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Star Trek Elita - Following the Northern Star by Rony Tal

Chapter 1

Captain’s log, stardate 55279.3

We stopped at the Federation station Deep Space 9 for a few hours, in order to make final adjustments to our new ship and also, to pick up two last members of the staff. However, it will also allow the crew a few last hours of relaxation, before we head into the Gamma Quadrant and begin the patrolling of the new neutral zone. Since one of our recruits is also the new Chief of Security, I had Commander Lorei handle his transfer. While she will take care of Lt. Commander Blake and show him around the ship, I have other matters to which I shall direct my attention before leaving the station.

Commander Lorei Karin stood at the office of Colonel Kira on Deep Space 9.

It had been a very long time since she was last on the station, or anywhere that near to her home planet of Bajor for that matter.

Next to Lorei was Lt. Commander Warren Blake, the new Chief of Security of the U.S.S. Elita. The Akira class starship on which Commander Lorei is the First Officer. They knew each other, after four year together at the academy, yet neither one would call the other a friend.

Colonel Kira just finished reading and signing Commander Blake’s transfer order and handed the pad to Lorei.

"You’re all set to go", said Kira to Blake. "It’s been a pleasure having you on the station Warren."

"Thank you Colonel", Blake replied smiling. "I hope to make my service onboard the Elita as useful as it was here".

Kira smiled and got up from her chair. "When are you leaving?" she asked Lorei.

"At nineteen-hundred-hours", Lorei answered. "We better go on now, thank you Colonel".

"Good luck", said Kira as the two exited her office and entered the turbo lift.

As pleased as Kira might have been, to see a Bajoran female like herself as a StarFleet officer, Commander Lorei was simply not the person Kira had hoped for. Lorei wasn’t the kind of person who would join the Colonel for a cup of Bajoran tea while talking about the beautiful planet for endless hours.

For Lorei Karin, duty is everything. She wouldn’t allow herself to be dragged into a pointless discussion while on duty. She loves Bajor. In fact, she still dreams of living there in a small house one day, maybe even in Tozhat Province, where she was born. Every once in a while she thinks ‘next shore leave I’m going. I’m going to take a few weeks off and go to Bajor’. But she never does. Her duty comes first and StarFleet is above all. There is always something to be done on her assignment. And now, as First Officer, lack of work seems more distant then ever.

"Have you ever been on an Akira class ship before, Commander?" Lorei asked Blake as they were heading to the docking port.

"Yes Ma’am", Black replied. "Once, about a year ago when a ship of that class was docking at the station. However…"

"Hardly enough", Said Lorei. "I’ll teach you all you need to know about the Akira Class before we leave. The Elita is a warship and I doubt our mission will be a smooth cruise. There won't be any time to learn things as they happen. That could cost us our lives".

"Yes Ma’am", Blake agreed. "But as I was about to say, I was told of this new assignment and mission a few weeks ago. I spent much time studying the systems of the ship, which I will be responsible for, as well as testing my knowledge of it with a few battle scenarios".

Lorei was impressed. Such work and effort she could not but appreciate. However, her stiff character was not yet broken, and she had every intention of putting her old classmate’s skills to the test.

"Very well Commander", Lorei said. "We will test your abilities once we’re on the bridge. I just hope your performance will be as impressive as your training".

As the two officers entered the turbo lift that will take them to the bridge, other members of the Elita crew were making their own preparation for the vessel up coming exodus.

Lt. Commander Dave Mai was on his way to engineering. He only got his new rank a few days ago, along with this new assignment as the Elita’s Science Officer. While some one else might have been disappointed for being the science officer of a battle ship, instead of an exploration vessel, Mai was not. ‘If I’d wanted to study nebulas and asteroids I wouldn’t have joined StarFleet.’ he always says. Dave Mai joined StarFleet so he could not only study warp speed limits and the theory of photon torpedoes, but use it and improve it as well.

Mai got out of the turbo lift at Main Engineering. He walked over to the office of Lieutenant Aaron Thomas, Chief Engineer of the Elita, just to find that he wasn’t there. Mai left the office and turned to the first crewman he saw.

"Could you please tell me where I can find Chief Thomas?" Mai asked.

"Up there Sir", the crew man pointed at the second floor of the engineering deck. "He said there is something wrong with the SIF system".

"The SIF?" Mai asked, lifting one eyebrow.

"Yes Sir". Replied the crewman, and Mai made his way to the second floor.

When Lt. Commander Mai found Chief Thomas he was deep within the engineering tunnels, where the Chief was hard at work re-connecting several conductors and out-lines.

"Took you long enough", said the Chief. "Let me guess, no one knew where I was right?"

"Actually, they did. The trouble was when I asked what you are doing", Mai replied. "What are you doing Aaron?"

"Did you know that the SIF system was not synchronized with the Navigational Deflector Beam?" Aaron asked Mai.

"If I'm not mistaken, those systems aren’t suppose to be synchronized", said Mai.

"Is that so?" the Chief turned to Mai as he was closing the path he made in the wall. "The SIF system is there to make sure this ship won't be torn apart by the gravitational forces of some planet or object we might go by, true?"

"Yes, but…" Mai couldn’t keep up since the Chief interrupted him. "And isn’t the deflector ray there in order to find and destroy objects we might run into during warp speed?"

"Well yeah, however…"

"So correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t some of those objects possess some sort of low gravity, the kind of gravity the SIF system generate in order to protect us? And if so, isn’t it possible that, unless well synchronized, the Navigational Deflector Beam will interfere with the SIF force fields, shutting them down and eventually causing us to be ripped apart by the next planet we will stop by?"

The two officers were now out of the tunnel and on their way to the Chief’s office.

"Aaron", Mai said. "The chances of a scenario like the one you just described are so slim, it would be outrageous to take them into serious consideration".

"Better safe than sorry, Dave", replied the Chief. "Better safe than sorry".

"Fine", said Mai, placing his hand on his forehead. "Still, you could have synchronized the systems from the main table. What were you doing up there?"

"Finishing the installation of a new conductor for the SIF system", said Thomas. "As I scanned it I noticed one of the conductors had a slight imperfection of its plating".

"That doesn’t mean it should be replaced", Mai stated trying desperately not to sound exasperated with the engineer "Especially not two hours before we leave".

"Better safe than sorry", said Aaron with a smile.

"Ok, ok", said Mai, fighting his nerves. "But where did you get an extra conductor this late?"

"I didn’t", the Chief replied. "I took one from the holodeck. There we can have a conductor that is imperfect".

"What?" exclaimed Mai, shocked. "Aaron, you’re not allowed to replace parts of different departments without the Captain’s approval".

"What the hell are you talking about?" Thomas said. "I’m the Chief Engineer of this ship! And besides, the Captain wasn’t onboard".

"Of course he wasn’t", Dave was now completely lost. "There is no reason for him to be here now. We’ll be leaving in two hours; all official matters were supposed to be concluded".

"Well if you ask me, the Captain should have stayed on the ship even if everything is done", Aaron said, and sat in his chair.

Dave walked to the table and placed both hands on it. In a calm voice he said, "Aaron, is there any reason you called me down here, other than driving me nuts?"

"Oh right!" Aaron smiled and stood up. "How about we go get something to drink at the station’s bar before we depart?"

Dave didn’t know what to make of this. Even though he knew the Chief before they were assigned to the Elita, he never really got used to the bizarre behavior of Thomas. Maybe in the future he’ll be able to understand it better, maybe.

"Sure", said Mai. "But can we go to ten-forward instead? It would be quieter".

"Absolutely my friend", said the chief. "Absolutely!"

While Commander Mai and Chief Thomas choose the privacy of ten-forward, many others did pass their time at Quark’s, the infamous bar of Deep Space 9. Ensign Erim Targo was there as well, sitting at the bar itself, drinking nothing more then water.

He didn’t have too, he could have ordered what ever he wanted from the bar, if it weren’t for the simple fact that in two hours time, this young StarFleet Officer will board the U.S.S. Elita, like many others, and will depart into the Gamma Quadrant.

So he sits here, sits and thinks. Does he believe in his own actions? Yes, he does. However, it’s his strength he’s not sure about anymore. It’s getting harder every day, and he has no help and no support.

"You want any thing else but water?" Quark asked him. "If you’re going to take this seat at least buy something. Kanar maybe?"

"No thank you", Targo replied grimly. "My ship is leaving soon and so will I".

"Is that so?" said Quark. "You know, maybe I should have seen it coming, but I have to admit, I never thought I’ll live to see the day when… well…"

"A Cardassian will become a StarFleet officer?" Targo completed the bartender’s words.

"Well… Yes", said Quark with a smile. "But then again, like I said, maybe I should have seen it coming. I mean, there is a Klingon in StarFleet and a Ferengi… I guess a Cardassian was the next step".

"I guess so", Targo replied. The Ferengi’s words made him feel cheap. But why should he? What good would have come of him if he had stayed on Cardassia Prime? He had a chance to get away from there so he took it. He knew joining StarFleet would be hard, but he did it. He won’t quit now.

"Wonderful!" said a strong voice that came from the stairs, which lead to the holo-suite. "Absolutely wonderful!"

Into the bar walked a human male, about thirty years old, dressed in the StarFleet uniforms of nearly a century ago. He sat next to Ensign Targo and seemed extremely happy.

"Imagine gentlemen, if you will, the Earth year 2293", He started. "More or less at stardate 9521.6"

"Imagine the bridge of the brand new, and original, U.S.S. Excelsior NCC-2000 as she speeds at maximum warp to the aid of the Enterprise-A. Time is running out, and Captain Sulu knows it.

Yet he can not slow down, he can not slow down because his old captain needs his help. So imagine standing on that bridge, and as the ship tremor’s under your feet, you tell Captain Sulu ‘Sir, we have to slow down or else the ship will be torn apart!’ imagine him say: ‘Let her!’

That my friends, is wonderful, absolutely wonderful!"

"What will you have?" Quark asked the Officer.

"Lemonade", he answered. "Terran lemonade".

As he was about to drink, Ensign Targo turned to him. "That really happened?" Targo asked.

"It did", the Officer replied. "A long time ago".

"And…" Targo was unsure of his question. "Did they make it?"

"They did", the Officer replied once more. "They did, and a war was prevented thanks to them".

"Heroes", Targo whispered to himself.

"You’re Erim Targo", the officer asked. "Am I right?"

"How do you know me?" the surprised Ensign wondered.

"You are the first Cardassian in StarFleet my young friend", said the Officer with a smile. "Every one knows who you are. I simply cared enough to ask around for your name".

"I see", Targo said, turning his head back to his glass.

"It will be very difficult for you, Targo", the Officer said.

Targo nodded without saying a word.

"No matter where you will be stationed", he continued. "No matter which ship. No matter what crew. No matter which captain. It will be very difficult for you".

Targo raised his head and looked at the officer, "Yes, I know that".

"Then why are you doing this?" the Officer asked.

"Why? To be honest, I’m not sure anymore", Targo said. "The way I see it, it doesn’t matter. I started four years ago in the academy and it wasn’t easy. But I didn’t quit. So should I quit now? Just when it’s about to get harder? I can’t, that’s not me. For whatever reason, I decided to join StarFleet. Why is not really important now, all that matters is that I did, and I have no intention of quitting".

Targo finished his water and stood up.

"Now, if you excuse me sir, my ship is boarding".

Targo left the bar and started walking towards the docking port, where the Elita was waiting for him and the rest of the crew to board.

The officer in the old uniforms finished his drink as well. He watched Targo as he walked. ‘Wonderful’ he thought to himself. ‘Absolutely wonderful.’

Targo was in Ten-Forward, alone.

The Elita will depart shortly, yet he is not stationed. He simply wasn’t given an assignment.

Since he found it pointless to remain in his quarters, he came here. At least this way he’ll be able to watch the wormhole opens. It won’t bring any one any good, but its better then nothing.

He walked to the replicator, "Deka Tea", he said. "Hot".

He picked up the cup and took a sip. He loved that tea.

"A Cardassian drinking Bajoran tea… Life is full of little surprises".

The Ensign turned around to find Commander Lorei Karin behind him.

He knew she was the First Officer. He was told the only Commander ranked officer on the ship is the First Officer. However, he didn’t know she would be Bajoran.

"Yes Ma’am", Targo replied. "My father used to drink it, Ma’am".

"I don’t care Ensign", Said Lorei. "I’m not here for your life story. I’m here for two reasons and those reasons alone".

"Yes Ma’am", Targo replied.

"Good", said Lorei and carried on. "Reason one. I’m here to explain to you a very simple matter. I am Bajoran. You are Cardassian. I don’t like you. I don’t wish to like you, I won’t try to like you and I won't like you. Regardless of those facts… you will have a very, very hard time on this ship Ensign".

"So I was told, Ma’am", Targo replied.

"Very good", said Lorei and continued once more. "However, not all will be bad. Reason two. Correct me if I’m wrong Ensign, but you were the second best pilot of your class. On all vessels, am I correct?"

"Yes Ma’am", said Targo. "Topped by a Vulcan".

"Well Ensign", said the Commander. "For some reason, the Captain decided to not let this record go unnoted. You are to report to the bridge immediately where you are stationed as helmsman".

Targo couldn’t hold his smile. "Yes Ma’am", he said, showing is well-placed joy.

Lorei had much to say to him. Many things that would surly kill his lifted spirit. But she loosened herself far enough. On this ship, she was first a StarFleet Officer, then a Bajoran.

"Follow me", she said.

Shortly, the two of them reached the bridge. Action was every where as each station ran final diagnostics.

Targo’s sit was well in the front of the bridge. Behind it was the Captain’s chair, to whose right was the first Officer’s sit. Commander Lorei set down and began her checking list.

Targo looked at his station. It was amazing. All the simulations could not have prepared him for the feeling a real helm control station will give him. Sitting at the helm of a heavy cruiser and fully armed battle ship, very few words came to his mind.

"This is beautiful", he said, thinking no one could hear him.

"It’s a beautiful ship", said a strong familiar voice.

Targo raised his head. In front of him stood a man in a different uniform variant. He had a red jacket with black shoulders, over a gray shirt. On his black colored collar were four round rank pips, clearly stating he was the Commanding Officer of this vessel. Captain of the U.S.S. Elita. Captain Christopher Tal.

Targo was shocked. Captain Tal was the same man he met at Quark’s bar.

"Captain on the bridge!" called Lt. Commander Blake.

As the Captain stepped out of the turbo-lift, every one the bridge stood up.

"As you were", said Captain Tal and all men resumed their work.

The Captain set in his chair and shortly turned to Commander Lorei, who was at his right.

"Full report, Commander", he said.

"Aye Sir", she replied. "All stations, report".

To the left side of the Captain was Lt. Commander Mai.

"All sensors are operational and at 100%, Sir", Mai reported. "All three shuttle bay doors are locked and sealed. All air-locks are sealed and all men are at their stations, Sir".

Behind Lt. Commander Mai was the tactical station and Lt. Commander Blake.

"Phaser batteries are fully charged, Sir", Blake reported. "All quantum and photon torpedoes are counted for. All shields are at 100%. Hull integrity is at 100%, Sir".

To the right of the helm station, and up against the wall, was the engineering and operations post, where Lieutenant Monica Wellsh was stationed.

"Injection of matter and antimatter has began, Sir", she reported. "Warp core is now on line and fully operational. Fusion reactor is operational, impulse engines are on line and fully operational, Sir".

Commander Lorei turned to Captain Tal, "All stations reported Sir, all systems are fully operational and at 100%".

"Very good Ms. Lorei", the Captain replied and then pressed his com-link. "Tal to Engineering", he said.

"Thomas here", said the chief over the com-link. "What can I do for you sir?"

"What do you say Mr. Thomas?" asked the Captain. "Are we all set? Is she ready?"

"As ready as she’ll ever be Captain", Aaron replied.

The Captain smiled, "Very good Chief, Tal out".

"Sir", said Lt. Wellsh. "We are being hailed by the station".

"On screen", Said the Captain.

On the screen was Colonel Kira.

"I see you are about to depart Captain", said Kira.

"Yes we are Colonel", replied the Captain. "But if there is anything you need just say so".

"Simply to wish you and your crew good luck Captain", said the Colonel. "I hope all of you will make it back here safely someday".

Captain Tal smiled, "We have every intention of doing so, Elita out".

As the transmission ended Captain Tal turned to Ensign Targo.

"Ensign", said Captain Tal. "Take us out of this docking port, then set course to the wormhole. Full impulse".

"Aye, aye Sir", said the Ensign.

The Elita departed from Deep Space 9 and moved out of the station’s orbit.

As she made her way into the wormhole, every crewmember on the ship spent those last few moments thinking of the future.

The U.S.S. Elita is a warship sent to patrol the new neutral zone, formed between the Dominion and the new territories taken by the Federation after the end of the Dominion War.

It’s a hazardous mission and its outcome could be horrible. But it is also an important mission, a mission for which this crew was assembled and this ship chosen. A mission which if done successfully will mean protecting the life of every citizen of the Federation. A mission for nothing less, but StarFleet’s finest.

 

Chapter 2

Captain’s log, supplemental.

We’ve exited the wormhole several hours ago, and are now on our way to the Neutral Zone.

I am quite pleased with Ensign Targo’s service as helmsman. He proved very capable during this brief journey and I have great hopes for the young man. Commander Lorei is hard on him, and while it is understandable, I won’t have it. I will have to talk with her about it soon enough.

Targo was in Ten-Forward drinking water, like he did every day since joining StarFleet, nothing else.

He was rather happy with himself. He wasn’t sure what it was, but something he said to the Captain at Quark’s bar must have gotten to him. Why else would the Captain make him Helmsman? Just due to his record from the academy? ‘Whatever it was’, he thought. ‘It’s not important, I just hope I won’t prove the Captain’s wrong’.

He was sitting at a table near one of the windows, as other officers came and went. He still has a few hours before his next shift and nothing else to do.

"Is this seat taken?" asked Lt. Commander Mai.

"No, Sir", said the surprised Ensign. "Not at all".

"Thanks", Mai replied and made himself comfortable. The Commander placed his glass on the table. It was filled with a black beverage.

"Sir", said Targo. "If you don’t mind me asking, what are you having?"

"Oh, this?" Mai smiled, pointing at his glass. "Its called cola. It’s a Terran beverage".

Targo nodded. He wasn’t sure what to make of this situation. Why would the Commander want to sit with him?

"You know Erim… May I call you Erim?" Mai asked. Targo nodded with approval and Mai continued. "My first post as an Ensign was Helmsman too", Mai said. "It was on board the U.S.S. Ulysses, a long time ago. That ship was of Nebula class and let me tell you something Erim… I was terrified".

"You were Sir?" Targo asked.

"Extremely, and call me Dave", Mai replied. "I mean, what if I had set the wrong course or the wrong speed? I hated that position".

"So what did you do?" Targo wondered.

"Got transferred", Mai answered smiling. "Science department. Never been happier".

Targo smiled as well.

"You seem to handle your post well though", Mai said.

"I do my best", Targo replied. "I guess… I guess I just love piloting. And I have to say, I really like this ship".

Mai laughed. "You and the Captain will get along fine", he said.

"I guess he likes the ship as well", said Targo.

"Likes it?" Mai smiled. "I’ve only known Captain Tal a few days longer then you do Erim, but let me tell you one thing about him. He’s in love with this ship. You should have seen him during the commissioning, when Admiral Wyngarde handed him the pad, stating he is now the Commanding Officer of the Elita. You should have seen the way he looked at that ship through the window, as he walked onto the bridge, as he set in that chair. You could tell he loves that ship".

The two were still talking when Commander Lorei walked over to them.

Mai noticed her, "Would you like to join us Commander?" he asked.

"No, thank you", she replied. "I’m about to go see the Captain".

She handed a data padd to Mai; "This is the shifts schedule for the upcoming week", she said. "Please inform the department heads. Also, the Captain would like to receive your report of the wormhole within the hour".

"Will do, Ma’am", Mai replied.

"Good. And one other thing", she added, looking at Targo. "I want you to begin your bridge shift earlier Ensign."

"Earlier, Ma’am?" Targo asked.

"Yes", Lorei replied. "At O-one-hundred-hours".

"That’s in fifteen minutes, Ma’am", said the surprised Ensign.

"True", said Lorei. "Don’t be late", she added and walked away.

Targo turned to face Mai. "I don’t think she likes you", Mai said.

Targo stood up, "I better get going", he said.

"Don’t worry about Lorei", said Mai. "While I doubt she will like you, she will be easier with you eventually. At least the Captain is on your side".

"I hope so", Targo replied. "Thanks anyway, Dave. But I really have to go".

Saying that, Erim turned and walked out of Ten Forward. Dave remained sited for awhile before he too, had to head on with his assignments.

Captain Tal was in his Ready Room working. He went over the report he just finished writing. Every passage through the wormhole is to be documented and then submitted to StarFleet Command for farther looking. The investigation of the wormhole is a never-ending project for StarFleet Sciences. Therefore, every Captain and Science Officer of any Federation vessel that goes through the wormhole must submit a report of the experience, regardless if there were any special phenomena’s or not.

A beeping sound alerted the Captain that some one was at the door.

"Enter", said Tal. As the door opened Commander Lorei stepped into the Ready Room.

"How kind of you to join me, Commander", said Tal. "Please have a seat and I will be with you in a moment".

"Thank you Captain", Said Lorei as she was sitting down. After a few brief seconds Captain Tal directed his attention to his First Officer.

"Tell me, Ms. Lorei", said Tal. "Do you have an issue with Ensign Erim Targo?"

"No, Sir", answered Lorei.

"Then I would appreciate an explanation for your attitude towards him", asked Tal.

Lorei felt trapped. She could say what ever she wanted, like claiming she’s tough with Targo since he’s an Ensign, or because she didn’t feel he was qualified to serve as helmsman. She could have chosen many different answers and each of them would be just and acceptable to the Captain. However, none of them would have been true, and Lorei was not about to lie to her new Captain.

"Permission to speak freely, Sir?" asked Lorei

"Granted".

"Well Captain, I…"

The beeping noise of the com-link interfered with what ever it was Commander Lorei meant to say.

"Bridge to Captain Tal", the voice of Lt. Wellsh was heard. "We’re picking a distress call, Sir".

"On my way, Tal out", replied the Captain, leaving his sit. "We shall conclude this later on"; he said to Lorei as the two of them left the Ready Room and entered the bridge.

"Report", said Tal as he took his sit.

"We’re picking up the distress call of a Federation vessel, Captain", reported Lt. Wellsh. "It’s in Dominion territory Sir, not far off the end of the neutral zone".

"Can you identify the ship Lieutenant?" Tal asked.

"Aye, Sir", she replied. "The ship registers as U.S.S. Northern Star NCC-78157, Defiant class starship, Sir".

The name of the ship was well known to the crew of the Elita. The Northern Star was the ship under the command of Captain Norman Thowrn. During the Dominion War, Captain Thowrn battled and defeated two Cardassian Galor ships while commanding the Northern Star. His was the story of a war hero, and now his ship was in need of help.

"How long will it take us to get there at maximum warp, Mr. Blake?" Captain Tal asked his Tactical Officer.

"Two and a half hours, Captain", replied Blake.

Tal looked at Lorei. They didn’t say a thing, simply exchanged looks for a few seconds that for the crew awaiting their orders seemed like hours.

Captain Tal turned away from Lorei and stood up.

"Red alert!" called Lorei. "All hands, battle stations!"

"Tal to engineering", said the Captain.

"Thomas here Sir", said the voice of the Chief.

"We are about to take her into maximum warp Mr. Thomas", said Tal. "Make sure she’s fit".

"Aye, aye Sir", Chief Thomas replied.

"Very good, Tal out", said the Captain, and directing his orders to Targo added, "Mr. Targo, set course to the location of the Northern Star, maximum warp".

"Aye, Sir", replied Targo.

"Engage!" ordered the Captain, and the Elita went into warp.

"Ms. Wellsh", said Tal. "Please inform StarFleet Command of our actions, and when Admiral Wyngarde replies, pass him through to my ready room".

"You have the bridge Commander", said the Captain as he departed to his office.

Captain Christopher Tal stood in front of his window, staring out side at the dim light of the starts as they passed by.

It happened and it didn’t take long. This distress call can only mean one thing, a Dominion attack.

There’s still much to understand, first would be the reason a Federation vessel entered the neutral zone and further more, the Dominion territory. But all of these matters, be what they may, are irrelevant. The bottom line was, the Elita must enter Dominion territory as well and they are most likely to engage the Jem’Hadar in battle. It’s not as if Christopher thought it wouldn’t happen. He knew it would. He simply hoped he would have more time to get to know his crew before going into battle.

The Elita is well capable for war. That’s why he was given that ship. Now, Christopher can only hope for a short battle, after which all of his crew, and as many of the Northern Star’s crew, will return to Federation territory safely. He looks at the stars, and hope.

The sound of an incoming message brakes the Captain’s thought line. He walks over to his desk and sits down.

On his screen is a call from Admiral Wyngarde. Christopher accepted it.

"I got your report Chris", said the Admiral. "How bad is it?"

"We don’t know yet, Sir", replied Tal. "We will be entering the neutral zone shortly, and then it won’t take more then a couple of hours to reach the Northern Star. I just hope we will get there in time".

"Yes, of course", said Wyngarde. "I have already alerted both the Excalibur and the Missouri of your situation, and both are on course to intercept with the Elita if need be. But you need to understand Chris, that even at maximum warp, none of them will be able to reach you in less than five hours. For better or worse, you are alone out there".

"I understand Admiral", Tal replied. "But we couldn’t wait for reinforcement. I had to engage".

"And you have my support for it Captain", said the Admiral. "Just try to make it back in one piece".

"Will do Admiral", said Tal.

"Good luck Chris", replied the Admiral. "Wyngarde out".

Two hours later Captain Tal was called back to the bridge. The Elita was about to leave the neutral zone.

"We are now out of the neutral zone, Captain", said Lt. Commander Blake.

"Initiate long-term scans Mr. Mai", the Captain ordered. "If there’s a rogue satellite within a million kilometers of us, I want to know about it".

"Aye, aye Sir", replied Mai.

"We will reach the Northern Star in a few seconds Captain", said Targo.

"We have visual, Sir", informed Wellsh.

"On screen", ordered Lorei.

The view was grim. All that remained of the once mighty Defiant Class ship was her rear end. Both warp nacelles were destroyed and the fore of the ship was also obliterated, including the bridge.

Captain Tal was shocked, yet he did not show it.

"Mr. Mai?" he turned to his Science Officer. "Anything? Anyone?"

"Yes, Sir", replied Mai, poring some light on a rather grim situation. "One section on deck 4 was shielded from the explosion by a containment field. Two life signs, very weak".

"Lt. Wellsh, emit the tractor beam", the Captain ordered. "Commander Lorei, take three men with you and salvage whoever is down there".

"Aye, aye sir", Lorei replied. "Mr. Blake, you’re with me. Have Team Delta meet us at transporter room 3".

The two officers entered the turbo lift.

The Captain stood up and began walking around. He turned to Lt. Commander Mai.

"Anything Commander?" he asked.

"Nothing, Sir", Mai replied. "No other ships in sensors range".

Tal looked at the screen. The tractor beam held the remains of the Northern Star.

‘Do it fast and get out of there’ he thought to himself. ‘Do it fast’.

On the Northern Star, the four crewmembers from the Elita just finished beaming onboard.

Finding the first wounded was not hard, as he was lying nearly two feet from where the crew had appeared.

Lorei moved to him quickly. The man had the engineering department color and the rank of Lieutenant.

"Ensign", the Commander called to one of the crew. "Beam back with this men, straight to sickbay".

As the Ensign was trying to hold the Lieutenant, he woke up.

"Behind… door…" he said trying to point to one of the doors.

"Ma’am, I think he’s trying to tell us that the other man is behind that door", said the Ensign, pointing at the same door.

Blake tried to open it but it didn’t open.

"I can re-wire it", said Blake to Lorei. "It will only take a minute".

"Do it", she ordered

"Behind… door…" said the Lieutenant once more. "Jem’… Hadar… Jem’… Hadar".

This time all four had heard him.

"Beam up!" said Lorei to the Ensign again.

After he did so, Lorei pressed on her com-link.

"Lorei to Elita", she said.

"Elita here", said the voice of Captain Tal over the com-link. "Report Commander".

"We know where the other survivor is Captain", Lorei reported. "But the other one said he's a Jem’Hadar, Sir".

On the bridge of the Elita, Captain Tal turned to Commander Mai.

"The scan conforms it, Captain", Mai stated.

The Captain thought less then a second, then gave his order.

"We will not abandon anyone to his death, Commander", said Tal to his crew through the com-link. "Beam up with the Jem’Hadar".

Back on the Northern Star, Lorei carried her given orders.

"Open this door Commander", she told Blake.

Like he said, it took him a minute to open the door, and when the three officers walked pass it, they found one Jem’Hadar soldier, alive, under a large pile of scraps metal.

"Let’s get him out of there", said Lorei and the team began salvaging the Jem’Hadar from under the wreckage.

Back on the bridge of the Elita, Commander Mai turned to his Captain with a worried expression.

"Sir, scanners are picking five Attack ships heading this way", he reported. "One will drop out of warp in thirty seconds Sir. The others will do so in six minutes".

The Captain pressed his com-link, "Commander, get out of there now!" he ordered.

On the Northern Star, Lt. Commander Blake was just holding the unconscious Jem’Hadar in his hands.

"We’re beaming up now Sir", Lorei stated. "Lorei to transporter room 3. Four to beam up".

As soon as the transport was over, Lorei and Blake made their way back to the bridge.

Once there, they discovered that a Jem’Hadar attack ship had just dropped out of warp.

Blake ran to his console.

"Sir", he reported. "Their weapons aren’t locked on to us".

"Do you have an explanation for this Commander?" the Captain asked.

"Aye, Sir", replied Blake. "They are in a collision course with us, Sir. Full impulse".

The Captain returned to his seat. He knows that in cases such as this, he performs better when sited.

The Jem’Hadar ship was far smaller then the Elita, but a direct hit would prove destructive to both ships.

"Evasive maneuvers Mr. Targo", said the Captain. "Pattern Omega A".

The Jem’Hadar ship closed on to the fore upper side of the Elita. The ship would have hit right at the bridge if the Elita had not moved.

Carrying out the maneuver ordered by his Captain while adding his own talent for flight, Targo first moved the Elita so the ship would be vertical to the attacking ship. Then, by moving the Elita down as fast as he could, Ensign Targo made it so the attacking ship flew by and above the Elita, making it impossible for the two vessels to collide.

"Well done Ensign", said Captain Tal. "Mr. Blake, lock on target".

"Aye, Sir", reported Black. "Target is locked and quantum torpedoes are armed and ready".

"Fire", ordered the Captain.

From the Elita’s rear torpedo launchers four torpedoes were fired. All four hitting the target, destroying it completely.

"Enemy vessel has been destroyed, Captain", Blake reported.

"Good job Commander", said the Captain. "Mr. Mai, report please".

"The four other ships will be here in two minutes, sir", he replied.

"Well, we are not about to wait for them", said Tal. "Mr. Targo, set course back to Federation territory, maximum warp".

"Aye, Sir", said Targo.

"Engage!" ordered Captain Tal, and once more the Elita went into warp, this time towards friendly space.

After approximately an hour, Lt. Commander Mai turned to Captain Tal.

"Sir, we have a problem", said Mai. "Another ship is on a course to intercept with us within thirty minutes. But this time it’s a Jem’Hadar battle ship, Captain".

"The Elita is no match for such a colossal ship", said the Captain.

"No, Sir", Mai approved. "On our current speed the encounter is inevitable and course changes won’t do any good".

"Can we determine their speed, Commander?" asked Lorei.

"Yes, Ma’am", Mai replied. "They are now traveling at warp 9.9 while we’re at warp 9.8".

"Captain", said Lorei. "If we push more than 9.8 we might be able to out run them".

The Captain turned to Commander Mai. "How fast will we have to travel in order to avoid this ship, Commander?" the Captain asked.

Mai was about to turn to his padd to calculate when Ensign Targo spoke.

"Warp factor 9.95 should do it, Sir", Said Targo. "They won’t intercept with us and we’ll reach the end of the neutral zone ahead of them as well".

"He's right, Sir", said Mai. "Warp 9.95 would be more than enough".

The Captain looked at Commander Lorei and smiled. Ensign Targo just proved himself once more.

"I don’t think they would follow us into Federation territory, Sir", added Lt. Commander Blake.

"Very well", said the Captain. "Tal to engineering".

Once more, Chief Thomas voice was well heard over the com-link.

"Thomas here, Sir", said the Chief. "Any problems Captain?"

"Indeed Mr. Thomas", said Tal. "We need to out run a Jem’Hadar battle ship".

"A battle ship, Sir?" said the shocked Chief. "You’ve got to be kidding?"

"I wish so, Chief", replied Tal. "I need you to get her up to Warp 9.99 for a full hour".

Lorei looked at the Captain, not understanding what he is doing. But he waved her with his hand, assuring her all is well.

"9.99 Sir?" called the Chief. "That is impossible Captain! She won’t hold it!"

"In that case, Chief", said Tal. "Can you make her go up to 9.95".

"That I might be able to do, Captain", said the Chief. "It won’t be easy, but she’ll do it!"

"Very well, Chief", said Tal. "Prepare for Warp 9.95 then".

"Aye, aye Captain", replied the Chief. "Thomas, out".

"Mr. Targo, increase speed", said the Captain. "Warp factor 9.95".

The Elita raced on for a full hour, until the Dominion ship was no longer a threat and eventually returned to Federation space and resumed her line of duty.

Captain Tal informed Admiral Wyngarde of the situation and was told to wait for further orders.

At O-seven-hundred-hours, Captain Tal was once more in his office, looking at the stars.

The door beeping sound went on.

"Enter", said the Captain, and Commander Lorei entered the room.

"You called for me Sir?" she asked.

"I did", he replied and turned to face her. "Have you been to sickbay?"

"I have", Lorei replied. "Dr. T’Jenn say’s Lieutenant Giles will make a full recovery. He simply needs a few days of rest".

"And what of our other guest", the Captain asked.

"The Jem’Hadar is already at full health, Sir", she replied. "He is now in a holding cell, unwilling to speak".

"Something is wrong here Commander", said the Captain. "Don’t you feel it?"

"What do you mean, Sir?" Lorei asked.

"This entire incident is all wrong", said Tal. "First, what is a Federation vessel doing past the neutral zone? Captain Thowrn should have known better than that. Also, what about the reaction of the Dominion, Commander? Was it not a bit too extreme a move, even for the Jem’Hadar? That attack ship had backup on the way; they had no reason to use such a drastic measure. But more than all, why would the Dominion feel it necessary to send the most powerful ship class at their disposal to hunt us down at maximum warp, and through the neutral zone no less".

The Captain walked back to the window, again looked outside.

Lorei stood by him.

"I don’t know Captain", she said. "We should investigate more about this case".

"So we shall, Commander", he replied as they both watched the stars pass by. "So we shall indeed".

 

Chapter 3

Captain’s log, supplemental.

Since the Elita is the only ship patrolling this sector of the neutral zone, we were ordered to remain on route until further orders will arrive. In the meanwhile, we are to host Lieutenant Giles and hold the Jem’Hadar. These commands were correct up until five minutes ago, as I have now received a message from Admiral Wyngarde, informing me of our next step. I remain skeptic and have my doubts about these orders, though they will be carried out.

The senior staff entered the observation lounge. Every one took a seat, with Captain Tal at the head of the table. To his right was Commander Lorei and next to her was Lt. Commander Blake.

To the left of the Captain was Lt. Commander Mai, by him sat Chief Thomas and next to him sat Dr. T’Jenn, the Vulcan Lt. Commander and CMO of the Elita.

"Dr. T’Jenn", started the Captain, turning to his Chief Medical Officer. "Anything to report of our guests?"

The Vulcan looked at the Captain. Emotionless like all of her kind, she gave her report.

"Nothing more than normal, Captain", said T’Jenn. "Lieutenant Giles is recovering. His condition was not severe to begin with. It was my understanding that he was given VIP quarters, where he spends most of his time. I asked that he see me three times per day. He does so and will do until he had recovered completely".

"Were there any signs of psychological damage, Doctor?" asked Tal.

"Not to my knowledge, Captain", replied T’Jenn.

"Wait a second, Doctor", said Lorei to T’Jenn. "Didn’t he tell you how he’s feeling or what he’s thinking?"

Without much expression, T’Jenn simply replied, "I never asked, Commander".

"Of course you didn’t", said Lorei while leaning back, feeling silly for even bringing such a subject to the Vulcan CMO.

"As for the Jem’Hadar soldier", T’Jenn continued. "His injuries were rather severe, yet due to his physiological build he recovered very quickly. The only matter of concern is the Jem’Hadar’s addiction to the isogenic enzyme, Ketracel White. However, that could easily be dealt with, since we do carry a small supply of Ketracel White, especially for situations such as this. Enough to sustain a single Jem’Hadar for several months".

"Very good", said Tal, then quickly moved to the next subject.

"We were given new orders", he started. "In two days time we will rendezvous with a Dominion ship. StarFleet wishes to solve this matter as quickly and peacefully as possible. The Dominion are willing to let the incident slide by, but only after they reclaim the missing Jem’Hadar".

"We’re going to meet with them?" said Chief Thomas with clear protest in his voice. "Sir, in this last encounter the Dominion did all in their power to make sure we’ll be destroyed! And now they want to meet with us and everything will just go away?"

The Captain remained silent.

"Sir, the Chief is right", said Commander Blake. "By letting this matter slide, they obviously hope to hide something else".

"Precisely!" called Chief Thomas. "We should be digging into this matter, not letting it go!"

"And how do you suggest we’ll do that?" asked Lt. Commander Mai. "Simply enter the Dominion territory and look for answers?"

"If need be", replied Thomas.

"Preposterous", said T’Jenn.

Lorei looked at Tal. He kept quiet as the senior staff went on. She couldn’t understand, why won’t he say something?

"A Federation ship was destroyed", Said the Chief. "And we were attacked. We can’t just let it go".

"We were given specific orders", said Lorei. "We still follow StarFleet regulations".

"Haven forbids we should think for ourselves", said Thomas. "Isn’t that right, Commander?"

"THAT IS ENOUGH!" Christopher shouted.

Everyone in the room looked at Tal, as he stood up and placed both hands on the table.

"Allow me to make one fact as clear as possible, regarding this matter", he started, not diminishing his voice. "Two Federation warships entered Dominion territory people, not the other way around! Such an act is far more than the Dominion needs in order to declare war on the Federation once again! And if not in the Alpha Quadrant, as it was four years ago, then surly on every colony and outpost we have right here, in the Gamma Quadrant! It saddens me to admit it ladies and gentlemen, but the fact is that between the Borg and the Romulans, we cannot handle the Dominion! Not now! Not unless we truly wish to bring forth the descent and downfall of the Federation!"

No one said a word. Tal looked at his staff; they have yet to see this side of him before.

"If they are willing to let this slide peacefully", he continued, lowering his voice. "So should we".

Taking his hands off the table and placing them behind his back, the Captain stood straight now.

"Commander Lorei", he said. "When you return to the bridge, set course to the Becka Nebula in the neutral zone, warp factor 5."

"If needed, I will be in my ready room", he added. "Dismissed".

The Captain then walked out of the room, passed the bridge and entered his office.

Each member of the staff moved about his business.

Commander Lorei walked to the bridge. Lt. Commander Mai took his seat and so did Chief Thomas, at the engineering station. Commander Blake was at tactics and only Dr. T’Jenn made her way to the turbo lift and sickbay.

Lorei walked to Targo. She still didn’t like him, but that really wasn’t the thing bothering her.

"Set course to the Becka Nebula, Ensign", she said. "Warp factor 5."

"Ma’am?" wondered Targo. "That’s in the neutral zone".

"I am well aware of the coordinates, Ensign", she replied tersely. "Carry on".

"Aye, Ma’am", said Targo. "Course is set, going into warp".

Lorei took her seat. She didn’t know the Captain long, no one on the ship did. Most members of the senior staff, including her, were new at their positions. They had only met the Captain for the first time a few weeks ago, and had only been serving on the Elita for little more than a week.

Yet the Captain didn’t act like it. He did all he could to make his senior staff, and by so the crew of the ship, feel as if they have been working together for years. On the personal level, Captain Tal kept Lorei in the loop of whatever it was they had to do. He consulted with her on every matter and shared his thoughts for every move. She quickly learned of the way Christopher Tal reaches his decisions. Came to know his believes and values, despite their short acquaintance. And something in her gut told her; he was not complete with the orders he just gave.

"You have the bridge, Commander Mai", said Lorei, standing up.

She walked to the Captain’s ready room and pressed the button, notifying her wish to enter.

"Enter", said Christopher.

The doors departed as Lorei walked into the room, and rejoined behind her.

The first thing she noted was the music. She couldn’t identify it, classical, from Earth.

The Captain wasn’t at his chair, only his jacket was. She turned to her right, where the couch was. There she found Captain Tal, sitting with his gray shirt, with black shoulders, looking at her.

"Have you ever heard of Bach?" asked Tal.

"Bach?" replied Lorei. "Was he Klingon, Sir?"

"No, quite human", said Tal. "18th century, Earth, more then six hundred years ago. His music always calms me".

"Sir…" Lorei hesitated.

"Speak your mind, Commander", said Tal.

"Course is set and we are now moving at warp 5, Sir", she said. "At current speed we will reach the Becka nebula in two days".

"Commander, I am well aware of this data", said Tal, trying to understand his First Officer. "Is that all you want to say?"

"No Captain", she replied. "Simply that…"

Tal got up and stood in front of her.

"Two days", she said. "We have two days".

Tal looked at her, at her eyes. "Dismissed", he said, and Commander Lorei left the ready room.

Christopher walked to the window. Lorei’s words filled his thoughts. He heard them over and over again. ‘Two days, we have two days’.

He took his jacket and put it back on, then stepped out of the ready room.

He entered the turbo lift, "Deck 1, sector C", he said, where the VIP quarters were located.

The design of the Akira class separated sectors A of decks 1,2 & 3 from the rest of the ship. In order to reach a different sector on that deck one would have to state to which sector he is heading.

Tal walked to the room given to Lt. Giles. He pressed the button by the door.

"Come in", came the voice from inside.

Tal walked into the room. It was as big as his own quarters yet not as accessorized. Basic furniture and accessories were placed in the room, without the personal objects of the person living there.

"Captain Tal?" said Giles. He had his uniforms on, yet with out the rank pips and the com-badge. Since he wasn’t on this ship as an officer, he found them unnecessary.

"How nice of you to drop by", he said. "What can I do for you?"

"Would you mind if we sit down Mr. Giles?" asked Tal.

"Not at all. Please", replied Giles, directing the Captain to the near chair. "Would you like something to drink? I don’t have much, but what ever the replicator can make, you may have, Captain".

"I’m fine Mr. Giles", said Tal. "Please sit down, I would like to talk with you".

"Very well", said Giles, and took a sit across from where Tal was sitting.

"I would like you to tell me of the Northern Star, Mr. Giles", said Tal. "What happened? How were you attacked? Why did the vessel explode?"

"I have already given your Security Chief a full report", said Giles, not understanding the Captain’s motives.

"Yes, you have, Mr. Giles", Tal approved. "Yet, I would like to hear it again, straight from you please".

Giles moved uncomfortably in his sit. He looked at Tal. The Captain held his fist inside the other, resting his elbows on his chair sides, while the heel of his foot rested on the knee of his other leg.

"Very well, Captain", said Giles. "As you wish".

"To be perfectly honest… I don’t know what happened", Giles began. "I was off duty when we went to red alert, and since my station was at the transporter room that’s where I went. When I got to my post I was told we are under attack, that Dominion troops were attacking us. After a few minutes, in which I guess we were under fire since the ship kept rocking, we noticed people materializing onto the Northern Star on several decks. I guess those were the Jem’Hadar forces. A few seconds later we were ordered to abandon by Captain Thowrn. I was on my way to the escape pod when I saw a Jem’Hadar soldier coming after me. I locked the door behind me and tried to move on when", Giles stopped for a second. "Well, if you don’t mind my expression Captain, all went black".

A few moments later, Tal exited the room. He got what he needed from Giles and was now on his way to his next guest.

"Tal to Black", said Tal as he pressed his badge.

"Black here, Sir", Warren replied from his post on the bridge.

"Please meet me at Holding Sector A, Mr. Blake", said Tal. "I would like to talk to our guest there".

"Aye, Sir", said Blake.

"Good, Tal out", replied Tal, and made his way to the turbo lift once more.

The main holding cell area had fourteen cells in it, each suitable for two men.

At the entrance was the main desk, where one crewman was stationed, controlling the locks for every cell.

When the Captain got there, Black was already waiting for him at the door.

"Captain", said Blake while nodding his head at the sight of his commander.

"Commander", said Tal, nodding back. "Shall we enter?"

"Aye, Sir", replied Blake, opening the door.

As the two walked in, the crewman behind the desk stood up.

"As you were crewman", said Tal. "We won’t bother you for long".

Tal and Blake walked to holding cell 7, where the Jem’Hadar soldier was being held.

He was simply sitting on his bad, eyes closed, when they reached him.

"Has he said anything since brought here, Commander?" the Captain asked Blake.

"Only stating his name and rank when asked, Sir", said Blake. "To any other question his simply replies, ‘victory is life’ if he replies at all".

"I see", said Tal, stepping closer to the containment field. "I am Captain Christopher Tal of the United Federation Star Ship Elita, NCC-63827. Please identify yourself".

The Jem’Hadar raised his head and looked at Tal.

"8th Roda’Jalan", said the Jem’Hadar.

"8th Roda’Jalan", said Tal. "I am trying to find out more about the destruction of the Federation ship Northern Star, on which my men have found and saved you. Could you please help me?"

"Victory is life", replied Roda’Jalan.

"So I have heard", said Tal. "I am not asking for any secrets or military intelligence, Roda’Jalan. Only pure facts of your attack on the Northern Star".

Roda’Jalan closed his eyes again.

The Captain turned back to Blake, the two of them moved back to the main desk of the sector.

"Was he given any Ketracel White since brought here, Commander", asked the Captain.

"Not that I know of, Sir", Blake replied. "It's possible Dr. T’Jenn gave him some of the drug in sickbay though".

"True", said Tal and pressed his badge. "Tal to Dr. T’Jenn".

"T’Jenn here, Captain", answered the CMO.

"Tell me doctor, was the Jem’Hadar given any Ketracel White since he was brought on board?" asked the Captain.

"Yes, Captain", replied T’Jenn. "Right before he was sent to the holding cell".

"I see", said Tal. "In that case, when will he begin having withdrawal symptoms, doctor?"

"In approximately 50 hours, Sir", replied T’Jenn.

"Very well", said Tal. "Doctor, you are so by ordered not to provide the Jem’Hadar with Ketracel White until further notice, understood?"

"Yes, Captain", replied T’Jenn.

"Very good, Tal out", said Tal, now turning his orders towards Lt. Commander Blake.

"Commander, no one is to interact with Jem’Hadar but me", he said. "If we are lucky, he might break before we need to deliver him back into the hands of the Dominion".

"Aye, Sir", replied Blake.

"Very good, you may return to you duties Mr. Blake", said the captain as they were exiting the holding sector.

"The time is O-five hundred-hours", said the computer in Captain Tal’s quarters.

Christopher got up, "Thank you", he said, more so the computer will stop then of gratefulness.

First Christopher took a shower; he always does in the morning. He then had breakfast and got dressed.

At O-six-hundred-hours he was in the turbo lift heading for the bridge.

"Captain on the bridge", called Lt. Commander Blake as Tal entered.

"Good morning", was all Tal said, as he made he’s way to his sit.

It was the morning shift, which meant the senior staff was on the bridge.

Left to the Captain was Commander Lorei and to his right was Lt. Commander Mai.

Lt. Commander Blake was at the tactical station and Chief Thomas was at engineering.

At the operation station was Lt. Wellsh and at the helms was Ensign Targo.

"Good morning, Captain", said Lorei as Tal took his seat. Like every one else on the bridge, she was in a bad mood.

"Good morning", replied Tal and then turned to Commander Mai.

"Our ETA please, Mr. Mai", asked Tal of his science officer.

"One hour, Sir", answered Mai. "We’ve already picked the signal of the Dominion ship, Captain. It’s a Jem’Hadar Battle Cruiser".

"Thank you Mr. Mai", said Tal, now turning back to his first Officer. "Yellow alert, Ms. Lorei".

"Aye, Sir, yellow alert!" declared Lorei. "Shields up!"

The hour passed slowly by, as the time of this forced meeting grow closer.

Captain Tal remained on the bridge the entire hour, waiting to see the Dominion ship on screen. He was now, more then ever; unsure of the orders he was about to carry out.

8th Roda’Jalan has not shown any signs of the withdrawal symptoms the Captain waits for. Any attempt to talk to him proved useless. Lt. Giles is not of much help either. His position onboard the Northern Star was of no strategic importance, and so he held no knowledge which might help understand what ever happened there any better.

However, in these passing two days Tal gave the matter much thought. He came to see several things in a new light, as his mind went on thinking, at times he should have been a sleep.

Tal has a vague idea. An idea he would like to follow. However, in order to do so, he must give the Dominion the ability of making their step first. So for now he sits in his chair, awaiting the contact and the incoming hail of the Jem’Hadar Battle Cruiser. Waiting and thinking.

"We are now in visual range of the Dominion ship, Sir", said Lt. Wellsh.

"On screen", ordered Tal.

The screen showed the massive Jem’Hadar battle cruiser. A mighty ship, but the Elita would make quit a worthy match, even to a vessel of such size.

"We are being hailed, Sir", reported Lt. Wellsh once more.

"Open channel, Lieutenant", said the Captain. "On screen".

Once more, a new image appeared on the screen of the Elita’s bridge. The face of a female Vorta appeared.

"The Dominion greets you", she said. "I am Neerin".

"I am Captain Christopher Tal of the starship Elita", said Tal. "It's a pleasure".

"A pleasure indeed", said Neerin. "But let us speak of the matter at hand, Captain. I would like to carry out this transfer as quickly as possible and put this entire incident far behind us".

"As would I", replied Tal. "We will lower our shields, and bring your soldier to the transporter room, as soon as your weapon systems shall be turned off line".

"Very well", said Neerin. "Prepare yourselves. Neerin out".

The screen showed the Jem’Hadar Battle Cruiser from the outside once again.

"Their weapons are off line, Sir", Blake reported.

"Very well", said Tal and looked at Lorei. "Green alert".

"Aye, sir", she replied. "All stations, green alert".

At that very second the entire ship trembled.

"Sir, we were hit by polaron beams", reported Blake.

"Red alert, all hands battle stations!" ordered Lorei.

"Return fire!" said Tal.

"Too late, Sir", said Mai. "They just went into warp and entered the nebula".

"How bad is it Mr. Thomas?" Tal asked his Chief Engineer.

"She’ll survive, Captain", replied Thomas. "They targeted our warp nacelles though. We won’t be going any where for the next few hours, Sir".

"Captain, there’s another thing you should know", said Mai. "They transported someone off the ship".

"The Jem’Hadar?" asked Lt. Commander Blake.

"No", replied Mai. "He was still in his holding cell. Couldn’t be beamed out of there even with the ship’s shields down".

"Then who Mr. Mai?" asked Captain Tal.

"Lt. Giles, Sir", replied Mai. "They beamed up Lt. Giles".

 

Chapter 4

Captain’s log, stardate 55281.2

Our peaceful meeting with the Dominion proved anything but peaceful.

Their attack left us without warp capability but thankfully, no lives were lost.

However, they did kidnap Lt. Giles. In a few moments I will leave for a staff meeting in order to devise our next steps. There are, as of now, no instructions from StarFleet Command.

The senior staff of the Elita gathered around the table at the observation lounge.

Captain Tal didn’t wait for long and started.

"Chief", he turned first to Lt. Thomas. "How long before we can go into warp".

"Long", replied Thomas. "If we could get to a star base, I could have replaced the damaged parts of the nacelle in no time. But out here? Out here it’ll take around twenty six hours to fix the damage".

"Twenty six hours?" said Tal, looking at Commander Mai. "Could we still track them at that time?"

"I don’t think so, Captain", said Mai. "The warp trail would be impossible to track in a few hours as it is".

"Captain, I’m not sure tracking that ship is a very good idea", said Lorei. "Any ship that will enter Dominion territory would be attacked and probably destroyed".

"Not if the vessel can go undetected", said Tal.

"Great", said Thomas sarcastically, "Now all we need is a Klingon Bird of Prey with a cloaking device and we’re all set".

"Actually", said Tal with a small smirk on his face. "I was thinking more towards a Peregrine Fighter. A small, yet well armed vessel and warp capable".

"Even with a Peregrine fighter, you’d still be found", said Thomas.

"Not necessarily", intervened Commander Mai. "The Dominion ship headed into the nebula. If the fighter will do the same, there is a very good chance it would be small enough not to be scanned by any long-range sensors. The nebula will interfere with the readings and a large part of it is inside Dominion territory".

The Chief thought for a second, then a small smile filled his face as well.

"Yeah…" he said. "I could add the needed systems in order to track the warp trail of the Dominion vessel, as well as increasing the shields power. Yes, it will be possible!"

"Maybe more then one fighter should go", said Blake. "That way, if they do engage, there are better chances for them to make it".

"That would be a good idea Mr. Blake", said Tal. "If it were not for the fact, the Elita only has one Peregrine Fighter in storage".

"One?" asked Blake, quit surprised. "Sir, an Akira class ship is capable of carrying twelve fighters of that class. Why do we only have one?"

"We were not sent into war, Commander", replied Tal. "StarFleet Command felt it will not be necessary to fully load us with the maximum number of fighters, for patrolling only".

"Instead, we were given one Peregrine class and four Valkyrie fighters", added Lorei. "However, I doubt we should put the Valkyrie class to use. Only the four of them together will have shields and then they won’t be as hard to scan as one Peregrine class".

"Very good", said Tal. "Chief Thomas, Commander Mai, install the tracking system and reinforce the shields, as well as the weapons array. I want to leave at O-nine-hundred-hours. Dismissed".

As the senior staff got up and moved to their assignments, Commander Lorei had a matter to talk of with the Captain.

"Captain", she approached him. "Do you intend to go on this mission yourself".

"Indeed Ms. Lorei", he responded. "I do".

"Captain, I must object", said Lorei. "For the commanding officer to leave the ship on an away team is a direct violation of StarFleet regulations".

"Commander", said the Captain. "I believe we followed regulations far enough. I intend to get to the bottom of this matter, personally".

Lorei had nothing to say in the matter. The Captain made up is mind.

Commander Blake approached Tal and Lorei, still in the observation lounge.

"Captain, I would like to pilot the fighter". Said Blake.

"Thank you Mr. Blake", replied Tal. "But there is no need for that".

The three made their way to the bridge as the Captain carried on.

"We have the second best pilot of the Academy class of last year on this ship". Tal said.

"Mr. Targo", Tal called to his helmsman. "Would you join me on a walk to shuttle bay 3 please?"

"Aye Sir", replied Targo, and made his way to the turbo lift.

"You have the bridge Commander Lorei", said Tal as the lift doors closed.

At eight forty five there was a lot of action on shuttle bay 3.

The Peregrine fighter was all set to go. The double type-V pulse Phaser cannons were fully charged and both torpedo launchers were fully loaded with all six torpedoes, three in each launcher.

The shields were reconfigured in order to allow the fighter to sustain greater damage.

As the time of the vessel departure grow nearer, Lt. Commander Mai worked on the final steps of the warp trail tracking system. He had to completely re-modulate and re-wire the sensor array of the fighter in order to make the system work. In two minutes they’ll know if there is any point of going on this mission at all.

While Commander Mai was in the operations sit of the fighter, Ensign Targo was in the pilot sit. He knew how to pilot a Peregrine class. He was well capable of doing so since his first year in the academy. When Captain Tal asked him to go on this mission, Erim gave it no second thought.

On any other ship, Erim would have been in his quarters now, doing nothing since he wouldn’t have been posted to any station. And if he had been, it would be nothing like at the helms of the Elita.

Captain Tal was the first man to give Erim a break since he joined StarFleet and Erim would do whatever that man asked him to do. No matter the odds.

Captain Tal was on his way out of his quarters. He didn’t have his normal uniform variant as always, but a regular duty uniform like everyone else.

As the door opened, Commander Lorei stood out side.

"Commander", said the surprised Captain. "What are you doing here?"

"Sir, I don’t think you should leave on this mission", she said.

"I suppose you have a profound reason for that", Tal said as he exited his quarters. "Walk with me".

"It’s dangerous, Captain", said Lorei. "The nebula might protect you for a while, but once you’ll clear out of it you’ll be a sitting duck".

The two made their way to the turbo lift.

"It is, with out doubt, a hazardous mission, Commander", replied Tal. "But it is also essential in order to understand what happened to the Northern Star".

"Which is still not a reason for you to go, Sir", said Lorei. "You’re the Captain of this ship".

"And I will not ask any members of my crew to carry out a mission I dare not do myself", replied Tal.

"Captain it’s a suicide mission", Lorei said, much more intense then before.

Tal stopped and stood right in front of Lorei.

"Commander, like I said before I know well the risk level of this mission", he said very seriously. "I have taken upon myself the command of this ship, and by so am sworn to safeguard this border of the Federation. I shall use all my power to do so, Commander, including this mission. We will not discuss this any further, understood?"

"Aye, Sir", replied Lorei.

"Good", said Tal. "Now get to your bridge, Commander. You are now acting captain of the Elita".

Tal entered the turbo lift.

"Shuttle Bay 3", he said. And the lift went down.

In the fighter, Lt. Commander Mai just got the tracking system working.

"Yes!" called Mai as the system went on-line. "It’s working and it’s working good! I’m already getting the warp signature of that vessel. You won’t have any problems following it".

"Great", replied Targo. "I just hope you got those shield modulations right. I’d hate to engage any Jem’Hadar fighters under these odds".

"Don’t worry", said Mai as he made his way out of the fighter’s seat. "As long as you stay inside the nebula you won’t have any trouble".

"And once we’re out?" asked Targo, awaiting the same spirit lifting response Dave gave him earlier.

Dave didn’t say a word; he just looked at Targo, then turned away and got off the fighter.

The doors of the turbo lift parted and out stepped Captain Tal and Chief Thomas.

Thomas went over last details of the Peregrine class with Tal as they walked to the fighter.

"… three inside each launcher. Don’t fire if you don’t have to, you don’t have more then six", said Thomas.

"Yes, yes Chief, I understand both the weapons and sensor arrays, we went over that an hour ago", said Tal as they reached the fighter. "Tell me, Mr. Mai, is the tracking system in place?"

"Aye, Sir", replied Mai. "The fighter is all set to go, all systems at 100%".

"Good", replied Tal and climbed up to the cockpit. He took his seat and went over the systems.

"And how are you, Mr. Targo", Tal asked his pilot. "Feeling well I hope?"

"To tell the truth, Sir", replied Targo. "I’m scared, Captain".

"So you should be Ensign", said Tal. "That is how you know you are sane. Only a madman will be without fear right now".

"Are you, Sir?" asked the Ensign.

"Very much, Mr. Targo", Tal replied. "Simply keep your mind on the task at hand and you will be fine. Ignore the possible outcome".

Chief Thomas made his way to the cockpit, moments before take off.

"Captain", he started. "I would just like to remind you that this vessel is capable of Warp 4 in normal cruise and its maximum speed is Warp 5.1".

"Yes, Mr. Thomas", said Tal. "You told me that".

"Sir, I am not here this time to make the warp core work any better", said the Chief. "You can’t push this vessel any higher then Warp 5.1. At Warp 5.2 it will explode".

"Very well, Chief", said Tal. "I understand".

"Sir, there is a very good chance we won't see you again", said the Chief, and the expression on his face almost looked like concern.

"Worry not, Mr. Thomas", replied Tal with a smile. "You will not be rid of me, or Mr. Targo, that easily. Now get down from here, we are moving out".

Chief Thomas got off the fighter. Then, with Commander Mai and the rest of the crew, cleared the shuttle bay for the fighter to leave.

Inside the vessel Captain Tal gave Targo the order.

"Take us out Mr. Targo", said Tal.

"Aye, Sir", replied Targo. The Peregrine Fighter left the Elita’s shuttle bay and exited into space.

"We are clear, Sir", reported Targo. "Ready to go into warp".

"Good Ensign", said Tal, looking at the tracking system and deciding where they should head. "Bring us about, bearing one-seven-four, mark O-O-five point two. Warp factor 4.9".

"Aye, Sir", replied Targo.

"Engage", ordered Tal and they went into warp, heading into the nebula and the Dominion territory.

On the bridge of the Elita, Lorei couldn’t sit down.

She looked at the screen, as the fighter went into warp. Lorei pressed her com-badge.

"Lorei to Thomas", she said.

"Thomas here", replied the Chief. "What can I do for you, Ma’am?"

"How long before we can go into warp", she asked, knowing the answer.

"I just got back to engineering", said Thomas. "And although I think I can shave a couple of hours off the dead line, it’s still going to take at least twenty-two hours before we can go into warp, Ma’am".

"Do your best Chief", said Lorei. "Lorei out".

Commander Mai stepped onto the bridge. Lorei turned to him as he made his way to his sit, next to hers.

"Commander, can we keep track of the fighter while it’s inside the nebula?" she asked.

"No, Ma’am", replied Mai. "I did, however, add a very powerful transmitter to the cockpit. If they need too, every ship in the range of ten light-years will know the whereabouts of the fighter. For better or for worse".

"Fine then, Lt. Commander Blake, declare red alert", Lorei said and the tactical officer obeyed. "We’ll be ready for any thing while we wait here".

Commander Lorei took her seat in the captain’s chair.

In the mean while, the Peregrine Fighter made its way through the Becka Nebula, following the warp trail of the Jem’Hadar battle cruiser.

Inside the cockpit, Captain Tal corrected the navigation data, so they won’t lose the Dominion ship.

"Five-two-five, bearing three-two-five", said Tal to Targo.

"Strange", added Tal. "That route takes us dipper into the nebula, not out".

"Is there anything on the scanners, Sir?" asked Targo.

"Not a thing", replied Tal. "But even if there is something near by, I doubt we will be able to scan it".

Targo heard what his Captain said, but his mind was at something else. He wasn’t sure if to speak, wasn’t sure if it’s his place to speak.

He looked to his side, where Tal set then looked back at his station.

Tal knew the young Ensign wanted to say something.

"Do you have something on your mind, Ensign?" Tal asked him.

Targo hesitated for a second.

"Sir," he said. "May I ask you something?"

"Speak your mind Ensign", replied Tal, not taking his eyes off the tracking system.

"Why did you pick me, Sir", asked Targo. "Why did you give me that chance?"

"Are you unhappy with your position, Ensign?" asked Tal with a small smile on his face.

"Not at all, Sir", Targo said. "Piloting a starship has been my dream since I was five, Sir. Of course, then I hoped for a Galor class ship, I never thought I’d be part of StarFleet. But the Elita is an incredible ship, Sir".

"Your piloting capabilities were not unnoticed by the academy and StarFleet, Mr. Targo", Christopher told the young Cardassian. "You were assigned to the Elita as a pilot, for the very fighter we us now. However, after we met at the bar, on DS9, I was under the impression you had more on your mind then piloting".

Christopher now looked at Erim, straight into the young officer's eyes.

"You have a spark in you, Mr. Targo", Christopher said. "It's that spark that helped you through the academy, it is what kept you going, head high and certain of your self, as a StarFleet officer should be. You could be more then just a pilot and I believe you will have a better chance at getting there when you are posted to my bridge".

"I… um, thank you… Sir", Targo was stunned. "It… it means a lot to me…"

Christopher smiled when the fighter’s sensors signaled.

"I do not understand", said Tal and a look of confusion appeared on his face. "We just lost track of the warp signature".

Targo wasn’t sure what to say when the Captain spoke again.

"Interesting", said Tal. "There is a bizarre formation of asteroids about a thousand kilometers bearing two-one-one point five".

The Captain took a few moments to re-scan his findings. "These asteroids seem to be in a circular formation".

"What’s so weird about an asteroids belt, Sir?" Targo wondered.

"All of these object are identical and in the same size", replied Tal. "Set course to the belt, Ensign. Warp one, but do not enter the belt itself. We should not take any chances".

"Yes Sir", Targo replied and the fighter made its way to the asteroids belt. It didn’t take long to reach the belt, not in warp speed. A few seconds later the fighter drooped out of warp. Targo set the fighter on an orbiting course around the asteroids belt and waited for his next orders.

Captain Tal kept looking at the scanners. The readings he got didn’t make any sense.

"Take a look at this, Mr. Targo", said Tal showing his pilot the readings of the scanner. "If I did not know any better I would say this asteroid is lighter then it should be".

"You’re right, Sir", said Targo. "Nearly four times lighter then it should be, as if all that mass of rocks simply isn’t there".

"Let’s see if we can find out way", Tal said. "Move us up and against the asteroid, Ensign. I would like to split it open".

Targo replied and piloted the fighter in front of the selected asteroid. Once they were set, Captain Tal activated the weapon system and locked the pulse phasers on the big rock. Just as he was about to fire, the fighter began to tremor.

"Sir, we got caught in a tractor beam", reported Targo while grabbing the helms. "I think it’s coming from the asteroid, I’ll try the get us loss".

Targo attempted to pilot the fighter but to no vile. The tractor beam did indeed originated from the asteroid but it did more then simply holding the Peregrine Fighter in place. It also turned it about so its weapons won’t be a threat and began bringing the fighter into the inside of the asteroids belt.

"Can we break loose?" Tal asked Targo.

"I’m trying Sir", the Ensign replied. "I can’t seem to…"

When Captain Tal and Ensign Targo materialized they found themselves in a transporter room of Dominion design, surrounded by Jem’Hadar soldiers. In front of them stood Neerin.

"Welcome to Bercha-7", was the last thing the two StarFleet Officers heard, before they were knocked unconscious.

Christopher opened his eyes. His head hurt. Erim helped him stand up, or at least sit. It took Christopher a few more seconds to remember and understand where he was, where they were.

Tal stood up. The cell they were in wasn’t big. Simply a round room with two beds, nothing more.

"How long have you been awake, Ensign?" Tal inquired.

"A couple of hours, Sir", Targo replied. "But in that time I got a chance to talk, if you can call it that, with one of our guards".

"I am guessing you are not bearing good news", Tal said, holding his still aching head.

"No, Sir", said Targo. "We’ve been here of almost six-teen hours".

Christopher thought for a brief moment. If they were in this cell for six-teen hours, the Elita is only a few hours away from completion. However, that fact holds no importance if Targo and himself cannot be found.

"Do you know where we are, Ensign?" Tal asked. "Have you been able to find that out as well?"

"No, Sir", said Erim. "I’m sorry to say I didn’t".

"No need to feel sorry Mr. Targo", said Tal. "You did nothing wrong".

Tal walked to the door of the cell. It had a small window, which was closed. Christopher banged on it.

"I am Captain Christopher Tal of the Federation Starship Elita!" he said loudly. "I demand to speak to Neerin!"

No one from the out side seem to care what the Captain wanted, yet there was some noise and the sounds of talk’s from the hall outside the cell. Captain Tal walked to his bed.

"I know it may sound weird, Ensign", Tal said. "But all we can really do now is sit here, and wait".

 

Chapter 5

First Officer’s log stardate 55281.9.

It’s been over twenty hours since Captain Tal and Ensign Targo left the Elita and we haven’t heard from them yet. However, Chief Thomas has assured me that the ship’s nacelles will be operational in less then three hours. In the meanwhile we’ve began making our way towards the nebula at full impulse. As inefficient as that maybe, it’s all we can do right now.

Commander Lorei Karin was on the bridge, not doing much then wait for Chief Thomas’s word. Once they are warp capable again, she’ll order the Elita into the nebula at warp 8. However, she knows little may come of it. They don’t really have any chance of finding the Peregrine fighter inside the nebula, not without the emergency transmitter Lt. Commander Mai added to the cockpit. But she does not intend to simply sit and wait any longer. They’ll enter the nebula once they can.

Lorei’s com badge beeped and the voice of Lt. Commander Blake was heard on.

"Commander", said Blake. "Dr. T’Jenn and I are in holding sector A. you better join us A.S.A.P. Ma'am".

"On my way, Commander", Karin replied. "Lorei out".

Karin left the bridge and made her way to the holding sector, where they held 8th Roda’Jalan, the Jem’Hadar soldier.

Commander Lorei entered the holding sector. There, she found Lt. Commander Blake and Dr. T’Jenn in front of the Jem’Hadar’s cell.

"What’s going on?" Lorei asked as she got there, while what she saw made things a bit more clear.

Roda’Jalan was making one attempt after the other to jump at the force filed, which held him, and brake loose.

"He is in withdrawal", T’Jenn stated calmly. "It happened later then I thought it would and slower as well".

"He’s been attacking the field for the past fifteen minutes", said Blake. "The warden amplified the current of the field by 60% before calling me and the Doctor. Any other species would have been dead by now".

"I see", said Lorei. "Has he been talking or responding?"

"Only to one thing", said T’Jenn while taking a tube of Ketracel White out of her jacket.

The Jem’Hadar stopped his attacks and looked at the tube. Every few seconds he twitched a bit, some times his head moved unwillingly or his arms.

Lorei took the tube and held it above her head and in front of his face.

"You want this?" she asked rhetorically. "What happened on the Northern Star?"

Roda’Jalan didn’t say a word, simply stared at the tube, grinding his teeth.

"Do you want this?!" Lorei asked with a loud voice. "Than tell me what happened to the Northern Star!"

For a second it seemed as if the Jem’Hadar was about to say something. He moved nervously in his cell.

"Very well", said Lorei, placing the hand with the tube behind her back. "We will carry the Captains orders Doctor. No… Ketracel… White!"

The Jem’Hadar roared with anger. "NO SHIP! NOT YOURS!" he shouted. "YOU… WON’T… FIND… ASTEROIDS!"

Roda’Jalan launched at the force field once again and for the final time, breaking it down. He grabbed Lorei by the throat and was about to break it if it weren’t for Blake’s fling kick. In a swift move, Warren kicked the Jem’Hadar straight in the head knocking him back into the cell. Roda’Jalan launched at him but Warren was ready. Another kick to the ribs and a spinning high kick to the neck sent the Jem’Hadar back once more, but there was no stopping him, as he was far past the feeling of pain. Warren knew there’s only one way to stop the Jem’Hadar now. As Roda’Jalan made his final attack. Blake jumped to the air, lifting his leg straight up, then sending it down right on top of the Jem’Hadar’s head. The powerful hit not only cracked the Jem’Hadar’s skull, but also made its way all through Roda’Jalan’s spine, smashing each and every one of his vertebras and killing him instantly.

"Thank you Warren", Lorei said as Dr. T’Jenn helped her up. "That plan of mine back fired a bit, but I think it was worth it".

"In what way? What plan?" Blake wondered confused.

"I’ll explain on the way to the bridge", said Lorei. "Let’s go".

The doors of the round cell opened. In front of Captain Tal and Ensign Targo stood Neerin, the Vorta.

"It’s good to see you again, Captain", she said with a smile. "Will you both please follow me".

Neerin turned and began to walk. Targo didn’t move, simply looked at his commanding officer.

"I doubt it was a suggestion, Mr. Targo", Tal said. "Let’s go".

The two officers followed Neerin, surrounded by four armed Jem’Hadar.

"I suppose you wonder where you are, Captain", Neerin said, as they made their way to what seemed to be an operations deck.

Neerin stood with her back to the screen.

"Like I said when you got here", she said with a smile, bigger then before. "Welcome to Bercha-7".

The screen showed the outside of the station they were on. It was big to say the least.

Nearly as big as DS9, yet more in the shape of a saucer. A few sharp adages were used as docking ports, much in the style of Cardassian stations. On one of these ports docked the ship Tal and Targo were chasing. When compared to the station, it was minimal.

Targo was shocked, he had never seen something so massive such as this being so well hidden. He looked at his Captain who kept a calm yet upset expression.

"Well?" Neerin smiled. "What do you think Captain?"

"I think you are about to start another war". Christopher said. "I think you started building that station the day we entered the Gamma Quadrant and you did it in the nebula so we will not be able to detect it. But then Captain Thowrn and the Northern Star found you. You chased them into your own territory and destroyed them. How unfortunate for you, Lt. Giles has survived. All you could do then is try to retrieve him before he speaks".

Christopher had nothing to add. He hoped this mystery was solved, the only problem now is that Targo and himself won’t be able to pass the answers along, unless they find away to escape.

"Very good Captain", said Neerin. "You got almost everything right. However there’s one little thing you missed".

The door to one of the offices opened, and out stepped Lt. Giles.

"I don’t understand Sir", Targo said to his Captain.

"We will know everything soon enough, Ensign", Christopher replied. "For now, lets just say that my version of the Northern Star’s fate was not the worst case scenario".

Lt. Giles walked over to Neerin and shook her hand. He then turned to Tal.

"You never give up, do you Captain?" Giles said and Tal didn’t respond. "You really want to know what happened to the Northern Star? Look right there".

Giles pointed at the screen. It showed the asteroid belt, which surrounded the station, and then zoomed in on the space between two of the fake rocks. Light came from within the colorful dust and clusters of the nebula, until something broke through the smokescreen. A Defiant class ship. The U.S.S. Northern Star.

Up until now, Christopher thought Giles might have been a traitor who helped the Dominion in their pursuit of the Northern Star. But now he was completely lost.

"Follow me", said Giles and led Tal and Targo to the docking port of the Northern Star.

The three of them watched as the doors opened. The crew of the ship began entering the station. And what a crew it was.

Groups of different species stepped off the ship. First was a group of Klingons, after them a few Nausicaans exited the portal. Gorn, Lurians and Romulans also passed the gateway. Different species of different worlds, not all of whom, were known to Captain Tal, such as Kazon and Hirogen.

Erim didn’t understand, but by now Christopher had a pretty good idea of what’s happening and he didn’t like it one bit. Then, four Cardassians passed through the gate. They were about to make their way when they noticed Targo. They didn’t know him, but they’ve heard of him. One of them took out a knife and made his way behind Targo, he held the knife in the air when a loud voice stopped him. Captain Tal was shocked.

"Touch the boy and you will answer to me!"

Out of the gate stepped Captain Norman Thowrn, still wearing his StarFleet uniforms and rank pips, only missing his badge.

The Cardassians backed off and Captain Thowrn walked over to Lt. Giles.

"So this is Captain Christopher Tal who saved your life?" Thowrn asked Giles while looking at Tal.

"The one and only, Captain", Giles replied.

Thowrn reached to shake Christopher’s hand, yet Captain Tal did not cooperate.

"I think he understands the situation", Thowrn said to Giles, then directed his words to the Jem’Hadar. "Leave us. This prisoner is under my responsibility".

The Jem’Hadar had little to say on the matter, they turned and left.

"Perfectly obedient beings", said Thowrn to Giles. "We should talk to Neerin about posting some onboard the Northern Star".

"I’ll get on it once our business here is done, Captain", said Giles.

Tal looked at both of them with disgust.

"Traitors", he muttered.

"Save it for the appropriate discussion, Captain Tal", said Thowrn with a smile. "Now if you please, follow me".

Thowrn and Giles led Tal and Targo into the Northern Star. The four of them were the only people on the ship. They stopped at mess hall, as it was the place chosen by Thowrn to converse.

"Now, to respond to your statement, Captain Tal", said Thowrn. "Traitors you say? If you ask me, it all comes down to a point of view".

Tal didn’t say a word. He had no intention of continuing this discussion. He truly, now, only cared about understanding this matter, not discussing it.

"Where are we?" Tal asked.

Thowrn smiled again. "You’ve been told", he said. "Bercha-7. The Dominion built this station so they could hold greater forces by the neutral zone. It’s not perfect though, lacks its own defense grids. They couldn't get it up because of the nebula, which is why the asteroids belt was made. Mighty impressive if I may say so my self. The tractor beam towed your fighter into the docking port. You were lucky to tell the truth. If Lieutenant Giles hadn’t been on the station the belt would have destroyed you".

"I don’t understand, Sir", Targo whispered to Tal. "I thought the Northern Star was destroyed?"

"So did I", Tal replied, directing his look at Thowrn. "Perhaps Mr. Thowrn will be able to inform us of the Northern Star’s fate."

"It’s Captain Thowrn, and I was hoping you’d ask", said Thowrn. "The Northern Star is here, Captain. The ship whose remains you found was an unsuccessful replica of the mighty Defiant Class, the result of my cooperation with the Dominion".

"You sold the Defiant to the Dominion", Christopher said in a low voice. "What did you do? Stage an attack so your crew won’t suspect, then allowed the Dominion to board the Northern Star and take command of it?"

"Something of the sort, Captain", Thowrn replied smiling. "Of course, each member of the crew had to be killed, all but Lieutenant Giles. But as you know, the replica made by the Dominion didn’t last. They couldn’t stabilize the warp core and the ship was lost".

"But it was an exact replica", Tal said. "So the emergency call registered as the Northern Star".

Tal began the pace. He couldn’t stand any longer; he had to move a bit. Both Thowrn and Giles had disruptors, yet they did not hold them. Christopher didn’t get too close to them, simply walked a bit, then stopped. Giles stepped behind him. Tal looked at Thowrn.

"Why?" he asked Thowrn. "Why would a StarFleet Captain do such a thing? You were a war hero!"

"One word: latinum", Thowrn replied as Tal’s eyes grow larger with shock. "I am a war hero, but that also, only from one point of view. About a year before the war I commanded another ship and we entered the Gamma Quadrant in order to meet with the Dominion. That’s where I first met Neerin".

Thowrn began to walk around the room as well.

"To tell the truth Captain, I never really cared for the ideals of StarFleet and the Federation. In fact, I joined StarFleet for the fame of that matter. But you see, when Neerin told me that a war was coming I was intrigued. As time passed I got the command of the Northern Star and fought the war. More or less".

Thowrn now stepped closer to Tal and stood in front of him.

"The two Galor ships that made me the hero I am today?" Thowrn said. "They weren’t about to attack the Federation Captain Tal. They were, however, filled with Cardassians just like your Ensign here. Sick with the Dominion and willing to join the Federation. StarFleet told me to find out what it was they wanted. The Dominion told me the eliminate them. Imagine what could have happened had the Cardassian rebellion started any sooner? I got a lot of latinum that day".

Thowrn stopped and got even closer to Tal.

"This upcoming war will be very interesting", he said, then turned his view at Targo.

Thowrn walked and stood in front of Erim.

"What do you say Ensign? Want to make some latinum?" Thowrn asked. "Why spend your time with StarFleet? You can never truly be part of it. I have Cardassians on my ship, join me".

Erim looked at Thowrn, thinking how easy it would be to follow him, he won't be an outsider anymore, and he'll be with his own people.

"No", he said to Thowrn, whose angry expression exposed his feeling on the matter.

"You dare turn my offer down?" he said with anger.

"I chose my path when I joined StarFleet", Targo said. "Between my back on my own path and the one you set, sticking whit you or the Fleet… I'll take the Fleet".

For Christopher that was a sign. Thowrn made all the right mistakes and now, was about to pay. Christopher turned, snatched the disruptor, punched Giles in the face and knocked him back. He turned to Thowrn, who was about to shot Tal if Targo had not jumped on him and took him down. Thowrn disruptor fell to the floor and Giles jumped at it, picking it up. Giles kicked Targo back and meant to shoot him. Tal shot first. Giles fell down. He won’t get up again.

Targo grabbed the disruptor.

"Well done Ensign", said Tal. "And thank you".

By now Thowrn got up as well to face two disruptors aimed at him.

"What do you think will happen now?" Thowrn asked with anger. "You’re on a Dominion station in the middle of nowhere. You’re not going anywhere".

"Seemed to me like a Federation vassal, Mr. Thowrn", Tal replied. "I am willing to bet we can find our way".

Christopher shot Thowrn in the knee. The former Captain fell to the floor in pain.

"Let’s get out of here Mr. Targo, shall we?"

Erim nodded and the two of them ran out of the room. With a little luck they just might make it.

Thowrn had a different idea in mind.

"Computer", he cried. "Open channel to the station".

"Acknowledged"

"All Northern Star personnel, report to the ship immediately!" Thowrn shouted over the com-link. "Close channel", he ordered. "This is not over Tal, not at all".

In the meanwhile, Tal and Targo were making their way to the transporters room.

"Are you sure it’s going to work, Sir", Targo asked.

"We shall find out soon enough", Tal replied. "But if you have any other suggestions I will be more then happy to hear them out".

It didn’t take them long to find the transporter room. Christopher had many visits on board Defiant Class ships. He knew where the room was.

When they got there, Christopher activated the consuls and searched for the fighter.

"Lock the doors, Mr. Targo", he said. "Weld them shut".

"Will do, Sir", Targo said and carried out his orders.

"I found it!" Tal said. "Tell me Ensign, how long will it take you to bring the fighter out of port?"

"Is the fusion reactor online?"

"No".

"10.7 seconds, Sir", Targo said.

Tal smiled and set the transports right into the cockpit of the fighter. He then gave the computer a two-second’s delay. They didn’t have time to lose.

"Let’s go", Tal ordered and the two of them stepped on the platform. They both felt the tickling sensation of the transporter and a few brief moments later, they materialized inside the Peregrine fighter.

Targo didn’t waste any time.

"Fusion reactor in on line, Sir. Impulse engines are operational".

"Take us out, Mr. Targo", Tal said while activating the system. "Full impulse".

Halfway outside, the fighter was shot at by Jem’Hadar but it was too late. They were out.

"We’re not out of the woods yet, Sir", Targo said. "What are we going to do about the protective belt of the station?"

"I think the bigger question is what are we going to do about the station", Said Tal. "Set course to the Jem’Hadar Battle Cruiser, the one we followed here".

"Yes Sir", Targo replied, and the fighter made its way towards the colossal ship.

Tal smiled. "Just like I thought, they cannot dock on the station with shields up", he said. "Locking all torpedoes on target. Set course back to the neutral zone Mr. Targo, once I shoot we won’t have much time to clear out".

"Course is set, Sir", Targo reported.

"Fire".

The fighter fired the six torpedoes one at a time within two seconds. As the fighter changed its course and made the jump into warp, the torpedoes hit their mark. Captain Tal targeted them, all of them, straight at the core of the ship and without shields nothing stopped them.

The core detonated and so did the ship, yet the chain reaction did not stop there. The station rumbled as its own main generators were destabilizing and began to break down.

From the fighter, Tal scanned the station. It began to explode. The asteroid belt was offline and nothing stopped the fighter from getting away. Tal calculated the hours since they left the Elita. ‘The ship should be operational by now' he thought and activated the transmitter Commander Mai added to the cockpit. ‘I just hope it will work’ Tal thought not knowing how much they needed that to happen.

Bercha-7 exploded. The massive explosion also took out the protective belt. However, in the process of the detention the very nebula was affected. A chain reaction was taking place as the very matter, that made the nebula, began to change. Much of the hydrogen in the nebula caught the explosion and began to spread it across the vast space of the nebula, leaving behind it nothing but hydrogen free ions.

The effect sent forward a shock wave, which took the clusters of the nebula a part. And shortly following the shock wave, came the front of the explosion followed by raging fires, the stuff from which the galaxy was made.

"Sir!" Targo reported. "There’s a shock wave coming! It’s gonna…"

The fighter was hit yet held together.

"What have we lost?" Tal asked while going over the data himself.

"We can’t go into warp or impulse, Sir", Targo replied. "I can’t even activate thrusters".

"That’s the least of our problems, Mr. Targo", said Tal as the explosion front grow closer. "Brace for impact"!

The fighter was hit. Inside the cockpit, Tal and Targo were thrown back and forth. The fighter was not destroyed, as it was only the front of the explosion, but it won’t be able to withstand much more of this. They had nothing to do. Erim was hurt and lost his consciousness. Christopher felt a sharp pain in his hand, his head was spinning, and he knew he won’t be able to hold it much longer. As he was about to faint, he felt a familiar tickling sensation.

Christopher opened his eyes to the sight of Dr. T’Jenn.

"I see you are awake, Captain", T’Jenn said calmly. "We only found you a few moments ago, you awakening so quickly indicates no severe damage to the synapses, though the ligaments and the sinews in your left hand were torn. However, they were successfully fused and should cause no further problem".

"Thank you Doctor", Tal said, and set up on the bed. He was on sickbay and back on the Elita, on his own ship. He felt better. Targo was sitting on the bed in front of him. "Looks as though we made quit a habit of leaving that fighter, did we not Mr. Targo".

"Yes, Sir", Targo replied with a smile.

The doors to sickbay opened as Commander Lorei and Lt. Commander Mai stepped in.

They both walked over to the bio beds where Tal and Targo were. Lorei spoke first.

"Welcome back, Sir", she said. "It’s good to have you back".

"Same goes for you, Erim", Mai said to Targo. "We were getting worried about you two".

"I wouldn’t say they were worries badly placed, Mr. Mai". Said Tal. "Doctor, are Ensign Targo and myself free to go?"

"Yes, Captain", T’Jenn replied. "I would only recommend some rest for both of you".

"Thank you Doctor", Tal said and got off the bed. "Commander, since I’m assuming you and Commander Mai are on active duty, would you mind accompanying me to the bridge?"

Both of them nodded and Christopher turned to Erim.

"You are now off duty, Ensign", Tal said. "Take some time to yourself, you did real good back there".

"If it’s alright with you, Sir", Targo said. "I’d like to retake my position on the bridge".

"Will do, Ensign", Tal replied and the four of them made their way to the bridge of the Elita.

On the way, Commander Lorei informed the Captain that the Elita was on her way into the nebula when they picked up the signal of the transmitter. "The explosion front was about to hit us when we beamed you on board and cleared out of there in maximum warp", she said. "We are now a few kilometers outside the nebula, awaiting your orders, Sir".

"Something very strange happened to the nebula", Mai said. "The explosion changed it. It’s now nothing more then a huge cluster of hydrogen free ions. That’s what was left after the explosion. What happened there, Sir?"

Christopher began to tell them what Targo and he found in side the nebula. Bercha-7, the Northern Star and Captain Norman Thowrn. As they were on the turbo lift, heading to the bridge he told them of Thowrn and the Dominion’s intentions. The doors to the bridge opened and Captain Tal concluded, "He sold his soul to the devil, and I hope he burns in that hell for it".

On the bridge was the rest of the Elita’s senior staff. Lt. Commander Blake was at his tactical station and Chief Thomas was at the engineering station.

"Captain on the bridge!" Black announced. It was his way of welcoming the Captain. Chief Thomas, however, had his own way.

"Look who decided to joins us!" Aaron said with a smile. "You couldn’t keep the fighter in one piece could you?"

"It’s good to see you too, Chief", said Tal as he took his place on his chair.

"Mr. Targo", Tal said to his helmsman. "Set course out of the neutral zone, warp factor 8".

"Aye, aye Sir", Targo replied and set the course ordered by his captain. "Course is set".

Lt. Wellsh interrupted as her station read something very strange.

"Sir, I’m picking up a ship", she said. "It's coming from inside the nebula at warp speed".

"On screen", said Lorei.

"I don’t understand, Sir", said Monica as a Defiant class ship passed through the clusters of the former nebula.

"It’s the Northern Star".

 

Chapter 6

"They’re hailing us, Sir", Lt. Wellsh reported as the Northern Star dropped out of warp and moved closer to the Elita.

"Red alert", Lorei ordered. "All hands to battle stations!"

The Northern Star was not in good shape. Her shields were holding rather well, but it was obvious she took some damage, her hull integrity was at nearly 60 percent, but Lorei and Tal knew it would be batter to be ready.

"Open channel" Christopher ordered.

Thowrn appeared on the screen. He was surprised to see Christopher there, but it really did not matter to him.

"Well Captain", Thowrn started. "I see you made it as well. You don’t really think I will just let you and your crew to return to the Federation, right? You know too much".

"Do not threaten me Thowrn", Tal replied as he stood up. "This crew and this ship has made it their mission to protect the Federation, by orders and choice. Protect it from the likes of you. Take down your shields and surrender. I will not repeat this damned".

"You insolent rookie!" Thowrn raged. "You dare order me? I was commanding war ships when you were still in high school! I’ll show you what it means to stand against Captain Norman Thowrn!"

The channel closed down.

"Sir, they locked weapons on us", Black reported. "They fired impulse Phasers and quantum torpedoes!"

The Elita was hit and began to tremor.

"Evasive maneuvers!" Tal ordered. "I don’t want them to hit us again!"

"Aye Sir", Targo replied, although he knew that would be impossible.

The Northern Star was a Defiant class ship, much smaller and maneuverable then the Akira class Elita. It made hitting the Northern Star far more difficult as well has avoiding her attacks. The smaller ship moved around the Elita, hitting her with everything she had. Yet that was not the only advantage. The Northern Star was under the command of a seasoned veteran. Norman Thowrn saw his days of battle and he commanded his ship for years. On the other hand, as talented as Christopher Tal was, he was still young at the rule of command and fresh on the ship he loved so much.

On the bridge of the Elita, Targo did all in his power to evade the rage of the Northern Star, truly pushing his abilities to its limits.

"Can you get a lock on them, Mr. Blake?" Tal asked his tactical officer.

"Aft torpedoes are locked, Sir",

"Fire!"

The Elita fired from her rear weapon platform and four blue torpedoes made their way to the Northern Star, one out of four hitting.

"We got a hit, Sir", Blake reported. "One torpedo. Right nacelle".

"Mr. Mai?" Tal turned to his science officer.

"The shields took most of the hit, Sir", Mai reported. "Hardly any damage to the nacelle".

"Our shields are down to 75 percent, Captain", Thomas reported. "Compensating with auxiliary power".

"They’re making another run at us", Blake reported. "Port side".

"Fire Phasers", Tal ordered.

As the Northern Star made her attack run of impulse Phasers, the Elita fought back.

"We were hit!" Lt. Wellsh reported. "Deck 18!"

"Mr. Blake?" Tal turned to Warren.

"I targeted the nacelle again, Sir", he said. "We got through the shields".

"Sir, their nacelle was lightly damaged", Mai reported. "Some antimatter atoms have spread into space, nothing more".

"Antimatter atoms…" Tal said to him self and then turned to Lt. Commander Mai once more. "Commander, what did you say the Becka nebula was made of now?"

"Mainly hydrogen ions, Sir", Mai replied. "But how is that relevant to our situation?"

"Gluons Mr. Mai, gluons", Tal said. "What can you tell me about gluons Commander?"

"Gluons, Sir?" Mai wasn't sure where his Captain was going, yet he provided the information. "Well, gluons are the result of an unnatural combination of free hydrogen ions and the antimatter atoms created by a warp core or a warp nacelle. They don’t last very long and tend to be highly unstable for their short life span".

"Thank you Commander", Tal said, turning to Targo. "Ensign, take us a one hundred million kilometers into the cluster, Warp 7. Engage".

Targo didn’t say a word, simply obeyed his given command.

On board the Northern Star a Kazon male reported to Thowrn.

"They’re heading into the nebula, Captain".

"After them!" Thowrn commanded.

"Captain, they won’t have any other option but to come out", one of the Nausicaans said. "We can just wait for them here".

Thowrn took out his disruptor and fired at the Nausicaans who vaporized on the spot.

"Any one else have any bright ideas?" Thowrn shouted and no one replied. "AFTER THEM!"

The Northern Star went into warp, following the Elita.

On the Elita, Tal turned to his Chief Engineer.

"Chief, transfer all power from weapons to shields and engines", Tal ordered Aaron.

"What good will…"

"Now Chief!" Tal ordered and his command was carried out.

"We’re here, Sir", Targo reported. "What now?"

"Evasive maneuvers once the Northern Star gets here". Tal said and turned to Blake. "On my mark you take the helm from Ensign Targo and set a course out of here, maximum warp".

"Aye, Sir", Blake replied.

"Commander Lorei", Tal turned to his First Officer. "Contact shuttle bay 3, tell them to prepare two Valkyrie fighters which will be controlled from the bridge".

"Yes, Sir", she said and carried out her orders. "The fighters will be ready in a few moments, Captain. What are we going to do with them?"

"Gluons, Commander", Tal replied. He spoke louder now so Targo could hear him as well. "When antimatter atoms come in contact with hydrogen free ions they create gluons. These gluons are highly combustible; it does not take much to detonate them. When the Northern Star gets here, we will launch our fighters, controlled by Mr. Targo from the bridge".

"But Sir", Mai interrupted. "Antimatter atoms aren't a common substance in space".

"Very true, Mr. Mai, but like you said, they are found within a warp nacelle". Tal turned mainly to Targo now. "First, you will use one fighter in order to target the Northern Star’s nacelle we already damaged. Thowrn will be too busy aiming at us; he will not mind the small fighters. You must hit the nacelle with all weapons and then run the fighter into it".

"The Nacelle will release the atoms into the cluster", Mai said, looking at Tal, finally understanding his Captain’s tactics. "The contact with the free ions will create the gluons…"

"Which you will target using the second fighter", Tal said to Targo. "Set the fighter on self destruct and give Blake a signal to make the jump into warp".

"The Northern Star will be here in ten seconds, Captain", Lt. Wellsh reported.

Captain Christopher Tal stood up and looked at his crew.

"I know we can do this, people", he said. "Get ready".

"They’re here", Monica reported.

The Northern Star dropped out of warp and fired at the Elita, hitting the saucer port side with impulse Phasers.

"Now!" Tal ordered.

Blake took the helms and set the course while maintaining evasive maneuvers. Targo took control of the fighters and they were lunched. The Northern Star didn’t care for the small fighters and kept targeting the Elita.

"We got hit again, Captain!" Lorei reported. "Deck 10!"

"Carry your orders, Ensign", Tal said.

Targo set the first fighter on course at the Northern Star although it was hard to keep him steady. If he had been on board the fighter it might be easier to target the Northern Star, but he had no choice but to do it from the bridge. He had a shot; he took it.

The Valkyrie opened fire and hit the shields, taking them down. Targo set it on full speed right into the nacelle.

"The nacelle was badly damaged, Sir", Mai reported. "They lost warp capability. Antimatter atoms are flowing into space. Gluons are formed Captain".

"In your own time, Mr. Targo", Tal said.

"Aye, aye Sir", Targo replied. "Self destruct initiated…. Now!"

The Elita jumped into warp a nano-second before the other fighter exploded.

Thowrn got the report on board the Northern Star.

"Captain", said a Romulan female. "We don’t have warp capability and the fighter which just exploded activated a chain reaction within the gluons…"

"NO!" Thowrn stood up. On screen they saw the explosion heading their way and with nothing to do.

"TAL!!!!"

The Elita cleared out of the cluster and was still in warp. Targo and Blake retook their stations.

Tal turned to Mai for a report.

"The cluster is very aggressive, Captain", Mai said. "One explosion after another. There won’t be much left of it soon".

"Thank you, Mr. Mai", Tal said and turned to Targo. "How soon before we are within Federation space Ensign?"

"Twenty-four minutes, Sir", Targo replied.

"Stand down red alert", Lorei called.

Captain Tal stood up.

"We did well today, people", he said. "We faced hard situations and difficult odds yet we rouse victorious nonetheless. We proved this ship is truly worthy of her name and most importantly, we safeguarded the Federation. Dr. Zefram Cochrane once said ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before’. And while we may not be able to do that, we can make sure this galaxy is safe enough, so others can".

Tal took his sit. The bridge was quiet for a short while, as each member of that crew smiled and went about his work.

A few hours later, the Elita was back in Federation space, patrolling the systems near the neutral zone.

Ensign Erim Targo was in Ten Forward, sitting at the same table as on the day they left the Alpha Quadrant, drinking Deka Tea. He has a shift in less then an hour.

'Did it all really happen' he asked himself. He couldn't believe it as he reviewed the events of the passing few days in his head. He was captured by the Dominion; he could have been dead right now, or worse.

Lorei entered Ten Forward and walked over to Targo's table. When Erim saw her he stood up.

"What can I do for you, Commander?" he asked.

"Get some sleep, Ensign", Lorei said with her stiff voice. "Your performance in these passing days was remarkable, so I have decided to release you from your up coming shift. Go to your quarters and sleep. That's an order Ensign".

Lorei didn't smile nor made her words seem friendly. Erim had no intention of understanding his Commander, simply nodded and went about his way.

While Ensign Targo went to get a well needed and deserved sleep, Captain Tal was in his ready room, going over reports of what happened when he wasn’t on his ship. He already submitted a short report to Admiral Wyngarde and StarFleet Command, but his full report required some data he was missing.

After reading the reports from Commander Lorei, Lt. Commander Blake and Dr. T’Jenn, he called all three of them to his office.

"Enter", he said as the signal came in. His three officers stepped into the room.

"Thank you for coming", Tal said. "Where do I start?"

"Captain, I claim full responsibility", Lorei started. "The Jem’Hadar incident…"

"Was very well handled", Tal said.

"What, Sir?" Blake didn’t understand.

"I have no complaints as to the form in which you dealt with 8th Roda’Jalan", Tal said. "You carried out my orders and when it came to it neutralized the hazard, in fact neutralized is a bit of an understatement, do you not think so Mr. Blake?"

"Yes, Sir", Blake replied.

"I think it could have been better handled had you been carrying a phaser with you", Tal said and then handed a data-pad to Blake. "The Elita is a war ship, we should act is if she might be boarded at any given moment. As of today, every security officer on this ship is to carry a phaser at all times. Understood Commander?"

"Yes, Sir", Blake said. "It will be carried out".

"Very Good", Tal said. "Dr. T’Jenn, I would like to receive your report of our last battle".

"Yes, Captain", she said. "Two were killed and ten injured".

She handed Tal a pad with all the info.

For a few seconds it appeared as if time stopped. Christopher did not move at all, as his mind processed the short yet harsh data his CMO just informed him of. He took a deep breath, exhaled and carried on.

"Thank you, Doctor", Tal said. "You are dismissed, as are you Mr. Blake".

The two of them left the office. Lorei took a sit in front of the Captain.

"Last time you were here, Commander", Tal began. "You were about to speak freely about Ensign Targo".

"Yes, Sir", she replied.

"Have you read my report, Commander?" Tal asked.

"I have, Sir", she said. "My attitude towards Ensign Targo was not only misplaced, but also badly originated. I won’t let it interfere with my duty again. He did very well in these last few days".

"Yes", the Captain agreed. "Very well. The entire crew did".

"Sir?" Lorei spoke. "How did you know?"

"Know what, Commander?" Tal asked his First Officer.

"About what Thowrn would do?" she said. "He might as well had decided to wait for us out side the nebula. How did you know he would follow us in?"

"Had you met Norman Thowrn, you would have known as well, Ms. Lorei", Tal replied. "Mr. Thowrn said to me, he never cared for the ideals of StarFleet, nor its regulations and directives. He joined the Fleet for fame. If we had made our way back to the Federation, like we did, he would have lost the only thing of his life as a StarFleet captain that he wanted, being a hero. Norman Thowrn would have done anything to destroy us. That is way he followed us into the nebula".

Lorei didn't say a thing, simply set there for a few moments thinking as Captain Tal kept working on his report.

"Anything else, Commander?" Tal asked his officer after a few minutes.

"With all due respect Sir", Lorei said. "You should get some sleep".

"Thank you Ms. Lorei", Tal said with a smile. "But if I had wanted some one to tell me I need to get some sleep I could have simply activate the holo-record my mother sent me".

"Yes, Sir", Lorei said with a smile.

"You are dismissed, Commander", Tal said and Lorei left the ready room.

He worked for a few hours more and finished his full report. Once that was also sent to Admiral Wyngarde and StarFleet Command, Christopher read Dr. T’Jenn’s report again.

A beeping noise got Christopher's attention. It was the com-link.

"Sir?" Came the voice of Lt. Commander Mai. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I think you may want look out side your window, Sir. It's quite a view".

Christopher got up and looked out side his window. He couldn't help but smile. A commit passed a long side the Elita. It was nothing special; a regular comet with its blue shimmer of molten ice forming into a tale. Nothing special and yet, very much so.

Christopher gazed on. It hurts him sometimes, the fact he has to command a war ship. Sometimes he finds himself willing to give up the rule of Captain and the sit of command for a chance to explore the galaxy, but he can’t. His mission is of protection, and he will carry it out to the fullest. He can only put in one hundred percent. He doesn’t know what it means to do any less.

Christopher made his way to his quarters. Once there he took off his duty uniforms and put on his own clothes. He walked to the replicator and ordered a warm cup of Cappuccino. He then settled down on his couch.

"Computer", he said. "Open my personal log, begin recording".

"Acknowledged."

Captain’s personal log, stardate 55282.5

I have now concluded my report of the Northern Star and former captain Norman Thowrn. It was hard, seeing a man such as he. I still cannot believe what he has done. However, it does not seem to be what bothers me the most. We keep patrolling the sectors we were given, the systems. I knew before it will not be easy, but… well, I guess that really caught me unprepared. I never lost someone under my command before and its… it’s hard. The first thing I looked at when I first stood on the bridge of the Elita, was the dedication plaque. It says: ‘We’ll fight the good fight, and live to see the daylight of tomorrow’ and we did, all of us, with the exception of Ensign Baru and Lieutenant Junior Grade Fisk.

It’s hard.

 

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