Captain Philip Reming sat back, contemplating his next move. The three dimensional chessboard was growing empty. Nearly all his pieces were off the board. His opponent had managed to capture many of Philip's with little difficulty.
Reming took his mind off the board, glancing up at his adversary. He was a striking figure - tall and slender with jet black hair. His blue science officer Starfleet uniform, which was of a style discontinued long ago, made his appearance that much more striking. Of all his characteristics, Reming couldn’t help but focus on his opponent's sharply angled eyebrows and pointed Vulcan ears.
"May I ask you a question?" asked Reming.
"No sir, I refuse to start the game over again."
"No, no. That's not what I was going to say."
"Is your purpose of this conversation an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that you are losing the game?"
"Do you think I'm any good as a captain?"
"If I were to evaluate your abilities as a leader based on you skill at the game of three dimensional chess, I would have to suggest you resign your commission."
"Oh forget it," said Reming. He sank in his seat a little and turned his attention back to the board. He placed his hand on his remaining pawn. As he prepared to place himself inadvertently in check, the man seated across from him spoke.
"I'm curious. Why did you ask me that question? Although the emotional aspect escapes me, my study of human emotion suggests that you are feeling inadequate at your post. Why?"
Reming put the pawn back in its original place. "Well, half the time I don't know what I'm doing. I'm constantly leaning on my first officer for her support. And, even though I've only been in command for about a year or so, I've made several major leadership errors."
"Have you violated the Prime Directive?"
"Well yes, but only once."
"I see. Surely your self-evaluation is flawed. Starfleet would not have selected you for job if you were not qualified. How were you appointed as Captain, if I may ask?"
"Basically, I got the job because nobody else wanted it."
The fellow seated across from Reming folded his arms and raised an eyebrow at Philip. "Fascinating."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Bridge to Captain Reming." echoed the voice of Commander Donna Reed. "We've reached the rendezvous point. The Cairo, Starr, Hyde and Gingrich have arrived as well. The Klingons are expected in ten minutes."
Reming tapped his COMM. badge and answered, "Thank you, Commander. Reming out." He turned back to his opponent. "Well sir, I guess I forfeit the match. What is that - twenty or so wins for you now?"
"Twenty-three, to be exact."
"Well, thanks for the game, Mister Spock. We should do it again sometime."
"I look forward to it."
"Computer, save program and display Holodeck exit."
Reming stepped onto the bridge and was immediately struck by the awesome scene displayed on the main view screen. Four massive Federation starships glided silently across space. The great behemoths seemed to be performing a silent dance as they slowly glided about one another. Their sleek gleaming titanium bodies accented by their flickering navigation lights and glowing warp nacelles made the ships even more magnificent. Reming swallowed hard as he contemplated their beauty.
Commander Reed was not so overcome. She stood beside the helmsman, keeping focused on the job at hand. "Move us a little closer, Mr. Smith."
"Hello, Commander," said Reming.
Reed tossed the Captain a respectful smile. "Hello, Captain. Have a good time on the Holodeck? How was your game?"
"You called me a moment too soon. I had Mister Spock right were I wanted him."
"What's out position in the queue?"
"We're second, right behind the Cairo A."
"Which one's the Cairo A?"
"The Prometheus class ship, right there."
"Mister Parks, where's the canal?"
Lieutenant Commander Parks looked up from his console. "The Canal? Oh, mean the passageway. It's about ten thousand kilometers from here. "
The helmsman, Ensign Nicholas Smith, grit his teeth under the pressure. Beads of sweat covered his forehead and his hands trembled across the controls. Clearly the stress of piloting the small Condor around its monstrous cousins was getting to him. "I just don't understand. Why couldn’t we just fly around the dark nebula instead of flying through it? What's the big deal?"
"You know why," sighed Reed. "The Dominion has ships patrolling the high traffic area around the nebula. We can't go around. On the other hand, the nebula is highly disruptive to conventional shield and sensor technology. Therefore they're not going to even attempt to patrol inside the cloud. It would be suicide to even try and fly through it."
"So why are we?"
"We'll be flying through the narrow passageway that traverses the inside of the nebula. Space is normal inside the passage. The Dominion doesn't know it's there. In fact, the Federation didn't know it was there until a few weeks ago. The drawback is we'll have to travel at sub warp speeds through the passage. It's so narrow, our warp fields might cause a rupture. We don't want that to happen."
"I still don't like it."
Reming shook his head. "I don't either, Nick, but it's the safest way to Deep Space Thirteen. The space station's been isolated ever since the Dominion began their patrols in the area. They need the supplies we're carrying and the protection of these other ships. The fact is, they need us." The idea warmed Reming's heart. Yes, he was extremely uncomfortable about the trip through the dark nebula, but the idea that the Condor was actually needed gave him a feeling of purpose. Finally, something worth while.
A small light began to flash at Parks' station. "Captain, the Kingons are here. One Bird of Prey."
"Fine. Nick, move us up behind the Cairo. Parks, signal the Cairo that we're ready."
Nick continued fumbling about the controls as he guided the small science vessel on its way around the great surrounding starships. The Condor passed close by the great Galaxy class startship Progress and passed between the Hyde and the Starr, two Sovereign class ships. None of the hulks seemed to notice the Condor flying about them. The Condor was akin to a mosquito buzzing around a mammoth. Finally, the Condor settled behind the Cairo, matching its speed and direction.
"Signal from the Cairo, sir. They're acknowledging our position," said Parks. Ensign Smith let his shoulders drop and his head fall back. He reached up only to wipe the sweat off his face.
"Well done, Nick," said Reming. "We all knew you could do it." Nick looked up and smiled with relief.
"Speak for yourself, sir," said Parks. "I was sure we'd wind up flattened, like a bug on a windshield."
Nick took offense to this, of course. "Hey!" he retorted weakly.
"Enough, boys. Settle down, we've got a long trip ahead of us," said the Commander, sternly. Nick almost mistook Reed's tone for his Mother's disappointing voice. Nick's mother was often disappointed in him as a child. But she was far away now. He no longer need fear her reprisal. He was an adult, behind the wheel of a federation starship. No, there was no one here to scold him…except for his older sister.
"Engine to bridge," echoed Carol Smith, Chief Engineer and older sister to Nick Smith. "Captain, please remind my brother to go easy on the impulse engines. If he keeps starting and stopping the engines like that, we'll lose them. That last speed bump nearly burned out the port engine."
Reming looked to his first officer for an explanation. "Some of the radiation leaking from the nebula interferes with impulse engines. Nothing serious," said Reed.
"I see," said the Captain. "Miss Smith, it is your brother's job to fly the ship and it's your job to keep the engines running. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir," mumbled Carol. "Engine room out."
"Now, are we through playing house?" asked Reed.
"Yes, the Commander is right. Let's go to work."
Moments later, the Cairo silently entered the nebula. A half-second later, the Condor did as well.
Inside the nebula, there were no stars visible - only endless blackness. The only light source came from the navigation lights decorating the hull of the massive starships. In front of the Condor was the Cairo. Behind it was the Progress. According to the helm, the Condor was moving in sync with the Cairo, but, without the presence of stars, there was no sense of movement. This unnerved Captain Reming. Motion without the sense of motion made him feel dizzy. He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, convincing himself not to think about it. After all, the only real potential problem would be if the Cairo stopped suddenly. "Would the Condor continue forward and collide with it?" wondered Reming. "No, the proximity sensors would go off." Reming quietly calmed, filled with confidence in his ship and crew.
The momentary quiet calm was broken by a beeping sound coming from Parks' station. "Sensors are picking something up."
"What is it?" asked Reming.
"I don't know. The sensors aren't working very well inside this nebula."
"Activate the Augmented Sensor Array," ordered Reed.
Parks placed his hand on the tactile panel and joined with the ship. "I've got it now."
"Well? Report, mister."
Parks shook his head with uncertainty. "I think it's a ship."
"What type of ship?" asked Reming, his brow gnarled with worry.
"I don't know. Either its transponder is out or it's not transmitting one."
"Is it hostile? Can you be sure of that?"
Reed slammed a fist down against her palm. "'No' what? 'No' its not hostile or 'no' you can't be sure."
"No, it's not hostile. It's adrift - dead in space. Did I forget to mention that?" Both Reed and Reming let out an audible sigh at Parks' reply.
"Okay, does the Cairo know it is there?" asked Reming. He spoke slowly and clearly, as if he were talking to a small child.
"Hmmm…no. Their sensor's are not as powerful as ours."
"Okay, send a message to the Cairo. Warn them of the presence of the adrift ship."
"Done, sir," said Parks. "Oops…message coming back. The Cairo has ordered all ships to hold position. They're going to look into it."
"Fine. All stop, helm."
The great Prometheus class starship steamed forward, leaving its followers behind. As it continued onward, moving slowly away from the group, the Condor bridge grew silent. The playful banter of a few minutes ago was now replaced with tense drama. Reming decided to cut the silence, hoping to alleviate at least some of the tension. "Parks, are you picking up any chatter from the other ships?"
"What are they saying?"
"A lot of the talk concerns the dark nebula. They're all doing sensor sweeps but getting very little data in return. Frankly, the tone of the chatter is a bit edgy. I don't think anybody's very happy about traveling through the nebula."
"No kidding," answered Nick, his comment dripping with sarcasm.
"What about the Klingons?" asked Commander Reed. "What are they saying?"
"The Klingons? They're not saying anything. They're singing."
"Yep. One of those Klingon operas, I think."
"I guess they've got a song for every occasion."
"It seems so," said Parks just as a signal on his station began to flash. "The Cairo is hailing all ships, audio only."
"Put it through, please."
"This is Captain Edward Jellico of the USS Cairo. We've completed a scan of an unidentified derelict vessel in our flight path. It appears to be an old Mah'que ship. Apparently, the Mah'que new of this passage long before we did.
"It looks like the ship took heavy damage. It must have been under Cardassian attack before it tried to make its escape through the nebula. Unfortunately, it seemed to have suffered some kind of catastrophic system failure before it could make it to the other side. We used the Cairo's tractor beams to push the ship out of our path. As soon as we get back to you, we'll proceed onward through the nebula. Oh, I almost forgot. I'd like to pass along my gratitude to the captain and crew of the Condor for quickly locating the adrift vessel and passing along the information to us in a timely fashion. Jellico out."
"Was that a 'thank you'?" asked Reming.
"That's as close to a 'thank you' as Jellico will ever get," answered Reed.
"Tough customer, is he?"
"From what I've heard, yes."
"Captain," said Parks, "The Cairo is on its way back here. It should reach us in fourteen seconds."
"Fine. Nick, when it's back at its original position, match speed and course once again."
"Aye, sir," acknowledged Smith.
"Wait!" yelped Parks. "Captain, sensors are picking up something very strange."
"What is it?"
Mister Parks didn't have a chance to respond before the awesome cataclysm erupted.
Before Parks could react, an immense yellow beam of hot energy burst from inside the surrounding blackness of the nebula and struck the broadside of the USS Starr. Its shields were like paper to the beam. In a nanosecond, the powerful energy force ripped through the hull of the Starr. A brilliant flash of light burst fourth as it exploded into tiny bits.
Immediately following the explosion, chaos erupted. The USS Hyde quickly turned away from the source of the beam while the USS Gingrich turned upward. The helmsman of the two ships must have been struck with sheer panic. Neither ship attempted to avoid the other. The Gingrich slammed into the Hyde with great force. The Gingrich's saucer section hit the underside of the Hyde's star drive causing the Gingrich's saucer to crack and split at the point of the impact. The Hyde's hull buckled under the stress and began to collapse. Then its warp core went critical. It exploded in bright flashes of orange and red. The explosion bounced across the Gingrich, literally tearing it apart. Soon enough, its matter/antimatter containment failed as well. It too exploded in spectacular fashion.
As the USS Progress pushed upward to avoid the raining destruction of the Hyde and Gingrich, alarms went off all over the bridge of the Condor. Nick clenched his console tightly, succumbing to fear. He blinked his eyes hard. A glare off his console suddenly reflected brightly in his eyes. Nick looked up in time to see the gleaming white hull of the Progress filling the view screen. She was about to collide with the Condor. Instinct took over. Nick slammed on the breaks. The force of the sudden stop nearly knocked him out of his seat. He commanded the engines to move the ship away, but the helm did not respond. The sudden engine cutoff must have caused the impulse drive to go off line. Nick recalled his sister's warnings too late.
Smoothly and silently, the Progress kept moving forward. It was so close, Parks would later swear he could see inside the portholes along the saucer section. Quietly, the immense ship glided straight on toward the Condor. Reming flung his arms in front of his face, bracing himself for the collision, but it didn't come. The Progress silently glided just over and above the Condor. Within seconds, the great vessel was clear. If Nick hadn't stopped their motion when he did, the two ships would have surely struck.
"This is Captain Jellico. What the hell is going on here? What just happened?"
The chatter from the remaining ships bled through Jellico's message. The captain of the Progress was shouting at his science officer for answers. Loud barks from the Klingon captain echoed through as well. Captain Reming sat frozen. His eyes transfixed and glazed. He blinked once, then once more. He didn't remember seeing Reed leave her seat, but she had. She knelt beside Parks' station, pressing control after control. Reming swallowed hard, trying to clear the dryness in the back of his throat.
He got up and walked over to Ensign Smith. His head was buried in his hands. " Nick, we're alive. Thanks to you, we're alive."
"I repeat, this is Captain Jellico. What the hell just happened? Someone answer!"
Reming stepped beside his first officer. She too was quite shaken. Hair that had separated from her tight braid dangled in front of her eyes. She kept working at the console, fighting her fear. "What…what are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm…trying to…retrieve the…sensor logs…and see if I can find out what…happened."
"What's wrong with Parks?"
"He was Communing when all hell broke loose. I think he's in shock."
"Get the doctor up here. What the condition of the ship?"
"A mess. Propulsion is down. Life support is on emergency back up. We have injured all over the ship."
"I repeat, this is Captain Jellico. Someone respond!"
"Condor to Cairo," said Reming, "We sustained damage; propulsion is off-line, life support is running on emergency power and we've got injured, but we're alive."
"Thank God. Okay, stay there. Hold your position. I'll check back in shortly. Jellico out."
After Reming ended its communication with Jellico, the others started to answer. The captain of the Progress spoke up next. "This is Captain Dekker of the Progress. We faired slightly better. We have heavy damage to our saucer section. Repairs are underway. We also have minor injuries reported on all decks. Progress out."
"His damage would have been a lot worse if he hit us," commented Doctor Tedmoore as he stepped off the turbo lift.
"It's Mike, Doctor," said Reming. "Donna thinks he's in shock."
Tedmoore ran a quick tri-corder scan over Parks. "Well, she's right. It's mild though." He reached into his bag of tricks and retrieved a hypo-spray. A few seconds after an injection, Parks began to come back to life. "He'll feel like his old self in a few minutes."
"And the rest of the crew?"
The doctor shrugged. "I have my staff running all over the ship. As you know, I don't have a lot of personnel. Reports I'm getting are that most of the injuries are minor. No deaths reported. None yet, anyway."
"Not too disappointed, are you Doctor?" asked Reed, jokingly.
"Hell no. I've had my fill of fun for today, believe me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got patients to attend to."
As the Doctor made his quiet exit, Reming continued to listen to the communications between the Cairo and the Klingon ship. "This is Captain Boc'Choi of the Faux'Pa. We suffered only minor hull burns and a few cases of radiation sickness. Otherwise we are fine."
"Cairo to Faux'Pa, do you require any medical assistance?"
"No thank you, Captain Jellico, we will manage. Faux'Pa out."
"That's all?" asked Reming. "That's all that's left?"
"Yes," said Reed. "The Starr, Hyde and Gingrich were all destroyed."
"What the hell happened?"
Reed rolled back and sat down on the deck next to Parks' station. She ran her hands over her face and sighed. "I don't know. The sensor logs are completely corrupted. All that high energy released when the ships were destroyed must have saturated the computer system. I don't think we'll ever know what happened."
Parks rubbed the back of his neck and turned to face the Captain and Commander. He looked worn out, like he'd just went ten rounds with a Jem'Hadar. "There is a way we might be able to find out what happened."
"Wait for it to happen again."
Reming led his senior staff members were into the conference room. He took the seat at one end of the long table. The rest took seats on either side. Reming placed his hands flat on the table and took a deep breath. He felt he needed to gather them all together for some reason, but for what reason he didn't know. HH
He looked at them one by one. Maybe one of them knew why he called them in. He was about to ask each of them, but decided against it. That wouldn't have been appropriate. Then he considered making a speech, but again, he decided against it. He didn't think he'd be up to the task. He was never good at speeches.
The time began to grow long. He had to say something, so he turned to the doctor. "Doctor Tedmoore, what's the medical status of the crew?"
The doctor looked startled. He hadn't expected to be called on first. "Uh…fairly well, sir. Only minor injuries were suffered. Nothing serious. Their psychological health is a different matter.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, a incredible loss of life occurred a few hours ago when those ships were destroyed. Some of our crew knew people serving on those ships. Others are asking why they lived while so many others died."
"It's a lot for anyone to handle."
"Yes, it is."
A lump grew in Reming's throat. His crew needed him, but he was at a loss as to what to say to them. What words could he say to take their pain away? He soon realized there were none. Then a thought came to him. "Commander…"
"Make an announcement that all science experiments are canceled until further notice. Keep a small shift on duty to keep the ship running, give the rest time off to themselves. If they wish to gather together in the holodecks for a memorial, they are permitted to do so."
"But we're at red alert. I don't think we should…"
"That is an order." He heard the four words slip out of this mouth, but he couldn't believe he actually said them. He never before felt he had the right to say it.
Reed sighed and looked down. "Aye, sir."
"Yes, sir," said Lieutenant Commander Carol Smith.
"The sensor logs are our only way of knowing what happened. "
"Yes sir, but those logs are badly corrupt."
"See if you can clean them up at all. Maybe you can find a way to repair the data. Maybe you'll be able to reconstruct at least part of the information."
"Sir, it's just not possible…"
"You know," interrupted Reming, "Captain Kirk's crew never questioned his orders. They just did what he asked. They never said things like 'that's impossible'. "
"Excuse me, sir," said Ensign Smith, " Scotty used to say 'that's impossible' to Captain Kirk all the time. I read it in his book, 'Changing the laws of Physics'."
"Yes, well, maybe he did say that, but he did what the Captain asked anyway. Now I know I'm no Captain Kirk, but I know all of you are at least as good as his crew was. Carol, at least try to…"
Reming's statement was cut off. Now it was the computer's turn to interrupt. "Message coming in from Captain Jellico of the Cairo."
"Put it though, Computer."
"This is Jellico of the Cairo."
"Captain Reming here. What can I do for you, sir?"
"I'm planning a meeting on our current situation at nineteen-hundred hours. Both Captain Dekker and the Klingon captain will be present. I'd like you to attend as well."
Lieutenant Commander Carol Smith slumped over her desk in the private engineering office. Toiling over the artificial glow of her muted engineering console depressed her. She picked up the hot cup of steaming tea sitting beside her and took a sip. The tea seemed to have a calming affect. After a moment, she set the cup down on the desk and returned to her work.
Displayed on the large console window were millions of lines of scrambled data. She pressed a control on her desk, causing the data to scroll upward. She continued to scroll until she reached the 'end of file' marker.
Carol sat back in her seat and sighed with despair. "This is hopeless," she said to herself. "Why can't you be more like Scotty?" she said, mimicking Reming's words in an exaggerated and unflattering manner.
She stood up and walked away from her desk, rubbing her hands against her waist, trying to remove the condensation put there by the hot teacup. "Oh well, I guess I should get started. Computer: run personal program named Scott's Utilities."
Reming and Reed beamed over to the Cairo and found their way to the conference room with the help of an escort. A young female yeoman politely led them out the transporter room and through meandering corridors filled with young ambitious officers. Reming was impressed with the gleaming starship and its gleaming crew.
From the bridge, they were led to the conference room, a large room located off the bridge. Reming was in awe of the Cairo bridge, with its crisp consoles, three-dimensional view screen, and professional bridge staff. The ship was surely the pride of Starfleet.
"Here we are, sirs," said the yeoman with a smile. "Go on in. The Captain is waiting."
Reed and Reming entered the large wood-trimmed room. One side of the room was lined with large windows looking out to empty space. The other wall was decorated with a huge painting of an Prometheus class starship (presumably the Cairo) zooming through space. Seated at the large oak finished conference table was Captain Boc'Choi, of the Klingon bird of pray Faux'Pa; Captain Dekker of the Federation starship Progress; and, at the head of the table, Captain Jellico himself. Reming and Reed took seats beside Dekker, leaving the Klingon alone on the other side of the table.
"Glad to see you, Captain," said Jellico. Reming answered with a nod. To him, Jellico was anything but glad. The elderly gentleman seemed quite stern. Reming wondered if the man was always like that or if the tense situation made him the way he was.
"I elected to bring along my first officer, Commander Reed," said Reming. "I hope that is not a problem."
Jellico flushed a bit. "I asked you to attend the meeting alone, Captain. I guess my request wasn't clear enough. At any rate, since she is here now, I'll overlook it." Reming rolled his eyes and sighed to himself. He immediately pegged this guy's personality. He was one of those hard-nosed types - like Captain Harkness. Reming wondered if all Starfleet captains were egotistic power driven control freaks. He was comforted in the fact that he wasn't like that.
The Klingon wasted little time. "Enough with the pleasantries. I want to know what I'm doing here!" he snarled. "It is time to strike back! We need less talk and more action."
"Oh of course, Captain," said Jellico. "You're all set to take your ship into the cloud, find your conspirators and finish us off."
The Klingon was taken back by Jellico's statement. He didn't take kindly to accusations. He whipped out a ferocious looking knife and pointed it at Jellico. "You accuse me of underhandedness? I should kill you for saying such a thing! I've killed for less!"
"What are you doing, Jellico?" asked Dekker. "What are you suggesting?"
Jellico dismissed the Klingon's threat with a cold wave of his hand. "Captain Boc'Choi, you said after the disaster that your ship had radiation burns and some of your crew were suffering from radiation sickness. When I offered to send help, you turned me down. Why?"
"We are a pride full people, Jellico. From that you'd accuse me of conspiracy? I didn't realize you had such a devious mind."
Jellico again ignored the Klingon's comments. "The only way your ship could have gotten those radiation burns and your crew get radiation sickness is if you were inside the nebula cloud at some point during the disaster." A sudden fire flamed up behind Jellico's eyes. "Where were you, Captain? Weren't you signaling a Klingon cruiser hiding in the nebula to attack us? Admit it!"
Boc'Choi jumped up, spitting Klingon curses at Jellico. "You lying Federation dog! You're accusing the Empire of the attack! I will not stand for this!"
Reming and Reed sat back in utter amazement at the scene. A cool head stood up to regain some control over situation. "Why don't you just tell us what you were doing, Boc'Choi?" asked Dekker.
The Kligon Captain relaxed a bit and sat down. "When I saw the beam strike one of my Federation comrades, I ordered the Faux'Pa into the cloud. I intended to give the sneaky devils a taste of their own medicine."
"You blindly went onto the attack? Wow!" said Reming, wide eyed at the man's courage.
The Klingon let out a very loud laugh. "HA! Unlike Starfleet, we Klingons are always ready for a fight!"
"And what did you find?" asked Commander Reed. Jellico twitched when he heard the question. This was to be his interrogation. Clearly his guests were interfering.
The Klingon shook his head. "We didn't see anything. The nebula caused too much interference. We fired our weapons, hoping we'd hit whatever attacked, but there was no sign we hit anything. I ordered us back when radiation levels grew too high."
"Maybe you did hit whatever shot at us," added Dekker. "After all, there's been no more attacks."
Jellico decided to throw another grenade onto the table. "What about that Ma'Quis ship?"
"What about it?"
"Maybe it was a decoy intended to lure the Cairo away. Once it was out of the picture, the attack started. As we area all aware, the Cardassians are not above such tactics."
Reming shook his head. "It wouldn't have made a difference. That beam took out the Starr with one shot. I doubt you would have gotten a shot off. The Cairo surely would have been caught in the panic like the rest of us."
Jellico was infuriated by Reming's off-hand comment. The insinuation that his ship and crew could have acted so unprofessionally made him quite irate. "Look, Captain who-ever-you-are, you can't say that about my ship and my crew! You think I've got a simple little science class ship here? If the Cairo was in the line of fire, I can assure you that my ship and my crew would not have run around like scared children like the rest of you!"
Reming sunk in his seat a bit. "Sorry, sir."
Reed kicked Reming in the leg. "You don't have to take that. He's your equal, not your superior," she whispered out of the corner of her mouth. He thought about her comment while he rubbed the pain from his knee.
Jellico squinted at Reming. "You're new, aren't you? What were you doing while in the Academy? You were probably a big Ma'Quis sympathizer. You probably saw the Ma'Quis as some heroic band seeking liberation from the imperial heavy-handed Cardassian Empire."
Reming was not prepared for a personal attack. He fumbled for the right answer. "Oh…uh…no sir. I…I mean I…"
Reed jumped to Reming's defense. "And what if he was a Ma'Quis sympathizer? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Maybe the abandoned Ma'Quis ship was left there by the Ma'Quis. Maybe your Captain knew it was out there, thus allowing him to notifying the Cairo of its existence, knowing we'd investigate. He then signaled his Ma'Quis friends to attack once the Cairo was out of the way."
"Uh…excuse me, sir…er I mean…Captain," interrupted Reming, "I had no previous personal knowledge that the Ma'Quis ship was out there. The Condor's sensors detected it."
"How could the your ship's sensors pick it up before the rest of…?"
Reed put her hands on her hips and leaned forward over the table. "The Condor is equipped with an Augmented Sensor Array, sir."
The Klingon Captain looked at Reming and laughed. "Now I know why you brought her along! HA! HA! HA!"
"I hate to poke another hole in your theory, Jellico, but I think you're forgetting one important fact," smiled Dekker.
"The Ma'Quis were all wiped out when the Dominion joined forces with the Cardassians."
Jellico waved a dismissing hand at Dekker. "Minor details." He then spun his comfortable chair around and strolled over to the window, staring out into the blackness.
Reming looked back at the cool Jellico in sheer disbelief. He couldn't believe how this man could make such sweeping accusations without batting an eyelash. Was it all for his enjoyment or was he merely insane? Perhaps he's just been in space too long.
The Klingon Captain put his scary knife away and sat way back in the chair, with his hands behind his head and feet propped up on Jellico's polished conference table. "It seems we are back where we started, eh?" he said.
Boc'Choi's crystal clear statement of the obvious sent Jellico into another fit of anger. He spun around and glared at those still seated at the conference table. "There is a clear and present danger to us and the rest of the Federation lurking in that mist out there, folks! It's either Dominion or some other new threat! Whatever it is, it poses a danger to us, the station, the quadrant, everything! I, for one, will not stand idly by waiting to die!"
"Then why are we sitting here like old women, Captain? We must fight!" Yelled Boc'Choi. "Enough of this paranoia and petty bickering. Enough! We need to strike back!"
Dekker stood up, slamming his hands on the table. "NO! We don't stand a chance against whatever is in there! We must continue onto the space station and report to Starfleet from there. We can't attack now. We'll be slaughtered for sure. We need more ships."
"Maybe the station is gone - blown apart," Reming quietly commented. "Maybe they…whoever they are…destroyed it. Maybe our attackers figured out where we were headed and decided to get there ahead of us. Maybe that's why we were not attacked again. Maybe they went off to take out the station and now they're on their way back to finish us off."
Reming's rant filled the room with stunned silence. Except for Reming, none had considered that possibility. His comments filled the others with more questions - Was the station gone? Were they about to be destroyed? Should they continue on, stay where they were or leave the way they came?
Even Jellico's tone quieted down a bit. He too was taken back by Reming's statement. "We have to assume the station is still here," said Jellico. "Once we get there, we'll contact Starfleet. But we'll need to tell Starfleet something. We need to get more information."
"The Condor might be able to offer you that information," said Reed. Reming looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face. "Remember?" she asked. "Our sensors picked up something just before it all happened."
"That's right," said Reming. "I almost forgot."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" asked Dekker. "We'll head for the station with the Condor's sensor logs in hand."
"One problem with that: The logs are hopelessly corrupt."
"Wait a minute", said Jellico. "I've got a plan." He folded his arms and brimmed with pride. There was still a way for him to come out of all this looking like a hero. "If the Condor's sensors could detect the enemy once, they can do it again. The Condor will go into the cloud to scout out the enemy. This dangerous task will require an experienced leader. Therefore, I will personally take command of the Condor and take it into the nebula."
Commander Reed continued yelling at Reming all the way through re-materialization on the Condor's transporter pad. Even with her atoms scrambled he could still hear her roaring at him. Reming hadn't thought it possible.
Once they were safely back on the Condor, her blisteringly loud voice went a full octave higher. Reming hadn't thought that possible either. "You know, I should have you relieved of duty! You know that?" she yelled while waving a punishing finger in his face.
"On what grounds?" asked Reming, genuinely curious.
Reed stuttered a bit. "I…I…I don’t know. I'll think of something."
"It's no use. He's coming."
Reed raised her voice again. Her voice was so loud Reming thought he felt his ears pop. "He plans to put this ship and crew in mortal danger! This ship won't stand the radiation inside that cloud and it certainly won't survive an attack. This ship couldn't survive an attack by an angry swarm of butterflies much less anything else. It's too dangerous."
"Danger is our business. We're not on a space-liner. Besides, I couldn't say no."
"And that brings me to my final point."
"Oh good, there is a final point. I was afraid this would go on all night."
"You could have said no to him. He is not your superior officer. He is a Captain. You are a Captain. You both share the same rank. You could have said no. Why didn't you?"
"Well…he's bigger than me."
"Nothing. It doesn't matter. I don't think I could have said no. Starfleet put him in charge of the convoy mission. That gives him authority. I don't think I could have turned him down."
"Well then, you're just going to let him waltz onto the bridge and take this ship to its destruction just so he can get another metal - awarded posthumously of course."
"If Carol can manage to decipher the log file, we won't need to go into the cloud at all."
"Oh well, I guess I'd better make out my will."
"Whatever," Reming said, waiving off Reed's sarcasm. "But first I need you to get the full crew back on duty. We need to get ready. I'm going to my cabin to think."
Captain Reming walked alone through the corridors of the Condor. In his mind he was reviewing his time as captain. In his short tenure, there were times he was nervous to be on the ship. There were times he loved being on board. There were still other times he despised it immensely. This was one of those times. He didn't understand why he was so unhappy to be on the Condor. Maybe it was the fact that being on this ship spelled his eventual doom. He knew Donna was right. In all likelihood, the Condor was about to be destroyed and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. He began to wonder if he really hated the ship. Maybe he just hated himself.
While on his way to his cabin, Reming inexplicably found himself at the engine room. He wondered inside, passing the warp engine assembly. He turned back to look at the warp core. It glowed and swirled the same as always. He gazed at it, letting the shimmering colors mesmerize him.
"Hello, Captain," said Carol Smith from around the corner. "Keeping my ship in one piece?"
"Your ship?" Reming laughed. "You know what? You can have it."
"From what I hear, it won't be your ship for much longer."
"News travels fast around here. Who told you, anyway?"
"No one, really. We could here Commander Reed shouting at you from four decks away."
"I see," said Reming, staring down and tapping the deck with his left foot.
"Sir? Can I help you?"
"What? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Any success cleaning up the log file? A readable log file will give me the power to keep Jellico from taking the ship for himself. Any luck? My ship is in your hands."
Carol leaned back on a bulkhead rubbing her forehead. "No pressure, though."
"The logs are a total loss?"
"Not exactly. My data repair program is still running, but I was able to read some of it."
"I'll take anything you can offer. What you got?"
"I don't know. It may be nothing," said Carol, wearing a grave expression. "I just get this feeling, from looking at the log, that the event was natural."
Captain Philip Reming found himself running to keep up with Captain Jellico as he made his way through the corridors of the Condor. His point of destination: the bridge.
"Sir! Uh, I mean, Captain!" yelled Reming while trying to catch up.
Jellico stopped dead and turned to face the man chasing him. Reming didn't expect Jellico to stop so suddenly. He stopped short, struggled to keep himself from running head-long into the towering man.
"What is it?" growled Jellico
"Captain, I'd wish you'd reconsider this course of action. The ship…"
"I know all 'bout the battle ready conditions of this ship. They are appalling! This ship is appalling. You are appalling. I'm surprised Starfleet hasn't court marshaled you by now. Once this mission is complete, I'll see to it personally."
Reming furrowed his brow and tilted his head. "Did he just say he intends to court marshal me when this is all over?" thought Reming. He wondered if he heard Jellico correctly. He shook it off, believing he must have heard wrong. "But Captain Jellico, I have some new information."
"What? What kind of new information?"
"After deciphering part of the original log, my Chief Engineer says the event could have been a natural occurrence."
Jellico broke into exaggerated laughter. "Are you kidding? Do you expect me to believe that? Either you're out of your mind or your engineer is. Thank you, Captain. You've just given me more ammunition to use at your court marshal." Jellico continued laughing as he stepped into the turbo lift. He left Reming behind, alone in the corridor.
By the time Reming gained the courage to step on the Condor bridge, Captain Jellico had already made himself comfortable in the Captain's chair. Standing beside him stood Commander Reed. She looked back at Reming, seemingly relieved to see him.
Jellico did not turn around to see him enter the bridge, but he did acknowledge Reming's presence. "Captain Reming, it's good to see you again," mumbled Jellico
Reming did not respond to Jellico. He continued to linger toward the rear of the bridge. He chose not to be part of the action. Instead, he intended to merely be a witness. Eventually, fate would force him to take charge.
"Science, raise shields and engage the Augmented Sensor Array."
Parks, furious at this undesired change in command, thought about disobeying Jellico's orders. He thought about ignoring him, even if a firing squad would be the consequence. He took a deep breath, preparing to verbally proclaim his protest when Reed laid a hand on his shoulder. "Just do it, Mike," she said. Parks obeyed her, pressing the controls to raise the shields. He then placed his hand on the tactile panel, linking his mind to the ship and allowing him to activate the sensor array.
Jellico shifted a bit and raised his hand to his chin. "Helm, set course inside the cloud and take us in."
Ensign Nick Smith pressed the proper buttons to send the ship on its way. The ship responded, slowly and silently gliding passed the still Progress, Cairo and Faux'Pa hanging nearby. Nick twisted his neck to take one last look at the gleaming hull of the Progress just before the Condor slipped into the nebula and into total darkness.
Immediately, the warning alarms began to sound. "Warning, increased radiation on outer hull. Radiation will reach lethal levels in four point seven minutes," spoke the computer in a calm and articulate manner.
"Damnit!" yelled Jellico. "Don't you have some new fangled shield technology around here we can use to keep that radiation back?"
"Sorry sir," said Reed, "Not today. A month ago maybe, but not today." Reed looked over at Jellico. He look as though he was getting more annoyed every passing second.
"Science!" Jellico barked, "are you detecting anything? A ship or maybe a fleet of ships perhaps?"
"No sir, nothing yet."
As the seconds passed, and the ship continued further into the darkness, Reed began to worry about how far inside Jellico would take the ship. "Sir, we should turn around soon. The computer only gave us four minutes. We've been inside the nebula for at least a minute. Don't you think we should plot our way out soon?" she asked.
"Nonsense! The computer always overestimates the danger. We can stay in here for at least an hour without risking any permanent damage."
Jellico's statement caused a new rage to grow inside Reming. He was no longer content with hiding in the shadows. The lives of the crew beckoned him to take charge. He stepped forward and said, "With all due respect sir, are you out of your mind?" The flavor of anger in his voice was detectable to everyone there.
Jellico stood up to face Reming. "Stand down, Captain. I'm in charge here and there's nothing you can do about that!" he shouted.
Reming expected to be afraid of this giant man in both personality and stature, but he wasn't. Something else had taken him over. "I will not stand idly by why you risk the lives of my crew to satisfy your thirst for glory. Turn this ship around now!"
Jellico balled up his fists with anger. "Captain Reming, you know what I'm doing is for the safety of the Federation. We need to find out who's out there!"
"But what if there's nothing out there, Captain? Then what?"
Jellico looked at Reming with a stunned expression. He felt as if he was smacked in the face. Reming's question caught him completely off guard.
"Engineering to bridge," echoed Carol Smith, "Captain, I have more from the log."
"What?" asked Reming.
"It is definitely environmental, sir! We have got to get out of here now!"
At that moment, Michael Parks, silent during the heated exchange, lifted his head and spoke in a trembling voice. "Captain…Captain…Captains? I'm getting something. I'm detecting a Magnetar star inside the nebula. This special kind of collapsed star is extremely dense. When enough energy builds up from its fast rotation, a kilometer long chunk of its metal crust breaks off sending huge amounts of x-rays into space."
Jellico shook his head violently. "But that doesn't make sense. That kind of energy bust wouldn't be visible or focused like the one that hit the Starr."
"The strange properties of the nebula must have focused the energy and made it visible," said Reming,
"And it gets worse, sir. The star is about to release another burst!"
A profound streak of urgency hit Reming. He physically pushed Jellico out of the way and took his place at center stage. Jellico stepped back, yielding to Reming. He could have continued to fight for command, but, now that it seemed his adversary was correct all along, Jellico realized he had no justification to fight.
"Nick, turn us around, now!" called Reming. Nick pressed the proper controls to turn the ship around and push the ship out of the cloud. The ship responded, making a sharp turn before going full speed on it's way out of the darkness.
"Mike, can you tell the direction of the energy blast?"
"No sir, I can't. I do know one thing: the next blast will happen any second!"
"Open a channel to the other ships," yelled Reming, "Attention: this is Captain Reming of the Condor. Another energy blast is coming! Scatter! Scatter!"
The other ships got the message. The Condor burst from the dark cloud in time to witness the Cairo, Progress and Faux'Pa shooting away in different directions.
Then the beam burst fourth. The blast of hot energy shot out from the darkness behind the Condor. It whizzed passed the bow, coming within a few hundred meters of striking its hull. The beam continued forward, crackling the ether as it passed by the scurrying ships on its way into the dark nebula cloud beyond.
Nick brought the ship to a stop in the center of the channel almost in the exact spot where the beam had passed. The scattered starships stopped their aimless journeys and began to converge on the Condor position.
The chaotic chatter from the three ships flooded through the Condor's communication system. The voice of Captain Dekker of the Progress surfaced amid the flood of voices. "What happening? Is everyone all right? Progress to Condor, come in."
Reming ignored Dekker. He turned a furious eye to Captain Jellico standing nearby. "I told you what it was, but you didn't believe me. You said I was crazy. You were going to have me arrested! You're the one that should be arrested!"
"Progress to Condor, please respond!"
Jellico wore a nervous smile. "Now Captain, I can see why you'd be upset. I think, once you calm down, you'll see my side of things."
Reming thrust his pointed finger in the direction of the bridge lift and spoke in a low flat tone. "Get off my ship."
Jellico looked around the bridge. Everyone there had their eyes on him, waiting for his next move. If the setting were a chessboard, the crowd would be waiting for Jellico to concede victory. He opened his mouth to speak, but decided not to. He turned away from the group and walked off the bridge.
Once Jellico was gone, Reed turned to Reming and smiled. "Good to have you back, sir," she beamed.
"Progress to Condor, are you all right?!"
"Thank you, Donna," he said, returning her joyful expression with one of his own.
"Progress to Condor, please respond!"
Reed pointed at the screen. "You should get that. I think it's for you."
"Oh yeah…right. Ahem…Captain Reming to Progress. We're all right. Jellico has returned command of the Condor back to me. It is my strong opinion that we get out of this passageway. It's not safe."
"Who's in the nebula? Who is attacking?"
"No one. There is an extremely dense collapsed star deep inside the nebula. When it builds up enough energy it releases it in the form of x-rays. That burst of radiation is what destroyed the Starr and almost destroyed us."
"Good God! How soon will it happen again?"
Reming looked over at Parks who in turn examined his console then responded. "The energy burst occurs approximately every eight or so hours."
"Did you get that, Progress? I suggest we resume course as soon as possible. If we get moving now, we should reach D.S. Thirteen before the next blast."
"Agreed Captain. And I suggest the Condor take point for the rest of the trip. You've earned it."
Reming sat down in his chair and smiled. "It would be my pleasure. Condor out."
Borg Like Me, part deux, part two
|Episode Thirteen - Deep in the Delta Quadrant the Condor crew find an exploded Borg cube. With help from The Resistance they take action to find their missing crew in Borg space! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder why it took 10 years to write 44 pages. Second half of Story One of Three in the Delta Story Arc|
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