Having just watched the replacement security team beam to the surface, Lex now waited impatiently in transporter room 1 for his wife to beam aboard, along with the rest of first group from the surface.
Lex had returned the bridge earlier with a new spring in his step, the news that Sara was alive re-invigorating him and bringing him out of the low that he hadn’t fully realised he’d been in since learning of the London’s destruction. The only thing that would improve his disposition even further was seeing Sara in person and having her safely aboard his ship.
The archaeologists that she saved brought news that she had managed to not only evade capture, but she had even found a cash of weaponry to use against the Dominion forces. Commander Patel had confirmed this information in his initial report moments earlier when Argus had re-entered orbit. Lex was incredibly proud that she had never given up and what she had achieved but her discovery also presented him with a problem. With the Dominion fleet rapidly approaching, he was left with the choice of extracting the technology or destroying it completely. He couldn’t let it fall into the Dominion’s hands, but with little time for the first option and not knowing if the second was even possible, Lex was beginning to look for alternatives.
“Energising,” announced Gav, Argus’ surly Tellerite transporter chief, breaking Lex from his thoughts. The transporter activated and six columns of blue light solidified into the humanoid forms of Commander Patel, Lieutenant’s Sheridan, Parsons, Parker, and another Lieutenant and an Ensign Lex didn’t recognise. Dr McDonald, who had been waiting along with Lex, immediately moved to attend to the two strangers as the others approached the Captain, Parker hanging back slightly. Her hair was messy and her face and uniform were covered in dirt.
Lex forced himself to look away from his wife. It was taking all his control not to simply ignore the others and simply walk over and embrace her. Instead he turned to his first officer, “Good to see you’re in one piece, Commander.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Patel replied. “I glad that we were able to save everyone that we could.”
Lex nodded solemnly and then addressed all three of them. “Go Freshen up and you can give me a full report at the senior staff meeting in thirty minutes.”
“Yes, Captain,” replied Patel for himself, Sheridan and Parsons. He then led the other two out of the transporter room, leaving Lex with Parker, who was being attended to by Dr. McDonald. The Doctor had just taken a blood sample as per Starfleet’s current security policy and was scanning it with her tricorder. She closed the instrument and smiled, “You’re all clear, Lieutenant.”
Sara nodded and looked at Lex, who could no longer contain himself. He threw his arms around her in a hungry embrace, which she reciprocated. It seemed to last an eternity, but in reality only lasted a few seconds before it was disturbed by Gav clearing his throat from behind the transporter controls.
“Next group ready to transport,” said the gruff Tellerite.
“I could do with a clean up,” said Sara as they separated.
“Thank you, Chief,” said Lex turning to Gav, “Carry on.”
He turned back to Sara and led her out of the room.
“Harrumph,” responded Gav, his eyes rolling.
Twenty minutes later Sara had showered and donned a newly replicated uniform. Her shoulder length reddish-brown hair shined as it cascaded down the side of her face from her centre parting and the life had returned to her green eyes.
“So they made you Captain,” she said, brushing her hair one more time, before putting the brush down, “What happened to Captain sh’Shaen?”
“The ship she was travelling on was ambushed,” said Lex, sadly “She didn’t make it.”
Sara walked over and touched her husbands shoulder reassuringly. “I’m sorry.”
Lex changed the subject. “We should get to the observation lounge,” he said heading for the door.
Sara followed him out the door, but she wasn’t quite done yet. “They put you in command in his place?”
“Yes,” Lex replied as they reached the turbolift, and entered. “Bridge.”
The doors closed behind them. As the lift moved up the ship, he explained Admiral Chase’s reasons for putting him in charge of the Argus and assigning Patel as his first officer. Sara obviously had reservations about his assignment but she didn’t voice them, rightly understanding that Lex had the same ones.
The turbolift deposited them on the bridge and they crossed it to the observation lounge’s entrance.
Waiting inside were the ship’s senior officers: Patel, Sheridan, Simok, McDonald, Dulmis, Arkin and Cassaria. Lieutenant Parsons was also present. Sara left Lex’s side, taking the seat opposite him and next to Cassaria at the far end of the table. The Captain took his seat at the head of the table.
“As you all know,” he began, “we have discovered some ancient technology that appears to be of Preserver origin on the planet below. Simok, what have we found.”
At his cue, Argus’ Vulcan chief engineer rose from his seat and activated the viewscreen in the centre of the room. There was always a stern look on Simok’s face. Lex found him stodgier than most Vulcans. His reputation for efficiency as an engineer was well earned and well known throughout the fleet, especially as he didn’t attempt to cultivate a perception of being a miracle worker like most Starfleet engineers did. If he said a repair would take two hours then it would take two hours, usually to the second. He was similarly exacting in his reports.
“From the readings taken by Lieutenant Parker, and our own scans of the internal structure of the preserver ruins, we have discovered a large power source beneath the structure,” he said as an accompanying three dimensional wire frame diagram of the temple appearing on the viewscreen. At the bottom of the image a large glowing area pulsed. “We have been unable to ascertain the method by which this power source generates its power due to interference from an artificially created subspace pocket that is in close proximity, but we have been able to ascertain that it has an output far greater than that of anything that federation technology is able to generate.”
“Is the power source maintaining this subspace pocket?” asked Sheridan. It was an obvious question with an answer that had staggering implications.
“Yes,” replied Simok, “it would also seem that it has been doing this for nearly 13,000 years.”
“A holding cell,” suggested Parker, “for the Tantalus field.”
Something was niggling at Lex, Tantalus field, where have I heard that name before?
“Quite possibly,” replied Simok, refocusing Lex, “although a closer examination of the technology would be required before we could make that assessment for certain.”
“I don’t want this technology left there to fall into the Dominion’s hands and I would prefer to save as much of it as possible,” said Lex. “Simok, what are the possibilities of extracting it before the Dominion fleet arrives?”
“Obviously we cannot extract the power source itself; however we may be able to extract some of the other technology from the control room,” he replied. “We will also take detailed scans of everything we are unable to remove.”
“Lieutenant Bower has drawn up tactical plan to destroy the remainder of the technology from orbit,” continued Sheridan. “There should be nothing for the Dominion to…”
“No,” interrupted Sara Parker forcefully, “we can’t destroy it.”
Everybody turned his or her attention towards Parker, who was now looking uncomfortable, as if she’d been hoping this wouldn’t be an issue.
“This technology would make the Dominion unstoppable,” said Patel. “If destroying it is the only way to keep it out of their hands then that is what we have to do.”
“The threat of the Dominion getting hold of this technology is minor compared to what we will unleash if we try to destroy that power source,” said Parker. She was becoming more certain of her position with every word.
“What will we release?” asked Sheridan, concerned that Parker had failed something important to the ship’s security.
Parker shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said, “but it was important enough for them to leave a warning on the surface.”
Why didn’t Sara mention any of this before? Thought Lex worriedly, and what is she still holding back?
“It is likely that whatever they are warning us about is contained with in the subspace bubble,” ventured Simok as he returned to his seat.
“Would it be possible to collapse the bubble without allowing anything to escape it?” asked Patel.
“I think so,” replied Dulmis. “If we cause the bubble to become unstable, it should collapse in on itself and nothing should be able to escape it without outside intervention.”
“Good,” said Lex. “I also want you to see if you can find out what is inside that bubble. If we do end up releasing it, I want to be prepared.
“We’ve got three hours before the dominion fleet arrives. Let’s get to it,” ” he finished.
As the Argus’ senior staff filed out the room, Lex stopped Parker, “Lieutenant, a moment please.”
Sara stopped and returned to the conference table, sitting down in the chair to Lex’s right. Lex could see she knew what he was going to say before he said it. It was one of the things he loved about her, but this time it was making her uncomfortable.
“Sara,” he said, leaning towards her, “there’s more, isn’t there.”
Parker looked away and for a moment he thought that she might actually lie to him, but then she looked back up.
“It’s nothing important, Jono,” she said, attempting to avoid the question instead. “It doesn’t change what we need to do.”
“It seems important to you,” said Lex.
Sara didn’t answer, her eyes lowered to the tabletop.
“We’ve never kept anything from each other,” he said supportively. “What happened down there?”
“The warning wasn’t generic,” she said quietly.
“It wasn’t… What do you mean?”
She looked up and deep into his eyes, her own wet with tears. “I was left for me specifically,” she said, “by you.
“Jono, something terrible is going to happen, I could see it in your face.”
Lex rose to his feet and took his wife in his arms.
Yessic sat alone in the Argus’ brig, completely unsure of how it had all gone wrong. He’d executed the Founder’s plan perfectly, from the destruction of the London, to the ambush of the fleet and the capture if the survivors and their rescue teams. It had all gone according to plan until the very last moment. How had it gone so wrong so quickly?
It was a question that Yessic had asked himself over and over since his capture and every time he came to the same conclusion – he’d failed. He’d failed to capture all the survivors from the London, allowing them to roam the temple and find the technology that had crippled his reserve forces. That technology would now fall into the Federation’s hands or be destroyed before the fleet got here. He’d failed to attack the rescue teams’ base camp before they’d completed their mission and evacuated those they’d rescued before they came after those the dominion had captured. Finally, and worst of all, he’d failed the founder, who was now alone and unprotected on the planet’s surface. He failed to ensure that his plan was completed successfully.
The sound of the Brig’s main door swishing open caused Yessic to look up. He saw a Starfleet officer with the yellow collar of the security/engineering division enter and walk up to the guard. He said something to the guard that Yessic couldn’t discern even with his enhanced hearing. The guard pressed a few controls on the console, stood up and left.
So the interrogation begins, though Yessic.
The officer walked up to the force field and stood there for a moment, a look of distain on his face. It had little effect on Yessic – he’d seen the look on countless species before.
“You failed,” said the officer, who Yessic could now see was a Lieutenant. There was something about the way the officer spoke that unsettled the Vorta. A sinking feeling began to come over him.
“Your Jem’hadar are dead,” continued the officer, “and you have failed to keep this world for the dominion. Worst of all, you have allowed yourself to be captured.”
It’s the founder! thought Yessic, his sinking feeling suddenly becoming one of free fall.
“Your use is at an end,” said the Changeling, “you know what you must do.”
He turned and walked out of the brig, leaving Yessic feeling his failure even more sharply, but knowing now what he must do for his final duty and that he would not fail to complete it.
“I think I’ve found it,” said James Dulmis alerting Parker and Simok who left their own work to come over and check on the lieutenant’s progress. It had been two hours since the science and engineering team had beamed down to the Preserver control room to salvage as much as they could. Since that time, Dulmis and Parker had been scanning through millions of lines of computer code looking for the program that controlled the subspace pocket and kept it stable. Finally Dulmis thought he had found it.
“This program here controls the adjustments to the field,” he explained when his fellow officers joined him. “When it detects a fluctuation it adjusts the field accordingly. It should be relatively easy to alter it so that we can do a controlled collapse of the pocket.”
“Excellent work, Lieutenant,” said Simok. “Begin work on the adjustments, but hold off activating it for now.”
“Aye sir,” responded Dulmis. Simok returned to his work.
Sara Parker leaned towards him, whispering conspiratorially, “Is he always like that?”
Dulmis leaned away from her, turning his face to look at her as he did so. He found the smile on her face to be quite infectious. “Simok can be quite...” he replied, pausing to consider his words, “efficient when he wants to be. He also has one of the best developed senses of humour I’ve ever seen in a Vulcan and I grew up in a colony full of them.” He turned back to the alien computer.
“Oh? Where was that?”
“New Providence,” he replied. “It was originally settled by a group of Vulcans and Humans.”
Dulmis didn’t ask Parker if she had heard of it. New Providence was well known throughout the Federation, but not for anything good. The colony had been the Borg’s first port of call en-route to Earth during their invasion in late 2366 and while the colonies name was well remembered, the death of the its 900 inhabitants was normally forgotten next to the loss of the 11,000 lives at Wolf 359.
Sara looked uncomfortable with the subject, despite the fact that he’d brought the subject up. As Sara’s smile faded, Dulmis knew exactly what her reaction would be. He was used to it by now and she didn’t disappoint.
“I didn’t know that anyone had survived.”
“I was ‘lucky’,” he said, having never really felt so. “I left for Starfleet Academy six months before the attack and, as far as I know, I was the only one off world at the time.”
“I’m sorry,” she said sympathetically.
“It was a long time ago,” he replied. “I was in a very bad place for the first six months but I eventually learned to live with it.
“In fact I met one of my best friends during that time. He lost his sister during the battle at Wolf. She was assimilated in front of him.”
“Yeah, he’s never really gotten over it,” he said. He typed in several more commands to the console, before drawing back. “There we go, all done. Now all we need to do is activate it.”
Sara looked it over, “Nice work.”
“Indeed,” dead panned Simok as he appeared over Dulmis’ shoulder, “very efficient.”
Dulmis and Parker looked at each other, unable to keep the smiles from returning to their faces.
Sheridan had begun to wonder if that attack would ever come or if the Jem’hadar were planning something especially nasty. They had expected the counter attacked to come fairly soon after the contingent of dominion soldier’s had discovered that the Federation base camp was no longer there, but it was several hours later and there had been nothing.
Sheridan herself had returned to the surface and taken command of the security team already on the surface when the science and engineering teams had beamed into the control chamber, fully expecting an attack to come any moment. She’d still been waiting two hours later when the first disruptor bolt took out Ensign Schmidt and revealed the oncoming Jem’hadar.
The battle quickly degenerated into a stalemate, with both parties simply pinning the other in position. It was a race to see whose weapons would run out of energy first. Fortunately Sheridan had the advantage of having a shipin orbit with transporters. “Sheridan to Argus,” she said, tapping her commbadge as she crouched behind some cover.
“Lex here. Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“Captain, we’ve engaged the remaining dominion forces on the surface, but they’ve got us pinned down,” she said. “We could do with some re-enforcements beaming down to the far side of their position. Try and catch them in a crossfire.”
“They’re on their…” started Lex before he was cut off by static and then silence.
Sheridan tapped her commbadge, “Sheridan to Argus, please respond.”
Nothing happened. She tried again with the same result.
Looks like we’re on our own, she thought.
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