We will shortly arrive for our rendezvous with the Seventh fleet in the Tyra system. However, due to fleet-wide communications black out, we won’t have any contact with them until we reach the rendezvous co-ordinates. I have therefore ordered the ship to yellow alert, as have the captains of the Valkyire and Brunel, in preparation.
The ship and crew have performed well over the last two weeks during our largely uneventful journey from the Sol system. Lieutenant Sheridan has taken to her new position well and has kept the crew on their toes with several random battle drills, while Lieutenant Commander Simok has quickly contained any issues that have arisen with our newly refit systems.
Commander Patel has been an incredible asset to me over the past few weeks, helping me to understand the minuet of command, although I’m worried that his distrust of Lieutenant Sheridan will affect his ability to work with her especially as I have seen very little interaction between the two of them during this time.
Normally Arkin Jora would feel at peace here behind the helm controls of a starship. Currently all she could feel was her sense of unease rise. Her position as the only Bajoran aboard the ship gave her the feeling that she was the only one with a personal stake in driving the Dominion back and freeing her homeland.
Although Arkin had left the planet at a very young age, she still felt a connection to it. Bajor’s emergence as a major player in galactic events following the discovery of the celestial temple and her people's achievement of finally ridding themselves of the Cardassians after sixty years of occupation filled her with pride. Now, after only five short years, the Cardassians were back and Bajor was occupied again. However, this time Bajor had the Federation's help to fight them back.
Was the rest of the crew as eager to fight as she was? They seemed as though this was something that they had to do but didn’t want to, which she found confusing when compared to the reaction of most people when the Borg had attacked last year. Why did the Federation see the evil of the Borg but not the evil of the Cardassians? Her training reminded her of the tolerance that the Federation held for other cultures and Starfleet’s primary mission being one of discovery and not armed conflict. And yet she still couldn't understand why, if the Cardassians begged for mercy, the Federation would grant it, knowing that if the situation was reversed the Cardassians would not.
The ship was nearing the rendezvous co-ordinates, entering into a war more brutal than almost any of her crew could remember. Lex could feel the tension level rise as he looked around the bridge. Arkin’s determination was revealed in her posture; the young Bajoran was spoiling for a fight. Beside her, James Dulmis concentrated on his console, attempting to loose himself in the readouts. Behind Lex, Sheridan was going through her tactical plans and in front of her Patel was checking the readiness of each of the ships departments. On the other side of Lex sat Bimitri Cassaria, the ship’s Betazoid counsellor. Cassria had a serine look on his face, despite the fact that he must have been picking up on the anxiety that even Lex could detect. Finally behind him, sat Lieutenant Commander ch’Var, scanning the surrounding space, trying to keep give the crew as much a warning as possible of anything unexpected.
This is a very young crew, Lex thought to himself. I’d be surprised if half of them even remember our last war with the Cardassians.
Lex’s thoughts drifted back almost 20 years, to the height of the first Cardassian conflict. During that war, Katanna commanded the U.S.S. Reliant and had seen her fair share of the horror that war brings. Her worst experience, the one that had haunted her and which easily qualified as the worst experience of any of Lex’s hosts, was her time spent in a Cardassian concentration camp following the capture of her away team on the planet Umoth. There were things that had happened in that camp that Lex wished he could forget, but knew that he never would.
“We’re approaching the rendezvous co-ordinates,” reported Arkin.
“Slow to impulse,” ordered Lex. “On screen.”
The screen flickered and displayed the fleet, or at least what was left of it. Lex rose from his seat in disbelief, realising that he’d just added another memory that his later hosts would want to forget. There would be many more to come. He turned away from the screen and look meaning fully at Commander sh’Var, hoping for some good news. Maybe he would tell him this was some kind of giant illusion.
“I’m reading the wreckage of over 100 starships. The Designs match those that are known to be in use by the Federation, Klingons, Cardassians and Dominion. Federation and Klingon ships out number those of Cardassian and Dominion design by nearly 3 to 1.”
“My God,” said Patel, rising to stand beside the captain, “it was a slaughter.”
Lex turned back to face the screen, “Are there any survivors?”
“Scanning now,” Replied the Andorian. “I’m reading 356 survivors over six disabled starships, as well as multiple escape pod ion trails that leading further into the system.”
“Are any of the ships salvageable?”
“All of them have minimal power signatures and life support has failed on the Kennedy and Aurora. Of the remaining ships the, U.S.S. Monitor seems to be the most intact.”
“Mr. Dulmis, hail the Valkyrie and Brunel.”
“On screen, Captain,” said Dulmis as the welcome image of the two Captains’ faces replaced the horror on the viewscreen. Homtian, the Bolian captain of the U.S.S. Valkyrie was the first to speak.
“It looks like the Dominion decided to start the party without us,” he said, his voice completely devoid of humour. “I thought that they weren’t due to arrive in the system for another 24 hours.”
“Evidently they stepped up their time table,” said Captain Gering, the commander of the U.S.S. Brunel.
“We’re detecting survivors among the debris,” said Lex, “as well as the ion trails from several escape pods leading into the system.”
“We’re reading that too, Captain,” Said Homtian.
“My science officer thinks that the Monitor might be salvageable,” said Lex. “Captain Geiring, do you think that your teams could get her running?”
Geiring turned to someone off screen and turned back, “It’s possible. We’ll head over now and check her out.”
There are definite advantages to having one of the specialist Starfleet Corps of Engineering’s vessels with you, thought Lex as the image of Captain Geiring disappeared leaving only the Valkyire’s commander on screen.
“Captain Homtain. We’re going to follow the escape pod trails into the system.”
“Understood,” replied the Bolian. “We’ll start by rescuing the survivors from the Kennedy and Aurora first and we’ll let you know if any more Dominion ships show up. Valkyrie out.”
The screen returned to the scene of the seventh fleet’s massacre. Lex was unable to keep his disgust for the view out of his voice as he issued his next order to Arkin. “Helm, set a course following those ion-trails and engage at full impulse.”
“The ion trails lead to the third planet, Captain,” Reported ch’Var as the ship reached the end of the trail of breadcrumbs. “I’m also detecting two Jem’hadar fighters in geo-stationary orbit, as well as the debris from another starship.”
“Arkin, get us behind that moon,” ordered Lex, after tapping several commands into the controls on his arm rest. “Commander ch’Var, launch a class 5 probe with full stealth capability.”
“Aye sir,” they replied.
Lex turned to ch’Var. “Is there any sign that they detected us?”
“None,” replied the Andorian.
“Good,” said Lex. “What do we know about this planet?”
“It’s towards the colder end of Class-M. Heavily forested in places, with large grasslands in others,” said ch’Var. “A Starfleet survey team discovered the ruins of a Preserver settlement shortly before war broke out and a large Archaeological team was on the surface until two days ago when they were due to be evacuated.”
“Understandable,” said Patel. “The amount of working Preserver technology we discover at each site is always high. I can understand Starfleet wanting to search those ruins for as long as they possibly could.”
“Do you think the Archaeological team was evacuated in time?” asked Sheridan. “The Dominion ships were here at least one day earlier than expected. What if they had been waiting for the fleet?”
“Possible,” said ch’Var. “The debris in orbit would be consistent with that of an Excelsior-class starship.”
A feeling of dread that had been quietly building at the back of Lex’s mind suddenly forced its way to the front at the mention of the destroyed vessel’s class. “Which ship was sent to collect them?” he asked, unable to keep the concern out of his voice.
Ch’Var looked down at his console and accessed the information, “The U.S.S. London.”
Lex felt like a phaser set to heavy stun had hit him.
“Are you alright Captain?” asked ch’Var, when he looked back up.
“I…” Lex looked at the Andorian and his mouth tried to form words, but very little came out.
“Captain,” said Patel, “what is it?”
“Sara,” Lex whispered, staring into space. Patel was about to ask again, when Lex turned to ch’Var. “Are there any survivors?”
“It looks like the ship’s core breached,” he replied. “I’m not reading any life signs.”
“Captain, who is Sara?” asked Patel.
“She’s my wife.”
In a bare stone room deep inside the Preserver temple, Lieutenant Sara Parker, formerly of the U.S.S. London, watched the dozen or so people she’d managed to gather together before it had no longer been safe to return to the surface. That it was no longer safe had been graphically demonstrated to her when she’d returned to the surface only to see one of the archaeologists slaughtered in front of her eyes in his attempt escape one of the Jem’hadar patrols. Knowing that there was very little she could do on the surface, she returned to the small group that she had been able to save, hoping that Commander Meyer had managed to get his distress call out before he’d been discovered and that they could elude the Jem’hadar until then. That was two days ago. As Parker watched the small group of people that were huddled around the dim illumination of the portable lantern in one corner of the room, it was obvious that help wasn’t coming and it was making her restless. She wasn’t prepared to die in these ruins.
Convinced that the only way out of this situation was for them to take action, Parker pulled out her tri-corder and began to scan the surrounding area. She wasn’t too surprised at getting the same results as she had when they had first come down here - in other words, nothing.
“What are you doing Lieutenant,” said Doctor Wallace, one of the archaeologists. “They’ll detect your scan.”
Wallace had been the strongest advocate of their current course of action, even telling Parker not to go back to the surface the last couple of times. His strong stance that they should stay put had caused the other scientists to rally around him and Parker could see the other survivors in the dim light nodding in agreement.
She shook her head. “I’ve set it to the lowest power setting. It shouldn’t get any further than the next room and if they were in there we’d be dead already.”
“That’s only if they use a passive scan,” he said. “An active scan will pick that up easily.”
“And my tricorder is set to pickup any active scans near our location,” Parker rebuked. “That’s how we’ve evaded them so far.”
“Do you want to take that chance?”
“Dr. Wallace, I am unwilling to sit here and wait for Jem’hadar to find us,” she replied, her frustration with him beginning to boil over. “To the best of my knowledge, no Preserver site has ever been discovered completely void of their technology. I’m looking for anything we can use to help us.”
“This place is older than any other site by nearly 9,000 years, Lieutenant,” said Wallace, clearly relishing the fact that Parker had attempted to use his area of expertise to support her argument, “and almost every other site has functioning technology because it was created to preserve the Humans that they had transplanted there. There has been no evidence of that here.
“If we sit here we might survive this until help arrives but if we start poking about they’ll find us.”
“Nobody’s coming doctor,” Parker countered, voicing their greatest fear for the first time. “The seventh fleet was due to arrive in this system yesterday, so if help was going to arrive it would have been here already.
“We’re on our own and if we sit here and do nothing, we’re all dead.”
Parker returned to scanning the walls of the room. After a moment her tri-corder beeped, she adjusted the settings, began the scan again on the same section and the tri-corder beeped again. She activated her wrist beacon and studied the wall, before she reached out and pushed against one of the stone blocks. The block gave little resistance as it slid into the wall. She took a step back as a section beside the “switch” receded slightly before it disappeared into the roof, revealing the entrance to a pitch black corridor beyond. Parker moved to the threshold and scanned the darkness before her, her eyebrows rising slightly in surprise at the results.
The air was fresh despite the readings indicting that the area before her hadn’t been disturbed in over 10,000 years. There was also a low level magnetic field that indicated a power source had been undetectable before now.
Sara closed her tri-corder and aimed her wrist beacon through the doorway revealing a corridor before her, its end hidden as the beam was quickly eaten up by the darkness. The limited distance that the light did penetrate revealed a stark contrast to the rest of the building - while the corridor walls were stone throughout the rest of the temple, here the walls were a plain white and smooth. The light reflected off a black rectangle about 30 centimetres square positioned about a meter in front of her and about two thirds of the way up the right wall. It looked like it could possibly some kind of computer access panel. It was certainly the best place to start looking for answers. Sara began to step through the doorway. This was too much for Dr. Wallace.
“Lieutenant,” he warned, “Where are you going? You’re our only protection.”
“If the Jem’hadar finds us Doctor, it will make no difference if I’m here or not,” She said, continuing through the opening, towards the dark reflective panel. “Instead, I plan to give us a fighting chance.”
“Lieutenant!” exclaimed Wallace in frustration, but Parker ignored him as she opened her tri-corder again and began to scan the panel.
Three things happened in quick succession; a red light activated on the panel Sara was scanning and started to blink, the entryway closed cutting of Wallace in mid sentence and everything went dark except for the light on the panel, the tri-corder and the wrist beacon, which now illuminated the panel.
Great, thought Sara.
She trained her wrist beacon on the closed entrance, which now looked the same as the smooth white walls of the corridor, almost as if there had never been anything there in the first place. The tri-corder confirmed what she could see - There was no corresponding switch to the one she had discovered on the other side.
Sara turned at the sound, instinctively drawing her phaser and pointing her wrist beacon down the pitch-black corridor, but the light was quickly eaten up by the darkness as it had been before. In the distance she suddenly saw a flicker of light and immediately trained her phaser and beacon on it, but no sooner had she done so, another appeared, followed by another.
One by one the lights closer and closer to her turned on, until the panel above her head illuminated. She holstered her phaser and turned back to the closed doorway, but quickly discovered her initial assessment had been correct. There was no way to open the door from this side.
I guess that the switch on the other side isn’t working anymore either then, thought Sara, looks like the only way is forwards.
With her tri-corder scanning the way ahead, Sara set off down newly illuminated corridor.
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