"...And that's all we know for now," Sisko
concluded. "If you have any
questions, now is the time to ask them."
"What sort of rescue mission can we expect if something goes wrong, Captain?"
"There will be no rescue possible, Lt. Connors, if the activity there is as
heavy as we've been told. That's why you and Commander Raymond are going to
the Duran System." Sisko looked at the both of us. "I know you two are
planning on getting married soon, so I will ask that you return safely. If the
situation gets too thick for you out there, you have my permission to dump the
assignment overboard and get the hell out of there."
"Too bad we can't ask the Prophets for their guidance and blessings an this
mission," I said.
Sisko shrugged his shoulders. "We're still working on that."
I smiled, then I got serious. "Ben, you know you should have assigned someone
else for this."
"I can't spare anybody right now, Charlie. You and Dari are all I have for
this. Just get back in one piece, and I will dance at your wedding!"
"If your dad will bring the jambalaya and the shrimp Creole, I'll consider
it!" Ben's father makes the best Cajun food I have ever tasted.
"Will that be all, sir?" Dari asked Ben.
"Just one thing..." He tossed me something, a small round object. "You can
borrow this." It was his favorite baseball, the one autographed by Buck Bokai.
"It will bring you luck," he said.
"There won't even be a smudge on it," I promised.
"There better not be." He was smiling. "Dismissed."
We arrived at Landing Pad A, where the Lochsa was docked. I had often
wondered why these ships were named after rivers on Earth...why not some
others? There were plenty of rivers in the Federation...Bajor, Ferenginar,
Kronos, Cestus III, Mars, Betazed,Vulcan...among others. I took the helm, Dari
took navigation. We ran the preflight checks, then fired up the warp and
impulse drives. I called Ops as soon as the pad was raised.
"Ops, this is the Runabout Lochsa. Permission to depart?" I asked.
"Lochsa, you are cleared for departure," Colonel Kira said.
"Thank you, Colonel. Lochsa out." I eased the ship off the pad, and cleared
the docking pylon with thrusters. I took us between the habitat ring and the
Promenade. I always liked to see the people going about their business.
"Setting course for the Duran System," Dari said.
"Course confirmed," I said. "Full impulse, until we clear the Bajoran System."
I ramped up the impulse drive to full power, then watched as Bajor slipped by
the starboard viewport. I felt something familiar...Dari's hand on mine. "It's
beautiful, isn't it?" she asked.
Bajor IS one of the most beautiful planets in the entire quadrant! I had often
thought of building a house there for Dari and myself...when we retire from
Starfleet. "Yes, it is, honey," I said., as I squeezed her hand. "Someday, I
hope we can live there."
She kissed me ever so softly, the way I've always liked. "We will, I promise."
The computer beeped. "Clearing the Bajoran System," she said.
I cleared my throat. She has a way of turning me on...much as I was right now.
I pressed a few buttons to enter our course, then engaged the warp drive. The
Lochsa jumped to Warp 6 as we left Bajor behind.
"Well, we might as well relax...we'll be there in eight hours," I said as I
checked the chronometer. "You hungry?"
"Not really," Dari said. "I had some Balerian canapés earlier, at Quark's."
"Oh, you sneaky devil you!" I teased, as I went to the replicator. One thing
about replicated food...it does taste pretty good, once you get used to the
plasticity of the texture. "Bacon and scrambled eggs with 2 raktajinos," I
said. At least I could fool myself into thinking this was the real thing. Dari
smiled...she likes raktajino, also. I handed her one of the cups, then sat at
my console and began eating. I must have been hungry...the food actually
tasted good, or at least my self-denial program was running overtime!
Hours later, the computer alerted us as we approached the Duran System. I
dropped the ship out of warp and began scanning for Dominion activity in the
"Phasers and photons standing by," Dari said, as she brought our weapons
"Atta girl. No Dominion activity within scanner range," I said. "Entering
standard orbit of Duran 2."
We approached the planet...a fairly routine procedure. Suddenly, the proximity
alert went off. Dari beat me to the punch.
"Three Jem'Hadar fighters on intercept course!" she exclaimed. The Red Alert
lights lit up...a ship this small doesn't need a klaxon.
"Confirmed...raise shields, lock phasers and photon torpedoes," I ordered. The
Jem'Hadar must have sensed our target lock...two peeled off and dove for the
planet, while the third closed in. Disruptor bolts lanced out and struck our
shields. The ship lurched from the impacts.
"Fire!" I exclaimed. Dari hit the phaser button, and the fighter burst into
millions of glowing particles.
"One down, two to go," she said. "Acquiring phaser lock."
I dove to intercept the other two fighters as they began their atmospheric re-
entry. "Standby on photons," I ordered.
"Targeting...locked on!" Dari said.
The second fighter exploded in a matter/antimatter fireball. I plunged the
Lochsa through the dissapating flames and closed in on the third one. Oh, this
one was a good pilot. Dari fired our phasers...and the ship jinked left to
avoid the hit.
"Dammit!" she said. "I missed! I knew I should
have used the photons!"
"It's not you, honey," I reassured her. "This guy's a hell of a pilot!
Besides, we're too close now for photons."
"Okay...attaining phaser lock," she said. I could tell she was upset.
Jem'Hadar had completed his re-entry, and we were hot on his tail, so to
speak. He fired back, I jinked right.
"HA! You missed!" I yelled at the Jem'Hadar...as if he could really hear me.
Then, the proximity alarm went off again. Another fighter had slipped in
"Um, Dari, forget what I said earlier," I said as a disruptor bolt hit our
shields. A panel exploded behind us, filling the cockpit with smoke. "Photon
this guy ahead of us...I'm going for the surface!"
"You bet!" she said as she launched a full spread of torpedoes. The Jem'Hadar
ahead of us ceased to exist as I dove for the surface. The following fighter
mirrored our actions, firing again, bolts striking our shields.
"Put a phaser beam across his nose, please?" I asked.
Dari fired again...several blasts, each one striking the fighter.
"I said across his nose...not UP it!"
"They won't take the hint unless you give them a bloody one!" she reminded me.
Obviously, this ometi'klan wasn't about to give up...he fired again, knocking
our maneuvering thrusters offline, as well as our photons. Another panel
exploded to Dari's left. She put out the fire quickly and sent a phaser beam
toward the Jem'Hadar. He veered right to avoid the impact. I steered the
Lochsa toward a fairly open stretch of land with mountains in the distance. At
¼ impulse, those hills weren't very far apart. Dari must have sensed what I
was about to do.
"Oh, no, Charlie. You're good, but not that good!"
I looked at her, coughing in the smoke. "You're right, Dari, but the Jem'Hadar
doesn't know that! Give me half impulse." Another disruptor blast, and we lost
our warp drive. I shot for the biggest mountains I could see. We began weaving
around mountains, over valleys, through canyons...which was good and bad. He
couldn't get a target lock on us, but neither could we on him. I dove closer
to the ground...at ½ impulse, 30 feet above the surface was incredibly
dangerous...but so was a Jem'Hadar disruptor bolt. Rocks and dirt were being
sucked up into our wake, striking the fighter's shields. Dari could sense what
I was doing, and began to compensate for the added drag on the ship.
"¾ impulse, please," I said. Dari obliged...then saw something ahead of us.
"Um, Charlie, I don't mean to panic, but why are you steering toward that
mountain?" she asked.
"You really want to know?" I asked.
"Well...I don't think so. I'll wait until this is over."
"Good thinking." I deliberately steered toward the big mountain ahead of us,
hoping the Jem'Hadar fighter wasn't as maneuverable as a Yellowstone-class
runabout. "Get ready to give me full impulse...on my mark."
"Impact in 10 seconds," Dari said, the panic growing in her voice.
"FULL IMPULSE!" I shouted. The Lochsa literally folded itself in half as I hit
a power climb. I must have done it too rapidly...the inertial dampeners
couldn't quite reduce the g-forces. We were slammed into our seats as the ship
blasted straight upwards.
"Computer, aft view on screen!" I struggled to say.
The screen showed the Jem'Hadar fighter bouncing off the mountain, losing a
wing on the way, going ass over teakettle, then exploding. The dampeners
finally compensated...the g-forces lessened on our bodies.
"Remind me never to panic when I'm with you, honey," Dari said.
I reduced our speed. "There are times when I do know what I'm doing. Find us a
suitable landing place so we can assess our damage, then go find that
Jem'Hadar base that's supposed to be here."
"Got one...85 kilometers southwest. No further Jem'Hadar activity within
sensor range," Dari said.
"Good...let's hope these guys were just a patrol from their base, far far
Dari smiled. I squeezed her hand. God, I love this woman!
A few hours later, we were repairing the damage to
what we could with the limited resources on hand. Mostly just fire damage and
broken consoles. Our warp drive was intact, the weapons were repaired, our
shield generators recharged, and our other systems unaffected. At least we had
transporters, if we needed them.
I stepped outside to get a some fresh air...the smoke was making me sneeze. I
left the airlock open to ventilate the cockpit. Dari followed a few minutes
later, eating a Balerian canape and carrying a mug, which she handed to me.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Something for you," she said.
I smelled the liquid inside...chicken soup. "Oh, thank you, sweetheart!" I
said as I gave her a kiss.
She returned the favor. "Just thought you might want something hot while we're
waiting for the ship to ventilate."
She was right...the temperature here was about 15 degrees Celsius. She put her
arms around me.
"I hope it warms up later," I remarked. Dari was still holding me. "Are you
She shivered. "Yes...I hate the cold!"
"Well, go back inside, and get a survival suit jacket. Or, take a sip of my
soup and stay out here with me. I'm going to check the Bussard ramscoops and
the impulse vents."
She opted for the jacket. "I'll be out in a minute!" she said.
"Take your time, honey," I said. The chill was getting to me, as well. I
checked the rest of the ship. Other than a few burns from the disruptors, and
a few antimatter scars, the ship was relatively unscathed. Dari came out a
few minutes later, carrying two backpacks, phaser rifles, and wearing a silver
"Let's get this mission over with...I want to get back to DS9," she said.
"I couldn't agree with you more, honey!" I said.
I opened my pack to check the contents. 2 weeks worth of
food and water,
power cells for the phaser rifles, tricorder, datapadd, medkit, shelter half,
sleeping pad, and survival suit. I took out the jacket and padd, and placed
the tricorder in my hip pocket. Dari was putting her pack over her shoulders
and charging her phaser rifle.
"Set phasers to stun," I said.
"Right...just be sure to tell the Jem'Hadar that," she joked, as she set the
rifle to Level 3.
"Okay...Excuse me, Mr. Jem'Hadar, but I've got my phaser set on stun. Would
you mind doing the same?" I said.
Dari laughed...she's got a giggle that makes me feel good. "Okay, Commander,
let's go find that base!"
"Whatever you say, Lieutenant!" I replied, as I activated the datapadd.
The padd indicated a possible Jem'Hadar base approximately
from where the Lochsa was located. Several caves were also along the way...and
we had to check every one. We stopped for a breather and to check the
"It looks like some of these caves are interconnected," Dari said, pointing at
"We may not have to check every one, then," I said. "Look, here's one right
along our path that connects to another down near where Starfleet thinks the
base is." I drew a path with my finger along the screen. "Let's find this
entrance, then follow the cave to the base."
"Good enough for me...this cold is making me miserable." Dari shivered under
'You'd think someone would pay the heating bill," I joked. I took out the
tricorder and began to scan for the cave. The cold breeze began to bite at my
neck. "Geez, I thought Duran 2 wasn't in it's winter phase," I said.
"The sooner we find the cave, the better," Dari said, blowing on her hands.
Her phaser rifle was slung over her shoulder. I did the same and put the
tricorder in it's pocket.
"Come here, honey," I said. Dari moved toward me, as I put my arms around her.
"That any better?"
"A little," she said. I looked at the sky. Everything was pointing towards a
major snowstorm in a few hours.
"There's a cave just a few hundred meters this way," I said, pointing down the
trail. "It's not the one we want, but it'll do for now. Can you make it?"
"Oh, anything...this cold breeze is awful!" She shivered again. The wind had
picked up a bit more.
The snow had begun to fall when we got to the cave. We
moved as far from
the entrance as possible, and set up camp. I set my phaser rifle to the lowest
setting possible, and fired at the rocks I had set up to generate heat.
"There," I said as I slung my rifle over my shoulder. "Plenty of heat. You
feel good, now?"
Dari sat on the ground, soaking up the warmth. "Ohhhhhh....that's MUCH
better!" she said.
"I swear, baby, you must be part Cardassian, if you hate the cold so much!"
She gave me a dirty look. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing...it's just that Cardassians are reptilian, and reptiles hate the
She still gave me that dirty look.
"I mean they're cold-blooded, honey. Don't take me so seriously!"
She still gave me that dirty look. Oh, boy, I'm in the soup now, I thought.
"I'm sorry, Darian. I was way out of line with that remark. Please forgive
She broke into a big smile. "Had you going, didn't I?"
"You sneaky little devil you!" I said. She jumped up and kissed me full on the
lips, wrapping her arms around me. I returned the favor. Then, just as quickly
as she started, she stopped. "What's wrong, honey?" I asked.
"I had to make myself stop...we're on a mission."
"So...I'm getting incredibly turned on," she said.
"Well, so am I," I admitted.
"We do have a tent..."she said...
"Maybe I should have left this part out, Ben," I told Sisko.
"It's all right, Charlie, I understand. What you two do on your own time is
your business. And, nighttime is your own time," Sisko said. He smiled that "I
know what you did" smile. I couldn't help but do the same. I continued...
I woke up a few hours later. The rocks had cooled off somewhat. Dari was
fast asleep. We had made love many times before, but not like this. Inside a
cave on an alien planet...there's one for the books! I picked up my rifle and
tricorder, then went out of the tent. Everything seemed normal. It was just a
little too quiet for my liking. I quickly scanned the area for 500 meters with
the tricorder. Nothing out of the ordinary...just 3 feet of snow on the
ground. Maybe that's why it was so quiet. I went outside the cave...to the
most beautiful sight (next to Dari) I had ever seen.
The moonlight was reflecting off the snow-covered ground...much like the
Christmases I had enjoyed as a child back on Earth. As far as the eye could
see...everything was covered with snow...which was strange, since Duran 2
should be in it's summer phase about now. Perhaps the orbit had changed, maybe
the Dominion had developed some terribly powerful weapon...well, no time to
speculate. That's why we were here! I could almost see the runabout in the
distance. Well, best back inside. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day. I shouldered
my rifle and went back to our campsite. I noticed that Dari had gone, perhaps
to relieve herself, I thought. Oh, she forgot her phaser rifle! Then I noticed
the footprints. There were far too many to be just Dari's. Jem'Hadar...had to
be! I took out the tricorder again and scanned the cave. Nothing. Perhaps the
minerals in the cave were interfering with the tricorder's scanner. Whatever
the reason, I now had to find Dari. I could still do the primary mission...or
so I thought. My focus is going to be shaky...must concentrate! I hid our
supplies, picked up her rifle, and began to follow the tracks through the
I must have walked for kilometers...this
cave system was incredibly
large. Many natural formations, lots of water, rocks, unusual crystalline
formations...they almost looked like natural dilithium crystals. My tricorder
scans indicated a dilithium structure, but none of the familiar crystalline
properties. I soon came upon a large room deep inside the cave...then I heard
"The humans should have frozen to death outside." That was a Jem'Hadar
"Be patient, First Ometi'klan. The Founders want them to suffer greatly before
their fate is sealed." That was the Vorta assigned to the Jem'Hadar squad. "We
do have one of them...she will be our test subject."
They were talking about Dari! "What of the other human? Were you able to
locate him?" the Vorta asked.
"Perhaps he went outside to die," the ometi'klan said.
"You will take 3 men to insure he does. Destroy their ship, as well."
I heard the scuffle of boots as four Jem'Hadar left their base, going to look
for me. I had to patch into the remote control of the Lochsa...get her into
orbit. Maybe I could get her over the north pole to mask her from the
Jem'Hadar sensors. I took out the padd, and quickly re-programmed it to the
navigation and helm controls for the runabout. I tapped my commbadge, hoping
it would have enough signal to connect to the onboard computer.
"Computer...emergency launch sequence. Manual Override." No response. I tapped
again, and stepped 3 meters to the right.
"Computer...emergency launch sequence. Automatic Pilot." Connection
established. The padd responded with text.
"Set Course:___/___". I quickly entered the co-ordinates of the orbital north
pole and pressed the "launch" button, hoping the Lochsa had indeed gotten off
the ground. I put the padd away, and ramped up my phaser rifle to Level 16. I
put in a fresh power cell to ensure positive firing. I was still listening to
"What do you think you're doing?" That was Dari.
"We don't think, Lieutenant Connors, we know what we're doing. You are going
to be our first test subject for our...oh, how do you say it...experiment?"
"I hope your life insurance is paid up, Vorta! Commander Raymond will blow you
all to hell!"
"And you will be among the casualties, Lieutenant." The Vorta was trying to
make her angry. I could tell she already was. "Besides, your boyfriend is no
match for 35 Jem'Hadar soldiers."
What little he knows, I thought.
"Sir! The Federation ship has just taken off!" That was a Jem'Hadar. I
couldn't tell where he was...must have been by a console.
"Bring it down," the Vorta said.
"Unable to attain weapons lock...it has left the system."
"Are you certain?"
"No, sir...I lost contact with it as soon as it attained orbit." Good, I
thought. The runabout just parked itself over the magnetic pole. Now it was
masked from their sensors.
"You see, Lieutenant Connors. Your boyfriend has left you to die here."
"Well, if you're so certain of that, why don't you go after him? At least we
can die together." That made me feel good.
"Oh, don't worry, Lieutenant Connors, we will. You will both die here...no one
will notice you're gone until the Dominion has taken over the Alpha quadrant.
Send 4 fighters to pursue the Federation runabout." I could tell his
conversation had shifted to his Jem'Hadar minions. More scuffling as they left
their base. I then heard something like a high-pitched whine. "NO!!!" Dari
"Now, now, Lieutenant Connors, there is no need to resist. How do you humans
say it...it'll only hurt for a moment?"
The next sound sent cold chills through my body. I had never heard Dari cut
loose with such a blood-curdling scream in my life...then silence. Absolute
dead silence. Her screams still echoed through the cave when the Vorta turned
off the high-pitched whine.
"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" the Vorta said. They've done something to
Dari...I hoped it was something worth risking MY life for. Level 16 didn't
quite seem like enough...until I noticed the high explosives being stored near
where I was hiding. Then I heard the sound of a Jem'Hadar disruptor...but the
blast sure sounded strange.
It sounded like a "whurrfffngt." Then, the Vorta spoke again.
"That completes the process."
I was busy gathering some explosives...this "process" had to be stopped. I
wasn't sure what it was, but it didn't sound good.
"Should we turn off the weather control, sir?"
"Why not?" the Vorta said. "I'm certain the Founders will be pleased with this
part of the process. Notice how she doesn't move."
That was all I could stand. I began lobbing explosives into the room, firing
my phaser as I ran toward the sounds I heard earlier. Disruptor bolts exploded
around me as I fired again and again. The Jem'Hadar soldiers couldn't find me
as I ducked behind consoles and containers., throwing grenades and firing
phaser blast after phaser blast. It seemed to go on for hours. The soldiers
were dropping like flies, until, finally, the dust settled. I walked over to
the Vorta, lying on the ground in a pool of blood. I grabbed him by the
collar, and pulled him up so there was no mistaking what he was about to hear.
"So, Vorta, you think your precious gods will be pleased to learn that a lowly
SOLID just destroyed your 'process'?" I mocked.
"You're too late, Commander Raymond. It has already begun..." he said as he
I dropped his limp body. "Not if I can help it." The I turned...and saw
Dari. She was standing on some sort of transporter pad...completely frozen.
Her face was relaxed, so to speak, eyes open, mouth closed. She looked like
she was in stasis. I spoke to her.
"Dari, can you hear me?" Nothing. I spoke again. "Dari, are you all right?"
I touched her shoulder...her skin was hard, like plastic. Almost stone-like. I
must have bumped her, because she fell over. I heard a loud "thunk" as her
body hit the ground. Nothing broke, thank the Prophets! Suddenly, another
disruptor bolt impacted the machine next to where I was standing. I dove
behind the machine and brought my phaser rifle to my shoulder...nothing. I had
drained the power cell. Two...three more bolts. I dropped the rifle and
picked up Dari's. Empty, also! I was out of grenades, but then I remembered
Ben's baseball. I took it out of the protected pocket in my pack, and threw it
across the room. It knocked something off a table...and got the Jem'Hadar's
attention, for he fired in that direction. I ran out of my hiding place and
knocked his rifle out of his hands. He drew his knife, which I quickly knocked
away. We got into a brief hand-to-hand scuffle. I knocked him to the ground
and finished him off with his own knife. Then I went back to Dari. She was
still lying on the ground, unmoving. I went to a communications console, and
called the runabout.
"Computer, emergency transport. Two to beam up." I went over to Dari, waiting
for the transporter to energize. I held her frozen body in my arms, tears
welling up in my eyes.
"I promise you, Darian Connors, I will get you back to normal," I said as the
transporter beamed us aboard.
...to be continued