"I have to say, Doctor, I am a little... unsure about this trip," the Cardassian admitted, looking intently at his console.
Doctor Bashir let a slight smirk tug at his lips. He looked up from the shuttlecraft dashboard and regarded the alien tailor. "Why, Garak," he said, "Are you nervous?"
Garak looked hurt. Sort of. He smiled at the doctor. "Of course not, dear doctor," he countered simply.
"I believe you, the doctor said with his usual playfulness.
Garak rolled his eyes and continued to focus his attention on the shuttlecraft's functions. But, he knew the vehicle did not require continuous manning. So, he sighed and looked back at the Starfleet officer. He would have to withstand the doctor's scrutinising stare. "Was there anything else, doctor?" he finally asked.
Bashir shook his head. "You still sound... incredulous, Garak," he declared.
"Oh, I do apologise," Garak said with his usual calmness, "for sounding 'incredulous'."
Bashir gave him a wry smile. "I was thought you would be a bit more excited about this," he admitted, sounding and looking a little sad.
Garak smiled softly. "I am excited, doctor. But, having lived in this universe for so long has taught me not to get too excited," he told the doctor.
Bashir nodded, albeit with slight reluctance. "I thought it would be fun."
"Fun would be using the holosuites," Garak said simply. He noticed Bashir's downcast expression. "But, this is more than interesting."
"I hadn't chosen the holosuites because, well... Firstly because of Quark, and secondly because you're always complaining about them," he reminded Garak.
Garak frowned. "I am?"
he asked, incredulous.
Bashir nodded firmly. "You're always saying how they're so inaccurate."
"Hmm," Garak murmured.
"I knew this was a bad idea," Bashir muttered, cursing himself.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, my dear doctor," the Cardassian tried to reassure him. "I have indeed heard that this is a rather impressive planet," he added.
Bashir nodded in agreement. "I hope you're right."
"When am I ever wrong?" Garak challenged, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.
Bashir shook his head laughingly and focused on landing the runabout.
"Speed down to 700 miles am hour," he announced.
Garak nodded. "Oh... Doctor?" he said. "I'm detecting an anomaly."
"An anomaly?" The Cardassian's voice betrayed no worry, so the doctor was force to ask him to elaborate.
"Yes... Some sort of turbulence," Garak answered, scanning the runabout's readings.
Bashir, too, was carrying out analysis checks on the odd occurrence. "I agree," he proclaimed, and then his eyes widened in terror. He reined in the anxiety as his Starfleet and genetic engineered brain kicked into action. "Garak, are you seeing this?"
Swiftly, the tailor nodded. "I am, and it does not look good," he said bluntly.
As soon as the words had left his mouth, both he and Bashir were forced into silence. The runabout shook violently as it became overwhelmed with the tsunami-like wind. The air rushed past them like speeding horses in an Old Earth chariot race. It howled and hollered.
Bashir frantically fought to contain his apprehension as he tried to steady the vehicle's swaying attitude.
Garak cast him a shadowy look. "Doctor, we must try to land."
"I know, I know," Bashir quickly agreed, "but its easier said than done."
Garak swiftly keyed in a series of attitude-relocation codes and the shuttle steadied. For a little while at least.
The violent movements began all over again. It turned from left to right, shaking and vibrating as gusts of wind hit all sides of the runabout.
"Altitude is one thousand metres," Garak said loudly.
Bashir muttered something under his breath, and from the look on the doctor's face, Garak could tell it was not something pleasant.
"Five hundred metres," Garak announced after a brief while, struggling to be head of the roar of the struggling engines.
Bashir shook his head and focused - tried to focus - on getting the shuttle's heading stable. If they crashed when under some sort of control, at least they may not end up being upside down or something worse.
Garak's eyes were unblinking, wide and disbelieving. "This turbulence is unprecedented, dare I say," he announced.
"I'm glad one of us is having a nice time," Bashir grumbled.
"Two hundred metres now, doctor," the Cardassian relayed. A second later, he amended, "One hundred- fifty- ten!"
The words were interrupted not by the troubled Doctor but by the loud thud of the craft slamming into the surface of Zeta Reticuli IV.
Wearily, hazily, Garak opened his eyes. Smoke filled his eyes and dust choked his throat. He coughed and spluttered, but realised that he was at least alive. He looked around the cockpit.
"Doctor?" he called out bleakly, craning his neck over the tangle of rubble and twisted metal.
Garak huffed. He tried to pull himself up from his seat and it was only after numerous attempts that he realised his seatbelt was on. He yanked it away and finally was free. He wondered how injured he was, but no pangs of pain hit him as he stood up. He rubbed the back of his neck and began to search the cabin.
It was dark and foreboding, but his heightened Cardassian senses helped him. Only marginally, but they did help.
Carefully, he stepped over the fallen wreckage and pulled himself up on the chair.
"Doctor?" he called out again, but again there was no reply.
Garak knitted his brow and his heart skipped a beat as he caught sight of a blur of blue and black - a Starfleet science division uniform - in amongst the steamy, blackened wreckage and rubble. He crossed the bleak cabin, few steps that seemed so much more, and reached the doctor.
Bashir's head was lolling to one side, his eyes were closed, and his expression one of blank peace.
"Julian?" Garak asked. "Doctor Bashir, can you hear me?"
Still no answer came from the man's lips.
Garak sighed. He checked the doctor's vital signs with a tricorder and breathed out a sigh of relief. He noticed Bashir's shallow breathing and felt for his heartbeat. He's alive, Garak thought with relief.
Considering for a moment, Garak slipped his hands under the doctor's unconscious form and lifted him up. He carried him out of the shuttle and was struck with the harrowing realisation that they had crashed in the middle of nowhere. A forest of some sort.
He noticed the blood that streamed from Bashir forehead and thought for a moment. Swiftly, he took a med-pack from the downed, destroyed runabout and retrieved a gauze. He placed it gently over the open wound on Bashir's head and studied his handiwork for a while.
Propping Bashir's still unmoving yet living form against a tree trunk, Garak himself also tried to get some sleep. It was perhaps one of the longest nights of his life. It was late evening when they had crashed, as the doctor had liked the idea of hiking during the night, but the air was reasonably still. It was a massive contrast to the colossal turbulence and gravity pockets they had recently been subjected to. Every now and then, the Cardassian would open his eyes and catch sight of the stars as they shone their interstellar light on the sleeping form of Deep Space Nine's chief medical officer.
Day could not have come quicker. The air was quite cool but was still and relaxed, much the unconscious Bashir.
Garak heard a whimper and attributed it to Doctor Bashir. He sat beside him and checked Bashir's vital signs again. No severe injuries.
Garak frowned and put the tricorder away.
Groggily, the doctor opened his eyes. He murmured as his brain stirred into being and looked around. His eyes fell on Garak. "Garak?" he said softly, his vision a little blurry and his throat achy.
The Cardassian nodded gravely. "Doctor, you're alive."
Bashir managed to tiny smile, but he knew Garak knew he was alive. He saw the tricorder.
"Wha- what happened?" Bashir managed to ask.
Garak was silent for a while and then answered. "Don't you remember?"
Bashir coughed again and Garak braced himself for the possibility of blood, but his worried were unneeded. Bashir shook his head.
"We hit some turbulence," Garak explained. "I have to say, you did perform most admirably."
Bashir threw him a slight wry smile. "We still crashed, though."
Garak made a noncommittal gesture. "A technicality, my dear doctor.
Bashir reached up and felt the bandage on his head. He smiled. "You did this?" he asked, referring to the gauze.
For a moment - a brief moment - embarrassment crossed the Cardassian's face but Garak quickly banished it. "It was simple enough," he said simply. "Besides, I felt that I needed to return the favour after you... helped me with my neural implant."
Bashir smiled. Widely. Thankfully. "Thank you," he said. He would have forgotten about that event had it not been for the Cardassian holonovel Garak had given him.
"No, don't thank me now, doctor," Garak countered. "You can thank me when Deep Space Nine picks up our distress signal and we can go home."