Lieutenant Florin muttered, “You’ve had some Ferengis in here,” as he stood over the OPS console on the bridge, his eyes doing the work. On their journey to the command center, they’d found bodies scattered in various states. The Jem’Hadar had been complete in their annihilation of the crew. They had found no further survivors. The readings from the medical tricorders had faded the longer they searched, and Finlay had finally determined they needed to make for the bridge. He glanced at Gonzaga, “Can you tell if anything’s been modified?”
Conlan stood at the helm console at the front of the bridge, running his science tricorder over the station, “There’s nothing outwardly wrong with her…I’m not detecting any modified code…but the Dominion are a devious and dangerous group.” He examined the console closer, “An odd subroutine is running underneath the main systems. It’s checking the same sensor grouping every thirty seconds.”
Hector walked over and pulled out his tricorder, “It’s a diagnostic…but it’s not a standard diagnostic operation. Here,” he tapped at his tricorder and shook his head, “That’s not normal. It’s set up as a diagnostic for the impulse engines. If they stop, it will immediately overload the warp core and engage the self-destruct. Captain Dahl wasn’t kidding when he said they got the access and codes.”
Marcello spoke up from where she stood at the back of the aging bridge, “If I’m reading this right, the diagnostic is set only if the ship comes to a halt…not if the course changes.” She glanced at Protheroe for confirmation.
Hector worked his tricorder and PADD in tandem. He’d connected to the ship’s computer through Dahl’s console in his quarters. “Gabrieli’s right – it’s only tied to the impulse engines. It looks like they knew they were going to burn out the nacelles. If we had more time, I could get warp up and running…maybe send her back to the Dominion.”
Florin searched the other screens as he listened to the rest of the team. Engineering was in ruins. They had one shot at stopping the Dominion from throwing a knockout punch at Janoor III. He turned to the group, “We need to get this ship pointed into the nearest sun.” He tapped his badge, and Catari gave him coordinates for the sun, just an hour away.
“She was a great ship with a great crew.” Thomas Dahl lay secured and under the watchful care of Ensign Deandra Baresi. Lieutenant Athena Catari stood in the archway from the cockpit, listening to the civilian captain mourn the loss of all he had known. “We did a lot of good for a lot of people over the years…it just seems…unfair for her to go out like this.” He sniffled. He’d been sharing stories of his crew with them since being brought aboard. The SS Dahl had been acquired many years ago from a transport company looking to unload older craft. “She could run with just 100 of us – she was perfect.” He shook his head, the sobs returning now, “Now there’s just one of me…and nobody left. They killed them all.” His tears flowed down his face as Baresi took his hands in hers to comfort him.
Athena returned to the cockpit as the shuttle followed alongside the Olympic class ship, heading slowly but surely for the sun. Deandra slipped into the ops chair a few minutes later, wiping tears from her eyes, “I gave him something to help him sleep. He’s going to need plenty of rest.”
Catari regarded the growing sun, “I can’t imagine what you saw over there.” The Science Chief had seen her share. This mission was climbing the Jefferies tubes of terrible.
Baresi leaned back in the chair, pulling her legs under her, “You learn a lot about the darkness of the devils on the Hazard Team, Ensign. In the training and simulations, we were never spared the ugliness or the horror. The previous chief of security didn’t want us to be unprepared for whatever we ended up experiencing.” She smiled, “Lieutenant Commander Tynleigh Ache…worked hard to be the best…She described herself to me as ‘…fastidiously devoted to the very edges of perfection.’ There were very few chinks in her armor. Ache once pointed a phaser at one of her captains, if you can believe it. That story was legendary. She expected the best from her team, crew, and captain…and there wasn’t much room left for anything else.”
Athena had read the file on her predecessor and remembered being in awe of the Osnullus woman. “Badass was my first thought.” She tapped at the console as she adjusted the shuttle’s course, “She knew her business. Given the state of the universe, I’m glad she was your commanding officer. We need more like her in the galaxy.”
Deandra smiled, “You’re not half bad yourself, Lieutenant. Ache had big shoes…you’re filling them out nicely.” She stood and returned to watch over her patient, leaving Catari feeling a little better about herself.
An hour later, the SS Dahl took her final journey into the sun. They searched for the bodies they could find and performed what funeral rights they knew needed to be done. Names were recorded, the missing listed, and the final state of the old Olympic class vessel was detailed in full. Baresi held a screen showing Captain Thomas Dahl the final steps. His tears returned as the names were read out loud, and a traditional blessing was spoken. The cabin of the shuttle remained silent as the ship fell into the sun, the fires bringing the dead to a final rest. Dahl wiped at his eyes as he read the dedication he had written, “To absent friends in the journey through the stars. To our crews, to our friends, and our family…we commit the SS Dahl to memory. May her service be a blessing, and may her memory help us seek out those in need. To absent friends.”
The Starfleet crew repeated the blessing. The shuttle slowly turned away before jumping to warp, leaving the dust of the SS Dahl to filter through the stars.