“Evasive manoeuvres,” cried the Captain. “All hands brace for impact!”
Arkin threw the Argus hard to port. She could feel the vibrations of the great starship’s engines as the heard the hull creak, the structural integrity being pushed to its limits as the Argus fought against the forces her maneuver inflicted on it. Behind her she heard the sounds of people desperately trying to keep their footing as the same forces that were causing the hull to protest threw them about.
Then the Jem’hadar ship hit.
Suddenly the lights on the bridge died and everything was thrown about in the darkness even more violently than it had been moments before. Arkin was thrown from her seat and she hit the deck hard. She heard someone or something near her land on the deck with a crack at the same time as she did and hoped that they hadn’t broken anything in the fall. She checked herself to see if anything had been and was relieved to find everything intact.
The emergency light flickered on, bathing the bridge in a pale blue glow. As Arkin pulled herself up from the deck, she looked behind to see if the rest of the bridge crew had faired as well as she had. She found the motionless form of Commander ch’Var lying on the deck, the Captain kneeling beside him along with the nurse who had been assigned to the bridge. The nurse tapped her commbadge, “Edwards to transporter room one; two to beam directly to sickbay.” She disappeared in a shower of blue sparkles taking ch’Var along with her a moment later.
“Damage report,” ordered Lex as he moved back in front of his seat. Arkin slid back into her position at the helm.
“We’ve got hull breaches on decks 19, 20 and 21,” reported Dulmis who had somehow remained in his own seat. “Emergency force fields are active and the structural integrity field is holding.”
“Shields are down to 28%,” continued Bower. “Lateral phasers are offline and the lateral aft torpedo launcher and rear tractor beam are gone.
“The stardrive’s impulse engines are offline,” Arkin finished, “but otherwise I’ve got full helm control.”
“What about the Jem’hadar?”
“They’re much worse off,” reported Bower. “One of the fighter’s nacelles has been sheared off completely and their power systems are crippled. It looks like it overloaded during the collision.”
“Survivors?” asked Lex.
Bower shook his head, “None.”
His eyes to the floor, Lex paused for a moment, acknowledging the beings whose lives has just been ended by his orders. It was a habit that Katanna had picked up during the Federation’s last conflict with the Cardassians.
“Mr. Bower,” said Lex when he brought his head back up, “are there any further Dominion ships in the area.”
Bower checked his console, “No sir.”
Then why would they sacrifice their only too ships, thought Arkin, unless…
Arkin turned to voice her concern but saw Lex was coming to the same conclusion, “Lieutenant, check the long range scanners.”
“Aye sir,” Bower replied, tapping the controls on his console. After a moment he presented the results, confirming the conclusion that the entire remaining bridge crew had already come to. “I’m detecting several Dominion ships entering the sector. It looks like they’re on an intercept course for the Valkyrie and Brunel.”
“I think the Valkyrie has seen them, Captain,” said Dulmis. “Captain Homtian is hailing us.”
“On screen,” said Lex.
The visage of the Akira-class ship’s Captain filled Argus’ main viewer.
“Captain Lex, we’ve detected a group of incoming Dominion ships,” said the Bolian.
Lex nodded, “We’ve got them, too. What’s the status of your rescue operation?”
“The Kennedy and Aurora have been completely evacuated and we’re in the process of rescuing the survivors from the Atlantic and Kimtar,” Homtian replied. “The Klingons are especially reluctant to leave their vessel and are insisting they can get their systems back online, although our scans suggest that their warp coils are irreparably damaged. The engineers from the Brunel have nearly got the Monitor up and running, but she won’t have the power to defend herself by the time those Dominion forces arrive.”
“Hang tight,” said Lex, “we’ll be with you shortly.”
“We’ll be here,” said Homtian, “Valkyrie out.”
The viewscreen returned the crescent of the planet below and Arkin saw Dulmis look at Lex questioningly. “Captain, what about the away teams?”
“Contact Commander Patel on a secure frequency and let him know that we’re breaking orbit.”
Dulmis nodded, turning back to his console. Arkin heard him open the channel to the surface and begin to update Patel on the situation. Her attention snapped back to the Captain though when he started to issue his next order, “Arkin, lay in a course back to the Valkyrie’s position, full impulse.”
“Full impulse, aye sir,” she acknowledged.
“Commander Patel has acknowledged, Captain,” said Dulmis. “He reports that they have landed successfully on the surface and set-up a base of operations using the Tigris as planned.”
“Ensign,” said Lex, “engage.”
“We’ve detected several Dominion ships entering the system,” said the image of Lieutenant Dulmis on the small communications screen in the cockpit of the Tigris. “We’re breaking orbit to re-enforce the Valkyrie’s position until the SCE has got the Monitor up and running.”
“Understood,” replied Patel. “We’re all set-up down here and we’ll use the Tigris as our base of ops as planned until you return.”
“Understood, Sir,” responded the operations officer. “Argus out.”
Patel pushed the button that closed the subspace channel and rose from the seat. He straightened his uniform jacket and turned towards the runabout’s open doorway. There he found the thirty plus assembled Starfleet personnel who were waiting for him to address them.
“Ok people, “he began, “we’re on our own for now. When you find a survivor, check them over and, if they’re well enough, tag them for transport. The runabout will detect the tag and beam them back here. There’s also a good chance that you might encounter the Jem’hadar. Don’t engage them. Instead, report their position. We don’t need any more people injured or captured than already have been. I also want each team to check in with a status report every thirty minutes.
“Any questions?” he asked and, when none were forthcoming, he finished with, “Good. Then you’re dismissed.”
The assembled mass of blue and yellow collared personnel collected their equipment and began to split into four man teams that then disappeared into the surrounding jungle. As he watched them go, Patel realised he was wearing the only red shirt of the entire group. Is that good or bad? He wondered as he approached the other members of blue team.
Patel had assigned Sheridan to blue team along with Dr. McDonald and Erica Darwin, one of the ship’s nurses. He had also given his team the most dangerous area, bordering the edge of the preserver ruins was the most likely place where they might be able to learn more about the size of Dominion force stationed there. After that, they’d check the three pods that had landed in the area. However their pods were also the most distant and it would be at least an hour and a half’s walk through the jungle to the first one.
“We all set?” he asked.
Sheridan nodded, “All set, Commander.”
“Ready,” agreed Darwin.
“Set to go,” responded Mc Donald.
“Ok, then lets head out,” completed Patel as he turned and led them into the jungle.
Yessic entered the room and immediately felt unworthy. It was a familiar feeling that occurred every time he entered the presence of one of his gods and the one who stood at the window across the room was no different. However, Yessic felt even more unworthy than normal in the founder’s presence because this time he was hear to report a failure. He approached the Founder, who had yet to even acknowledge the Vorta’s presence, and bowed reverently, “Founder.”
“Has the Federation ship been destroyed?” asked the Founder in a superior tone without turning.
“I’m afraid it was not,” Yessic responded. “They were able to move far enough out of the fighter’s flight path for it to only damage and not destroy the ship. I would seem that the ship has a more talented helmsman than anticipated.”
The founder turned and regarded Yessic in a way that made him feel even less worthy than he had before. “Are you suggesting that my plan was at fault?”
Definitely , thought Yessic, but he responded, “Not at all. The Jem’hadar aboard the fighter should have been more prepared for such a manoeuvre.”
His response seemed to satisfy the Founder. “And the federation ship now?”
“It would seem that they detected our reinforcements,” said Yessic. “The ship has left orbit to rendezvous with the other two ships that are attempting to rescue survivors from the remains of their fleet.”
“Leaving the away teams alone on the planet?”
“Yes. Our information indicates that they are using two shuttle craft and a runabout as their base of operations,” explained Yessic, “Do you want me to send the Jem’hadar to capture them?”
“No, continue the search for the pods. We will deal with the others later,” said the Founder, dismissing Yessic.
The Vorta bowed to his god again. He turned and left the room, relieved to have the feeling of unworthiness lift as he went in search of the Jem’hadar first.
High above the tangled vines and densely foliaged forest floor below, Lieutenant T’Kare soared, revelling in the freedom that the current mission afforded her as she searched for the downed escape pods that had been assigned to green team. As an Avian, T’Kare often found life aboard a starship to be a bit claustrophobic. She could only partly alleviated this on the holodeck, which still appeared false to her senses despite all its technology. Here though, she could feel the wind beneath her wings and her eyesight, which was significantly sharper than that most humanoids, made her ideally suited to this mission, speeding up the team’s progress significantly.
T’Kare brought herself to a hover and tapped her commbadge, “T’Kare to Ensign Mox.”
“Mox here,” purred the young Caitian.
“Adjust your heading by 25 degrees,” said T’Kare. “The pod is about 200 meters ahead.”
“Understood,” she replied. “We’ll meet you there, Mox out.”
T’Kare stopped ‘treading air’ and began her decent towards the pod, landing beside it a few minutes later, shortly followed by that of Ensign Mox, Doctor Richmond and Crewman Gadd, who emerged from the under growth moments later.
“Nice hunting, Lieutenant,” said Richmond as they approached.
“Thank you, doctor,” the Avian replied. “Looks like this one’s from the Yosemite ’s.”
“Okay let’s get this door open and help whoever is inside,” said Richmond, taking charge.
T’Kare tapped the door release controls with no result. She detached the panel and accessed the manual release.
Clara Reyes had never been more scared at any point in her young life than she was at this moment. That is to say she was terrified.
This fact she would have never believed two days ago, if you could have told her. She was gripped by a similar, yet not quite as intense, fear when she had escaped from the rapidly dying remains of the U.S.S. Yosemite.
She vaguely remembered hearing Captain Swift’s order to abandon ship, and the run from the ship’s main sickbay where she’d worked as a medical technician was little more than a blur. She did remember Malcolm Skinner, one of the ship’s nurses and one of the few friends she had made since coming aboard a month earlier, running hot on her heals. But that was more to do with the events that had followed rather than actually remembering him being there.
The two of them had made it to one of the remaining escape pods just in time for one of the plasma conduits to explode, killing Malcolm. Clara had fought back tears as she continued alone into the pod. Eventually they had come unbidden shortly after the pod’s launch. They had lasted longer than she would ever thought possible as the pod locked onto the nearest M-class planet.
Planetfall had come several hours later and was far from an easy ride. Clara’s level of terror had again reached new heights as she had been thrown about violently, her seat restraints the only thing that had prevented any serious injury. It lasted for what seemed like an eternity until the pod finally came to rest and Clara had mercifully blacked out.
When she awoke with no knowledge of how long she’d been unconscious or where she was, her fear and panic returned. Worse, she could now hear voices outside the pod and heard at least one attempt to open it. She fumbled about for a weapon in panic, but found nothing. Suddenly she heard the door’s manual release engage and a crack of sunlight invaded the pod.
T’Kare felt the pods manual release engage and pulled down on it hard, causing the doors of the pod to separate but creating an opening no more than a couple of centimetres wide. She lifted the manual release back to its start position and yanked down on it for a second time, however this time the doors didn’t budge.
She looked over to Mox. “Ensign, hand me the crowbar from the toolkit.”
The Caitian pulled the backpack she was carrying off her back and fumbled around in it for several seconds before pulling out the ancient, yet effective, tool and handed it to T’Kare. T’Kare then wedged the metal bar between the doors and pulled back, using one door to push against the other. She attempted to add extra force by flapping her wings to cause a thrust backwards. Eventually she began to feel the doors give way and braced herself for their sudden release. Even so, when the doors parted, she found herself hovering a couple of meters back from the pod. T’Kare landed back with the rest of green team as Dr. Richmond approached the pod. He leaned inside and started to scan with his tricorder. T’Kare noticed Mox’s ears prick as Dr. Richmond extracted himself from the pod. “Two human males, a Commander and an Ensign, both unconscious,” he said to Gadd.
“What was that?” asked Mox, catching T’Kare’s attention.
T’Kare turned to her feline crewmate, “What was what?”
“That scream,” replied the Security officer.
Although T’Kare knew that Mox’s sense of hearing was greater than her own, it was still, like her eyesight, superior to that of a human’s. She concentrated, searching for the sound, herself. “I don’t…”
That’s when she heard it, but then so did everyone else.
T’Kare turned to Dr. Richmond, “Doctor?”
“Go,” he replied, “we’ll catch up after we get these two beamed back to the base camp.”
T’Kare nodded, “Mox, you’re with me.” And as the Avian took to the air, the Caitian bounded into the forest, both heading towards the source of the scream as fast as their legs, or wings, could carry them.
The moment the pod’s doors parted Clara Reyes screamed, but the interior of the pod muffled it. It was the sound the Ensign Mox heard. Clara continued to scream as the Jem’hadar in full silhouette with the sun behind him, reached in, grabbed her by the front of her uniform and lifted her from the pods relative safety. His actions caused her to scream louder, and with the pod no longer absorbing most of it the scream, it also carried further. That was the scream the rest of green team heard.
For his part the Jem’hadar didn’t seem to notice the sound that the petite crewman half his height was making, instead turning to another of his species only a few meters away.
“Second,” he called out, “this one is a crewman and of no importance.”
The Jem’hadar threw Clara to the ground and she landed hard, knocking the air out of her and causing her screaming to stop. She began to shuffle away from the Jem’hadar on her backside.
“The Founder has decreed that all prisoners are of importance and are to be brought before him,” replied the Second, “no matter how insignificant they might seem.”
The Jem’hadar nodded and turned toward Clara, who had by now put several meters between her and her captor, but it was a distance that he was quickly closing. As he got close he reached out for her. Clara raised her arms in a vain attempt to shield herself from the Dominion soldier. As a result she missed the blur of orange and black that pounced on her attacker and sent him flying backwards, although she did hear the deep-throated growl that had accompanied it.
Clearing the tree line just in time to see Mox pounce on a Jem’hadar soldier who had been bearing menacingly over a human, T’Kare found herself impressed by how quickly the Caitian had traversed the section of the forest that had been between the last pod and this one.
The next thing T’Kare saw was another Jem’hadar who was equally as surprised as the first had been at Mox’s sudden appearance, but who was in a far superior position to do something about it. He went to draw his disruptor, looking for a clear shot. In response T’Kare hit the release for the strap on her phaser rifle, allowing her to swinging the weapon into position without interfering with her wings as the strip of material disappeared into its stock. Taking aim, she fired, taking out the Jem’hadar, his last thoughts questioning the location from where he’d been shot. T’Kare repositioned herself for a clear shot at the Jem’hadar who was still fighting with Mox. In several places she could see blood flowing from cuts on the Jem’hadar where Mox had slashed him with her claws. She aimed, but before she could fire her phaser, it exploded in a shower of sparks.
T’Kare reeled in shock, causing her to drop several meters in the air, but allowing her to narrowly miss the second disruptor beam. She re-oriented herself and soon identified the source of the attack; a third Jem’hadar who had dropped his shroud now stood in the centre of the clearing. With her rifle gone she entered into a dive toward the new threat, dodging disruptor blasts he continued sending her way. Eventually she got close enough to lash out with her talons, shredding the front of his uniform and cutting three deep gashes in his chest, causing him to drop his weapon. She turned for another pass.
This time the Jem’hadar was ready for her, using her momentum to bring her to the ground. T’Kare folded her wings out of the way and lashed out with her feet, which were equally as lethal as her hands. He dodged, drawing his Kar'takin blade as he did. T’Kare found herself in a position where she would be unable to dodge an attack from the weapon, but a phaser beam lanced out and the attack never came.
T’Kare looked around as the Jem’hadar fell to the ground and found Mox standing there, her arm still out stretched and her phaser still aimed. Behind her the Jem’hadar lay, blood running from deep cuts in his thick hide and his Ketracel White tube disconnected. Mox staggered, clearly exhausted and T’Kare rushed over to support her before they both approached the still distraught crewman.
She can’t be more than 18 years old, thought T’Kare as they approached. “Are you ok?” she asked.
The human eyed them carefully, before nodding.
“What’s you’re name?” Mox purred. Caitian speech was a soothing sound most of the time that seemed to put most humanoids at ease, and this was no exception.
“Clara,” she said before composing herself, “Crewman Clara Reyes, Sir. I was a medical technician on the U.S.S. Yosemite.”
T’Kare noticed movement in the forest. She was gratified to see Dr. Richmond and Crewman Gadd emerged from the undergrowth. Dr. Richmond immediately started to check out Reyes condition, while Gadd attended to Mox and T’Kare.
After a moment, Richmond walked over to the other green team members. “She’s a little shaken up, but otherwise she’s ok,” he said. “You two on the other hand look exhausted. I’m recommending we return to base camp and get another team re-directed to our final pod.”
“We’re fine, Doctor,” dismissed Mox.
“No, you’re not,” reaffirmed Richmond. “You wouldn’t survive another encounter with the Jem’hadar and I won’t put you in that position.”
“Aye sir,” said T’Kare preventing Mox from protesting any further. “T’Kare to base camp, five to beam back.”
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