The battle raged on across the streets of Nasera City. After holding an officer as the light left his eyes, Admiral Reyes was back on the street, blood on her hands, fire in her eyes, her rifle coughing out shot after shot. The scene was pure chaos, and a new problem had just presented itself. A Jem’Hadar mortar team had taken position on a nearby rooftop and was reigning down hell upon the Starfleet squad.
“Vox, I need aerial support,” Reyes shouted over comms at the captain of the USS Diligent. As a former pilot himself, Captain Dorian Vox had taken on the role of coordinating their close air support. An explosion went off, hitting a burned out vehicle and sending two of her officers flying. Their bodies landed among the rubble, and neither got back up. “And I need it now!”
“Tasking Diligent Three. ETA three zero seconds.”
Reyes rummaged through her pack, hunting for a laser illuminator. Polaron blasts and mortar fire continued to ring out. Explosions and debris flew everywhere. She needed to find that illuminator. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally had it in her hands.
“Admiral Reyes, this is Diligent Three, coming out of the west. Call it as you see it.”
She focused. Where the hell was that mortar fire coming from? Another shot went off. She saw the flash from the rooftop of a building down the block. She didn’t flinch as the round exploded nearby. She needed to keep eyes on that building. She lit up the laser.
“Target marked, one eighth klick south by southeast.”
“Diligent Three proceeding, kill box four alpha. Attack direction west.”
“Confirmed Diligent Three. Bring the rain.”
From the cockpit of the Aspara-class bomber, the pilot locked in the target. But there was a problem. The building was awfully close to friendlies, including the admiral. “Be advised, danger close,” he warned as his ship screamed towards the target.
“Roger danger close,” Reyes acknowledged, and frankly she didn’t care. If the Aspara didn’t clear that mortar team, they’d be dead anyway. The relentless barrage of shells had already felled a third of their squad.
She heard the screech of the bomber tearing overhead.
“Incoming!” she shouted to the squad as she covered her head with her arm. Three projectiles lanced out across the night sky, hitting the building dead on. The explosion lit up the streets, and the ground shook as the building turned to rubble. The mortar threat was no more.
As dust blanketed them, Reyes made out the bright light of another projectile. But this one’s origin was the surface. She knew instantly what it was.
“Diligent Three, vampire, vampire!” she shouted over the communicator, but it was too late.
The surface-to-air rocket hit its mark, and the Aspara exploded in a blaze of orange light. Reyes’ heart fell. If she hadn’t called that pilot down, he’d still be alive, but she had only a moment to mourn that loss of life before being pulled back into the fray.
“Reyes, we got another problem!” shouted a Lieutenant, pointing down the street.
A Dominion armored vehicle was rolling down the thoroughfare towards them. Reyes glanced back the way they’d just come, looking for an escape. But there, another armored vehicle sat, soldiers already piling out. They were completely surrounded.
Back at the mansion, the duel of words continued.
“Do you have any gods, Starfleet?”
“No,” Dr. Hall replied flatly. She had not a shred of doubt there was no one watching out for her. The lawlessness, abuse and slavery she had endured through her life made her sure of that. “If ever they existed, we’ve long since killed them.”
“That is a shame,” replied the Vorta. He pitied her that she’d never seen true greatness.
“Just like we killed yours.” She didn’t need his pity, but she was ready to make him hurt. “You should have seen what we did to your gods. It was a beautiful sight to behold, watching them turn brittle and frail as they succumbed to a morphogenic virus of our creation.”
The Vorta’s pity turned to rage.
“Oh, don’t turn your fury at me. It was your fault really,” she explained, zeroing in for the kill. “If you and your Lost Fleet hadn’t dawdled in the wormhole for thirty years, your gods would not have started dying, and they would not have had to bow down before us. That was your failure. And now, you have failed them again.”
Dr. Hall dropped the Vorta’s communicator on his lap.
“I believe it is your saying: Victory is life. But the opposite is true,” she continued, reveling in the opportunity to parrot the words back at him that he’d spoken before he executed Petty Officer Atwood. “If you do not achieve victory, then you shall not live.” She looked straight into his eyes. “The Jem’Hadar on Torga IV during the War, and the ones on Saxue today, they understood. The price of failure is death. So make the call. Remind your Jem’Hadar of their vow, their final duty.”
The Vorta sat there, fighting a war within his tortured mind. The drugs and the words, mangled with concepts of duty and faith, all bounced around in his mutilated mind. Was she right? Had he failed his gods? With the help of the psychoactives coursing through his veins, the Vorta came to his final conclusion. Yes, he had failed the Founders then, and he had failed them again now. There was only one answer for that failure.
Dr. Hall picked up the communicator and raised it towards his face for he could not do it himself. “It is the order of things,” she said sadistically. She could see in his eyes that she had won. She brought the communicator to his mouth and pressed the talk button.
She savored the words as he spoke them, knowing what they would unleash.
In an intersection in the middle of Nasera City, Admiral Reyes unloaded round after round at the Jem’Hadar vehicles that rolled towards them. But it was all in vain. The armor was too thick. The inevitable had caught up to them. Her old enemy had won. Surrounded on all sides, it was only a matter of time before she and her compatriots would be splayed across the pavement.
Suddenly, the armored vehicles stopped moving, all at once. Jem’Hadar soldiers filed out. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. A full platoon. But they didn’t start shooting. Instead, they just hurled themselves headlong towards the battered Starfleet officers, howling in rage without raising their weapons. Reyes didn’t look the gift horse in the eye. She opened fire, dropping one after another after another.
All across Nasera, a similar story unfolded. The Jem’Hadar abandoned all sense of coordination, cunning and strategic reasoning, presenting themselves to be cut down by the hand of their enemy. The Starfleet officers, having lost far too many friends and colleagues to the long night, obliged willingly.
When the shooting stopped and the street was silent, Admiral Reyes stood up, brushed the dirt off her uniform, and breathed a sigh of relief. They had won.They had freed Nasera.
“Reyes to Lewis,” she said as she tapped her combadge.
“Lewis here. Go ahead.” His voice was calm. He already knew.
“I suppose I have you to thank for what happened out here?” she asked. There simply was no other answer. One moment, the Jem’Hadar had them completely cornered, about to deliver the killing blow. The next moment, they simply gave up.
“Victory is life. So too must the opposite be true,” he replied cryptically.
“Well, thank you.”
Admiral Reyes tapped the link closed. There was nothing further to be said. She had a sense for what Commander Lewis and Dr. Hall had done, but she would never say it on an open link. Lines were almost certainly crossed tonight, but she was okay with that. The pair had saved hundreds of officers tonight through their choices, and they’d guaranteed the freedom of millions on Nasera. To Admiral Reyes, that made any lines crossed worth it.
Standing there in the governor’s mansion, Commander Lewis looked down at their captive, a broken creature that had brought so much pain to Nasera. The Vorta were servants to the Founders, but that didn’t make them any less guilty of the crimes they committed. This Vorta was responsible for the deaths of Ryssehl Th’zathol, Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan, Lieutenant Kora Tal, Petty Officer Jason Atwood, Crewman Nam Jae-Sun, and so many others. There was only one way he would answer for that.
Commander Lewis raised his sidearm to the Vorta’s head and pulled the trigger.
A single shot rang out.
It was over.