Star Trek: Defiant

"Absolute Zero" - Part Three

Written by T'Mal


It was a replica of their own bridge. Down to the tiniest detail, including the newly modified weapons station that had been installed only last week. It would have been easy to believe it -was- the bridge of the Defiant, that it had somehow been moved here, that the holodeck had been completely removed.

"If you would all be so kind as to take your regular stations, we will begin." Admiral Tourles said, making his exit.

"Ok," Captain bridges said the moment the holodeck door faded, "Let's see where we are."

Settling into the Captain's chair, Jeffrey shook off the disoriented sensation he had experienced upon entering the room. It was like trying to find "up" in zero-g, and it was good to feel his feet firmly on the deckplates again.

In tune with his crew, he saw them experiencing the same thing as they viewed the data at each of their consoles and got their bearings.

Mackowick fed them their first bit of information. "We are near the Cardassian border."

Bridges found this interesting. While not enemies with the Cardassians, they had never been on very good terms with the Federation. Once, the Cardassians had allied themselves with the Dominion in a misguided attempt to restore their "empire" to what they saw as it's former grandeaur. They learned a tough lesson with that decision, and they had come to regret it. Eventually, they had found themselves in the awkward position of fighting -against- their own allies as the Dominion slowly exerted it's ultimate and true goal of taking contol of their people. It seemed a case of just dessets for a people who had made slaves of the Bajorans, but the Federation as a whole was the kind of organization that was incredibly forgiving and would have helped them, had they asked. Disdain for the Federation kept them from requesting assistance and it became Starfleet policy to simply avoid, if possible, all things Cardassian, a move that had kept direct confrontaions with the Dominion at a minimum. It was not so much Cardassian space anymore, but Dominion space.

"We are receiving a distress call from a Cardassian ship, the Kerist, they request assistance." Matute said.

"Heavy damage to their engines and weapons, life support failing, 23 Cardassian life signs." Wolfram added.

"Why does this not surprise me? Let me guess, they are on the other side of the border? Do we have a visual?" Bridges asked.

Matute fulfilled his request. "Putting it on screen."

The image was as clear as could be expected, full of fire and smoke in the background, warning klaxons blaring. A defeated Gul, bleeding from a head wound, appeared and made his plea. "Federation ship...we have been attacked senslessly... the my people return to their families."

Bridges asked, already knowing the answer, "Can we get within transporter range without crossing the border?"

"Negative." Hardin stated.

"Any sign of Dominion ship that did this?"

Wolfram checked her scans. "No ship, but there is a strong risidual trace from their warp engines, indicating they can not be too far away."

"They could be cloaked." Barak offered. "As soon as we discover how to detect their cloaks, they find a way to change the signatures."

"Of course they do, it wouldn't be much fun if they didn't, now would it?" Bridges asked.

Hardin chuckled. "I assume we are going in?"

"Of course we are." said Bridges.

"Shall I initiate Cloaking Sequence?" Barak asked.

"No, if the Dominion is still here, they already know we're here, too, and it might be viewed as sneaky on our part to go in cloaked. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Hardin?"

Hardin did agree. "The straightforward approach usually works the best." At least, for the Defiant it did. Very few races wanted to test their skills against the Federation's fastest and deadliest ship.

Wolfram hated to spoil their fun, but she was keenly aware of the clock ticking away. " Down to 21 life signs."

"All right, shields up! Mackowick, take us in. Lebin, get ready to grab them. Let's do this quick and clean. I want to be in and out in record time."

The ship surged forward as though it were alive and eager to be of service. Bridges was tempted to hold his breath, knowing it wouldn't be much of a test without a little trouble. So far, it had been too simple, too much like the Kobiyashi Maru, and what would be the point of that?

"Transporter range in 2 minutes..."

"Transporters on line!"

"One minute...15 seconds..."

"Drop shields for transport."

"I have a lock!"

The blast rocked the simulated Defiant.

"Dominion battle ship decloaking off the starboard bow. We have damage to decks 3 and 4." Wolfram said.

"Seal them off." Bridges ordered. At least there were no real lives to lose here. "Evasive maneuvers! Adam, get those people over here! Do not return fire!"

Mackowick put the Defiant into a dive, followed by a rolling twist and turn to the port side, back up and around, being careful to stay within range while evading the Dominion's fire. It was working. If the Dominion ship hadn't insisted on remaining so close to it's prey as it died, they might have been able to land more than the first shot. In a close quarters dogfight, it was almost impossible to hit the Defiant with Mackowick at the helm.

Two Dominion soldiers appeared in front of Captain Bridges, weapons pointed and ready to kill. Hardin and Matute each rushed for one of the soldiers, disarmed and disabled them in a flash.

"I've got them, all of them!" Lebin announced.

"Shields up! Cloaks now, Barak! Take us out of here! And, could somebody get rid of these bodies?" Bridges said.

"This simulation has ended. Thank you for your participation." The computer announced as the viewscreen faded to black.

A collective sigh went through the group. Even a simulation got the adreneline (or whatever bodily chemical served that purpose) pumping. Now the control door for the holodeck would appear, and they could return to "normal" duties.

A moment passed, stretched into a minute, then another minute, until Bridges grew restless with waiting.

"Computer, display holodeck controls." he ordered.

"Unable to comply."

Great, just great.

"Adam, can you do anything about this? I'm not in a waiting mood."

Adam had run into a harried-looking Bedard the prior evening. He had been carrying quite a load of tools and seemed distracted, but had paused long enough to tell Adam some of what he'd been helping Tourles' engineers to do. From the sound of it, Adam wasn't the least bit surprised they were experiencing a glitch now. It all seemed quite invasive to the ship's systems and not at all necessary now that he'd seen the program they had set up.

"Computer, initiate Emergency Operations Override for Holodeck, Lebin Seven Omega Seven."

"Unable to comply."

Lebin shrugged, racking his brain for another idea. They had obviously diconnected his overrides, as he had suspected they might.

Matute gave it another try, just to be sure.

"Level 4 Security Override. Authorization Matute Six Eight Zero Tango Zero. Verify."

"Unable to comply."

"Captain, there's a Level 5 authorization, but it initiates an auto-destruct sequence. Do you want me to try it?"

Bridges looked to his First Officer.

"I wouldn't suggest it." Hardin said. "From the looks of things we'll have to try another angle."

"Quite right. It does seem a bit drastic, but I'll keep it in mind. I really wasn't aware you had the authorization to destroy my ship, Jen." With a twinkle in his eye, Bridges added, "I will have to be nicer to you from now on."

Matute, not quite sure of the joke, explained what was to her a very serious matter. "It's only to be used in case of a hostile takeover of the ship. It was programmed into the Defiant due to her unique nature, to ensure her technology remains in Federation hands."

"Of course. Anyone have anything else? Adam?"

"Respectfully, sir, there's not much you can do from inside a holodeck. There have been a few documented cases of internal control failure, and in all of them that I am aware of, the problem had to be fixed from the outside."

"Are you telling me we can't get out of here?" Anyone who told Captain Bridges something couldn't be done ran the ditinct risk of being proven wrong in the very near future. Adam Lebin knew that.

"No, what I'm saying is that I don't know of one. What exists in here is self-contained and while it appears to be fully-functioning, we have no control over the rest of the ship. There have been times when a program became unstable or grew to be more than it's creator intended, but in this case..." Lebin found it frustrating. With no panels available to access and no real idea what was going on out there, it was hard to find a solution.

Bridges had abandoned his chair and started pacing a large circle around the room. Hardin was getting the urge to follow in his footsteps. Maybe they should start a little dancing line and some singing to pass the time. How long had it been already?

They continued to bounce around theories and ideas until a portion of the wall shimmered and the familiar arch of the holodeck controls appeared. Bedard flung himself in through this arch and fell to the floor at Jeffrey's feet.

Judging from the gash on his arm and his torn hands, it appeared that Bedard had clawed his way in. A nasty bump was appearing on his head and his eyes were glazed. He rolled to his back, looking apologetic, and revealed to them all a deep wound in his chest. The Bolian was bleeding profusely from there, staining the deckplates an almost unreal shade of blue.

Matute extended a bit of herself, tried to plug the bleeding gap as best she could. Despite her best efforts, it didn't appear to be working.

"I'm sorry, " Bedard gasped. "I couldn't..."

"Hold on, Bedard, we'll get you to sickbay." Matute attempted to comfort him while she began to pick him up, cushioning him very gently.

"No, no time." His body was wracked by a spasm of pain despite Matute's gentleness.

With his last grasp of consciousness he tried to tell them one more thing.


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