Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Faith: Part III, Peace
By Gabrielle Lawson
All they could do was sit back and wait. And pray. Jordan had left the bridge to gather with the other Christians for that task. There were some four hundred down in the cargo hold. Garulos, Riker had learned, had been taken up to the make-shift sickbay. There were no other doctors among the prisoners, but there were some medtechs and nurses. Riker hoped they could do something for him.
Bashir was more lucid than he'd been since he left Enterprise and was handling the helm with quiet competence. It wasn't really hard since they were mostly going in one heading. The ship was too large and unwieldy for tight evasive maneuvers. While, amazingly enough, the Dominion ships had first not fired and then had missed at least twenty shots in a row, they had obviously worked out the kinks in their targeting sensors. Riker figured they had taken the convoy by surprise when the ship suddenly turned. But now they were aware and determined to get the cargo ship back in line. Or destroy her.
The cargo ship-she needed a name, Bashir had said-was well-shielded, but not nearly so strong in firepower. She had phasers: six banks. One to each the bow and stern and two along either side. But they were not quite a match for even the fifty ships that had broken away from the convoy to come after them. They'd been taking hits for the last ten minutes. It had only been twenty minutes since Bashir took the helm.
"Shields dropping to sixty percent," Loris reported from Tactical. Another hit caused the Bridge to tilt slightly to starboard. "Minor damage to outer hull plating. So far."
"Comments like that aren't exactly helpful," Bashir reminded her. Riker realigned the inertial dampers while Bashir adjusted the helm and the ship righted itself. "I don't even know anymore," the doctor went on. "I thought they were hallucinations. But Vláďa and now Szymon. . . . I didn't just imagine my hand being broken."
"I was there," Riker told him, "or I wouldn't believe it myself. And I wouldn't believe this either." He waved his hand around to indicate the ship. "Except for the fact that we still have working engines, we're a sitting duck. But they haven't even pulled our shields down yet. Why do you suppose that is?"
"Faith?" Bashir asked. "I just believe and those Dominion ships out there are going to stop shooting? That hasn't happened yet. And I was believing it for a while there. My hand was broken. I could feel it." He stopped and looked up from the helm. "So what was he that he could do something like that? Changelings can't heal people the last I heard."
"Or disappear into thin air," Riker added. "Melt into the floor perhaps but not just wink out like that."
"Right," Bashir agreed. "Hallucinations can't see around corners or hold doors open or heal a broken hand either. So what was he?"
Oripic and Cairn looked at each other and apparently decided to stay out of the debate. "Jordan and the others would say he was an angel," Loris said as another hit shook the ship. "Fifty-five percent. Forward shields are still a bit higher."
"Well, they're mostly shooting from behind us," Bashir reasoned. "Let's put the difference to the aft shields. And cut whatever else is unnecessary. If we can get everyone not running this ship into the hold, we can cut power to all the unused compartments. And what if I don't believe in angels or ghosts?"
"Neither do I," Riker said as Loris motioned to k'Ruhn, who left the Bridge immediately. Riker ran a quick diagnostic to see what damage they had from the last hit, but already two more struck the aft shielding. "But then again, six hundred years ago they didn't believe in atoms and ions. Damn."
"What?" Cairn asked
Bashir closed his eyes for a moment and gripped the edges of two of the columns.
"Long-range sensors," Riker replied but then spoke to Bashir. "You want me to take that thing for a bit?" The headset Bashir was wearing was giving him a headache, something he'd said was common to every human that had tried to wear it for any length of time. Garak, however, had had no such problem.
Bashir took it off and rubbed his temple. "That would be great, Commander. Just let me know if I'm about to collide with something." He tossed the headset and Riker caught it. The thought did occur to him that the ship might not survive long enough for the headset to cause him a headache. But he decided he'd rather believe Szymon was an angel and that Bashir really could save them just by believing he could. It was ridiculous, but it was the only scenario that didn't involve a fiery inferno or recapture by the Dominion.
The ship rocked again and this time it was much more violent. "Direct hit to the port lateral shield generators," Loris reported. "We're losing them."
"Cut life support, lights, everything to everywhere we don't need people to be," Bashir ordered. "See if there isn't some sort of siren to warn everyone. They've got to get out of there now."
"I should have something here," Loris said. "Pardon my saying so, sir, but I think you need to stop being negative before they put a hole in our hull."
"Me? Negative?" Bashir said, putting on hand to his chest in mock hurt. "Nothing about this situation would logically lead to negativity, crewman."
Loris smiled. "Who gives a damn about logic, sir? There are no Vulcans on the Bridge. I just want to survive. If that means I have to stand on my head and sing nursery rhymes, I'll do it."
Bashir laughed at that. He wanted to say that it would certainly be amusing but he didn't see how it would make the Dominion stop shooting at them, but he didn't. That would be negative. Negativity was apparently not the route to salvation for the good ship What-ever-her-name-is. But it wasn't easy being positive. He'd had a lot more experience with pessimism this last half year or so than optimism. And broken hand or not, the facts of the universe-or at least this quadrant-hadn't changed. The Dominion was still allied to Cardassia and the Breen were still allied to the Dominion. And all three were still bent on taking over the Alpha Quadrant. Which left the Federation all too desperate to stop them. Inter arma enem silent leges, he thought. Ross's words fit too well with what he saw of the Federation, and especially Section 31. They were still out there, too. And it was still apparent that they hadn't given up on him yet.
One thing had changed, though. Himself. Julian Bashir no longer wanted to die. He didn't want to give up and let Section 31 make him 'disappear'. He didn't want to sit in a pool of self-pity and wait for the universe to end. These other prisoners had seized a chance-an infinitesimal chance-at freedom, and they had fought for it with their whole beings. Many had fought the Jem'Hadar with bare hands, giving up their lives so that the others might go free. And Bashir, when his hand had knit back together in Szymon's grip-whatever he was, had started to sense that maybe there was something worth fighting for. Something worth fighting the Dominion, worth fighting Section 31, and worth fighting his own demons.
And if Szymon was an angel, well, his demons were still right there taunting him with every shot that shook the ship and decreased the power to their shields.
"We're not going to survive by fighting them," was what he said instead. "We need to outrun them, outlast them. Take the phasers offline. Divert power to the engines. We need to keep them at our backs as much as possible."
"Phasers offline," Riker acknowledged, and the ship surged ahead to Warp 8.6. The .3 increase in speed didn't impress the enemy, however. They were warships and warships could almost always outrun cargo freighters. They continued to slam torpedoes against the freighter's shields and Loris continued to report the corresponding decrease in shield strength.
Faith. Szymon had said faith was how his hand was healed and faith would save the ship. Faith in what? Bashir had lost his faith a long time ago. He'd told Riker the only one he could trust was himself but even that had been proven wrong when Deyos ordered the breaking of his hand. He could not even control himself. How then could he have trust in himself?
In others then? He could no more trust them than himself. The Federation? The Federation included Section 31. The Christian God? He wasn't ready to believe that such a thing existed. Szymon and his kind? He wasn't yet sure what they were, and if he didn't believe in God, he had a hard time believing in angels or ghosts. And yet, Captain Sisko had had visions of the Prophets. Visions though. Visions couldn't touch a person.
There was a terrible concussion that rang in his ears and he was thrown to the deck. "We've lost forward shields," Loris reported, as she picked herself up and worked her console. "We've got nothing else to sacrifice at this point."
Except my doubts, Bashir thought. Klaxons were blaring, red lights flashed on and off, and the deck continued to pitch with each new hit. He used the edge of the console to pull himself up. The engines were holding at warp 8.6. By his own estimates, they would reach the edge of the D'Nexi Lines in two hours. They just had to remain in one piece.
"Is there any power allocated to communications?" he asked. "We can do without that."
"Hard to port!" Riker exclaimed and Bashir obeyed without waiting for an explanation. "You were right about this headset."
Riker's head would be pounding by now. "Let me know when I can get us back on course," Bashir said.
"Starboard!" Riker replied. "They're all around us like a swarm of bees."
"I don't suppose we can just stay on course and see if they flinch first," Oripic suggested.
"Cardassians maybe," Bashir told her. "But not Jem'Hadar, unless they've got a changeling on board."
Another explosion caused consoles and displays to spark on the bridge, though, thankfully, the helm remained functional.
"Won't matter now," Riker said. He took off the headset and threw it to the floor. "Sensors are gone."
They were flying blind. The phrase 'blind faith' sprang to Bashir's mind. It seemed appropriate to the circumstances. Maybe he didn't need to think so hard, or so big. Maybe all he had to have faith in was the challenge set before him. Believe, Szymon had said, or they will all die. And Bashir realized something: Faith was a choice.
He didn't want to die, and he didn't want all the other prisoners to die. So he would choose to believe. They were going to make it.
"Find me every ounce of energy you can, Mr. Loris," he said. "We're not done with this yet."
"With no sensors?" she asked, letting her own doubt win.
"We know what's out there," Bashir answered. "They haven't rammed us yet. Maybe they do have Founders on board. We're going to keep running until we reach the Federation fleet."
She nodded crisply. "Aye, sir."
With each new hit against the aft shields or hull plating, Bashir chose faith again. He kept telling himself they would make it. He could tell when the aft shielding fell by the intensity of the jolt that pushed him forward into the helm. Loris and Riker didn't say anything but worked to reroute whatever power remained from the shields to the engines. Bashir pushed her up to warp 8.8.
Then he had an idea. He checked their position against the starcharts and dropped to warp 7, hoping none of the ships chasing them were right behind them. When the freighter didn't explode, he dropped out of warp altogether. As soon as the ship settled into impulse, he plotted a new course thirty-five degrees to starboard and went again to warp.
For four minutes, not a single shot fell on the ship. "Whatever you did," Riker said, during the lull, "I like it."
"I just bought us some time," Bashir replied, relaxing for the first time since before Formenos had been brought aboard. He wondered why they hadn't found her, but he had an idea where she might have gone. "They'll be back. So what will we name her?"
"If she doesn't get-" Loris started.
"She won't," Bashir interrupted. "Go on."
"Maybe 'Freedom'," she suggested.
"'Freedom' sounds good to me," Riker agreed. They both sat on the floor in front of the darkened tactical station.
"Freedom it is then," Bashir said.
And just like that, the moment was over. A jolt shook the bridge and he was pushed hard into the helm again. He knew he couldn't trick them for long. Their long-range sensors would have picked Freedom up again instantly. He set his course back to the D'Nexi Lines. The previous change had gained them four minutes of quiet, but it had added light-years to their course. It would still take nearly two hours to reach the fleet he hoped was still there.
Another hit and Bashir lost helm control. He could feel the ship slow to impulse. Then it stopped completely. "I've lost the helm," he told the others. "The engines are down."
But strangely the firing stopped. "Sensors?" Bashir asked and Riker jumped up to reroute the power that had been allocated to the engines.
"They're weak," he reported. "Three ships approaching within one hundred meters. I can't make out their configurations."
"Why aren't they trying to board us?" Loris asked, looking over his shoulder.
"Life support is down almost everywhere but the Bridge and cargo hold," Riker explained. "I'm sure even Jem'Hadar need air to breathe."
"The hold's too crowded," Bashir said, thankful for their numbers. "Anybody would have to be insane to try and beam into the middle of six thousand people and expect to take over."
"There's Engineering," Oripic pointed out.
"They're armed down there," Riker countered. "They can fight there as well as we can here."
Loris nodded and put her attention back to the sensor readings. She slapped the console a few times as it dimmed. "We lost the sensors again," she complained. "But I saw something just before that. Life support has been reintialized on every deck."
"Maybe they are going to board," Riker concluded.
Bashir turned so he could sit and lean back on the helm columns. He rubbed his hands over his face and wondered what he supposed to believe now. The odds were against them, but he was supposed to believe they would still make it. Maybe the armed prisoners could fight off the boarders and the engineers could find some way to get Freedom moving again before the next round of boarders.
And maybe the Federation fleet had won at D'Nexi, which prompted the liquidation of the camp and the convoy headed deeper into Dominion space. Maybe the Federation was chasing the convoy. Maybe Freedom was closer than they thought.
"Can you get us a feed to the cargo hold?" he asked.
Riker knelt in front of the communications console and reconnected the cables he'd pulled apart before. Instantly, the console came to life and began beeping. He stood and examined the readings there. "That's sporting of them," he commented. "Someone's hailing. Signal's weak, though. I can't say who is calling and I don't think we could answer if we tried."
"What about the hold?" Bashir repeated. "If most of our people are down there, so are most of our weapons."
Riker shrugged. "You think anybody down there knows Morse Code?"
Jordan heard the tapping and quietly left the circle. The large screen on the forward wall had come on but there was no picture. The tapping, though, was coming from there.
He ended up standing next to k'Ruhn. "You know Morse Code?" the Kesselian asked him.
Jordan shook his head, but Festino spoke from the other side of k'Ruhn. "...Weapons to take positions," he said, reading the dots and dashes in the taps. He turned to face them. "We're being boarded."
"Then let's do what it says," Jordan said. He pushed through the crowd to stand under the screen. The hold had quieted down when the ship stopped, so they had no trouble hearing him now. "Pass all weapons to the front!" he shouted. "We need to fight for this ship! We are being boarded!"
Many of those in the front were already armed and they came out to stand by Jordan. The others further back either pushed to the front or passed their weapons forward to someone further up. There had been approximately one hundred and fifty Jem'Hadar on the ship, each armed with at least a rifle and handgun. Some had also carried knives. That meant about three hundred armed prisoners. When about fifty had gathered at the front, he took them into the cargo lift, leaving Festino and k'Ruhn to gather more. Jordan would take his fifty to fan out on Deck A. Festino and k'Ruhn would follow on B and C Decks.
The lift opened on A and Jordan led his group out. They split into groups of five and spread themselves out. He ended up near an intersection where he could see the entrance to the bridge and Kerry's group beyond that.
They didn't have to wait long. Five shapes glittered into existence ten meters aft of Jordan's position. "Behind us," he ordered as he ran back there.
They each took aim on one of the materializing figures, but lowered their weapons when the saw who had boarded their ship.
"Jordan?" Captain Sisko said, obviously surprised.
"I'm not as dead as you think I am," Jordan replied, smiling broadly. "It is very good to see you again, sir. You are an answer to prayer!"
"You know this man?" the balding captain next to Sisko said.
"Sorry," Sisko apologized. "Lieutenant Jordan, this is Captain Picard, Commander Data, and Doctor Crusher of the Enterprise."
Jordan shook hands with each of them. Data was not overly tall but very pale with gold eyes. Crusher had red hair and a friendly face. Then he turned to the short, dark-headed Trill lieutenant beside Sisko. "I'm Ezri Dax," she said, and Jordan paused.
"Ezri?" he asked, not extending his hand. Dax was a tall, confidant science officer. "What happened to Jadzia?"
Ezri offered him a gentle smile. "She died nearly a year ago. I'm Dax's new host. I'm sure this is quite a shock, but we'll need to discuss it some other time."
"We scanned this ship," Picard said. "You have over six thousand on board. No Jem'Hadar or Vorta?"
Ezri was right. Jadzia would have to wait. "We took the ship," Jordan said with pride. "There are no Dominion personnel on board anymore."
"Are you in charge then?" Data asked.
Jordan grinned. "No, sir," he said. "I think you need to speak to our captain. Myers can take the doctor to the wounded. We could certainly use her help."
Picard nodded and Myers led Crusher aft. "Is anyone else beaming aboard?" Jordan asked, hoping he could tell the others to stand down.
"Not at this time," Sisko replied.
Holman obviously had similar thoughts. "I'll let the others know," she volunteered.
Jordan let her go and led other four to the Bridge. "It's Jordan!" he called as the door began to open. It was good that he had, because at least three of the people on the Bridge were armed and their weapons were being lowered by the time the doorway fully opened.
"It's Jordan!" came the voice from the corridor and Riker motioned that the others should lower their weapons. Bashir had kept up the silent mantra as he stood behind Riker on the now useless Bridge. He let himself sigh when he heard Jordan's voice but kept up the mantra in his head. He didn't want his doubt to win out and cost them all their lives.
But when the door opened, he let the mantra go. It had worked.
"Number One!" Captain Picard exclaimed as he stepped through the door. "I should have known you'd be in charge here."
"I'm not," Riker replied and turned to the side. "He is." He held his hand toward Bashir, who felt a little out of rank.
Behind Picard was a familiar face. One he had once looked up to, and recently looked down upon. Now it attempted to fill him pride even as it regarded him warily. "Well," Bashir said, "you have good timing. I'll give you that."
He was puzzled by his own feelings at seeing Captain Sisko. When Sisko had met him at the airlock on DS Nine, Bashir had felt like the deck under his feet had flipped upside down. But now, on this battered cargo freighter, it felt solid. Sisko had come, and they would survive.
"I'll take that as a compliment," Sisko replied. "One more hit might have done you in." He stepped out of the way and Ezri and Data appeared behind him.
Ezri didn't look as happy to see him as he felt seeing her. She looked worried. And maybe a little disgusted. "Are you alright, Julian?" she asked, and Bashir remembered his clothes were covered in blood and grime.
"I haven't been," he admitted, "but I feel much better now." He forgot about his filthy clothes and embraced what he was feeling. "Welcome to the Federation ship Freedom," he said, knowing that he meant it.
Bashir welcomed Data on board as well and thanked Picard for offering to tractor the Freedom back to Starbase 186. But otherwise he left them with Riker to coordinate the transfer of wounded to the surrounding Federation and Romulan ships. "How many?" he asked Captain Sisko when they found a moment of quiet.
"The main body of the fleet dispersed," Sisko told him. "Only two hundred six stayed with us to chase the Dominion back."
"Then it was lucky for you we happened along," Bashir said. "There were three hundred in the convoy when we turned this ship around. Only fifty or so broke off to chase us."
Sisko smirked at that, then he blew out his breath. "I still don't understand how this ship is still in one piece." Bashir knew, but he still didn't quite understand. He looked for Ezri and found her talking with Jordan. "Captain," he said, turning back to Sisko, "would you walk with me?"
Sisko seemed unsure but nodded. Bashir led the way but stopped just before the door. "Oh, you have the Bridge, Mr. Riker."
Riker looked up and waved with a smile. "Aye, Captain."
"I thought you had resigned," Sisko said as they stepped into the corridor.
"Commander Riker thought I was safer in uniform than out," Bashir admitted. "Besides, I've been thinking I might like to stay in Starfleet a bit longer."
They passed the corridor where Crusher and several nurses were tending the remaining wounded. She was busy with her work and paid the two captains no attention. Bashir was finding it rather enjoyable being captain of his own ship, even if only for a day. But he really wanted to get back to doing what she was doing.
"A transfer then?" Sisko asked.
Bashir shook his head as they walked to the next door and stopped. "I don't think I'll need one," he answered. He touched the panel beside the door. It opened and he faced his own failure once again. He stepped aside so Sisko could see and took a deep breath. "I killed them," he said finally. "I could only think of one thing: no more pain. They were causing me pain, or threatening it, so I killed them."
"I don't understand," Sisko said stepping back so the door would close. He turned to face Bashir. "But I'm glad they're dead and not you."
Bashir watched his face, his eyes, to see if that was true. "Was the Defiant ordered to D'Nexi?" he asked.
"No," Sisko replied, shaking his head. "We were ordered to find the Dnieper, Riker's runabout. We found it with your clothes aboard. We came to D'Nexi looking for you. We just happened to run into a battle."
Bashir could find no trace of insincerity in his eyes. Sisko really had taken the Defiant into the battle to find him.
"I told the senior staff," Sisko went on. "Except for Odo. You can talk to Ezri now."
Bashir had mixed feelings about that. A weight lifted off his shoulders just knowing he didn't have to hide Sisko's secret anymore, but now Ezri and the others were accessories like him. "What you did," he said, "is still wrong, but so is this. They were the enemy but that wasn't a battle. I could have taken a rifle from the first one to fall. But I wanted to use the knife. I wanted them to bleed and hurt like they'd hurt me. But more than anything, I just wanted them to stop hurting me."
He took another breath and Sisko waited for him to continue. "I can understand why you may have done what you did. Anyway, you asked how we managed," he told his captain. "They broke my hand in that room. Then a dead man healed it and said I had to believe or we'd all die."
Sisko dropped his eyebrows at that ludicrous explanation and Bashir wanted to laugh with him. But Sisko didn't laugh. "You almost did anyway" he said instead.
Bashir nodded. "Except that you showed up with such impeccable timing. So you see, Captain, you managed it after all. You restored my faith."
Sisko was quiet for a moment. Then he let out his own breath and relaxed his shoulders. "Let's go home then. You can get cleaned up on the Defiant."
Bashir smiled and let the dream of a shower and a soft bunk wash through him for a minute. He was suddenly very tired and quite hungry. But he started back for the Bridge. "No, thank you, sir," he said, smiling through a yawn. "This is my ship and I'll see her home. Besides, I dare say it will be quite awhile before I captain a ship again."
Sisko smiled too and clapped a hand gently on his shoulder. "Maybe not as long as you think."
Her eyes shifted but they couldn't see, not even the blurry shapes they had made out before. It was Pfenner's voice though, and she wondered if she had died, too. She felt no pain, so that fit her theory, but she wondered why she could hear and not see.
"Eline, it's Wilhelm. Try not to move to much. We're going to help you."
Help? Move? Maybe she wasn't dead after all. She flexed the fingers of her right hand experimentally. Pain shot through her fingers and sped up her arm. Without meaning to, she let out a cry. She heard a slight splash and felt a hand on her arm. Maybe Bashir had returned. "I think I'm delirious," she told him.
"No," Pfenner's voice replied. "Try this."
Cool, soft liquid dripped onto her right eye and then her left. She wanted to blink but she could not get her eyes to close. After a few seconds, though, her vision began to clear. She saw a ceiling and Pfenner's face above her. The ceiling was fuzzy to her eyes, but Pfenner was clear enough though the room they were in was not well-lit. She looked down and saw her own body covered in a milky liquid.
"It dulls the pain," Pfenner said "and keeps you from infection. Lie still and let it soothe you." It was already doing that. Her hands didn't burn if she didn't move them. "You see? You're going to be fine."
Then there was another voice, "Ah, I see our patient has woken up." A woman's voice, one Formenos thought she had heard before. A dark head appeared opposite Pfenner's.
"Dayton!" Formenos whispered in her surprise.
"How nice of you to remember me," Dayton said. "Eline, would you like to have a face again?"
copyright 2004 Gabrielle Lawson