Chapter 28

Danbury Office Complex, Starfleet Headquarters

Sausalito, California

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

13:04 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.045910

 

Trailed by Cochrane and a pair of officers from the Enterprise’s security team, Clark confidently walked across the large tree-filled quad at the center of Starfleet Headquarters. The complex sat at the south end of the Marin Headlands, nestled between the hills by the small Horseshoe Bay just to the east of the Golden Gate Bridge, looking out at the city of San Francisco across the bay. The east side of the complex was dominated by a tall concave office tower bearing a bronze-colored representation of the Federation seal. A shorter pair of trapezoidal buildings, topped with dozens of antenna and communications dishes, formed the far side of the large rectangular courtyard. Ahead, sitting near the edge of the water, was a low row of offices – the Danbury Offices from which Admiral Russell and several other high-ranking Starfleet officials commanded the fleet.

As they approached the reflective glass doors leading into the center building, Clark nodded curtly to a tall Vulcan officer standing to the side of the door with a hand phaser hanging off his hip and a rifle slung across his back. The Vulcan stepped forward, holding up a hand to Clark, “Captain, this building is closed.”

Clark stopped and looked quizzically at the Vulcan, “I have a meeting with Admiral Russell. It’s quite urgent.”

“Name?” the Vulcan inquired, dropping his hand.

“Clark, David. And you are?”

The Vulcan held a hand up to his ear, activating a communicator hidden inside his ear canal, “There is a Captain David Clark attempting to enter the building.” He blinked quickly, instinctively drawing his head back from the noise inside his ear. “Affirmative, Clark.”

The door slid open, revealing Ross. The admiral stood tall, his arms crossed across his chest, “Captain Clark.” He was in the middle of the building’s small semicircular lobby, the receptionist desk to the right unmanned.

Clark held his hands behind his back, “Admiral.”

“We’ve been looking for you, Captain,” Ross said sternly. “Come in.” Clark glanced at the Vulcan, and then slowly walked through the door. Ross looked Clark up and down, and then at Cochrane and the two security officers, “Since you’re here, I’m guessing you’ve come to the same conclusion as we have.” The door closed behind them.

“That Russell has been replaced with a Founder and sent the Aldrin to the Gamma Quadrant to be captured by the Dominion?” Clark offered.

Ross leaned back slightly, “I see you’re a bit ahead of us.”

The admiral’s combadge beeped, “Target is approaching.”

Ross straightened up and dropped his arms, “You might want to come with me.” He turned and walked down the hall behind him; Clark and Cochrane followed. As they passed through an intersection in the hall, Clark turned around to the security officers and pointed down each corridor. The guards silently split down each hall, taking up positions at each end. The Vulcan officer walked in, unslung his rifle, and sat behind the receptionist desk.

Ross led Clark and Cochrane through a door, walking into Russell’s bay view office. Behind the desk stood a female Andorian officer with her white hair pulled back in a short ponytail. She was focused on a large PADD on the desk. A pair of security officers stood in the corners of the office, facing the door.

The Andorian looked up, causing Clark to stutter, “Ma- Madam President?”

Ak’telKi’s antennae pointed at Clark, quivering, “Clark?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Clark replied.

“What are you doing here?” Ak’telKi demanded.

Ross cocked an eyebrow, “He’s here to expose Russell as a Changeling.”

The president looked down at the desk, and then back up at the officers in front of her, “Huh.”

Ross’s combadge beeped again, “Target is entering the building.” Cochrane and Ross moved to a corner away from the windows and Clark stepped up to the desk. He turned to lean against the desk, facing the closed door.

Ak’telKi squinted at Clark, “How did you get here?”

“Hitched a ride.” Clark looked over his shoulder, “What’s with the uniform? Captain?”

She laughed, “You’d be surprised how much the black-and-grays hide who you are.”

The door opened and Russell walked through, holding a mug in one hand and a PADD in the other. He took a few steps in before stopping in his tracks. He slowly looked up, finding Clark leaning against the back of his desk and Ak’telKi standing behind it, “This is…”

Cochrane and the security officers stepped forward. He brandished a hypospray, “Don’t move.”

Russell took a step away from him, backing into the strong hands of one of the guards. “This is absolutely preposterous. You can’t think I’m a… no. No.” The security officer grabbed onto Russell’s elbows, holding him still so Cochrane could press the hypospray to the admiral’s bicep. Red blood flowed into the vial in the hypospray’s base.

Cochrane pulled the hypospray away and removed the vial. He held it up in the light, watching as the sample quickly morphed into a thick golden liquid. Cochrane grunted, “Yep.” The security guards took his PADD and mug.

Ak’telKi’s jaw clenched with fury. She took a slow breath before speaking, “Why?”

The stunned expression disappeared from Russell’s face as he turned to her, “The Dominion does not surrender.”

Clark pushed up off the desk, “Your cohorts in the Gamma Quadrant have been neutralized. We’ve escaped every trap you laid for us.” He walked up to Russell, “You failed.”

“Admiral Russell,” Ross stepped forward, “Or whoever you are – you are under arrest for murder, attempted murder, espionage, impersonating a Starfleet official, and whatever else we can come up with.”

“Hardly,” Russell snorted.

“What was that?” Ak’telKi growled.

Russell stared at her and declared, “The Dominion does not surrender.” He violently wrested himself free from the security officers, shoving them back into the walls. His body instantly turned to a column of golden liquid, with a branch shooting out and slamming into the wall opposite Cochrane and Ross. The wall exploded on the impact, throwing a debris-filled fireball across the office.

 

U.S.S. Aldrin

Sector 015

13:09 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.055334

 

Jensen glanced up from the PADD in her lap, finding the unmoving stars still displayed on the viewscreen. It had been nearly twenty hours since the Enterprise had departed for Earth, leaving the Aldrin alone, light-years from the nearest system with the warp drive offline and heavily damaged. Jensen looked around the dark bridge, finding Kelley sitting quietly at the helm, Murphy reviewing tactical plans at his station, and Toq’bae and R’Mor standing in front of the wide master systems display, discussing repair strategy.

Due for his hourly progress report, Jensen’s combadge beeped, “Vorik to Jensen.”

She tapped the badge, “Jensen here.”

“Commander, we have exhausted our available repair supplies. Unless we begin to breakdown and recycle components from across the ship, we won’t be able to complete any further repairs on the warp drive system without resorting to a repair facility.”

Jensen sighed, “Do we have any warp functionality?”

“No,” Vorik replied calmly. “The ship is operating entirely on fusion power.”

“Let’s move on,” Jensen said. “Shift priority to weapons.”

“Praise the lord and pass the ammunition,” Murphy mumbled from the rear.

“Aye, Commander. Vorik, out.”

“Commander,” Toq’bae called, stepping into his station. “Sensors just picked up a spike in tachyon levels.”

Jensen turned her chair to face the science station, “Tachyons? From where?”

“About a kilometer off the bow,” he said. “And another, same location.” R’Mor slipped into the back of the science station and looked over Toq’bae’s shoulder.

Jensen kicked against the deck, spinning her chair back to the front. The viewscreen displayed the same starfield. “What’s causing these spikes?”

R’Mor’s heavy brow furrowed, “The tachyon profile matches that of a Romulan cloak generator, though about a decade old. It must be malfunctioning, it shouldn’t be putting out this level of tachyon radiation.”

Murphy was flabbergasted, “The Romulans?”

“It’s not the Romulans,” Jensen said. She calmly ordered, “Red alert. Prepare for boarding parties.” The red alert lights turned on, adding a splash of illumination to the darkened bridge. Jensen laid a reassuring hand on the phaser attached to her hip.

R’Mor put a hand on Toq’bae’s shoulder and leaned in, “If I had to guess they’re using a high-output power source without proper plasma impedance.” When Toq’bae leaned to the side to shoot her a puzzled look, she added, “I was a cloak systems mechanic when I was in the Star Force.”

Jensen slowly stood, declaring, “It’s the Jem’Hadar.” She looked over her shoulder to Murphy, “Do we have any weapons?”

Murphy shook his head, “All offensive and defensive systems are still offline. I still can’t even retract the armor.” R’Mor sidestepped out from behind Toq’bae and took up her position at the top of the operations arc.

“That’s a good thing,” Jensen replied. “We might be sitting ducks, but we’re at least sitting ducks with a suit of ablative armor.” She tapped her combadge, “Jensen to Vorik.”

“Vorik here,” the engineer quickly replied.

“New priority: long-range subspace communications,” Jensen directed.

“Acknowledged. Vorik, out.”

Toq’bae announced, “Detecting twin energy build-ups. Might be disruptors.” A second later a pair of bright purple energy beams appeared from empty space and slammed into the armored forward hull of the Aldrin.

The bridge lightly tremored from the impact. Murphy laughed, “It’s going to take more than that to get through the armor.”

Jensen crossed her arms over her chest, “A Human writer once said that ‘the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.’ Right now, the Jem’Hadar have an infinite supply of both.” Another pair of polaron beams shot from empty space, impacting the same point on the armor.

 

Danbury Office Complex, Starfleet Headquarters

Sausalito, California

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

13:15 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.341340

 

The voice of Ross cut into the darkness surrounding Cochrane, “Commander!” Cochrane’s eyes fluttered open, finding the Admiral standing over him, the blue sky visible beyond. Ross kneeled by Cochrane’s side, “Commander, are you alright?” Ross’s face was burned on one side and streaked with soot on the other.

Cochrane coughed, “I think so. Though I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. And the head.” Ross offered a hand, which Cochrane took and was hauled onto his feet, bits of rubble falling off his body as he stood. He looked around, finding they were standing near the center of a crater blasted out of the office building. The hole extended about ten meters all around, having leveled a large portion of the structure. Cochrane felt his head, finding blood coming from a gash at the of his neck, “What happened?”

Ross shook his head, “A bomb of some sort, I think.” The office they had been standing in had been obliterated in the blast, tearing open the building in a radiating fashion. Aside from the remnants of a few walls or a desk, nothing was immediately recognizable amongst the smoking and dusty rubble in the immediate vicinity.

Cochrane looked around him, and then out towards the cleared view to the bay. He whispered, “The president,” and then rushed forward, jumping over a pile of rubble. The debris shifted as he landed, sending Cochrane falling onto his back. He groaned and sat up, “Where is she?” A large section of rubble several meters behind him, comprised of the partially collapsed roof, slid to the ground with a thud, letting loose a burst of flames. Both Cochrane and Ross ducked at the noise, but Cochrane quickly got onto his knees and started shoving away debris. He shouted into the rubble in front of him, “Madam President!”

Ross came up to his side and joined in removing the debris, helping to lift away a body-sized section of ducting. They pulled away a bent metal panel, revealing a blue hand and forearm arm, covered in dark blue blood. “Stop!” Cochrane put a hand out in front of Ross, preventing him from grabbing and moving another piece of the rubble. Cochrane grabbed onto the wrist, “She’s got a pulse. Madam President, can you hear me?” She made a fist with her hand. Cochrane continued to hold her wrist, “We’re going to get you out of there, just hang on.”

Clark stumbled up behind them, cradling his left arm. His uniform was burned and ripped in several places and a deep gash on the side of his neck was seeping blood. Clark immediately moved around to the opposite side of Ak’telKi and let go of his arm, which fell loosely to his side. Blood dripped off his fingertips, splashing against the debris at his feet. He crouched and examined at the rubble piled on top of her, “It looks like part of the desk landed on top of her. Along with the roof.”

Ross got down on his knees and looked into the opening through which Ak’telKi’s arm was protruding, “Can we move it?”

Clark grabbed onto an overturned desk drawer on top of the rubble with his right hand and flung it to the side, sending it and its spilled contents tumbling towards the bay, “We’ll have to get some of this off of it first.” He and Ross quickly pushed and threw away more of the debris, uncovering the rest of Ak’telKi’s arm and a leg. Clark shifted back, looked over the rubble, and declared, “That’ll do.”

All three men moved down to her feet and got their hands under the edge of the desktop. Ross, in the middle of the trio, looked to Clark and then Cochrane. “On three. One. Two. Three.” They slowly stood, pivoting the desk up and over Ak’telKi’s body, dumping the remaining rubble on the board past the top of her head. The desk rolled over the pile of removed debris, flipping away from them.

Ak’telKi coughed, spitting up dark blue blood. She was on her back, with a few PADDs a small bits of wreckage scattered over her bloodied body. Cochrane dropped back onto his knees and placed two fingers on her neck to feel her pulse as Clark and Ross quickly removed the remaining debris. Worry crossed Cochrane’s face as he started to run his hand down her torso, “Her pulse is weak; she’s suffering massive blood loss.” She moaned loudly as his hands passed over broken ribs and lacerations on her waist. Pulling back his blood-covered hands, Cochrane moved up to her arms, slowly patting them to check for cuts and breaks.

Ak’telKi shouted a curse in Andorian as Cochrane’s hands squeezed her right bicep, “Shazko!” She turned her head towards Cochrane, clearly in pain, and tried to look down at her arm.

“Sorry,” Cochrane apologized as he got lower to the ground, peering under her arm. He reached his hand underneath, probed lightly, and then pulled it out. Blue blood dripped off his fingertips as he looked up to Clark and Russell, “Do we have a medkit?”

Clark looked around the cratered office, “I wouldn’t know where to look.”

“Admiral,” Cochrane pointed to Ak’telKi’s far side. “Get down there and talk to her.”

Ross kneeled at her side, “What should I say?” She rolled her head to the side to face him.

Cochrane leaned in to Ak’telKi, “Madam president?”

Ak’telKi turned her head back towards Cochrane. She weakly responded, “Doctor?”

“You have a shard of metal stuck into your upper arm,” Cochrane said. “It has punctured your bicep and probably an artery. I’m going to attempt to remove it; this will probably hurt. A lot.”

Panic flooded onto Ak’telKi’s face as she turned back to Ross. The admiral grabbed her free hand with both of his, “It’s going to be okay.” As Cochrane carefully positioned her lower arm and pushed against her shoulder, Ross let her squeeze his hand and calmly asked, “When’s your niece graduating from Jormek Sathra?”

Ak’telKi grunted as Cochrane lifted her injured arm slightly, “August.”

“Really?” Ross glanced up at Cochrane and then turned his attention back to Ak’telKi. “You must be proud.”

She nodded briskly, “Very. She’s a bright girl. Her mother says she’s mentioned possibly joining Starfleet after she’s done at JSA.” A section of rubble at the edge of the cratered office building shifted loudly.

Ross smiled, “Has there ever been a telKi in Starfleet?” Cochrane slowly wrapped his hands around the top and bottom of her upper arm.

“She’d be the first.” Ak’telKi screamed as Cochrane lifted her arm, revealing a jagged blood-covered shard of metal sticking up from the rubble under her. Dark blue Andorian blood immediately began to pour in bursts from the gash left behind.

Cochrane immediately clamped a hand around the wound and tapped his combadge, “Cochrane to Starfleet Medical.”

“Starfleet Medical here,” a calm male voice answered.

“Requesting immediate transport from Danbury to a surgical suite,” Cochrane said. “I have an Andorian female, age thirty seven, with a severed brachial artery, severe blood loss, and likely internal bleeding.” Ak’telKi coughed again, spitting blood onto her splayed white hair.

The officer at Starfleet Medical responded, “Emergency teams are setting up a triage station in the quad. You should move your patient–”

Cochrane talked over him, “Son, I have the President of the United Federation of Planets bleeding out in front of me.”

After a few seconds silence, the voice said, “Stand by for transport.” Ross released her hand and a second later Ak’telKi and Cochrane disappeared in a transporter beam. Blue blood spilled on the rubble below nearly outlined her former position.

Clark slowly stood, grabbing his injured left arm. He looked around the smoking crater, and then back to Ross, “Where’s Russell?”

A sheet of roofing at the side of the crater moved to the side, shoved away by a pair of Starfleet officers working their way into the blast zone.