minutes later, all three members of the away team had returned and assembled in the observation lounge along with Patel, Dr. McDonald and Counsellor Cassaria. Patel took the seat at the head of the table as acting Captain, with Parker and the rest of the away team to his right and McDonald and Cassaria to his left.
“Lieutenant Parker, if you’d report your findings please,” requested Patel from the benefit of McDonald and Cassaria, starting the meeting.
“During our initial investigation of the sleeper ship we discovered twenty three people in cryogenic stasis,” she replied. “They are all believed to be currently assigned on a temporary basis to the USS Defender and all but one of them is a crew member aboard this ship, including Captain Lex.”
Patel noticed that Cassaria’s reaction was subdued and put it down to his Betazoid telepathy; there wasn’t much that surprised the counsellor. However, a look of shock was now showing on the Doctor’s face and it seemed that she had a hundred and one questions bubbling just below the surface, unsure of which one to ask first. Eventually the simplest won out, although the answer wasn’t.
“How did they get there?”
“Shortly after the away team boarded the ship I received a call from temporal investigations,” explained Patel. “It seems they’ve discovered the wreckage of the Defender on Earth and it’s been there for over three hundred years, which is about the same age as the other Argus out there. Their working theory at the moment is that the Defender was caught in some sort of temporal anomaly throwing it back in time and before they could return something caused the ship to crash. For some reason the survivors decided to commandeer this ship and set course for a location that they knew we’d be at three hundred year later.”
“I bet they loved that,” joked Parsons. “That’s pretty much a PDP.”
“They’re not thrilled at the prospect of this being a Predestination Paradox, no,” confirmed Patel. “That’s why they requested I recall the away team when they first got in contact. As it is they’ve dispatched an SCE vessel from Starbase 185 to tow it back to Deep Space 6.”
“They’re sending a starship 25 light years to tow it 3 light years?” asked Parsons. “Why can’t we do that?”
“I believe that it has to do with the age of the vessel,” suggested Simok. “We are not equipped to prepare a ship of that age for a warp tow, restricting us to full impulse at best. I do not believe that Starfleet would want us to take twelve years to return to Deep Space Six when the Starfleet Corps of Engineers could get it back there in under a day, even if it will take them over a week to get here.”
“Exactly,” confirmed Patel. “Our orders are to hold position until the SCE ship arrives.”
“Why can’t we just revive them?” asked McDonald. Patel could see it was an opinion that Sara Parker, unsurprisingly agreed with.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact point in time that they originated from. It’s possible that they targeted this specific point because they knew we would be here at this time. Until we confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the Defender has already travelled to that past we can’t risk waking them and returning them to the time stream prematurely.”
“They’re already part of the time stream,” responded Parker incredulously. “Just by causing us to hold position here is having an effect. What if we were meant to be elsewhere and aren’t.”
“I’m not going to start debating the intricacies of temporal mechanics with you Lieutenant as this is giving me enough of a headache as it is. Those are our orders,” Patel responded. “However your objections are duly noted.”
“There is another concern, Captain,” said Parsons. “Remaining in the same place for the next seven days will leave us a sitting duck for a Dominion attack. The destruction or capture of a Sovereign-class ship would be a serious boost to their war propaganda and put a serious dent in the Federation’s moral.”
“Starfleet command has considered that,” said Patel, “but we’re unlikely to draw the Dominion’s attention this far from the front-lines. Additionally we can’t allow the occupants of that sleeper ship to fall into Dominion hands either.”
“So what are Starfleet’s orders if we do encounter the Dominion?” asked Parker.
It was question Patel had hoped wouldn’t be asked unless the Dominion attacked. In the heat of the moment there would have been some leeway, here and now there wasn’t. “Our orders are to transfer as many as possible from the Sleeper’s stasis units to our own before destroying it.”
“And if we can’t transfer them?” asked Parker, the concern on her face showing that she already suspected the answer.
“Then our orders are to destroy the sleeper anyway.”
A wave of horror circled the table.
“Starfleet wants us to kill our own rather than let them be captured by the enemy?” said Cassaria, speaking for the first time. “That’s absurd!”
“Under normal circumstances it would be, but these circumstances aren’t normal. We currently have no idea how much knowledge they have of the course of the war,” said Patel. “There could be critical information about future engagements that go Starfleet’s way that the Dominion can use to turn them to their favour instead. We can’t let that kind of information fall into enemy hands.”
“That’s cold,” said Parker bitterly. “These are your friends and crewmates.”
It was a statement that verged on insubordination and he had to ensure that Parker knew she’d gone too far, despite her personal stake.
“That is enough, Lieutenant,” said Patel raising his voice slightly. “I dislike our orders as much as you do, but make no mistake; we are at war, they are our orders and we will follow them. Understood?”
“Good,” said Patel, satisfied. He turned his attention back to the briefing, “Lieutenant Parker, Commander Simok and Doctor McDonald, I want you to start work on the transfer between stasis units so that way we can minimise the risk of the procedure should the need arise.”
“Aye, Sir,” said they replied.
As the briefing dispersed and everyone began to filter out of the room, it didn’t surprise Sara Parker to see Bimitri Cassari was endeavouring to get her attention. Her reactions during the briefing had been emotionally highly charged and completely inappropriate for an officer of her rank or any rank for that matter. The past six months serving with Lex on the Argus had been far harder than any of the time they’d served on the London together, yet are far as she could tell nothing had changed between them.
By now the room had emptied completely save for Cassaria and her and the Counsellor approached from around the head of the table.
“I thought you might need someone to talk to,” opened Cassaria.
Sara’s first inclination was to push him away and say that she’d rather be left alone, but she knew that in the long run that would be pointless.
“I think seeing Jonozia in that stasis unit has affected me more than I realised,” she said. “Being able to revive him from it but being prevented from doing so hasn’t helped either.”
“That’s understandable, you’re both very close,” he said with sympathy, “but it’s never caused you to react like that to a superior before.”
“No it hasn’t.”
“Is there something else troubling you, something… deeper.”
Again Sara was about to dispute the Counsellors suggestion, but the words failed to form. A feeling of helplessness and loss came over her and she remembered where she had felt it before.
“Tyra III…” she whispered.
“Sara?” asked Cassaria.
She shook herself from the thoughts grip and turned away towards the stars. “I’ve been feeling this way ever since I saw the London destroyed at Tyra III. I was helpless to do anything about it then, as I am helpless to do anything now for Jonozia when it’s me he’s counting on.”
“Sara, what your feeling isn’t uncommon, especially during times like these,” said Cassaria. “All we can do is ensure everything we can do is done and hope that it’s enough. Beyond that it’s in the universe’s hands.”
“You’re right. Thank you Bimitri.” said Sara with a renewed purpose. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to engineering.”
“Glad to be of service,” he replied with a smile.
He entered the empty guest quarters and allowed the doors to close behind him before quickly moving to the computer terminal on the desk. He left the lights dark out of preference as the ambient light reflecting off Ganoris VI bathing the room reminded him of the homeworld and the Great Link of which he’d been separated from for over a year.
Normally he wouldn’t break cover like this, but the capture of one of the Federation’s most technologically advanced ships was a high priority and the Argus’ current orders were too good an opportunity to miss. That most of her senior officers were gift wrapped in stasis was a fortunate bonus.
He activated the terminal and the screen bathed the face of the nondescript ensign whose form he had taken in a blue light. He’d chosen the ensign to prevent his regular cover form from being connected to this act, so if anyone did detect him there would be no reliable witness. He quickly dictated the message and coded it to look like normal subspace chatter, before sending it on it way. With any luck he’d be off this ship in less than a week and he could return to his own kind.
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