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JADZIA DAX WAS momentarily confused with both the captain of Deep Space Nine and the captain of the Default on the bridge at the same time. Benjamin had immediately turned over responsibility for the ship's launch to Worf while he demanded a detailed briefing from Dax on recent Klingon activity around the wormhole. At the same time, Worf was barking orders at her in her capacity as helmsman and weapons officer! Meanwhile, the two Klingon ships fired three more disrupter blasts. Two deflected off the shields of the target ship, the last partially penetrated and drew blood from the starboard engine pod. "Aye, Commander I'm sorry, Captain? engine spin-up, seven-six-five-four. Yes, sir, five ships in the last two weeks; can't say for sure they were Klingon, but they were cloaked and they were in and out of the wormhole. Release docking clamps, chief. Aye, Commander, reverse one quarter . . . Captain Sisko stood and walked away from Dax, reluctant to interrupt her while she performed the whipturn and got the Def ant cruising to attack speed headed toward the wormhole, where the battle raged. Now one of the birds-of-prey fired a torpedo of some sort, briefly illuminating the smaller ship's shield structure to the naked eye. A fourth blip appeared for a moment in the glare, but Dax quickly class)fied it as most likely a sensor echo. Something seemed strange, however. Could it be another cloaked ship? Well, we'll soon see, she thought; it has to decloak to shoot anything "On screen," said Worf; he didn't say, but Dax knew he meant the combat. They watched as two Klingon birds-of-prey harried a smaller vessel of unknown design, a ship that scarcely would have attracted the station's attention except for two points of interest: it was squawking a Federation distress call, and it was being cut to ribbons in their own backyard. Worf inhaled, but before he could ask, Dax responded, "Four minutes, Commander." Another disrupter blast rocked the presumed Federation ship, skewing it from its path and sending it careening into the teeth of the second bird-of-prey. "Captain," said Dax, "their shields are holding remarkably well. We should be there in plenty of time." "Let's hope so, Old Man." The lieutenant commander watched her oldest human friend pace back and forth. His face was impassive, but the Trill could read it like a tricorder, so long had she known him. There were rumors of high-level, political contact between Gowron and the Federation Council, but nobody had given the word to the high mucketymucks of Starfleet, let alone a mere captain commanding a space station in the quadrant boondocks. The KlingonFederation alliance was off; no, it was on again; no, definitely off absolutely, definitely, positively well, maybe not, but they weren't exactly sure. The captain, Dax understood, fretted that yet another incident between the Defiant and Klingon warships might have diplomatic repercussions far beyond the problems of a Federation pleasure yacht or ore-hauler that had stupidly poked a stick into a Klingon anthill. But how could Benjamin Sisko possibly stand still for a Federation ship being mauled within eyeball range of a heavily armed Federation fortress? O'Brien spoke up. "No response to the hail from the Klingons, Captain. I mean, Commander." Dax smiled. "They heard us?" asked Worf, touching all bases. "Yes, sir. They're just giving us the cold shoulder." Now Worf rose from his command chair. "Captain, I insist you either give me full command of this mission and let me lock phasers or take command yourself." "I'll take the cone, Mr. Worf," said Benjamin decisively. He strode to the command chair as the Klingon vacated to the XO's position. "Ful} power to the phaser array, Old Man. Lock on both targets simultaneously but don't fire yet. Mr. O'Brien, try one more time . . . tell them to stop immediately or we'll blow them out of the Skye, "Can I quote you on that, sir?" asked O'Brien, but he was already sending the message. "Two more shots, Benjamin," said Dax. "Their shields are still at sixty-five percent." Sisko stood, staring at the forward viewer. "That should hold until we can hose them down and separate them." Suddenly, Dax saw an energy surge; her suspicions were confirmed. "Captain, there's a third Klingon ship!" The new ship, a small, lightly armed patrol vessel, decloaked practically at the side of the Federation vessel. "Their shields are powering up, but they don't have any disrupters." "I've had as much of this as I'm going to take. Fire on the birds-of-prey. Let's bloody their noses and see if that catches their attention!" Abruptly, Worf leaped from his chair and raced to Dax's console. "Commander, did you say the small ship has no disrupters?" "Yes, sir. Firing now, Captain." She tapped the touchplate, still incongruously called a "trigger" even centuries after the last mechanical lever dropped a hammer on a firing pin. The twin bolts appeared instantaneously actually at just a hair under lightspeed, but close enough to infinity across such a short distance cutting through the weaker side-shielding of both birds, crippling the disrupter alignment module of one ship and slightly damaging the aft environmental controls of the other. Call it one hit and one near miss. "Readying photon torpedoes," announced Chief O'Brien, in case the captain decided to finish them off. "Just shields?" demanded the Klingon in Dax's ear, urgently. "Huh? Oh, yes Worf, just shields. Why, is there something I should " "They're modulating their shields!" shouted Worf. "Captain, we must reverse course and put as much distance as possible between us and the Federation ship!" "Why must we do that, Mr. Worf? That ship needs our help." "That ship is already dead, sir!" Hesitating only the briefest of moments, Sisko made an instant decision to listen to his second in command. "Full stop, reverse full impulse. Get us out of here, Old Man." His voice seemed a bit sulky to Dax; Benjamin was not happy about withdrawing when he seemed to have the upper hand.
Copyright © 1997 by Paramount Pictures