SEASON 3: EPISODE 04
TO DELIGHT IN THE INHUMAN WORD: Part Thirteen
Daley was very uncomfortable. Her restraints kept her seated fairly straight and her arms been cuffed behind her were uncomfortable. Her shoulders hurts from the position and she could do very little to relieve the strain on her muscles. She was also feeling edgy from being in the same position for so long. All she wanted to do was get free.
“Do you know I was one of the first to become aware of your Federation,” said Jasis.
Again a long period of silence had fallen on the room after Jasis had received the report about the missing Jem’Hadar. The first had entered the room not long after and they had a hushed conversation. Daley had not caught all of it but she heard enough to know that Jasis had sent the Jem’Hadar off and that she was now unguarded. However, that news was of little help given Daley was very securely restrained.
Once the first had left Jasis had decided to go back to going through Masters’ belongings. Daley wondered if Jasis was looking for something in particular but it became apparent she seemed just to be going through Masters’ things for the sake of it. Jasis had gone to Masters’ desk and was using his computer. Daley knew that even when accessed by a computer in the captain’s quarters many things required a security code to access, so Jasis was unlike to get her hands on anything of great important.
Daley glanced over her shoulder to Jasis. “That must be exciting for you,” she replied.
“I was on a completely separate mission working to integrate a new member into the Dominion and one of your ships arrived, the USS Proxima. Have you heard of it?”
Daley shook her head. “There are thousands of ships in Starfleet, most I’ll never have heard of. So the Proxima stumbled into an invasion by your forces?”
“An invasion?” Jasis laughed. “You have such a quaint view of the Dominion. I was there to negotiate the planet’s inclusion to protect them from a hostile neighbour.”
“How charitable of you.” Daley did not bother with masking her sarcasm. Jasis seemed to only randomly acknowledge her tone.
“Charity has nothing to do with it. That is the way things are done. The Jem’Hadar only become involved if there is no chance that a planet can be peacefully integrated within a suitable time span.”
“So if they don’t immediately surrender their freewill to you the Jem’Hadar attack?”
“If that’s the timetable, yes.”
Silence descending again. Daley usually did not mind the silence but this time she had a question gnawing at her so she asked it. “What happened to the Proxima?”
Jasis did not look up from the monitor she was reading. “According to your ship’s files it is listed as missing, presumed destroyed by the Dominion. Not that far off.” Jasis looked up at Daley. “My forces captured the ship and most of the crew. I handed it on to my superiors who gave the task of analysing the ship and its crew to Vorta more specialised in that field than I. After that I don’t know what happened to the ship or crew. The ship was most likely taken apart for study and the crew imprisoned somewhere. I did have a number of interesting conversations with the ship’s commanding officer before that happened to gain an early insight into your Federation.”
Daley did not want to hear about Jasis’s interrogation of another Starfleet officer. She knew that if Jasis found Masters she would be given an up close and personal view of the process.
“So what did you do to the planet you were incorporating? Send in a few Founders to undermine their government and then make them join you.”
“I’ve had very few dealings with Founders in my life.”
“Maybe they don’t like you,” jibed Daley.
Jasis did not react to the comment. “The Vorta are expected to deal with these situations, it is what we were created for. Some of the more difficult integrations might require the Founders to play a role,” said Jasis. She looked off into the distance as if recalling something. “It has been many decades since I was last in the presence of a Founder.”
“How many clones have there been of you?”
“Fourteen, I’m obviously the thirteenth. Going by your Earth calendar the original Jasis was born in 2006.”
Daley did some rough mathematics in her mind. “So each clone gets around thirty years before the next one comes along.”
“Some have had significantly shorter lives.”
“I have a feeling your thirteenth clone is going to fall under that category as well.”
Jasis smiled widely. “Always chipping away, Rachel. I think we could have been friends if the situation wasn’t what it was.” Daley gave Jasis an incredulous look. Jasis continued, “I spent my first sixty years training before I was given command of my own Jem’Hadar.”
“That’s a long...apprenticeship,” stated Daley. She had only undergone four years of training before she became a marine, though of course there was her over a decade worth of schooling as she grew up. In terms of her life that was also a significant amount of time and she was limited to just the one life.
“When a Vorta is first born we are truly blank slates. We are assigned to a field in which we will serve the Dominion and undergo intense education to bring us up to a suitable entry level.”
“So you have no choice in where you will serve?” Daley knew what the answer would be. In the Dominion’s order choice did not seem to play a huge role.
“No, it is not the Vorta’s place to decide,” confirmed Jasis. “However, if a particular Vorta shows aptitude for a different field they can be reassigned. It is also possible to specialise over a period of one’s service. We tend to pick up a lot of other skills over our life spans.”
“I suppose you specialised in being a military leader.”
Jasis nodded. “I trained under a Vorta named Oplarmis, he specialised in small group tactics. He taught me how to earn the respect of the Jem’Hadar who served under me, something many Vorta do not consider important. The Jem’Hadar are obedient so why should we bother with getting their respect, they will do as they’re ordered. The difference is that you can get the Jem’Hadar not just to die for the Founders but for you. This type of subtle manipulation can save your life and make you more useful to the Dominion.”
“Have you gone crazy before?” Daley asked.
“Have I had a defective clone before this? No. However, it is rumoured that lines that have an unacceptable level of failure will be ended.”
“Maybe if I write a letter to the Founders they’ll close up shop on your line.”
“This is why I like you, Rachel. You have spirit and a sense of humour. Many people in these situations will lament as to why they are here, endlessly complaining and pleading for freedom. You do not. You accept it and face it with courage and humour.”
“That’s because I know I’ll be free soon and you’ll be dead.”
“I could end that belief and just kill you now,” said Jasis wistfully.
“You could but you won’t. You want me around so if you capture the captain you can use me to help make him suffer.”
“Very astute. I did not go to all this trouble simply to kill him. I will make him suffer and make him wish to be killed. Even then I won’t. I will force him to live and suffer until I am satisfied – and I can be difficult to satisfy. Your captain will only die when I decree it. If I wanted him dead I could have easily destroyed this ship in the ruse that allowed me to capture it. Not all of the information we gathered from our subject was still pertinent but enough of it clearly was.”
Daley gave Jasis a confused look. “Subject? Who?”
Jasis returned Daley’s confused look. “What do you mean who? How many of the crew have been captured by the Dominion recently?”
“As far as I’m aware no one.”
A bemused smile came to Jasis’s face. “Why would they keep that information a secret? Of course just because you don’t know doesn’t mean much. You are only a marine.”
Daley was about to give Jasis another biting reply but was cut off by the sound of Jasis’s communicator.
“Report?” ordered Jasis.
“We have found the third and sixth. They are dead,” reported the voice of the first.
A deep frown creased Jasis’s face. “How?”
“The third was killed with a phaser while the sixth’s skull is caved in.”
Daley smiled. There was no denying it now; some of the crew were still active.
“Any signs of anyone else?” asked Jasis.
“There are none, save for the lingering communications jamming around the holodeck, which we have since disabled.”
“So it would seem that some of the crew are still active,” Jasis stated the obvious.
“Several species in the Federation utilise breathing apparatus which means the gas would have had no effect. They might have banded together or revived other crew members.”
“So deploying around round of gas would be pointless.”
“It is my opinion so,” replied the first.
“How many do you think are loose? Killing two Jem’Hadar is not an easy thing to do.”
“It is impossible to say. The holodeck most likely acted as a trap, luring them into an ambush. A well planned ambush in a malleable environment as the holodeck and all it would take is a single individual.”
“Inform the Nausicaans in the engineering rooms to be on the lookout for active members of the ship’s crew.”
“It might be expedient to have several of the Nausicaans join the search operation for the active personnel and to search for the captain.”
“Do you believe the captain is with the active members of the crew?”
Daley’s ears pricked up as she waited for the Jem’Hadar’s reply. “Impossible to be certain.”
Daley checked Jasis’s reaction. It seemed the Vorta had expected that reply. “Very well. I want Captain Masters found as quickly as possible so get some of help from the Nausicaans. I will see what I can do to get the attention of the active crew.”
“As you order, Vorta.”
Jasis glanced back to Daley. “It seems the crew of this ship are trying to be heroes. We’ll see how far they are willing to go to save this ship.” Jasis tapped her communicator. “Jasis to Second Hercu’Ulbra.”
“This is the second.”
“I wish to make a ship wide transmission.”
It took the Jem’Hadar a few seconds to prepare. “It is ready, Vorta.”
“This is the Rona’toran Jasis to any active members of the crew of the Swiftfire, we have discovered the Jem’Hadar you have killed and know you are wandering this ship. I also know that your number cannot be great or you would have attempted to retake one of the major areas on this ship, I should warn you that any attempt is doomed to fail. My forces are more than prepared to repulse any attack and they will not be taking prisoners. I have also dispatched search parties to hunt you down. If you wish to survive you have ten minutes to contact my forces with your position and your statement of surrender. No harm will come to those who choose the correct path and turn themselves in. Resistance will only result in you deaths. You time is counting down from now.”
Jasis closed her channel to the second and ordered him to keep her informed.
“Do you really think that’s going to work?” asked Daley. “No one is going to just surrender to you when there is the slightest chance of retaking this ship.”
“We will see. I have had hostile forces surrender for less. The sense of self-preservation that is strong with species such as those in the Federation can be a powerful motivator to give in. It is just one reason why you can’t prevail in a conflict against the Dominion; our forces are willing to die for the Founders.”
“Those in Starfleet are willing to die to defend their freedoms, Jasis,” countered Daley.
“Of course there are some, but the difference is in the Dominion we are all ready to die for the Founders.”
“Feel free to do that right now, it will reinforce your point.”
Jasis just replied with a half smile. Silence descended on the room as they waited for the time to expire. Daley went back to her shifting to try and ease the pressure on her muscles. Her wrists were bruised the swollen from her struggling against them, which at the moment she regretted given the discomfort she was in. The ten minutes passed slowly and quietly.
“Well, it seems that the five minutes are up,” said Jasis. She contacted the second. “Second back to ship-wide.”
“By the fact I have no reports of anyone surrendering I will take it you have rejected my proposal. That’s fine; in any negotiation it is rare for the first offer to be accepted, so I now have a new one. You have another ten minutes to surrender, if you do not I will shut off life support to an entire deck. For every minute after where you continue not to yield to my forces I will cut life support to another deck until all nineteen decks are lifeless. The countdown will start now.”
Daley gave Jasis a look of disgust. “You sicken me.”
“Like I said, some are willing to give their lives but not many will forsake the lives of their friends and colleagues when they are utterly defenceless. It’s a weakness and I will exploit it to get what I desire.”
“This is not good,” said Tiki once the Vorta’s demand had finished resounding around them. “Stark, Lee, Masters, did you hear that?”
He got a chorus of yeses.
“Once the time runs out she will kill people.”
“Who said that?” asked Tiki
“That was Thopok,” said Masters. “Why do you say that?”
“She has no way to know if the people surrendering at the only ones. The only way to be sure is to make do with her threat and keep killing people until she is satisfied that no one is left free. No member of Starfleet will let fellow Starfleeters die when they can prevent it, even if that means surrendering themselves to the Dominion.”
“That makes a disturbing a lot of sense,” agreed Masters. “We have to push our plan forward and implement it before the time runs out.”
Tiki looked over to Dyson and G’Ethza. The two engineers exchanged looks of concern, or at least Dyson did. It was impossible to tell what look G’Ethza was giving Dyson behind her mask. “That might be a problem. How much time do you need Dyson?”
“More than ten minutes,” stated Dyson.
“Most of the preparations are complete,” said G’Ethza. “It is just the programming the distance for when the torpedoes should detonate that will take the most time. A timer would be faster.”
Dyson nodded hesitantly. “We won’t have time to run much of a check before we initiate the program. We should be ready in six to seven minutes.”
It’s going to be close, thought Tiki. “Lee?”
“We should be finished our preparations at around the same time as you.”
“What about you Masters?”
“I don’t think we’ll be done by then. With a bit of luck maybe we might be ready when the rest of you are.”
“I don’t know where you think this luck is going to coming from,” said Tiki. “I’ll get back in touch when we’re ready here.”
Tiki turned to Dyson. “I don’t want to rush you...”
“But we’re running out of time. We just need a few minutes.”
Dyson worked like a mad man. His fingers were dancing over the console faster than Tiki had ever seen anyone operate a console before. As the seconds ticked by Tiki resisted the urge to keep reminding them that they time was quickly running out.
“The timer has been integrated into the virus,” said G’Ethza finally.
“Let’s just hope you gave it enough time,” said Dyson. “The program is completed. I’m uploading it into the torpedo arming system.”
Tiki tapped his communicator. “We’re ready up here,” reported Tiki.
“We nearly done,” replied Lee.
“We’re not,” said Masters. “Do you need to wait for us? Once the flare goes off we’ll have some time before we move far enough away to make it useless.”
Tiki considered it for a few seconds. “True. It should also give the Vorta something else to worry about for a bit. We’ll set off our end, you two keep going as fast as you can.”
Lee and Masters acknowledged his suggestion and Tiki closed the channel. He glanced over to Dyson and Dyson made the final preparations.
“Don’t forget to give us time to get out of here,” reminded Tiki.
“The program is on a thirty second delay. Which starts...now. Well, everyone cross their fingers that this works.”
“Stark, this is Tiki. Beam us out of here.”
“Colonel, maybe I should be beamed to Captain Masters’ team,” suggested G’Ethza. “I can help them finish setting up.”
“Alright. Did you get that, Stark?”
“Loud and clear. Beaming you all out now.”
“Second, I have unusual readings from the rear pod,” said the fifth.
Second Hercu’Ulbra leant forward in the command chair. It still felt strange to him to have to sit while on duty. Hercu’Ulbra had never served on a Jem’Hadar vessel but he knew that they did not have seats on the bridge. The problem was that Federation designs favoured stations that required a person to be seated. It was a weakness that they had exploited to take the ship. Responding to an attack took longer if you were seated and that had allowed for the first to overwhelm the bridge despite been outnumbered.
“What type of readings?” Hercu’Ulbra asked.
“The torpedoes are armed and preparing for a test of their detonators,” replied the fifth.
“Twenty...forty...it is spreading to all of them. The computer is warning that this is a hazard. It is suggesting we jettison the rear pod.”
For such an occurrence there could only be one cause. “Sabotage,” voiced Hercu’Ulbra. “What would happen if we don’t jettison the pod?”
“The torpedoes will explode and take half the ship with them. Given our high warp it is also likely that the ship will be ripped apart.”
Hercu’Ulbra was reluctant to jettison the pod. It held half the ship’s torpedo launchers and one of the phaser arrays, losing it would significantly weaken the ships firepower. “How long do we have? Can the torpedoes be deactivated?”
“The computer is initiating safety protocols. It is decoupling the pod from the ship,” reported the fifth. “I am not able to stop it.”
“When will the torpedoes detonate?”
“I am unsure. However, if they detonate too close to the ship...”
Hercu’Ulbra’s jaw set. The crew had lost hope of taking back the ship that had to be the answer. They were attempting to destroy it so it would not remain in Dominion hands. There was nothing they could do. The computer had taken over the separation and all they could do was hope that it would not explode before it was well clear of the ship.
At the rear of the USS Swiftfire the danger was unseen. To an outside observer the ship looked no different than it had appeared before. The first signs something was happening were almost unnoticeable. In the arms that held the pod between the catamaran hulls the locks shifted, disengaging from the pod. The pod suddenly fell back from the ship as it was no longer connected. It started to tumble away from the aft of the ship until it reached the edge of the ship’s warp field. Once it passed beyond the field the pod dropped from warp speed to sublight. The pod continued to tumble aimlessly for a few seconds before it erupted in a sudden and violent explosion.
“Second, what was that?”
“It was a subspace shockwave, rona’toran,” reported Hercu’Ulbra. “The rear pod was sabotaged and it was jettisoned. The shockwave was from the resulting explosion.”
“Looks like they don’t want me killing the crew deck by deck, they want it to be quick,” mumbled Jasis. “Damage?”
The second did not have to ask as the fifth send him a damage report. “The ship suffered no damage.”
“Good. Well, their time is almost up. I’ll let them stew for the remaining minute or so knowing that their attempt to destroy the ship has failed. Erect protective force fields on the remaining torpedo storage areas in case they attempt to replicate that attempt somewhere else on the ship.”
“Consider it done, rona’toran.”
“It looks like I’ll have to make an example out of some of the crew in response to this attempt by the crew. Deck one was searched was it not?”
“The third and sixth searched deck one on the port engineering hull for the captain. However, they did not check every room, only locations they considered it likely he might be.”
“That has to be good enough. In fact, contact the Nausicaans and see about releasing a stimulant into that area. Having to hear their comrades suffocate to death might make those that are free and running amok more inclined to surrender. Plus if the captain is there we should hear about it.”
“I shall make the arrangements.”
Hercu’Ulbra did not think much of these measures. He was created for battle and that was what he wanted to do. He wanted to search the ship and hunt down the enemy and engage them in combat. However, he knew that such a task was not suitable given their small numbers. To defeat the enemy it would take more than disruptors or blades, it required the ability to tactically use the environment around them, which the Vorta was exploiting. It was not his preference but if it guaranteed victory then it was the will of the Founders.
“Captain, I’ve detected someone on our long range scanners.”
Captain Xavier Werfel turned to Lieutenant Commander Eboda. “Can you be more specific, commander?”
The Benzite tactical officer nodded. “I can. It appears to be a very large explosion. Roughly on a bearing of 1-1-3.”
“Like a ship?” Werfel asked concerned.
“I’m not sure. We didn’t get the explosion, rather its impact on subspace. Given how large it was it is possible it could be a sizable ship’s warp core.”
“Like an Akira class vessel or a Centaur?” asked Werfel.
“Adjust course to the source of the explosion,” ordered Werfel.
“Is that wise, captain?” asked Commander Zhou, the ship’s first officer. “Shouldn’t we continue on our course?”
They had been searching for the Swiftfire for a few hours and had yet to find any trace of the missing ship or its mysterious attacker. In fact the explosion was the first sign that they were not the only thing within the entire sector. They had been mapping out a specific search pattern that was meant to give them the best chances of finding the Swiftfire, leaving it would decrease their already low odds of finding the missing vessel.
“We haven’t got a sniff of the Swiftfire on this course. This might actually be something; even if the odds are low it is the Swiftfire. Plus if it is a ship explosion their might be survivors that need rescuing and that takes precedent over searching for the Swiftfire.”
“Very well, sir,” said Zhou. “Adjust course, lieutenant.”
The flight controller responded shifting the Fury’s course to one that was a directly heading to the explosion.
Werfel glanced to Zhou and said, “Let’s hope that this rabbit hole goes somewhere.”