Chapter 12

U.S.S. Aldrin

Idran Terminus, Gamma Quadrant

21:27 Hours, February 3rd, 2380

Stardate 57092.821680

 

“I’m sorry, Captain,” R’Mor said over the combadge, “I can’t shut down the forcefields.”

Clark sat up uncomfortably in the dark, narrow Jefferies tube, “Can you send somebody down here with a phaser. Or at least a light?”

“All available personnel are working on restoring primary power and computer systems. Your orders.”

Clark nodded, “That they are. Keep working on it, Clark, out.”

Murphy was rolled in a ball about two meters away. He rocked impatiently on his heels, “Okay. How do we get out of here?”

“Well, we have two options,” Clark said. He put out his hand and held up his index finger, “A: we blast our way out,” added his middle finger, “B: we take apart the tube and essentially burrow out.” Clark realized that he couldn’t see his hand in the darkness and put it down, “Or, C: we sit and wait. Seeing as we’re in a rather comfined space, I’d prefer we skip option A.”

Murphy laughed nervously, his voice echoing in the pitch-black tube, “It’s a shame the forcefields are tied into emergency power.”

Clark rolled back onto his back and felt around for the closest access panel, “As opposed to emergency forcefields failing in the brig, over hull breaches, and around the warp core when power is lost?” He found a panel, unlatched it, and dropped it to the side.

The clattering of the metal panel made Murphy jump. “Sure, the pros outweigh the cons, but just this once it would have been nice.”

“Yep.” Clark blindly reached into the void behind the removed panel, grabbing isolinear chips, plasma routers, and other parts of the ship’s bowels before finding purchase on a bio-neural gel pack. He grabbed on and yanked the bag out of its mount, and then sat up, “Commander, toss me your combadge.”

Murphy obliged, snatching the delta shield off his chest and tossing it to Clark. The captain snatched the flying badge out of the air and quickly wrenched opened the casing.

“A little trick I learned on the Bozeman,” Clark explained as he inserted the internal circuitry of the combadge into the ODN interface at the end of the gel pack. The pack began to glow an eerie blue, casting a dim light onto the sides of the Jefferies tube. The thick neural fibers in the pack could be clearly seen, glowing an intense white. “Ruins the pack,” Clark said, waving it in the air, “But there are times that it’s worth it.” He put the gel pack on the deck between them. Clark noticed that Murphy was breathing heavily and sweat was running down the sides of his head. Clark cocked his head slightly to the side, “John, are you okay?”

Murphy gasped for air, “You might not have guessed, but I’m,” he swallowed hard, “Claustrophobic.”

“Really?”

Murphy vigorously nodded his head. Clark couldn’t help but draw the connection to the image of a small, frightened child.

“What do you normally do to deal with situations like this?” Clark asked.

Murphy chuckled, “I keep moving. As long as I’m in motion, I’m okay.” He looked to the invisible boundary of the forcefield just to his left, and then down the tube a few meters to his right to the other forcefield. “That’s not really an option right now.”

“And when you can’t?” Clark pushed the gel pack a bit closer to Murphy, thinking it might help, like a child with a night-light. “Don’t tell me that you sing.”

Murphy laughed, his amusement echoing through the Jefferies tubes, “No! I don’t sing.” He exhaled loudly and set his hands on the deck, “I try to think about anything other than getting crushed by the walls of the tube closing in on me.”

Clark looked around him, noting the unnervingly close proximity of the tube sides and top, “Yeah, don’t think about that.” Clark lowered himself down onto his back and slipped up close to the open panel. “Option B: we burrow.”

“Great,” Murphy groaned.

Clark grabbed the edges of the opening and pulled his upper torso inside. Somewhere behind the conduits and nodes was a bulkhead, and behind that was a cabin and open space. He reached out and grabbed an ODN conduit, pulling to take out the slack elsewhere in the line and allowing him to move it better out of his way. He detached a small atmospheric regulator from a ventilation duct and used the forearm-length tube as a lever to bend the supports for the isolinear chip array and open a space big enough that Murphy’s wider torso would fit through.

The regulator snapped under the pressure, with the half in Clark’s hand flipping over the isolinear array and snapping through a conduit over his head. Sparks rained down on Clark as he curse and pushed himself out, “Son of a bitch!”

Murphy kicked the glowing gel pack back down to Clark, “What happened?”

Clark reached out and grabbed the pack, “The conduit setup was changed in here. I think I just severed a power relay.”

“Where to?”

“I’m not sure,” Clark said, “But I’d have to say that power is out somewhere within ten meters of…” He hurriedly pushed himself out of the access port, “Emergency power is the only thing working right now.” He reached back in and grabbed a handful of isolinear chips and then tossed them down the tube. They clacked against the decking and slid to a stop about five meters away.

“Forcefields are out?” Murphy leaned over and reached through the space where the forcefield separating him from his phaser rifle had been. With no painful feedback, Murphy grabbed the rifle and pulled up, inspecting it in the dim blue light. He switched off the rifle’s top-mounted spotlight.

Clark’s combadge beeped, “R’Mor to Clark. The forcefields are down, and we just got external sensors online.”

Clark nodded, “Thank you, Ensign?” He got onto his hands and knees and started down the tube towards the chips, pushing the gel pack ahead of him.

“You didn’t let me finish.” She added, “Captain. They’re still recalibrating, but we’re definitely picking something up out there.”

Clark stopped, “What is it?”

“I don’t know.”

Toq’bae’s distant voice could be heard through the combadge, “Visual’s online. And… oh shit.”

“Ensign?” Clark prodded.

“It’s a Dominion fleet,” R’Mor said dejectedly.

Clark started forward again, “Prepare the crew for boarding parties. Murphy is on his way up, I’m heading to engineering.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Clark, out.” He squinted in the darkness, knowing that a vertical shaft was coming up ahead.

A deep voice with a hint of gravely harshness came from ahead in the tunnel, “You can’t stop us.”

The pair froze. Clark stared ahead into the darkness, “We’re onto you. It’s not going to work.”

The voice laughed, “You think you’re a step ahead? You’re five steps behind and you’re not catching up.”

Clark rolled his eyes, “Is that all? Mind filling me in one what we’re missing?” Murphy slowly rolled back onto his knees and raised his rifle, taking up a cramped kneeling position to fire over Clark’s back.

“You do not amuse me.” The voice seemed to grow to grandiose, “You are doomed, Captain. The Dominion will soon rule the galaxy. It is our destiny. And you’ve delivered the tools for conquest into our hands.”

Even though he couldn’t make out anything in the dark reaches of the tunnel, Murphy fired his phaser. The yellow phaser bolt impacted the side of the tube, showering sparks and briefly illuminating a figure kneeling about five meters away with arms reaching up into access panels overhead.

The grandiosity turned to irritation, “That was the wrong move.” A small explosion erupted behind Murphy, knocking him to the deck and blowing smoke into the tube. The voice continued, “I’ve tapped into the power systems in this tube. Try anything else and I will kill you immediatedly.”

“Why not kill me now?” Clark asked. He kept his head facing forward as he slowly broke the power supply off of the combadge circuitry he’d attached to the gel pack.

“You’re five steps behind. That wouldn’t be fair.”

Clark jammed the power supply into a mismatched port on the top of the gel pack, “I’ve never known the Dominion for playing fair.” He tossed the gel pack down the tunnel, watching it slide to a stop at the feet of the figure.

The light blue light illuminated a face of undistinguished features with deeply set eyes and slicked back tan hair: a Founder. His arms were the liquid gold of a shapeshifter and extended up into the overhead, quite literally reaching into the power systems and more than capable of triggering a localized overload like the one that’d knocked down Murphy. The founder grew a third arm from his left shoulder and picked up the glowing gel pack, “What is this?”

“It’s my step ahead,” Clark said. He fell to his side and slapped his combadge, “Clark to Murphy!”

The combadge chirped and the gel pack erupted in a small red-tinted explosion that obliterated the Founder. Clark covered his head with his arms as bits of flaming gel flew past.

After a few seconds, Clark lowered his arms and looked up into the tunnel. Little bits of burning gel pack cast an eerie reddish light in the tube, illuminating a charred space no longer occupied by the Founder.

Murphy pushed himself up, coughing, “How the hell did you know that could to that?”

Clark laughed, turning around and helping Murphy onto his knees, “I didn’t!”

 

22:04 Hours, February 3rd, 2380

Stardate 57092.931862

 

Cochrane slowly paced the darkened sickbay, aimlessly casting his wristlight around the empty beds. A fine dust was already suspended in the air, illuminating the conical path of the beam. Main power had been out for what seemed like ages, but contrary to expectations nobody had made their way to sickbay with injuries. “Of course, we can’t open the door,” he said to the empty sickbay. “I really should have taken those Engineering lessons they offered me.” He sighed, “Ninety years ago.”

Wright came through the door leading to the overflow ward, “I got the corridor doors open.”

“Nice work,” Cochrane said. A station just to the right of the surgical bay illuminated, casting bright light across the infirmary. Cochrane grunted and walked over to it, “What have we here?”

Wright shook his head, “No clue.”

Cochrane reached the station, a testing platform like the one across sickbay by his office, and attempted to tap in a few commands, but the screen did not respond. The bulkhead to the right of the station suddenly banged loudly several times. Cochrane stumbled backwards until he hit a medical bed. His combadge suddenly beeped, “Clark to Cochrane.”

He pushed himself off the bed and tapped the combadge, “Uh, Cochrane here.”

“Doctor, are you in sickbay?” Clark asked.

Cochrane took a moment to recover his breath, “Yeah. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Murphy and I are at a the Jefferies tube access port leading into sickbay.”

“Really” Cochrane crouched next to the closed hatch, “I couldn’t tell.”

“What?”

Cochrane pounded his fist on the hatch, “This one?”

“Yeah, it’s locked with a code that I can override, but I have no way of entering the codes from in here,” Clark said. “Well, I could, but it will take me a while to code them in by hand into the ODN junc–”

Cochrane spoke over him, “So, you want me to enter them for you?”

“Exactly. We’ve rerouted emergency power to this section; the console on your side should be working.”

“It is.” Cochrane stood and tapped a few times on the screen to get to the hatch access screen, “It says that lock access is restricted.”

“That’s fine,” Clark said, “Enter gamma epsilon seven six.”

Cochrane entered the code and the display changed. He read the text aloud, “Enter beta clearance access code to unlock hatch.”

“Good.” Cochrane heard somebody else in the background, but Clark continued, “Beta omega two zero.” Cochrane entered the new code and the hatch clicked loudly. The hatch swung open, trapping Cochrane between the bed, the corner of two bulkheads, and the hatch.

Clark climbed through the open hatch, with Murphy following close behind. Murphy ran his hand over his sweaty and ash-coated head, “I’m out!”

“Indeed you are.” Cochrane looked the security chief over, “Where’s your combadge?”

Clark turned to Cochrane, “I blew it up.” A quirky smile spread across his face.

“Oh,” Cochrane responded flatly. “Are you two all right?”

“I’m fine,” Murphy said. He rubbed his hands together. Clark nodded in agreement.

Cochrane studied the pair noting the smears of soot and gel pack allover them, “And precisely why did you have to blow up a combadge?”

Clark looked to Murphy, and then back to Cochrane. He couldn’t help but grin, “It’s a long story.”