The midday sun sparkled on the water’s surface, shining brightly over San Francisco bay, as a gentle breeze cooled the air. The calmness of the day was a stark contrast to the violence that was erupting half a galaxy away.
Ezri Tigan was enjoying the calm as she relaxed at one of the out door tables in front of a small quayside café. One of her old Academy classmates had suggested a novel about a rather unremarkable human who ends up going on a highly improbable adventure with his best friend who reveals himself to be an alien shortly before the earth is destroyed. It wasn’t really the kind of thing that she normally went for, but she’d been in the mood for something a little different and she found that the odd narrative did hold a certain charm.
“Is this seat taken, Ensign?”
Ezri put the padd down and looked up at the person standing next to her table. On seeing who it was her face lit up with a smile.
“Jono!” she replied happily before frowning in mock disgust, “you’re late.”
“There was a problem with the main computer,” offered Jonozia Lex, taking a seat. “Nothing too serious, but I needed to make sure of that before I came down.”
One of the waiters approached the table, taking their order and removing Ezri’s empty glass from earlier. Ezri’s smile returned as the waiter left, “Enjoying your time in command?”
“It’s only until they complete the refit, Zee,” replied Lex modestly, “Then I’ll just be the X-O again.”
“You’ve been in command since before that ship was launched over six months ago.”
“I’ve just been keeping the seat warm,” said Lex smiling, “officially it’s always been Captain sh’Shaen’s ship.”
“So when does she arrive?”
“The day after tomorrow. It’s getting pretty frantic up there now.”
“Then you’ll be heading out to the front?” She said.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Admiral Chase will give us our exact orders when the Captain arrives. They’re keeping security tight in an attempt to prevent our tactical plans falling prey to changelings.”
The waiter returned and placed two classes of fruit juice on the table, an orange juice for Ezri and a tomato juice for Jonozia.
“So, how is my favourite Cousin?” he asked changing the subject as he took a sip of the red liquid. “Has you’re assignment come through yet?”
She nodded in response, “I’ve been assigned to the Destiny as a trainee counsellor.”
“Congratulations, Zee.” he said happily, “That’s Captain Raymer’s ship, isn’t it?”
“You know the Captain?”
“I met her at the reception held for the Sovereign’s launch,” he replied. “Seemed like a decent woman.”
“I’ve not met her yet,” she said. “The Destiny won’t be here until the end of the week, then we’re heading out to join the ninth fleet.”
“They’re taking quite a pounding from what I hear.”
“Yeah. It’s not looking good is it?”
“Only because we haven’t got into it yet,” Lex joked reassuringly.
Ezri gave a wane smile as Lex’s commbadge beeped.
Lex tapped the delta on his left breast, “Lex here, go ahead.”
“Sorry to interrupt you, Commander,” came the voice of Lieutenant Commander ch’Var, “but Admiral Chase has requested your presence at Starfleet command.”
“Understood, Lex out.” He tapped his badge again and looked at Ezri, “I’m really sorry Zee.”
“Don’t be,” said Ezri, waving away the apology, “I’ll catch you later.”
“See you later, Zee.” Lex finished, before gulping down the rest of his drink and heading off in the direction of Starfleet headquarters.
Lex entered the bustling main lobby of the Starfleet command building and headed past the reception desk towards the main set of turbolifts at the far end. The lift deposited him outside the Admiralties offices and he approached the Admiral Chase’s secretary. She smiled in recognition as he approached.
He’d visited here several times in the last few months and was now quite familiar to her.
“He said to go straight in, Jono.” She said.
“Thanks Clara,” he replied, pausing for a moment before approaching the door and stepping through.
Admiral Chase was sitting behind his desk, reading through the padd in his hand. On the opposite side of the desk sat another man with his back to Lex.
“Ah Commander Lex,” said Chase, looking up from he padd, “I’d like you to meet Commander Thomas Patel.”
Patel stood up and offered his hand to Lex. “Pleased too meet you Commander.”
Patel was of seemingly Indian origin and his proper English accent surprised Lex a little, but he quickly recovered and took the Commander’s hand, shaking it. “Likewise.”
A lopsided smile cross Patel’s face, “It’s true what they say; Cold hands.”
Lex responded with a smile and Patel retook his seat as Lex placed himself in the one next to him. With everyone seated Admiral Chase began, “Commander, I’m sorry to have to inform you that the U.S.S. Talis was ambushed by a dominion strike force this morning,” he said. “The ship has been lost with all hands, including Captain sh’Shaen.”
“Oh.” Lex was a little unsure how to handle the news. He’d never actually met Captain sh’Shaen, although he had been in regular contact with her over subspace since Argus’ launch six months ago. Captain Toran had also spoken very highly of her when he’d put Lex up for the position of first officer. Was Lex now sitting next to his new commanding officer? He decided to make a good impression.
“Congratulations, Sir.” He said to Patel.
Patel just gave a knowing smile as Chase continued, “Commander Patel isn’t going to be Argus’ new commander; you are.”
“Me?” If Lex was unsure how to handle sh’Shaen’s death, he was completely floored but this. “Sir, with all due respect, I’ve only been a first officer for six months,” he said after a moment. “There must be someone more qualified for the job.”
“I’ve been fulfilling that role longer than that,” replied Chase. “Your time on the Sovereign is invaluable and you know this crew inside out. Hell you’ve essentially been in command since the ship was launched!”
Before Lex could respond, Chase put his hand up to stop him, “I understand your reservations.” He said, “That’s why I’m assigning Commander Patel to be your X-O. He served as the Discovery’s first officer for three years and was assigned to Starfleet intelligence before that. He’ll provide any help you need.”
“Congratulations, Captain Lex.” He finished passing a small cloth covered case.
Lex was about to protest again, but then thought better of it. He opened the case to find a single gold pip. He picked it up and attached it to his collar, “Thank you, Sir”
“How soon can you be ready to launch?” asked Chase getting back down to business.
“All the upgrades to the ships systems should be complete by tomorrow.” He replied, “But we’re still waiting for our Security chief who was due to arrive with Captain sh’Shaen.”
“I’m afraid that Lieutenant Ito was killed along with the Captain,” said Chase regrettably. “Do you have anyone you think would make a suitable replacement?”
“Lieutenant Katherine Sheridan.” Lex replied.
It was Patel’s turn to be surprised, “The Katherine Sheridan?” he replied. “She’s on the Argus?”
Lex nodded, “Captain Sh’Shaen asked me to send her a list of officers I’d recommend for the crew. I served with Sheridan during a joint mission between the Sovereign and the Crockett.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea Sir.” said Patel.
“She’s an untapped talent, Admiral,” countered Lex, “and she seems to be ignored because of her background.”
“With good reason, Captain,” said Patel. “Her story is unbelievable at best and the perfect cover story for a spy at worst. Giving her a position on the senior staff, let alone that of Security chief, is a hugely unnecessary security risk. Wouldn’t current deputy security chief, Lieutenant Parsons, be a better choice?”
“As much as I respect Lieutenant Parsons’ abilities,” replied Lex, “he’s not ready for that high a position. Kate Sheridan has been held back for three years – ever since her commission was reactivated – and she’s proven she’s ready for the responsibility again and again.”
“It’s your ship Lex,” said Chase nodding in agreement. “If you feel she’s ready, then she’s ready. However I want you to keep Lieutenant Parsons as her deputy.”
“Understood, Admiral,” replied Lex.
Chase looked around his desk for a moment before picking up a pair of padds and passing them to Lex and Patel.
“I’m assigning the Argus to the Seventh fleet along with the U.S.S. Valkirye and the U.S.S. Brunel, which are due to arrive tomorrow,” he explained. “Your orders are to rendezvous with the fleet in the Tyra system in two weeks time. Our intelligence suggests that that will be the Dominion’s next target if the ninth fleet can’t prevent their advance.”
“That’s the idea,” said Chase, worry creeping into his voice. “The hope is that we can catch them off guard and drive them back. It’s a victory that Starfleet really needs at the moment.”
“How bad is it?”
“Bad,” replied Chase. “Since we destroyed the Dominion ship yards Torros III during our opening salvo we haven’t scored a victory. So far the best we’ve achieved is slowing them down, and it’s costing us.
“Get your ship ready, Captain, you depart tomorrow. Good luck.”
“Thank you Admiral,” replied Lex
“You’re Dismissed,” finished Chase.
Lex and Patel stepped off the transporter pad in Argus primary transporter room along with four other crewmembers and were greeted by Lieutenant Commander Shathren ch’Var, the ship’s Andorian science officer and third in command.
“Welcome back, Sir,” offered ch’Var, “and congratulations on your promotion.”
“Thanks Thren,” replied Lex. “This is Commander Patel, our new first officer.”
“Pleased to meet you, Commander.”
“Likewise,” responded Patel.
“Is everyone aboard yet?” asked Lex.
“Almost,” replied the second officer, “Ensign Arkin and our new Operations officer haven’t arrived yet. I was actually expecting them to arrive…”
The Transporter hummed and six more figures materialised.
“…With you,” completed ch’Var.
The first four figures were all surprised to find the two most senior officers waiting for them as they stepped of the pad. Their curiosity only increased when they noticed the extra pip on Lex’s collar and a Commander they didn’t recognize. Lex smiled as he heard the small group begin to speculate the possibilities as they disappeared off down the corridor. The news would be spreading through the ship’s scuttlebutt in no time. Lex turned his attention back to the two remaining people on the transporter. “Welcome aboard Ensign, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Sir,” replied Arkin Jora formally.
Recruited by Captain sh’Shaen straight out of the academy, Ensign Arkin Jora was one of the best helmsmen that the institution had ever produced. Entering the Academy shortly after her homeworld of Bajor petitioned to join the federation, it was soon discovered that Arkin was a natural pilot. She had already been decorated for her flight skills while still a cadet and, despite the fact that she was still a little naïve, Lex was pleased to have her as part of his crew.
Arkin had been deep in conversation with the young man beside her, the ship’s new operations officer, Lieutenant, Jr. Grade, James Dulmis. Dulmis had transferred from the U.S.S. Thunderchild and came highly recommended by that ship’s commanding officer, Captain Quinn, both for his engineering skills and his bravery. Quinn had specially noted his performance during the Borg’s most recent incursion into Federation space when he almost single handily repelled a Borg boarding party from the ship.
Caught slightly by surprise, Dulmis flustered a reply of his own. "Um, thank you, Captain. It's a pleasure to serve with you."
Lex smiled as a question began to form on Arkin’s lips, but quickly died.
“Thank you, Mr. Dulmis. When you're settled into your quarters, please report to the bridge. You too, Ensign.”
“Aye, Sir,” they both replied. As they left the transporter room , their conversation resumed. After a moment the rest of them left the room too.
“Tea, Earl Grey, white, double sweet,” ordered Lex as he sat up and rubbed his temples. Beside him the replicator hummed and a steaming hot cup of tea materialised. Lex swivelled his chair picked up the cup and turned back to the monitor on his desk. He brought the cup up to his lips and took a sip of the hot liquid; the aroma of the drink relaxing him.
An old friend and academy classmate, Jean Luc Picard, had introduced his previous host, Katanna Lex to Earl Grey tea. Picard preferred his tea black and unsweetened, but Katanna had found it too bitter and immediately added both milk and sugar to it, much to Jean Luc’s horror. His comment at the time was something along the lines of Lex was destroying a perfectly good cup of tea and Jonozia smiled at the memory. He hadn’t seen Jean Luc since Katanna had died eight years ago.
His attention turned back to the padds strewn over his desk. He had spent the last three hours reviewing the situation reports from the Bajoran sector, trying to gather as much information as possible before the ship left space dock for the front lines and get up to speed on the situation. Admiral Chase hadn’t been exaggerating when he said the situation was bad.
The signing of a non-aggression pact by the Romulans with the Dominion had shifted the balance of power and caused Starfleet and the Klingons to move before they were quite ready and as a result, many of the ships that were to be allocated to the war effort were out of place. This had left no ships to defend Deep Space Nine when the decision was made to both mine the wormhole and prevent further reinforcements coming through it when the rest of the fleet moved to destroy the dominion shipyards at Toros III.
Both plans were successful, but Sisko had been forced to evacuate when Deep Space Nine was captured by the Dominion. It had only been the last minute signing of a non-aggression pact by the Bajoran government that had prevented that world from becoming yet another Dominion occupied planet.
Finding itself on the back foot and with most of its ships in the wrong place, Starfleet had been using the Ninth and Eighth fleets in an attempt to slow down the Dominion advance, but both were taking heavy losses and Dominion forces had already landed in the Minos Korva and Solarion systems.
Damn it, thought Lex, things don’t normally look this bleak unless the Borg are involved!
There was some hope. Several reports indicated that a small group of Federation and Klingon ships were causing havok behind the Dominion lines and the press had seized on this, dubbing it the thirteenth fleet. According to the reports this small band of ships was making the Dominion pull more and more of their forces off the frontline to deal with them and was even rumoured to be lead by the Argus’ sister ship, the U.S.S. Liberty.Liberty was captained by Luciano Mantovanni, who was something of a Starfleet legend, and an old friend of Lex. If anyone could survive behind enemy lines this long it would be him.
Lex’s door chime sounded and he responded. The doors parted and Lieutenant Katherine Sheridan entered. Sheridan’s dark blond hair was pulled back in it customary pony tail and there was serious look on her face. She stood in front of Lex’s desk looking intently at the Captain with her dark brown eyes.
“Commander Patel said that you wished to see me, Sir.”
“Please have a seat Lieutenant,” said Lex.
Sheridan took the empty seat next to her.
“Lieutenant, I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with your performance, both when I served before and since you came aboard Argus.”
“Thank you, Sir,” replied Sheridan, modestly.
“As a result I requested that you as my new tactical officer.” He said. “I think you’ve had a rough ride the past few years and you’ve demonstrated to me that you deserve the responsibility. Congratulations, Lieutenant.”
Sheridan sat there for a beat as the news sank in. Eventually her stern expression cracked into a smile. “Wow. Thank you, Captain.”
Lex smiled in return, “You’ve earned it. Lieutenant Parsons has been assigned as your number two.”
“I’m sorry Kate, but this was Admiral Chase’s condition,” Lex replied.
“Permission to speak freely, Sir.”
“With all due respect, I’m tired of getting screwed over by Command, Captain. I realize that I don’t have the most trust worthy history, but I’ve been cleared by both temporal investigations and Starfleet intelligence; I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t,” she said. “If I haven’t proven that I’m trust worthy by now, then what’s it going to take?”
“I agree with you completely, Kate,” he replied. “It’s part of the reason why I suggested you to Captain sh’Shaen and its part of the reason why I requested you as my tactical officer. This is your chance to prove yourself to everybody else.”
“Good. Then you’re dismissed.”
Kate stood to leave, but just before she reached the door, Lex stopped her.
“Lieutenant have I ever thanked you for saving my life of Rohan III.”
“Well I’d like to thank you again,” he said. “Thank you.”
Kate bowed her head slightly and then continued out the room.
Lex walked onto the bridge and took his place in the centre seat. He paused for a moment, taking to time to see if it felt different compared to any of the previous times he’d sat in it. In truth the seat itself felt no different, but he did. This was his ship now.
“Report, Mr. Dulmis.”
“Command reports that the Valkirye has passed the Mars defence perimeter and will arrive in the next twenty minutes. The Brunel is in lunar orbit.”
“Are all of McKinley’s engineers safely off ship?”
“Yes Captain,” replied ch’Var from the science station.
“Mr. Dulmis, request permission to depart from the station C&C.”
“Permission granted, Captain.”
“Secure airlocks, release umbilical and docking clamps,” ordered Lex. “Ensign Arkin, set course for Luna, one quarter impulse.”
“Aye, sir,” replied the young Bajoran. “Course set 034 mark 005.”
“Take us out.”
<-- Prologue | Cover Page | Chapter 2 -->