SEASON 3: EPISODE 04
TO DELIGHT IN THE INHUMAN WORD: Part Four
“Lieutenant, I’m detecting a distress signal,” said Rosetta.
From the back of the bridge Cole looked up from the science station.
Lieutenant Misi from the captain’s chair glanced around to him. “Looks like you’re a bit of a lucky charm, ensign. First, one during your alpha shift and now one during the gamma, what are the odds?” Cole shrugged and smiled to himself as the thought came to him if Karak were there he would have probably given the lieutenant a very accurate answer. The lieutenant turned back to face the front of the bridge. “Who’s the signal from?”
“It’s a Federation signal but no other details,” said Rosetta.
Cole watched the man manning the operations console. He had never seen him turn to address anyone while he manned that station. Rosetta was the only one on the bridge who you could have an entire conversation with his back while you were on duty. Not even Karak did that, the Vulcan operations manager still turned to address officers behind him from time to time. However, it was not because Rosetta was rude, as Cole understood it the reason was a cultural one. Autumn had explained it to him before but it had gone over his head at the time.
“How far away?”
“Ten minutes at high warp,” reported Ensign Bailey from flight control. That was Cole’s usual station but during the gamma shift his girlfriend, Autumn Bailey, took the station. Cole had originally taken up the gamma shift part time to get to know Bailey in the hopes of asking her out on a date. It had worked like a charm and one date had turned to more and now they considered themselves to be a couple. So while his original reason for taking this shift was no longer relevant he continued to take the odd gamma shift so to work with Bailey.
“Bridge to Commander Core.”
“Core, here,” replied their first officer. Cole noted the sleepiness in her voice. It was not hard to believe that they had waked her up at this hour.
“Commander, we’re getting a distress signal and we are about to respond. Should I also alert the captain?” asked the lieutenant.
Save for really important situations such as the ship being under attack the general rule was that if the officer on duty needed to contact someone senior they would contact the first officer first before they bothered the captain. Not every situation required Captain Masters’ time and attention. As the commanding officer he already had a lot on his plate.
“No, I’ll come up and we’ll see how bad the situation is. How long?”
“I’ll be up there soon, lieutenant.”
“Helm, set a course. Harles, keep an eye out for enemy ships and have our shields and weapons ready.”
The Tiburonian officer to his right at the tactical station acknowledged the order and his head dipped as he focused on the ship’s sensors.
They had only been at warp for four minutes before Commander Core stepped onto the bridge.
“Any change?” she asked.
“No, commander,” responded Misi as he yielded the captain’s chair. “I didn’t think any other ships were out this way.”
Core gave him a look. “So did I before we rescued those Klingons. It can’t be anyone from our wing or even the task force or we would know about it. Maybe someone from the Tenth Fleet got a bit lost and ran into trouble,” she guessed. “I want us to drop out of warp well short of the vessel. Let’s get a look at her before we get too close.”
Bailey acknowledged her command. Cole on the other hand continued to work at the science station. He was trying to get a clear reading on the vessel they were approaching but could get nothing useful, there was some sort of interference blocking his scans.
The ship dropped out of warp and Core ordered the other vessel be put on screen. Cole looked up and immediately recognised the vessel; its Excelsior-like saucer almost bolted to long thin nacelles identified it as a Centaur class cruiser.
Cole was quite familiar with the class as he had served his training cruise on one; the USS Naiad. While the design was a bit dated by the 2370s it was still a good patrol ship, fairly manoeuvrable for its size, a good top warp speed and endurance and it was reasonably armed for the role it served in. In comparison to the Swiftfire it was a lot smaller in size making it a lighter vessel to pilot, in this instance the heavy before the Swiftfire’s cruiser designation seemed very apt. However, as it was a lot smaller and still had a sizable crew it felt more cramped and more utilitarian. He had enjoyed his short stint on the Naiad, which gave him a favourable view of the class.
Cole returned his attention to his console and to the readings from the ship’s sensors. Now a lot closer to the ship he was finally able to get some clearer readings, though the unknown interference persisted.
“It’s a Centaur,” Cole stated, not that he thought he had to. “I’m detecting very low power levels from the ship, barely enough to keep life support going. I’m also reading multiple hull breaches. Looks like she’s seen some action.”
“And didn’t fair too well,” added Core. “Can you get me an identity for that ship?”
“I can’t seem to get a clear signal from its transponder,” Cole said. “This area seems to be awash with interference. I can’t get a hold on its source but it’s making getting detailed sensor readings a real pain in...” Cole just managed to pull his sentence short. On the gamma shift they had a bit more of a relaxed attention than the alpha shift and it slipped into the way they talked with each other. Not that they were any less competent or capable at their jobs but Cole thought it was best not to be so with the first officer.
“Ensign Bailey, see if you can help Ensign Cole get us a clearer picture. Take the helm, lieutenant.”
Bailey promptly responded to the command and Lieutenant Misi took her place at flight control. Cole’s cheeks started to redden. He felt embarrassed having to require help from someone, especially from his girlfriend, which he knew was a completely ridiculous thing to feel. Bailey was a science officer and this was the type of thing she was trained for. He was just a part-timer. Cole knew that if the roles were reversed that Bailey would not feel any embarrassment at all if she had to yield flight control to him. She smiled supportively at him as he came to the console.
“Let’s see what we have.” Bailey looked at the readings. “That interference is odd. I think that the ship’s transponder might be down,” she said.
“Battle damage probably,” he suggested
Bailey looked up at him, smiled and nodded. “Exactly what I was thinking.”
Cole could not help but smile back at Autumn. She just had that effect on him.
Bailey addressed Core, “We’ll need to get a bit closer, maybe the signal will clear up or at least we’ll move to a position where we might see some identifying marks on the hull.”
Core nodded as she took in the advice before directly her attention to the front of the bridge. “Anything from it yet?”
“No,” responded Rosetta, again not turning to address the commander. “They haven’t attempted to hail us. Their sensors might be down due to damage so they might not be aware of our presence. Alternatively, their communication systems might be offline. As Ensign Cole said, this interference is fogging things up a bit. Wait...I’m detecting something. It’s a weak signal from the ship.”
“On screen,” ordered Core.
The viewscreen switched from a view of the Centaur to a snowy static. Through the static very brief, scrambled images flashed, though nothing to get a clear picture of who was on the other end.
“The signal is degrading quickly. We’ll need to be closer if you want to get a clearer signal,” explained Rosetta.
“Signal the alert fighters to launch and have the rest of the duty squadron prepare for a possible launch.”
“Is that necessary, sir?” asked Harles.
“If she was attacked near here someone might come to finish the job. Plus given that the Klingons and the Jem’Hadar had a tussle a couple of hours ago there might be more Dominion forces out here looking to dance. It can’t hurt to have a bit of extra firepower out there.”
Cole had to agree that that made sense. He guessed that if the commander discovered that they had to remain stationary here for some sort of recovery operation that she would launch the rest of the squadron to protect both vessels.
It also seemed to satisfy Harles. “Sending the order now.”
Cole watched the sensors as four attack fighters exited from the rear of the ship and moved into position with the Swiftfire. From their transponders he noticed that the lead fighter was Wing Commander Maxine Benton. He had no idea that she took alert duties, he thought that with her rank she could avoid them, at least if she considered them to be a less than desirable task, which she might not.
Harles reported the status of the fighters to the commander.
“Okay, let’s close on that ship,” ordered Core. “Slowly.”
Wing Commander Maxine Benton eased her Peregrine class attack fighter around the aft hull of the Swiftfire taking station behind and below the giant ship as they started to move towards the distant object. She saw it on her sensors but for some reason her readings were scratchy. Apart from that it was a badly damaged Centaur class ship she could not read anything else. Benton checked the other three fighters of her flight on her sensors.
Benton opened a channel to her flight. “Tighten up, Overcome Two. There’s no need to be sloppy just because it’s late.”
“Sorry, Lead,” replied Ensign Steven Vitorri, call sign Overcome Two and her wingmate. “You’d think people would have the decency to need rescuing at a more appropriate hour...or at least when I’m in bed.”
“Bless your heroic spirit,” voiced Ensign Gayal Utloral.
“I’ve as heroic as the next guy, Three,” answered Vitorri. “It’s just I prefer to be heroic in a way that sees me blowing up enemy vessels. I’ll get up at all hours to do that. This on the other hand is something that doesn’t require my immense skills.”
“Pity your skills don’t transfer to poker, Two. You should be thankful that we got this call otherwise you’d owe Overcome One your first cub,” came the melodic tones from Ensign Per’ja.
“I at least don’t...”
“Cut the chatter,” she interrupted. “Let’s not forget that the Jem’Hadar don’t have a bedtime. They could arrive at any moment and I’d prefer if you save your attitudes for dealing with them.”
A displeased sigh came through the communication channel. “Now, you’ve said that you’ve guaranteed they won’t come,” said Vitorri. “Oh great universe, don’t listen to our esteemed leader. There is no way the Jem’Hadar will attack now. There I’ve tempted fate, now it has to respond. No need to thank me, people.”
Benton shook her head but at the same time let a smile cross her lips. Pilots always had sizeable egos but at least it made it easy for her to gauge their moods and if Vitorri was any indication morale in the squadron was good.
She knew that had to do with the fact that they had not lost a pilot since their time in Chin’toka and that all the pilots had fighters again. Her squadron had been one fighter light until recently, however she still only had a squadron of eleven as she had yet to receive any new pilots. Benton was also short six pilots between the other two squadrons of her fighter wing and strengthening them up first was the priority. Of course that was all dependant on whether she was sent any more pilots.
She had put in the request once she returned to the Swiftfire from the 260th’s service in Chin’toka. In reply Benton had received that she would receive replacements as soon as feasible, which meant ‘we’ll get to you but you’re not at the top of the priority list’. She could understand that, they were at war and the Starfleet Starfighter Corps had to be pressed to replace the losses it had suffered. She just had to make do with what she had for the foreseeable future.
“Commander, we should be close enough to get an understandable signal.”
Core nodded towards Rosetta, which was a pointless gesture given Rosetta had his back to her. “On screen.”
Instead of just snowy static they got a very hazy and jumbled image, which was an improvement. It flashed into a coherent image for a second before disappearing. It did this twice more before a more solid and lasting image appeared. A female lieutenant wearing the gold of operations appeared on screen. She was dishevelled and looked to have been through the wars. An image of stoic concern was on her face. It suddenly turned to a look of relief, which had to mean she was getting a clear enough signal from the Swiftfire to see them now.
“You...fleet, thank...rd! We’re hit...patrol...ven...Jem’H...not...”
It still was not completely stable, the transmission flickered and returned to brief scrambled images as the signal fluctuated. It also was not helped by the fact that the lieutenant was speaking very quickly.
“Slow down lieutenant. We’re got a bad connection here. I need a status report,” she stated slowly and deliberately, hoping that most of it got across to the lieutenant.
The lieutenant nodded her head and composed herself. “...commander...We were...didn’t detect anything...much got through?”
“Can you do anything about this?” she asked Rosetta.
“I might be able to boost the signal but getting closer will also help,” replied Rosetta. “Ensign Bailey, can you assist me?”
“I’ll try,” replied Bailey. Core ordered Lieutenant Misi to get closer to the Centaur and glanced behind her and noted Ensign Cole standing uncomfortably next to Bailey. No doubt he now felt like a spare wheel given that Bailey had usurping his station.
“Hold on, lieutenant,” Core ordered, gesturing for her to wait. She waited until Rosetta and Bailey signalled that they had managed to do something positive with the signal. “Try again, lieutenant.”
“Are you...me clearly? We’ve taken a...of damage; I think the communication system is on its last legs.”
“We’re getting you out and clear now, lieutenant...?”
“Lieutenant Tasha Briggs, ops manager.”
“What happened, Lieutenant Briggs?”
“We were jumped by a Dominion raiding party. They were giving us a serious hiding so the captain ordered us to warp and they must have hit us hard just as we jumped. I must have hit my head and lost consciousness.”
Given the nasty black and blue bruise that darkened Briggs’s forehead Core decided that was a very good assumption.
“When I regained consciousness the ship was here and everyone on the bridge was...they were all dead. I don’t know how I survived,” she said, Brigg’s voice was trembling. “I’ve been trying for hours to raise someone on internal communications. I think...I think I’m the only one left alive.”
“We’re only getting a single life sign,” confirmed Bailey.
Sympathy filled Core as Bailey confirmed the lieutenant’s beliefs. To be trapped on a ship, the lone survivor of three hundred and fifteen, surrounded by the bodies of friends and colleagues would be scarring for even the most experienced officer, let alone a young lieutenant. The sooner they got her off that ship the better.
“Hold on, lieutenant. We’ll beam you over.”
A tear coursed down Briggs’s face. It was probably due to disbelief that she was actually going to be rescued. As the time went by Core had no doubt that Briggs had to have thought she was going to die on that ship, either when the power finally gave up or when the Jem’Hadar hunted her down. “Thank you, Swiftfire. I...”
The viewscreen returned to a view of the Centaur.
“What happened?” asked Core.
“It’s a problem at their end,” reported Rosetta. “I think the Centaur’s communication system finally gave up.”
That meant they could no longer communicate with the lone lieutenant. Core could imagine her panic as the system died, she was again alone on that ship. Core would not let that poor woman remain on that ship of ghosts for a second longer than she had to.
“Get a medical and security officer to the transporter room,” Core ordered. “Let’s get her off that dead ship.”
The transporter technician pulled himself up from under the transporter console as he heard the doors open. He had just been doing a quick check of the systems to make sure all was ready. When he spotted the person joining him in the room he put on his most charming smile. It was Nurse Azulai, who was widely considered to be one of the most eligible females on the ship.
“Hello, nurse,” he greeted her.
“Hi, Gareth. I missed you at Joleni’s party the other night.”
Gareth’s smile widened. To miss him meant she had to notice he was not there and to do that she had to be looking for him in the first place. That was a good sign.
“I drew the short straw and had to cover the shift of an ill tech,” he explained.
“That’s a shame. Maybe we can get together one night soon,” she purred.
Gareth was about to say an emphatic yes when the door opened and an Andorian security officer stepped in.
“Sorry, I took so long,” apologised the security officer. “You can start the transport now.”
Gareth lamented at the terrible timing of the security officer. Hopefully when he transported the person from the other ship over she would not require a trip to sickbay and he could continue with his conversation with Azulai immediately. He turned his attention back to the console. Gareth only had one target on his sensors, the lone survivor from an entire crew. He locked onto her and started to beam her over. He kept his eyes on the console as he rematerialised the individual.
The first sign Gareth had that something was wrong was a shriek from Azulai and an expletive from the security officer. His head shot up and his mouth fell open as he spotted the person on the transporter pad. He saw the person raise a weapon and time seemed to slow down.
Gareth started to duck out of the way, his movements seemed distressingly slow but the weapon was not being aimed at him. He heard the sound of something cutting through the air and another scream. He turned his head to the target the weapon was pointed at and saw the security guard’s hands grasping at his throat as blood seemed to bubble through his fingers and cascaded down his hand and over his uniform. He heard the sound a second time and the thump that had to be a body impacted with a wall as he fell out of view behind the transporter console.
As he hit the floor and all Gareth could hear was the rasping of his own breath and the thundering of his heart. He fumbled for the phaser holstered at his side and managed to pull it out. As he did he looked up and saw someone standing over him. He froze knowing that he was about to die. The last thing Gareth heard was that strange sound for a third time as darkness took him.
First Rebis’Fetra shifted the dead human with his boot and accessed the transporter console. He pulled out a small device from one of the pouches in his uniform and attached it to the console. Three simple taps on the controls of the device and a light blinked on it to indicate it was active. Once the light stop blinking and just remained on it indicated that it had done as it was programmed and the console was now prepared for the two tasks it had to perform. All it would take was a signal from him and it would begin the process, though it needed him to be back on the transporter pad for that to occur. Once it had done its task the device would destroy itself. Much like him it was ultimately expendable.
Rebis’Fetra made his way back to the transporter pad when he heard whimpering. He glanced down at the female human and saw her shaking in terror. He had not been as accurate with her as he had with the males. The bolt had ripped through her upper chest near her left shoulder. It was a serious wound but not necessarily fatal. He guessed that she had hoped to feign death until he left but fear had gotten the better of her.
He checked his crossbow. It was not a Dominion designed weapon that credit went to the Nausicaans. It was a primitive but solid design.
Much like the Nausicaans themselves, he decided.
It had a central barrel that held six bolts and the design meant that after a bolt was fired the spinning of the barrel as it reloaded also worked to draw the bow, arming the weapon to fire. The main reason for the use of the weapon was that it did not trigger security systems as a disruptor or phaser would. This allowed him to use the weapon and remain undetected. Stealth was his ultimate ally at this stage of the operation.
He had used three bolts on the individuals in the room. Rebis’Fetra had hoped that only one person would have been present so that he could do the next part with more rounds in his weapon but there was little he could do about that now. No matter, he knew that even with only half his round remaining he would be able to complete his task. As for the injured human woman, it did not make any sense to waste another bolt on her.
She knew he had noticed her and her whimpered increased. She looked up at him, tears flowed from her wide, and terror filled eyes and ran freely down her cheek. Rebis’Fetra realised this was the first time he had witness true fear. At only three weeks old he had not experienced any real combat before. All he had was training sessions against fellow Jem’Hadar and holographic opponents and either had the fatality of this.
He had been instructed by the Vorta not to let his Jem’Hadar kill each other in training given their severely limited number for this mission. As for holographic opponents, they were not real. They could mimic fear but he always knew that they truly felt none. This was real, the sight, smell and even the general aura that emanated from the woman were not something that could be truly replicated in a holodeck.
“Please...don’t,” she pleaded, no doubt hoping he would show her mercy. However, that was not part of his mission.
Her whimpering increased to sobs as Rebis’Fetra knelt next to her. Her pleading was more desperate and pathetic. Rebis’Fetra guessed that the weaker Alpha Quadrant races would decry killing an unarmed woman, especially one that he deduced was in the medical profession. However, he was not a barbarian. He knew that even if he left her and she did call for medical assistance it would not save her as they would not reach her before it was too late. If he left her she was destined to bleed to death and while her suffering might only last a few more minutes before she lost consciousness she did not deserve such a death due to his inaccuracy.
“I will end it quickly,” he promised the woman.
Rebis’Fetra easily shifted her weight towards him. With her uninjured arm she attempted to push him off but her efforts were weak and futile. Rebis’Fetra wrapped his arms around her head. Her hand uselessly slapped against his face as she continued to try to push him away.
“Please...no...please...” she continued through her sobs.
Rebis’Fetra tightened his grip and reefed her head, effortlessly snapping her neck. The woman’s pleas went silent and her body slackened. He released the body and went back to the transporter pad. In the end he had shown her mercy, though it was not of the variant she would have wanted, but it was the only one available to her. He stepped on the transporter pad and checked his crossbow one last time before sending the signal to the device on the transporter console. He felt a slight sensation as the transporter beam washed over him as he continued with his mission.
“I’ve got some information on the lieutenant,” said Bailey.
Cole was still standing by the science console feeling a bit superfluous at the moment. Bailey had taken over his station and there was really nothing more for him to do but watch her and see if he could pick up any tips for the future. For now he was just reading information over Bailey’s shoulders.
“Don’t keep it to yourself, ensign,” said Commander Core.
“Lieutenant Natasha Briggs, Human. Six years of service in Starfleet as an engineer before becoming an ops manager. Her last assignment I have here was on the USS Armidale as operations officer.”
“Is that the Armidale?” asked Core.
“Just looking that up now,” replied Bailey.
So far they had been unable to find any identifying marks on the hull to tell them the identity of the ship, so that was still a mystery. That meant the lieutenant was their only clue as to its identity. However, with communications down they could not ask the lieutenant the name of her ship directly. They would find out for sure once she was onboard.
“USS Armidale, NCC-62808,” started Bailey. “Centaur class.”
That was a pretty conclusive find. There could be little doubt that they ship before them was the Armidale.
“At least we’ll now have a crew list to match the bodies against,” said Core morosely.
They would soon have to launch a full recovery operation to the Armidale to catalogue the dead and to retrieve what they could from the ship’s computers and stores. It was standard procedure, that was unless the Dominion turned up then it would be assess the situation, if they could not hold their position they would destroy the Centaur to prevent it falling into enemy hands.
“We better get the rest of the squadron out there,” said Core. “I should also wake the captain.”
Given that a major recovery mission would take the ship off its assigned patrol it was something that captain needed to be made aware of immediately. It was especially important as Captain Masters also commanded the attack wing they were part of, if the Swiftfire was going off its planned patrol it might affect other ships in the wing and they would need to be made aware.
“According to this the Armidale was assigned to patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone,” continued Bailey.
“It’s a bit off course, then,” commented Lieutenant Misi from the front of the bridge.
Cole saw Bailey furrow her brow. He glanced down to see what had caused that reaction.
“Ah, commander. It was also listed as missing seven months ago,” said Bailey with confusion and concern.
Cole checked and read the same thing. The USS Armidale’s official status was missing, presumed destroyed over seven months ago. Cole continued to read the report to see if there was something they were missing. At the moment the reality of the situation and the report did not seem to make much sense.
“What the hell is going on?” murmured Core. “Are you sure that’s...”
“I’m getting more transporter activity,” interrupted Rosetta.
“Someone’s beaming onto the bridge!”
Cole looked up to see a figure start to materialise directly in front of Core. Core got to her feet as the figure quickly formed into a large and fearsome Jem’Hadar. Before anyone could say anything the Jem’Hadar’s head launched forward and a sickening crack resounded around the bridge as the solid headed Jem’Hadar headbutted the commander. Core started to stumble backwards under the force of the impact. The Jem’Hadar was quick; he brought up an exotic looking weapon around the falling Core and fired two very rapid shots around the body of the commander. There was a whizzing noise through the air and the sound of something hitting flesh, followed rapidly by metal on metal.
Cole glanced behind him and saw the two Marine guards at the rear of the bridge, one appeared to have his face sucked into his head with blood and gore seeping out, the other had blood spurting out from the top of her head as both collapsed to the ground. Cole had almost forgotten their presence on the bridge. After so many months with them there they have begun to merge into the background of the bridge. Obviously they were not as invisible to the Jem’Hadar. The Jem’Hadar had correctly identified them as the biggest threat and had quickly neutralised them.
As his head turned back towards the Jem’Hadar he heard the whizzing sound again and saw Harles over at tactical take a step back. His hands were at his chest and he seemed to be holding a thin cylindrical object to himself. Blood seeped through his fingers as Cole realised that Harles was not holding something to his chest but something that had impaled his chest. A look of disbelief came to Harles’s face as he looked back up towards the Jem’Hadar. He dropped to his knees, still grasping the object that had just killed him.
Cole turned back to the Jem’Hadar just in time to see him fling his weapon at him. Cole bumped into Bailey to push her to the ground and felt the weapon smash into his shoulder. The weapon was heavy and solid and the impact was enough to cause him to grunt in pain.
As they fell to the ground Cole saw that Misi and Rosetta were responding and getting to their feet. The Jem’Hadar obviously saw Misi as the next largest threat and was swiftly upon him. Misi had his phaser half drawn but the Jem’Hadar’s hand was quickly wrapped around the hand holding the phaser. With effortless ease the Jem’Hadar dislocated Misi’s shoulder, causing him to cry in pain. The Jem’Hadar then used Misi’s arm as if he were a puppet and directed the phaser at Rosetta. Rosetta was just getting out of his chair and a golden line of energy coursed out of the phaser and struck his side. Cole watched as Rosetta fell to the ground, most likely dead.
Cole pulled out his phaser and got to one knee to stabilise his body for a shot at the genetically engineered warrior. This Jem’Hadar was quicker than anything he had ever witnessed. With a fluid motion the Jem’Hadar spun Misi around him and soon held the lieutenant before him like a shield. Misi did not look to be in good shape, his face was a mask of excruciating pain. One arm hung limply by his side and the other appeared to be twisted behind his back. Cole could not spot his phaser and was unsure if it had just fallen from Misi’s limp fingers or if the Jem’Hadar now held it behind Misi’s back.
Not willing to shoot Misi, Cole hesitated, unsure what to do. He glanced around quickly. He saw the still body of Harles not more than two metres away. At the front of the bridge he spotted the back of the equally still form of Rosetta. Just in front of him was Commander Core but from her uncoordinated attempts to get to her feet he had to guess she was concussed. In no time at all the Jem’Hadar had disabled or killed nearly the entire bridge crew. Cole knew that as things stood he and Bailey were likely to die on the bridge. That left him one option. He fired his phaser and watched as it went well wide of Misi.
“Get to the turbolift,” he ordered Bailey.
Cole did not hear Bailey move and glanced to her. She was still by his side, frozen in fear as she stared at the gruesome scene around them.
“TURBOLIFT, NOW!” he shouted.
Bailey broken of her trance immediately stood. Cole fired several rapid shots around Misi to try and keep the Jem’Hadar from poking his head out. By now the Jem’Hadar knew Cole was unwilling to shoot Misi and shoved him forward. The flailing Misi kept Cole from getting a clear shot at the Jem’Hadar but it also meant that the Jem’Hadar would have trouble getting a shot at him. He quickly spotted the Jem’Hadar pistol in the Jem’Hadar’s hand and saw him raise it and fire. He expected to feel it burn through him but it missed him by a wide margin. Cole was about to celebrate his luck when he heard a yelp behind him and knew that Autumn had been hit. Misi had completed his journey and now lay sprawled on the floor. Cole stole a glance at the lieutenant and from the way his arm was bent behind his back it had to be broken. Misi was not going to be standing under his own power anytime soon. It now meant his field of fire was clear and he fired his hand phaser. Once again the Jem’Hadar was too fast, having started to fall to its side hitting the ground and rolling so to put the first officer’s chair between them.
Cole took this opportunity and jumped up and sprinted to where Autumn lay just in front of the turbolift. He looped his arm under Bailey’s armpit and pulled her towards the turbolift doors. Now he had to hope there was a turbolift behind them. He switched his phaser to stun and fired in the general direction of the Jem’Hadar. He could not risk a kill setting with Misi on the floor and Core in gaga land. The doors started to open but not fast enough. Cole’s momentum saw him collide heavily into one of the doors, bouncing and spinning off. Thankfully his momentum kept him going in the right direction and he stumbled heavily into the rear wall of the turbolift. Autumn’s body slammed into his, pinning him to the wall as another energy blast stuck the wall above them.
“SICKBAY!” he yelled scrambling to get his phaser from under Autumn to point it out the open door. The doors slid shut and the whirl of the turbolift sounded as it whisked them away.
He rolled Autumn off him and onto her back. Her eyes were closed but it appeared she was still breathing. The side of her abdomen was a horrible burnt mess from the energy blast. Despite that it was bleeding quite badly. Cole pressed into the wound to slow the flow and hoped that they would get to sickbay quickly enough. That hope was dashed as the turbolift came to a sudden stop.
First Rebis’Fetra stood from his position. He frowned. Two of the bridge crew had managed to get to the turbolift and escape. He knew he had wounded one, probably seriously but the other was unharmed.
He made his way to one of the consoles and quickly searched out what command he wanted. He inputted his instructions and locked down the ship’s turbolift system. The fleeing bridge officers were now trapped and could be dealt with later. Both were just junior officers and were not important to his mission.
Rebis’Fetra assessed his handwork. He checked the two marines at the rear of the bridge, exactly where their intelligence had said they would be. They were definitely dead. He next checked the tactical officer and found he was also dead. The lieutenant’s moaning signalled he was still alive but with both his arms incapacitated he was not much of a threat. The first officer was also not a threat. Rebis’Fetra had hit her hard enough that she would have a concussion and her glassy stare confirmed that. He easily disarmed her of her still holstered phaser. He checked the operations officer, he was still breathing. The wound was serious and he had lost consciousness but the phaser he had used was not at a high enough setting to instantly kill. He also removed the man’s holstered weapon. Of the eight beings on the bridge when he attacked only one had managed to fire back at him. His three weeks of training from his birth had paid off.
Rebis’Fetra’s role was over, for the moment. He now waited for a signal from the other teams that had been beamed over. It was time to see if these Nausicaans the Vorta had insisted they use were worth it. With nothing left to do he went about securing the few members on the bridge who were still alive. It was possible that the Vorta would want to question them later.
Zafast did not need to check if his men were in position, he knew they would be. The Jem’Hadar had looked down on him and his Nausicaan brothers since they boarded the captured Federation vessel considering them vastly inferior to their genetically engineered selves. In many ways the Jem’Hadar reminded him of the Klingons, they were arrogant and confident that they were the best at what they did and that no other species could match them. Now he was going to show them that Nausicaans were the equal of any warriors in the galaxy, genetically engineered or not.
So far in the conflict between the Dominion and the so-called Federation Alliance the Nausicaans, for the most part, had remained neutral. Their government considered it none of their concern and many agreed. In a clash of two such large empires/alliances it was often very risky for small entities to become involved as they were easier targets. For that reason you should not join unless you were clear on who the victor was going to be. If you knew which side was going to win then joining them offered little risk to yourself, plus allowed you to enjoy the spoils of war with minimal losses.
So far during this war there had be two occasions when a push to side with one of the combatants had been seriously considered by his people. After they learnt that the Federation was making a desperate move to stop the Dominion from unblocking the Bajoran wormhole that many consider could possibly not succeed his people had come close to siding with the Dominion. Thankfully they had held off as the Federation had somehow managed to end the threat of significant hostile reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant for the foreseeable future. The next occasion was just after the Federation Alliance had taken the Chin’toka system. Following the Romulan’s inclusion into the war the new Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance started to grind down the Dominion. The Dominion’s progress almost came to a halt and the alliance was making some impressive gains. The Dominion was throwing its fleets at the alliance and they were been smashed as if they were a wooden ship upon a rocky shore. The fall of Chin’toka seemed to show that the alliance was going to push into Cardassian space and crush the Dominion and again that did not happen. He now considered that the only sign his people would accept before choosing a side would be if the Dominion was in orbit over Earth or the Federation Alliance fleet hovered over the cities of Cardassia Prime. If there was one thing Nausicaans dislike, it was backing a loser.
That did not mean all his people were neutral. Zafast’s people had a proud mercenary history. Some of course hired their services to each side of the conflict. Some due to their moral and ethical beliefs others because that was where the latinum was. Zafast was part of the latter, he went where the money was, whether it was with the Ferengi Alliance, Orion Syndicate and now the Dominion, he did not care about sides, he was willing to fight for anyone willing to pay for the services of him and his crew. His view was that if they could get wealthy by fighting for both sides, why not?
Zafast rounded the corner he spotted the two marine guards stationed outside engineering, just as he had been told. He fired and downed both before they could respond and quickly marched into main engineering one. As he did he nearly bumped into a surprised engineer. Before that engineer could say anything he viciously backhanded him, sending the engineer sprawling to the floor and heard the whine of a disruptor behind him as one of his men dealt with the engineer. He brought up his energy pistol and fired up at a man up on the upper level that ran around the warp core. It was set to a heavy stun so that any impact with machinery would not cause an unfortunate incident.
There were surprised cries around the engineering room and the piercing whines of energy weapons from the five Nausicaans following him. A Tellarite man charged him. Zafast easily rocked back on his heels letting the Tellarite’s momentum carry him into his waiting fist. He did not even need to move it as the Tellarite winded himself against it. A swift strike upwards with his elbow sent the Tellarite staggering back. Zafast then shot him with his disruptor pistol.
This was all progressing quickly and as planned. He took it as a good sign that there was no response from the bridge. The Jem’Hadar leader had obviously dealt with the crew up there. One being versus half a dozen was not an insignificant effort. It did seem the rumours of the Jem’Hadar and their combat effectiveness was indeed true. While it did impress him it also made him wish to face one in battle. It might still happen, who knew where the money would take him?
Zafast marched up to the main control console for this engineering room. He did not need to bother to seek cover or worry about attack; he knew his brothers would protect him. He entered the codes that he had been given by the Vorta and as she had said he had access to the all the ship’s systems. The first thing he did was seal the entrance to engineering and all other access points to the room.
“We have disabled six of the crew. That is the number the Vorta told us would be on duty during this shift,” reported one of his men.
Again the Vorta’s intelligence had been right. Zafast was impressed so far. He did not know how the Vorta had got her hands on this information, maybe a Changeling infiltrator had given it to her or she had managed to corrupt one of the crew. However, she had done it and he was pleased as it made his part all that much easier.
“Check for any cowering Starfleet crew,” he ordered and turned to the other members of his squad. “Prepare for the next phase.”
They simply nodded and went about with their next task. This was why they had been hired; it was not just their physical prowess but their knowledge and skills. Many did not consider his people to be much more than brutes, however that was far from the truth. His crew were not only hardened combatants but were also well versed in Federation technology. They could operate this ship with familiarity immediately. So in this case it was their intelligence that made them valuable to the Vorta who had hired them.
He received a confirmation that all Starfleet crew had been neutralised. He sent a short message to the bridge to notify the Jem’Hadar that they had taken this engineering room. He soon received a message that the other team had captured the other engineering room. That meant they controlled the three main centres for the ship. It was effectively theirs.
Zafast signalled to one of his men. “The canisters.”
The Nausicaan removed a large rectangular pack from his back and placed it on the ground. He tapped on a control panel and the rigid pack opened. Zafast reached in and pulled on one of the cylindrical canisters. It was time for the ship to go to sleep.