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Part of USS Polaris: Infiltrate and Liberate Nasera (The Lost Fleet – Part 1) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

High Stakes Consequences

Nasera City
Mission Day 10 - 1100 Hours
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It was the slightest of missteps, a tricorder out at the wrong time, just trying to get a quick scan of a comms relay. But it was all it took. The Jem’Hadar descended like a swarm of locusts on a fresh corpse. Petty Officer Jason Atwood and Chief Petty Officer Ayala Shafir ran. They ran, and ran, and ran, plowing over bystanders milling about in the street. But the Jem’Hadar were swift, and they just kept coming. Somewhere in the mad dash, Jason Atwood and Ayala Shafir got separated. Apart and alone, they each just kept on running.

Ayala rounded a corner, momentarily losing her pursuers. She used the opportunity to dive into a rundown tailor’s shop. Crouching beneath a set of gowns, she watched the boots of the Jem’Hadar soldiers streak by. But then she heard the chime of the door as one of the hunters stepped into the dimly lit shop.

“How can I help you?” asked a dusty old seamstress emerging from the back.

“Is there anyone here with you?” demanded the Jem’Hadar.

From where Ayala was crouched, she was in the direct line of sight of the shopkeeper. The two made fleeting eye contact. Ayala shook her head, her eyes full of desperation, begging the old woman to not reveal her.

“No, not a soul,” the seamstress assured the Jem’Hadar confidently. “Since you and your kind came to town, I hardly see anyone anymore.” While the first bit was false, the second bit was absolutely true. The shop used to be a bustling hub of activity, and the old lady was renowned for her skills at the loom. From factory workers needing a patch job to city bureaucrats seeking a perfect fit, she’d serviced them all. But then the Dominion came and business dried up.

The soldier took a step forward to check for himself. The importance of diligence was imprinted on him the first days of his training. The old lady just stood there though, unwavering in her conviction, even though she knew that if the petite girl was discovered, they’d both pay the price. But her humanity didn’t let her just give over the poor soul hiding behind the gowns.

The soldier’s advance was interrupted as weapon fire rang out somewhere on the street beyond. He stopped in his tracks, raised his rifle, and stormed out of the shop. She was safe, at least for now, courtesy of the courage of this little old lady.

“Thank you,” Ayala whispered.

“Don’t mention it,” the woman replied, gesturing for her to come. “Why don’t you join me in the back until things calm down? Something has definitely got those savages all worked up.”

As the two sat in the back passing time, the aged seamstress shared beautiful memories of life on Nasera before the Dominion came, and the nightmare that had subsumed the city ever since, the searches, the beatings, and the public executions. 

While Ayala tried to listen empathetically, her mind hung on the fate of Petty Officer Atwood. The weapon fire she’d heard, it had the characteristic wisp of a phaser, not a polaron disruptor. That was a plus, but if it had gotten to the point where he had to blow his cover and start shooting, there was nothing good that could come of it. There were simply too many Jem’Hadar for the Texan sport shooter to blast his way out of this mess.

Then she heard the pounding of boots. Many, many boots. Ayala and her new friend peaked out to see dozens of Jem’Hadar marching in formation, a lone man dragged through the street behind them. Jason Atwood. His boots scraped across the concrete. His body was limp.

A Jem’Hadar First walked at the front, shouting loudly enough everyone would hear: “You live to serve the Dominion, and should you not serve, you shall no longer live. Tonight, this puny specimen shall serve one last time, as an example. The penalty for disobedience is death.”

And then the company of Jem’Hadar were gone, continuing to march as the First shouted his proclamation of the impending execution to all who would hear.

Ayala’s thoughts were frantic. You couldn’t execute a dead man. That meant Jason was still alive, albeit incapacitated. There was a chance to save him. She needed to get back to the others and come up with a plan to save him.

“Is he a friend of yours?” the woman asked, as if sensing Ayala’s inner turmoil.

“No,” Ayala replied flatly, her expression giving nothing away. “Never met him before. I have no idea why they were chasing me. It all happened so fast. They started running at me, so I just started running.” She started shaking as if overwhelmed with the ordeal she’d experienced. It was all a feint though. She might have just been saved by that woman, but she’d still take no risks. Especially not now. The Dominion had spies everywhere.

“It’s okay honey,” the old woman said, placing a consoling hand on her back. “They’re savages. I would run too if they were chasing me.”

Ayala looked up with a tear running down her cheek. “What are they going to do to him?”

“Oh, you don’t know?”

“No, I’m from the outer villages. I just came in today to pick up some supplies we don’t have on the farm,” Ayala explained, using a cover that would elicit more intel. “What a day to pick, huh?”

“Well, whenever they catch a supposed traitor, they gather us in the central square after work so we can watch the public execution,” the woman explained with deep sadness in her eyes. “They literally troll the streets to make sure we all come out and watch. The Vorta comes out, says a few words, and then they…” Her voice trailed off. Now it was her time for tears. A couple trickled down her face. “It happens what feels like every other day nowadays. On Monday, it was three kids who couldn’t have been a day over thirteen.”

“What did they do?”

“I don’t know. Probably just typical childhood mischief. Nobody would dare risk actually doing something.”

Ayala could feel the rage building inside herself. She knew the Jem’Hadar were animals, but now she was face-to-face with how rabid they truly could be. When this mission was over, these monsters had better be dead at her feet. But first, they had to find a way to save Jason.

“I need to go.”

“At least take a change of clothes,” the seamstress offered, handing her a drab jumpsuit. Ayala appreciated the woman’s choice. It was distinctly different from the outfit she was currently wearing. She changed quickly, and then her new friend gave her a hair tie to put her hair up. Ayala looked completely different from when she’d entered. How did an elderly dressmaker have such instincts? Was this how living under an occupation changed you?

Ayala’s savior watched her go with a final word of caution: “Just be careful honey, and keep your head low.”

Chief Shafir made her way out of the shop. It was hard to not just run straight back, but she knew better than that. If she looked rushed or like she had greater purpose, she’d be caught, and then Atwood would be dead for certain. And so, against her inner urgings, she took her time, moving slowly and without purpose, even stopping for a pizza and a liter of cola. She was just another forgotten soul under the yoke of the Dominion.

When she stepped back into the safehouse, the first words came from Grok: “Oh goodie, you brought us a pizza!”

Dr. Hall, who’d been on door duty, saw the shadow on her face at once.

“What happened Ayala?” 

“They… they got him.”

The Ferengi’s grin disappeared, and Commander Lewis emerged from the bedroom. 

“Atwood?” Lewis asked with a grave look on his face.

Shafir could only nod.

“What happened?”

“He… I… the Jem’Hadar… they… spotted the tricorder… we… we ran… got split up. I got lucky. He… he didn’t. They’ve got him… he’s alive, but they’re… they’re going to execute him this evening… in… in the central square,” Shafir struggled to explain, then bowed her head in defeat. “Jake, I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry. There was nothing I could do.” Everyone on the team was now looking at her. She slid to the floor, curling up in a ball, breaking down in tears, and, as opposed to earlier in the shop, this time her emotions were real.

She wasn’t even crying just because of Atwood. She was also crying because she’d failed her mentor. Jake Lewis had found her when she was at her worst, and he gave her a fresh lease on life. She’d followed him from their private enterprise back into Starfleet. He was like the father she never had. But today, she’d let him down. She’d broken his number one rule: never leave a man behind. She was here, and Jason Atwood was not. Jake Lewis would have died alongside Jason Atwood before leaving him behind. She hadn’t.

“Ayala, take a breath. If you say there was nothing you could do, the best you could do is get back here alive with the information we need to get him back,” Commander Lewis assured her. “It’s his one chance.”

Ayala Shafir heard his words, but she couldn’t look up. Grok sat down next to her and held her hand.

Commander Lewis turned around to address the team. “Saddle up folks. We’re going down to the square to get our man back.” The determination showed through every inch of his being as he grabbed his sidearm.

Comments

  • This story MOVES! It's pulse-pounding with a short breath in the middle with the shop, but then it picks right back up, and we're left wondering what is going to happen next and how they will get their man back. I really enjoyed reading this and cannot WAIT to see what comes next!

    May 10, 2023
  • Wow, my heart was almost racing as I was reading this story. The lady could have easily given her away to try to save her hide but instead, she lied and kept her safe. She was able to give her a change of clothes so she could get back to her friends, once she returned I could feel her emotions, feel how she felt about letting her mentor down but he didn't get mad he tried to console her a bit. Now I wonder how this ends, will they save their comrade, or will more people die before they are even able to do their mission of why they were there, to begin with?

    May 18, 2023
  • Noo not the children, why the children....why would you let me read this, my heart.....good job this was so well woven into each other that I kept reading every single word not hoping to miss anything. Now they got him and what will happen next? Are they able to save him....we shall see

    May 20, 2023
  • Jake Lewis

    Squadron Intelligence Officer
    USS Serenity Commanding Officer

  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research
    Chief Counseling Officer

  • Ayala Shafir

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Computational Systems
    Intelligence Specialist & Hazard Team Operator

  • Grok

    Private Contractor
    Sebold Logistics