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The Jem’ Hadar disruptor blast slammed into the hull. A console beside her exploded in a shower of sparks. Petty Officer O’Reilly was hit and fell to the ground dead. Lieutenant Junior Grade Stone stayed at her post as officer in charge of the Trinity’s starboard torpedo bay. The targeting computers were offline and she had no choice but to manually arm and load the casings.

Two more crewmen slid another shiny, black photon tube up the launch track. As they pushed it towards the firing chamber, Katie removed a key from around her neck, opened the guidance panel, input the appropriate numbers, and then sealed the casing again. As the interior hatch sealed, Katie slammed her fist into the intercom.

“Bridge! Starboard Torpedo! Locked and loaded!” There was no response. “Bridge! Starboard Torpedo!” Suddenly a massive explosion rocked the entire torpedo bay. A huge, metal beam fell from the sealing and pinned Katie against the floor. That’s when she felt the hull plating rip away, opening the compartment to space. As the air sucked from the room, she heard the muffled screams of her entire team as they were pulled into the void. The only thing that saved her from joining them was the beam she was still trapped underneath.

As the vacuum overtook her, she instinctively held her breath, not allowing the pressure differential to pop her lungs. The pain was terrible as the capillaries in her eyes and nose burst. Then, the emergency force fields engaged and the bay re-pressurized. Katie gasped, but she was still on the verge of unconsciousness. She didn’t have enough strength left to move the beam.

She stared off through the hole in the side of the Trinity as the Battle of Betazed ended in catastrophic defeat. The Dominion invasion fleet had broken through the Starfleet lines. The Federation ships were already burning hulks adrift. Katie’s scattered mind registered that they were the only ones left…

A computerized alarm echoed through the compartment.

“Warning: anti-matter containment field integrity loss in five minutes. All Hands Abandon Ship. All Hands Abandon Ship.” She snapped back to her senses. She had to find him and get to the escape pods. She had to move this beam. Katie pushed with all her might, but it barely budged. She heard someone prying open the door to the compartment.

“Katie!” screamed the sweetest voice she ever heard. “Katie, are you in here!?”

“Paul!” she replied. “Under here!” A muscular Lieutenant J.G. in Command Red pushed his way through the debris towards her. He grabbed the beam and lifted with his legs.

“All that time I spend coaching you in the gym, and you can’t lift a damn beam…” he joked. As he got it off of her, he lifted her up and they embraced. “I just came from the bridge. They’re all dead. Survivors are scattered all over the ship. We gotta get to the escape pods.” Katie nodded and let him lead her into the dark, smoke filled corridor.

“Warning: anti-matter containment field integrity loss in four minutes. All Hands Abandon Ship. All Hands Abandon Ship.”

Everywhere, all Katie saw were dead bodies. These were the people she worked with every day. She screamed when saw Ensign Talis, the engineering officer she liked to eat lunch with on Tuesdays, cut in half by an emergency bulkhead that had sealed.

“Izzy!” she screamed trying to run toward her.

“Katie, she’s gone!” Paul said grabbing her around the waist and pulling her forward.

After what seemed like an eternity, they finally reached the escape pods.

“Warning: anti-matter containment field integrity loss in three minutes. All Hands Abandon Ship. All Hands Abandon Ship.”

Paul shoved Katie into the lifeboat first. She turned around and motioned for him to join her. But he just stood there.

“I love you, Katie. I always will. But there’s still time to get other people out… I just had to make sure you were safe first.” Before Katie could say anything, he slammed the activation control. The force field engaged and the launch hatch slammed shut.

“PAUL!” she screamed banging on the hatch, tears streaming down her face. “PAUL!” Suddenly, the magnetic interlocks disengaged and the escape pod shot away from the Trinity at a thousand meters per second. Katie found herself alone…she curled into a ball and sobbed until the shockwave from the ship’s exploding warp core hit…

Katie bolted awake screaming, her sheets soaking wet with sweat. She buried her head in her hands before stumbling over to the bathroom. She ran her hands under cold water and washed her face before heading back to bed.

Her hands trembling, she opened the drawer of her nightstand and pulled out a framed photograph. She and Paul were standing at the top of the Grand Canyon on Earth. Katie was holding her left hand up to the camera, proudly showing off her new engagement ring…

Now, in the lonely darkness of her quarters, she looked down at her empty ring finger, and felt tears streaming down her face again. She pulled the photograph into her chest and cried…

Very few things upset Katie, however, one of the things that genuinely sent her into a rage was when people complained they didn’t have enough time to do something. In the three minutes after he put her in the escape pod, her fiancée, Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Montgomery, had saved the lives of four other people. He was saving his fifth when the Trinity’s warp core finally breached…

* * * *

The next morning, Katie walked into sickbay wearing a sand-colored robe and the civilian clothes of a Ventaxian merchant. It would be her uniform for the away mission to Telarak.

“Hey, Katie,” Alex said pulling a vial out of one her machines. “I wasn’t expecting you guys for another fifteen minutes.”

“Yeah,” Katie said quietly, “I wanted to talk to you first.” Alex nodded and motioned for her to come into her office.

“The dream again?” Alex asked softly. Katie just nodded fighting back tears. Alex wrapped her arms around her.

“That new stuff you have me on isn’t working,” Katie finally managed to get out.

“We’ve only been trying it for a week. It takes time.”

“Don’t you have something stronger?” Katie asked hopefully.

“Let’s give it another five or six days. Then, we can try Lexerin, but I want to avoid that if we can. It can have some pretty substantial side-effects.”

“Ok…” Katie said.

“Have you been keeping your appointments with Counselor Yuvich?”

“Yeah, talking with her helps for a while, but then it just comes back in waves.”

“Katie, I’m going to be honest with you,” Alex said. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t like the common cold you can cure with just a hypospray. It takes a lot of time and treatment. It’s going to be a life time battle…”

“I know that!” Katie said snapping. “Believe me, I do!” She stopped herself. “I’m sorry…”

“No, it’s ok,” Alex said placing a soft hand on her shoulder. “We’re gonna beat it together.” Just then the front doors to sick bay opened. Captain Tigranian and Laria stepped in, also wearing the sand colored robes.

Alex and Katie stepped out onto the main floor.

“There you are,” Tigranian said.

“Sorry, Sir…” Katie said trailing off. Tigranian saw her eyes and looked over to Alex. She nodded that it was alright. He changed the subject.

“Doc, have you synthesized that compound?”

“I have,” Alex said picking up the vial she was working on earlier, sticking it in the end of a hypospray. “Took a little digging through the Starfleet medical archives, but I think it will work just fine.” Tigranian pulled down his collar and Alex injected him with the drug.

“Why are we doing this?” Katie asked when it was her turn for the injection.

“Bolar, the owner of the Raptor’s Claw, also owns several lodubyaln. They can be very useful for acquiring information and manipulating patrons with their chemical charms. This will keep our heads clear when we’re inside.”

“Don’t the Romulans know them?” Katie asked confused.

“Romulans and Vulcans share a common physiology,” Alex said interjecting. “They’re immune from the pheromones.”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Laria asked. “What’s a lodubyaln?”

“It’s the more politically correct term for ‘Orion Slave Girl.”

“Slave Girl?” Laria asked incensed. “Isn’t slavery illegal in the Romulan Empire?”

“Telarak isn’t in the Romulan Empire. Plus, it’s only illegal among Romulan citizens. Every other species is fair game,” Tigranian replied. “I don’t have to tell you, Laria, that most Federation citizens live in their naïve little world of equality and plenty. Most other species’ reality is a bit different.”

Several minutes later, the three of them stepped into the Pershing’s shuttle bay. Mr. Scharr was finishing the checks on their transportation: a tiny brown craft barely larger than a shuttle pod.

“What do you think, Tren?” Tigranian asked. “Will it do the job?”

“It’s a death trap, Sir, but I’ve spruced up a couple of the systems. Hopefully, it will hold together long enough to get you to the ground.”

“I’ve got confirmation from Starfleet Intelligence. You landing permit has been approved with Romulan Occupation Authorities,” Annabeth said entering the shuttle bay. “You, Sir, are William Oglesby, a civilian merchant who no longer resides within the Federation due to some questionable cargo shipments five years ago. Katie, you are Lizzie Appleton, his business partner running freight between Ventaxia and several of the newly acquired systems in Cardassian space…and Laria, you are Essa Ita, their Bajoran warp engineer and cargo specialist.”

“Thank you, Annabeth,” Tigranian said confidently.

“Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this,” she said still flashing him a look.

“Afraid not,” he said as Laria and Katie climbed into the cargo shuttle.

“Well, at least take this,” she said sliding a small, silver cylinder into his palm.

“I’m sure it won’t come to that,” he said.

“I don’t care, take it anyway.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said sarcastically. “Don’t worry, I’ve got two more old friends coming with me,” he said pulling open his robe. He had his Klingon dk’tagh on his right hip and disruptor pistol in a cross-draw holster on his left. “They’ve never let me down before.”

“I’d be happy, if you went down there and found out it was all just a big misunderstanding…in any case, we’ll see you at the rendezvous in thirty-six hours.”

“We’ll be there,” Tigranian said climbing into the shuttle’s cockpit.

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