Redemption, Part 1

“What the hell happened?”

Captain Samantha Ross wasn’t someone who often had to ask that question. At twenty-eight, she was a relatively new Captain, and one of the youngest in Starfleet history – but this was the second ship under her command. The first was destroyed in a battle a year after deployment.

But that was in the past. Now the Galaxis was her baby, the most compact and powerful ship the Federation had ever built. Though it’s designers would deny it, the ship was undoubtedly designed for combat, but easily fit into scientific and exploration missions as well. Either way, it had a lot of power. Sometimes too much. This was one of those times.

She slid out of her chair and walked forward toward the viewscreen slowly. The bridge was silent, even the comm station made no sound as Captain Ross stood only a short distance from the twelve foot high screen to stare at the orange-red planet looming large in front of her – a planet they tried to save by using low-power phasers to stabilize seismic activity. Twelve billion lives had come to an end just ten seconds ago. Ten seconds that Sam would give her life to get back.

“I asked a question.” Captain Ross turned to face her crew, her voice soft and patient, as she looked around the room at every one of her bridge crew. But even they could plainly see her tensed jaw and clenched fists, giving away the anger she felt. “I’d like an answer.”

“I think…um…we miscalculated.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Commander.” Captain Ross sounded angry as she headed toward the turbolift quickly, plowing her way across the bridge as if there was nothing between her and those twin sliding doors. “I’ll be in my quarters. Page me when you have an answer.”

Captain Ross didn’t even remember the trip to her quarters, she was on personal auto-pilot until the moment the doors closed behind her. She knew what her crew thought of her, and why they refused to take her seriously in spite of her best efforts. Her career was a product of legacy rather then effort – she’d been promoted to Captain because her father was an Admiral.

But they didn’t realize that she cared about what she did – and every time one of them ignored an order of hers, or laughed behind her back…it hurt her deeply. She couldn’t tell them, however – Starfleet Captains were supposed to be practically emotionless…especially female ones.

Sam stood in front of one of the tall windows to look outside, catching a reflection of herself in the glass. She wasn’t very tall, and her soft brown colored eyes and hair were more of a liability then anything – the way she looked made her seem meek, almost timid, rather then a commanding or imposing presence. She was known to wear her hair long, below her shoulders – a blatant violation of regulations – but no one even reprimanded her for it. She was privileged, to be sure, because of her father’s position – but she took her work seriously. She enjoyed saving lives, and helping people.

She stared at her reflection, gently twisting the rank insignia attached to her collar. Sam could still remember the day she signed on to Starfleet, as a fighter pilot – her eighteenth birthday. She wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps – since day one, she wanted to have command of a starship just like he once did. But now that she had it…she never felt more lost or lonely in her entire life.

A gentle chirp from the comm system next to the door alerted Sam that someone was outside her room, paging her. She knew very well who it was, even before she opened the door – her First Officer, Nathan Phillips. She rolled her eyes as she walked over to the door to hit the open button – Nathan, like most of her nearly all-male crew, would look for any excuse to visit her quarters.

“What is it, Nathan?”

“We’ve completed our investigation.” Without even asking, Nathan entered her quarters and began pacing around the room. She could tell that he looked her over on the way in…he always did – and then, as usual, he nearly reached for her before she shrugged away from him. “You might want to come to the bridge for this one.”

“Why’s that?” Sam folded her arms, her expression telling Nathan that she wasn’t the least bit amused by his informality or his attempts at physical contact. It was a little ‘game’ they played now and then – Nathan would try, Sam would quickly reject him.

“Because we didn’t cause the deaths.” Nathan paused and turned to face Sam. His expression was now serious as well. “There’s someone else out there.”

“Sensor report?”

Captain Ross was all business as she entered the bridge once again, her First Officer following her close behind. She stood just ahead of her chair as her First Officer sat down. She enjoyed her work most during the rare times when her bridge crew worked like a well-oiled machine.

“Shadows, Captain. We’re detecting shadows.” The only other female crew member on the Galaxis answered Captain Ross – Ensign Susan Troy. It wasn’t even her real name. She was Romulan, a defector from the Empire, who voluntarily changed her name to keep them from detecting and reclaiming her. “They’re on the other side of the planet.”

“How many?” Captain Ross turned to give her tall, blond weapons and security officer, Commander Gene Kelley, a look that meant a possible threat was imminent. She remembered her first meeting with him, when she asked about his name. He never gave her an answer.

Ensign Troy turned pale as she turned around to meet Captain Ross’ gaze. “At least six.”

Captain Ross swallowed hard. That meant there were six unknown ships on the other side of the planet. Against one – the Galaxis. And the nearest backup was hours away. Not that she could call them – one subspace transmission could cause those six ships to go on the attack.

“Red alert. Raise the shields, and cloak the ship.” Captain Ross sat down in the Captain’s chair as the lights on the bridge dimmed to a level barely above darkness. A ring of red lit up around the bridge near the ceiling. The dimming of lights around the ship was necessary to provide a reliable cloak – otherwise, the enemy would detect an strong energy signature in spite of the cloak.

“I hate to remind you again, but the cloaking device you stole is illegal.”

“Shut up, Nathan. How many times are you going to tell me what I already know?”

Nathan smiled at Captain Ross’ comment as she turned to look at Ensign Troy again. The Galaxis was designed to work with a light crew – which meant each of the bridge crew took on dual duties more often then not. Ensign Troy’s duty was both Sensors and Helm.

“Take us around, Ensign. Slowly.” Captain Ross stared at the helm for a few seconds as Ensign Troy set the coordinates. Sam remembered her days at the helm of a small spacecraft all her own – a fighter. She trained for the war with the Dominion, but luckily, she never saw a single battle. The first…and last…time she’d seen a battle was when she was forced to self-destruct the Oceana, her previous command ship. “Low orbit, so they don’t see our heat signature.”

Captain Ross’ heart began beating faster as she watched the ship slowly moving over the horizon toward the other side of the planet. The ships on the other side were cloaked as well, which made her very nervous – it would simply be a matter of who detects who first. The only advantage the Galaxis had was that it could fire while cloaked – but she was unaware if the other ships had the same capability.

She looked around the bridge quickly. The other officers were combat hardened, they had each been assigned to ships that participated in the Dominion war. They had seen combat first hand. Compared to them, their Captain was an amateur – and her worst fear was that her inexperience would get them all killed.

“Captain…neutrino emissions.”

“Damn.” Captain Ross fidgeted a little bit. Neutrino emissions meant that the other ships knew something was out there. They were looking to identify shadows of their own. “Take us into the atmosphere, and dive at high speed. With any luck, they’ll think we’re an asteroid and–”

“Engineering to bridge.”

“Go head.” Captain Ross fidgeted more now. Any time Lieutenant Steve Corbin called from Engineering during a crisis, it was always something bad. He was an expert in physics, an aging University professor who decided he wanted to try his hand at real physics in space.

“The shields are drawing way too much power now that we’re inside the atmosphere. We can’t run them and the cloak at the same time.”

“Fine. Drop the shields. Without the cloak, we’re dead.” Captain Ross sighed as she leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. It was more a sign of nervousness then relaxation. “It’ll just get a little hot in here, that’s all.”

“We have a reading, Captain.” Ensign Troy turned around quickly, a triumphant smile on her face. “Four Klingon warbirds, and two Cardassian battleships. All cloaked.”

“Let’s hover, Ensign. They’ll have difficulty scanning us through the atmosphere.” Captain Ross sighed nervously and looked at Nathan, wondering why he seemed so calm all the time. “Hail them. Ask for someone in command of their mission.”

“Here’s their answer, Captain.” Ensign Troy pointed at a bright dot on the screen, moving toward them quickly. It was a photon torpedo.

“Oh, hell. Shields, now!”

The photon torpedo collided with the ship with extreme violence, tossing every one of the bridge crew from their seats, and causing sparks to fly out of every panel on the bridge. Captain Ross checked the small panel next to her seat for an instant damage report – shields still holding, no damage other then scattered power outages…but they’d lost their cloak.

“We’re open to the world. No doubt they see us now.”

“Shut up, Nathan.” Captain Ross looked at the viewscreen – indeed, the six ships had seen them, and were moving to intercept quickly. “Bring everything we have online. Phasers, photon torpedoes…even the cannons.”

“The cannons?” Ensign Troy turned around quickly. “Those aren’t legal yet. They’re just on board for testing.”

“Neither is the C-711 in our shuttle bay, but we may use that too.” Captain Ross looked over at her First Officer to see him returning an angry look.

“You can’t use particle cannon. And the C-711 is for the eyes of the senior officers only, Sam. Are you trying to get busted?”

“No.” Captain Ross smiled. “I’m trying to be honest with my crew.”

Nathan stood up in front of Sam’s chair, and looked down at her. “Go ahead and hang yourself. I don’t want any part of it.”

Sam shrugged as she watched her First Officer storm off of the bridge toward the turbolift. She had better things to do at the moment then argue with him. “Hold your fire until they make the first move.”

“They’re hailing us, Captain.”

“On screen.” Captain Ross stood up and straightened her uniform as the image of a high-ranking Cardassian officer popped onto the screen. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Avenging the death of my son. According to the laws of Cardassia, that’s my right. If you try to interfere, you will meet their fate as well.”

Captain Ross narrowed her eyes and sat back down. “I don’t buy it. You’re up to something else. You don’t need to kill billions just to–”

“My, my. You’re a beautiful young Captain.” The Cardassian smiled as he spoke, though Captain Ross knew he meant it as a distraction tactic. “I am Gul Terel. We can discuss this further – in greater detail – if you agree to dinner aboard my destroyer. If not…I’ll simply destroy your ship without another thought. It would be a shame for beauty such as yours to come to such a violent end so quickly.”

Captain Ross looked around at her bridge crew as they stared at her. They were pleading with their eyes for her to say no, to fight. “I’ll go, on one condition–”

“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t allow anyone to destroy your precious ship as long as you’re on mine. You have my word as a Cardassian.”

“Very well. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“…And right now she’s on a Cardassian ship. Do you think she’s a traitor?”

“Could be.” Nathan paced a little in his quarters, keeping one eye on Gene as he rubbed his chin. “She’s been acting erratically since we stepped on board. She runs to her quarters when she’s upset, tells her officers to ‘shut up’. She breaks regulations like they were mere suggestions.”

“Maybe that’s just because she’s young.”

Nathan laughed. “Even the legendary James Kirk didn’t break as many rules in his whole career as Sam did this morning. Dammit, Gene, don’t you understand? She’s either going to get us all killed or court martialed. I won’t go down with her.”

“So what are you suggesting we do, Nathan?” Gene fidgeted nervously with his hands, as he already anticipated where Nathan was headed. “She’s…the Captain. We follow her.”

“Not if we relieve her of command.” Nathan smiled. “All we have to do is ask the doctor to declare her unfit.”

“No.” Gene shook his head slowly. “Bill Chase is a friend of Sam’s. He’ll never go for it…and once we suggest it, we’ll be placing our own necks on the block.”

“We have no choice then.” Nathan opened a small closet in his quarters, pulling out two high-powered phaser rifles. “We’ll have to take the ship by force. Anyone who opposes us–”

“No killing, please.” Gene shook his head again. “Let’s just use our heads here. It shouldn’t be that hard to convince everyone that Sam is over her head.”

“You’re right, Gene. You’re right. Everyone here thinks she’s a joke. It won’t take much.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Sam squinted at the dress Gul Terel held up in front of her. She estimated that it would only cover a small portion of herself – she much preferred her uniform, even though the temperature inside the Cardassian ship felt like a hot day in August back in her home city of Phoenix, on Earth. “I’m not wearing that.”

“Suit yourself.” Gul Terel smiled, tossing aside the dress casually. “You’ll just be too hot. I like the way you look in your uniform just as well.”

“I won’t be hot. I grew up in a desert.” Sam sat down in an uncomfortable steel chair in front of a huge table in the Gul’s private entertainment room. She was a little surprised that Cardassians gave their Gul’s such lavish quarters on their ships. He had four rooms all to himself – he never had to leave if he didn’t want to. “Let’s make this short, Terel. Why did you feel the need to kill twelve billion to avenge your son?”

“Wouldn’t you rather eat first before engaging in…unpleasant conversation?” Gul Terel signaled a servant standing nearby to place a few dishes of food on the table. The woman was Bajoran – no doubt, the Cardassian Empire still bred families of Bajoran slaves back home. “Let’s spend a nice, quiet evening together, filled with intellectual conversation.”

“No!” Sam stood up and threw her plate at Gul Terel, who easily dodged it. “I’m not one of your damned conquests, nor one of your female indentured servants! You’d better come up with a good reason for what you’ve done, or I will return to my ship and make it my business to destroy yours!”

Gul Terel smiled. “Tell me, Samantha. Do you start off all of your negotiations with empty threats?”

“That’s Captain Ross to you.” Sam leaned forward across the table. “And I never…make empty threats.”

“Trying to seem more dangerous then you are.” Terel laughed out loud and stood up. “You would make an excellent Cardassian, Captain Ross. Very well…I’ll tell you what happened. I meant to wipe out only a single clan on the planet. The mistake I made was hiring Klingons to do the job. They get a little…carried away.”

“Klingons?” Sam shook her head slowly. “You’re lying, Gul Terel. You’re talking in circles to distract me.”

“I have photographic records of the whole incident, Captain Ross.” Gul Terel removed a small transparent memory crystal from his shirt pocket and tossed it on the table in front of her. “You humans are so fond of primitive civilizations that mimic Earth’s evolutionary path. But you fail to see the danger in the path you have taken.”

Sam examined the crystal carefully before placing it in her hip pocket. “Danger? What danger?”

“All it took was a couple of sloppily executed explosions on the part of the Klingons…and the two largest continents of the planet annihilated each other with a hail of hydrogen and atom bombs. It was beautiful in it’s simplicity and effectiveness.”

“Twelve billion, Gul Terel. Twelve billion.” Sam sighed and stood up straight. “This is the old Cardassian Empire all over again, isn’t it? The one that enslaved Bajor, destroyed whole planets, societies–”

“Sick societies.” Gul Terel sat down and poured himself a drink. “Face the facts, Captain Ross. Bajoran society was a backwards, superstitious, self destructive. Now they’re one of the leading societies of your precious Federation, with their own space station. Tell me…who do you credit for that?”

“Don’t you try and justify your destructiveness to me.” Sam pointed a finger inches from Gul Terel’s face. He seemed amused by it. “Don’t you dare. And I’ll tell you what will happen. You either turn over the Captain responsible for setting off your…plan of simplicity…or I will destroy all of your ships.”

Gul Terel laughed. “More empty threats from an inexperienced Captain.”

“Inexperience, maybe.” Sam removed a small hand phaser from her left hip pocket, quickly grabbing Gul Terel around the neck and dragging him out of his seat. “But not stupid. I’m hereby arresting you for war crimes against the Federation, Gul Terel. I think with you in my ship’s brig, you’ll be hoping as much as I do that my plan works.”

Sam tapped the Starfleet emblem on her shirt quickly. “Two to beam up.”

“You in here, Nathan?”

Nathan stepped out of a dark corner of Cargo Bay Two, and nodded at Gene. He tossed one of the two phaser rifles he held to Gene quickly. “She’s back on board?”

Gene nodded. “And she’s broken the law. She took Gul Terel hostage and tossed him in the brig. Now we have the grounds we need to throw Samatha in there with him.”

Nathan armed his phaser rifle and nodded at Gene. “Let’s go.”

Captain Ross stepped onto the bridge of the Galaxis to find everyone staring at her. She paid them no mind, knowing how fast rumors spread on the ship – she figured they knew about the capture and imprisonment of Gul Terel.

“Captain–” Ensign Troy spoke up first, as she indicated toward the viewscreen with her chin. “They’re demanding the immediate return of Gul Terel. They’ve given us ten minutes before they open fire.”

“They won’t.” Captain Ross sat down in her chair and crossed her legs. “Cardassian command structures are rigid. They won’t risk killing him.”

Ensign Troy shook her head. “You don’t understand, Captain. The Klingon Captain Korg is the one who made the demand.”

“Klingon?” Captain Ross bit her lip as she stared at the viewscreen for a few seconds. “Of course. They’re protecting their secrets. But that means they…plan to kill Gul Terel themselves–”

“Orders, Captain?”

Captain Ross looked around the bridge, suddenly realizing that only she and the Ensign were present. “Susan, where is the rest of the bridge crew?”

Ensign Troy shrugged. “I don’t know. They all just sort of wandered off.”

Sam sighed and stood up to head back toward the turbolift, intent on finding out where everyone went. “Oh, well that is really professional–”

As soon as Sam stood up, she saw the turbolift doors open. Nathan, Gene, and a handful of security personnel stepped out. They were all armed, and had their weapons trained on Samantha.

“Nathan? What’s the meaning of this?”

Nathan stepped forward, keeping his phaser rifle aimed at Sam. “I’m relieving you of command…Captain.”

“You’re not just doing this because I keep rejecting you…are you?”

Gene and the security personnel looked at Nathan for a second as his face began turning red. Nathan responded by jamming the phaser rifle against Sam’s ribs, hard. “Just move it, Samantha. Don’t give us any trouble.”

Samantha never forgot the training she took long ago in her early days of Starfleet. She’d taken advanced hand-to-hand combat courses, invaluable to a shorter woman like herself. Once she felt the pain of the phaser rifle against her ribs, it only took a second for her to recall her training. A flat palm to Nathan’s chin knocked him off balance, allowing her enough time to plow quickly through Gene and his security personnel. She rolled into the turbolift just before the doors closed, among scattered phaser blasts bouncing off of the walls.

“Shuttle bay, freight speed. Voice authorize.” The trip to the shuttle bay only took seconds at the much higher freight speed. Sam had to stick close to the floor to avoid being tossed around by the g-forces at that speed, but she knew she had very little time before Nathan and Gene on the bridge found out how to stop the turbolift. Luckily, they weren’t fast enough.

As Sam ran from the turbolift, she knew it was only a matter of minutes before Gene’s security personnel arrived. She headed straight for the one vehicle she had her mind on since she left the bridge, the one thing she would always be familiar with since her days at the Academy – inside the cockpit of a fighter. Or more specifically…the C-711.

It only took ten seconds for Samatha to climb into the cockpit and fire up the C-711’s engines. She was on her way out of the shuttle bay just as security personnel filled the area. By then they were too late – Samantha was on her way into space.

“She’s taken command of the shuttle bay doors, we can’t shut them down. She’s on her way out.”

“Damn it.” Nathan slammed his fist down on the console of the Captain’s chair as he sat down to watch the C-711 moving away from the Galaxis. “Tractor beam. Lock on a tractor beam.”

“Can’t lock on.” Gene turned from his station at helm to face Nathan. He took over the station after Ensign Troy refused to help, and was confined to her quarters. “She’s cloaking. And we’re receiving some kind of signal from her–”

“Signal? Oh, no–” Nathan stood up and started looking around as panels all over the bridge began going dark, followed by the overhead lights. The red alert signal light began flashing next. He raced over to the turbolift doors – they were sealed. “Contact security. Tell them to get us out of here!”

Gene tapped the Starfleet emblem on his uniform. It chirped twice, signalling that it was out of operation. “The comm system is down, Nathan. I knew we should have changed the command codes first.”

“Damn.” Nathan stood up quickly, tearing a panel off the wall, and then blasting through to a vent using his phaser rifle. “Let’s get to Engineering. And when we do, we’re blasting Samantha out of space.”

Samantha laughed to herself and leaned back as she aimed the cloaked C-711 at the Klingon ships projected on her heads-up display. The amazing new computer system in the experimental fighter automatically combined sensor data to be able to detect cloaked ships, displaying them in a two dimensional projection along the framed glass top of the cockpit. She could see them clearly – and the best part was, they didn’t know it.

As long as they were cloaked, their shields were down. They were unprotected and now visible – but they could neither see her nor fire through the C-711’s powerful shields.

She smiled to herself as she whipped past one of the Birds of Prey, very close. Thanks to the signal-suppressing circuitry of the C-711, they didn’t even notice her as she passed. She swung around again, flipping open the small plastic door which armed the phasers and particle cannons. She looked down at the three buttons next to her thumb. Blue was for automatic targeting, red for phasers, yellow for particle cannons.

Sam tapped the blue button once, targeting one of the Birds of Prey. As it began turning around abruptly, she realized that the weapons targeting system probably still used Lidar to find and range it’s target – she had now been detected.

One tap of the red button blasted the first Klingon Bird to bits, as it’s unshielded hull absorbed the full force of a close-range phaser blast. That was enough to prompt the rest of the Klingon ships to decloak and raise shields.

But they couldn’t fight what they couldn’t see – they began firing blindly to try and hit whatever attacked the first Klingon ship. Samantha had no problem steering around the badly aimed phaser blasts and seemingly slow photon torpedoes as the steering control of the C-711 responded instantly to her commands.

The second Klingon Bird blew to bits after three consecutive quick phaser blasts. The first two to weaken it’s shields, the third to penetrate it’s hull. Sam felt amazed at the power that the small fighter had – it seemed to have no problem taking on the much larger Klingon ships. She guessed that after the last two wars, the Federation wanted to create a new generation of fighters, ones that didn’t depend on antiquated Starship technology.

Her finger floated over the yellow button as she headed right at the third Bird of Prey. By then, the remaining two Klingon ships had improved their targeting – the little C-711’s shields were taking a lot of fire. But they seemed to hold, even as she moved closer. A quick tap of the yellow button jarred the entire ship as the most powerful weapon in it’s arsenal – the particle cannon – send a flickering beam of white light which immediately tore right through the center of both remaining Birds of Prey. They had stupidly chosen to line up for a directed attack.

“Oh…Wow.” Samantha looked down at the yellow button again, hovering her thumb over the red button instead for her next firing. She made a mental note to be more careful with it next time as she approached one of the two Cardassian battleships.

Unlike the Klingon ships, the Cardassians had a much more powerful armament. Sam found herself evading a sudden volley of photon torpedoes and powerful phaser bursts as she approached them quickly. Her thumb moved quickly back to the yellow button.

That’s when she discovered yet another feature of the particle beam – that holding down the yellow button and using slight movements of the steering stick had the effect of turning the particle cannons without effecting its regular steering function. She could effectively use it to cut vertically across one of the two Cardassian battleships rather then just poking holes in it.

She veered off suddenly, content that the first Cardassian ship was severely damaged, swinging in close above it and using the yellow button again to tear through the hull of the other Cardassian ship behind it.

Samantha smiled as she circled around once more, seeing fragments of four Klingon Birds of Prey and two severely damaged Cardassian battleships. She had done just as she threatened – she had done the impossible.

Now it was time to do one more impossible task…take back her ship.

The Galaxis’ shuttle bay was deserted as she took the C-711 in for a landing. All of the lights were out, just as Samantha ordered the computer to do as she left. She set the computer for a lockdown, allowing it only to be disabled by the sound of her own voice. She smiled to herself, imagining the faces of Nathan and Gene as the found themselves prisoners on the bridge.

Sam stepped out of the C-711 into the cargo bay, walking over to the control center quickly. She snatched a phaser she’d hidden from underneath the table which held the control center – just in case.

“Computer…end lockdown, except on the bridge and Engineering. Voice authorize.” The computer beeped twice before turning all of the lights and control panels in the cargo bay on. “Computer, transport me to the bridge.”

In a quick flash of light, the advanced transporters of Galaxis sent Samantha to a spot just ahead of the viewscreen on the completely darkened bridge. She held her phaser at the ready, but saw nothing unusual there except for a missing wall panel. She approached slowly, peeking into the hole – Nathan and Gene must have used the duct to escape the bridge, but they were long gone.

“Computer, enable Bridge. Voice authorize.” With those words and a couple of more beeps, the lights and panels of the bridge suddenly came to life. Feeling a little insecure with a gaping hole in the wall, Sam quickly used her phaser to weld the duct back together and secure the missing wall panel.

By process of elimination, she figured out that Nathan and Gene must be in Engineering. If they left the bridge, they did so to try to take control of the ship from engineering. She knew if they were there, they would try to interfere with everything she tried to do from the bridge – and since Gene was head of security, the personnel of the ship would no doubt follow his orders without question. Sam knew she would have to take control of the ship, and isolate herself to survive.

“Computer, lock down Engineering.”

The computer only beeped once after that command, followed by a warning. “Two crew members detected in Engineering. First Officer Phillips and Security Officer Kelley.”

“Computer, follow my last order, voice authorize. Restrict the bridge to me only, only. Notify me if the two crewmen leave Engineering.”

The computer beeped twice again, and then paused before making another sound. “First Officer Phillips and Security Officer Kelley remain in Engineering. Engineering locked down.”

Samantha sat down at the helm and smiled. She wasn’t accustomed to flying such a big ship by herself, but she knew she would have to. The only one she could depend on was herself…or so she thought.

“Would you like some help, Captain?”

Samantha turned around quickly, phaser in hand, as she found the source of the voice. It was Ensign Susan Troy, the only person who had been remotely loyal to her Captain through all of this. It was ironic that she was Romulan, a race known for it’s tendencies toward back-stabbing.

“I could use a good pilot.” Samantha smiled as she vacated the helm station for her Captain’s chair. “And a new First Officer.”

“Me?” Susan shook her head. “But…I’m just an Ensign. I’m not qualified–”

“You are now. Consider yourself promoted.” Sam stood up and shook Susan’s hand. “And as your first act as First Officer…Help me find those two mutineers and lock them up.”

Susan smiled and nodded as Samantha pulled open a weapons locker on the bridge and removed two phaser rifles. “Sam…I was in on what they were planning. They asked me to join them, but I refused. I couldn’t tell you about it. I…I was afraid. I’m sorry.”

“I understand, Susan.” Samantha motioned for Susan to follow her as she headed into the turbolift. “You did what you had to do to survive. But you’re here now when I need you. I’m grateful for that.”

“Where are we headed?”

“The brig.” Sam smiled at Susan’s apparent confusion with her answer. “If the security personnel are against us, we’ll need numbers. I may have some unlikely help down there.”

“Gul Terel…I need your help.” Samantha stood in front of the jail cell which held Gul Terel. He sat on a small bench, staring at Samantha, seemingly amused by what she just said.

“And why should I help you? You destroyed my fleet, and imprisoned me. It’s not my problem that you can’t keep command of your own ship.”

Sam laughed. “So you know about that already.”

“How could I not?” Gul Terel stood up and walked over to the forcefield at the from of the cell. “I could feel the air of mutiny from the moment I set foot on board. Let me guess…you want me to help you get your ship back. Which is where I ask…what’s in it for me?”

“Freedom. Trust.” Sam removed a small phaser from her belt, tapping the control pad next to the cell to drop the forcefield. “After you help me, I’ll send you home…with a story to tell.”

Gul Terel stepped out of his cell slowly, gingerly taking the phaser from Samantha’s hands. He stood, frozen, for a second or two before deciding that she was sincere. “Why would you trust me? I could turn on you and destroy your ship.”

“I know you can be a man of honor when you wish.” Sam glanced at Susan and urged her and Gul Terel back toward the turbo lift. “And we outnumber you two to one.”

Gul Terel laughed as he followed the two women into the turbo lift. “Why Captain…I had no idea you were so clever.”

Samantha entered Engineering slowly, just ahead of Gul Terel and Susan. Her phaser rifle was armed and ready, the small light mounted on it turned on to stream light through the darkness. Though she tried not to seem nervous, she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking – she had never been in close combat before. Sure she had been trained…but it was far from the same thing.

She turned to look at Susan and Gul Terel. They were both pictures of confidence – both of them had been in face to face combat situations before. Sam couldn’t help but smile in spite of herself – she was in command, but had the least experience.

Sam kept smiling until she felt a searing heat tear across her shoulder, like someone had heated a knife blade and sliced into the upper part of her arm. She screamed out in pain, dropping her phaser rifle just before dropping to her knees. She had been hit by phaser fire, and it was set to ‘kill’. Her two companions fired twice each before a barrage of phaser blasts began flying past them.

“Computer! CO2 release!” Sam turned to her two companions quickly as she took a deep breath. They did as well, just as ice cold compressed carbon dioxide gas began spewing from nozzles all over the room. The phaser fire diminished quickly until seconds later, silence prevailed. “Computer…Raise oxygen level.”

Those few words from her were enough to make her feel a little dizzy, as her lungs took in a little carbon dioxide as well. More cool jets of gas began filling the room, this time pure oxygen to filter out the carbon dioxide. “Lights.”

As the room suddenly filled with light, Samantha leapt to her feet with renewed confidence, phaser rifle in hand. She began to feel the rush of adrenaline within her as she turned her head back and forth, just daring anyone or anything to move. Someone did – and with a blast of coherent light from the weapon in her hands, that person lay still on the ground.

Samantha turned around to look at her two companions – they didn’t seem the least bit affected by what happened. But Sam, on the other hand…she began shaking as she approached the man she shot, who now lay collapsed against a wall. As she kneeled down to examine him, she recognized him immediately. It was Nathan…and he was dead.

A wave of sadness hit Samantha – she squeezed her eyes shut quickly to fight the flood of tears in her eyes. She couldn’t believe that she…killed. One pull of the trigger, and someone she knew – someone she talked to every day – lay dead against a cold steel bulkhead.

“It couldn’t be helped, Captain.” Susan placed a hand on Samantha’s shoulder to try to comfort her.

Samantha shrugged away Susan’s hand, looking at the floor as tears finally broke free from her eyes. “I’m his Captain too, Susan. It’s my job to make sure he gets home safely. But now he’s dead. I…failed.”

“I wouldn’t say that, Captain.” Gul Terel stood behind Samantha, hands clasped behind him as he spoke. “Look at me. A few hours ago we were adversaries fighting over a planet. Now here I am, Federation technology in my hands, fighting by your side. I’d say that’s a pretty successful day.”

Samantha sighed. “At least you’ll make it home alive.”

“I can’t go home.” Gul Terel walked around to face Sam as he continued, his expression turning serious. “If I do, I’ll certainly have to answer for what has happened today. I’ll be executed by my fellow Cardassians. But right now I’m alive…and if you’ll give me a second chance–”

“Terel–” Samantha shook her head and looked down at Nathan’s still form again. She knew what Gul Terel was hinting at – to see if she can find a place for him in the Federation. As Sam watched Susan handcuff the unconscious Security Officer, Gene Kelley, an idea dawned on her – she may have taken away one life today…but she had the opportunity to give another man a new life.

Samantha looked up at Gul Terel, giving him a weak smile as she wiped away her remaining tears on her sleeve. “I could use a new Security Officer.”

Terel smiled and bowed slightly. “And I’d be honored to accept that offer.”

Sam reached out and shook Terel’s hand quickly as her smile became more natural. “Don’t even think about leading mutiny against me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Terel followed as Captain Ross headed toward the bridge, followed by her new First Officer. “You really would make an excellent Cardassian.”

“So I’ve heard.”

Captain Samantha Ross brought her baby, the Galaxis, back to spaceport without a scratch. But it’s crew would never be the same. Thanks to her dad the Admiral, her new crew was accepted – but it took more then a little arguing and wrangling to make it happen. For some reason, her Romulan First Officer and Cardassian Security Officer weren’t trusted by Starfleet…but Samantha trusted them more then anyone else.

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