As per Starfleet command’s orders we have been holding position in the Ganoris system for the past two days with nothing out of the ordinary to reports so far.
Thomas Patel relaxed in the Argus’ centre seat watching as Ganoris VI turned slowly on the viewscreen. Most people’s idea of day-to-day life in Starfleet was this great adventure, “boldly going where no one has gone before” as the service’s motto went, or defending the Federation in battle against some powerful foe. The reality couldn’t be further from it though. Sure members of Starfleet did both of those things, but by far the most common thing to do was wait. For example, a planetary survey could take several days for a starship like Argus to complete, but it might take three weeks to reach there. Even a relatively short trip from Starbase 185 in the neighbouring sector to Argus’ current position would take the SCE ship whose arrival they waited another five days and the only thing to do until then was wait.
That didn’t mean that this time was necessarily boring though. Even while a starship was waiting there was always something to do and discoveries to be made. Despite the fact that Patel had suggested the crew use the time for some R&R he knew several departments were still hard at work. The Planetary Sciences department was studying the composition of Ganoris VI’s clouds, while Stellar Cartography was mapping the positions and orbits of the systems stellar bodies relative to the Ganoris star itself. Simok even had engineering running non-critical maintenance under Lieutenant Lota’s watchful eye while he continued to work with Doctor McDonald and Lieutenant Parker on transferring the occupants of the sleeper ship’s stasis units to their own.
Why do I find it so easy to distance myself from people like that? He asked himself, realising that once again he’d referred to his friends and colleagues in stasis and the sleeper ship’s “occupants”. It was the ease with which he had begun to separate himself from others that had led him to leave Starfleet Intelligence and seek a starship position a few years ago. Worryingly he had begun to notice its return over the past few months and Sara Parker’s passionate defence on behalf of the people in stasis two days ago had brought it into sharp relief. At the time, he really hadn’t viewed them as people he knew and her accusation had cut right to the bone.
“Captain, I’m detecting several ships entering the system on an intercept course,” said Carol Davis from the ops console, breaking Patel from his thoughts.
“Yellow alert,” Patel ordered. “Friendly or hostile?”
“Unknown, but they’re approaching from sunward,” she replied. “I was lucky to get a reading on them at all with all the solar radiation.”
“Thirty eight minutes. It’s not the most time efficient direction of approach from Federation space.”
Making it unlikely they’re friendly, thought Patel. “Understood,” he said and then tapped his combadge, “Patel to Simok, how near are you to completion?”
“We believe that we have a working theory, but have yet to implement and test it,” replied the Vulcan Chief Engineer.
“I’m afraid you won’t get the chance for a test Chief,” said Patel. “You’ve got thirty eight minutes until three hostile vessels reach our position.”
“Understood,” responded Simok in his usual clipped tone, “Simok out.”
Simok closed the connection to the bridge and turned his attention back to Sara Parker and Doctor McDonald. Simok had been correct in that the three of them had formulated a theoretical way of achieving the transfer, and had been en-route to cargo bay 2 to test it when Commander Patel called. Sara thought they were still a long way from actually being able to start transporting people from the sleeper ship, but it seemed events had once again conspired against them and they had to do everything they could and hope that it was enough.
She took strength from the words Bimitri Cassaria said to her two days ago. The only way they were going to succeed here was going to be if they put everything they could into it. Doubting themselves or freezing because they felt it futile was guaranteed to end in failure. The only reason her husband was on that ship was because he hadn’t given up and hidden himself in Earth’s past and she was going to do everything to ensure that it hadn’t been for nothing.
Simok had started work on the cargo transporter’s controls in the corner of the room, while Doctor McDonald was checking over the twenty-five stasis chambers that had already been setup in the bay in preparation for this eventuality. Sara headed over to the Doctor.
“The each chamber’s stasis field will need to activate the moment its occupant materialises inside it in order to prevent them going to stasis shock,” said McDonald as Sara approached.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. The transporter beam will act as a stasis field long enough for the chambers to take over,” Sara replied as she started to check over the chambers with her tricorder. “What worries me is getting them off the sleeper ship in the first place. The transporter can’t get a lock while they’re in stasis and we can only collapse the cyrostasis fields by room, so we’ll need to collapse the fields and transport them out immediately in groups of eight.”
This was the reason they were using the more powerful transporter in the cargo bay, as it was more stable doing multiple, energy intensive transports. The downside was that it also had to be reconfigured for humanoid transport for this to work.
“Thankfully they’re already wearing combadges, which will make this a lot quicker and easier,” Sara finished.
“I have completed my modifications to the transporter,” called Simok from across the bay.
“We’re all set here too,” replied Sara, closing her tricorder and walking to the transporter controls to join Simok.
“Simok to Fisher, status report,” he said tapping his combadge.
“We’re all set here Chief,” came the young engineers voice via the comm from the sleeper ship.
“Simok to bridge, we’re ready to begin transport.”
“Proceed Commander,” replied Patel.
“Lieutenant Fisher, shut down the first group of stasis fields on my mark.” He paused for a moment and then said, “Mark.”
“Stasis chambers offline,” confirmed Fisher.
“Positive transporter lock achieved,” said Simok as Sara watched him work the transporters controls. “Energising.”
There was a loud hum that emanated from the transporter and seven shafts of shimmering light coalesced into humanoid shape inside the nearest stasis chambers. Sara recognised her husband, Kate Sheridan, James Dulmis, Arkin Jora, Michael Bower and Antony Richmond, along with the Commander she now knew was named Elizabeth Lisley.
“Stasis fields are stable,” reported McDonald from beside the stasis chambers. “I’m detecting no adverse effects from the transport.”
Simok nodded and checked his own readings, but after a moment Sara thought she saw the Vulcan equivalent of a frown.
“Doctor, could you come and take a look at this please.”
At Simok’s request McDonald approached the transporter console and checked his readings. Then she frowned too.
“What is it?” asked Sara concerned.
“What do you mean they’re dead?” asked Thomas Patel when Simok contacted the bridge. Time was running out and there was less than ten minutes before the approaching ships, which had now be confirmed as Jem’Hadar warship and two Jem’Hadar fighters, entered weapons range. “Did they die during the transport?”
“No,” replied Simok. “It would appear that they were already dead and have been for some time. They have been preserved by the stasis field which was also prevented us from initially detecting that they were deceased.”
“How did they die then?”
“It appears that at some point during the journey the stasis systems failed for a short period,” responded McDonald. “The shock of suddenly loosing stasis for any length of time longer than a few seconds would have resulted in stasis shock and killed them.”
“And they’re all dead?” asked Patel.
“Yes,” said Simok. “Lieutenant Fisher has confirmed it aboard the sleeper ship now that we know what to look for.”
“In that case order her to beam back aboard and we’ll get the hell out of here.”
“Aye, sir,”replied Simok. “Should we also retrieve the other bodies?”
“If you can in the next two minutes then do, otherwise we’ll have to leave them behind.”
“Patel out,” he said closing the connection. He turned to Parsons at tactical, “Target a spread of photon torpedoes at the BRS Argus and prepare to fire on my mark.”
“Dominion ships will enter weapons range in thirty seconds,” reported Davis.
There’s nothing like cutting it close, thought Patel to himself.
“Simok reports that we’re clear.”
“Dominion ships entering weapons range.”
“Red Alert,” ordered Patel, knowing the shields would raise automatically, “launch torpedoes.”
One after the other, five orange sparkles of light shot from the launcher under the Argus’ saucer and exploded along the length the her three hundred year old namesake causing it to explode in a fireball. Moments later the bridge lurched to port as the first weapons fire from the incoming Dominion ships impacted on Argus’ shields.
“Jem’Hadar attack fighter on collision course,” warned Parsons.
“Evasive manoeuvres,” Patel ordered the human ensign at the helm and the young man did his best to get the ship out of the way in time.
“Impact in 5, 4, 3…”
The attack fighter explode in a shower pulse phaser fire scant kilometres from the Argus’ shields.
“I’m detecting another starship coming in,” said Davis in astonishment. “It’s the Defender!”
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