Laria was exhausted. She dipped her wooden oar into the water and paddled against the surf in the back of Teewa’s canoe. The sun beat down on them with its usual ferocity, and she had to take frequent sips from the water skin Teewa had given her before their departure. However, he seemed completely content to paddle forever. She had no idea how he was navigating, but he was just as comfortable at the head of his canoe as Phil was at the Pershing’s helm.
“How much farther?” Laria called out as the afternoon sun began to drop below the horizon.
“Not much farther,” he called back to her with a smile. Only another hour or so.”
“Another hour?” she called out exasperated. “I’ve travelled between planets in less time than this!”
Teewa began laughing loud enough to be heard over the waves.
“We noticed that about your Federation and Jem’Hadar…”
“And what’s that?” Laria said a little insulted about any comparison between the Federation and the Dominion.
“Outlanders always want to get everywhere so fast, that you forget to enjoy the trek along the way…”
Laria paused. She looked out on the endless sea and sky, the white beaches, and the green forest. The warm breeze carried the scent of sea air and flowers, and the ever present sound of the waves countered the steady pulse of their paddling.
“Enjoy the trek…” she whispered to herself.
Time passed, and Laria slowly began to lose herself. She listened to the cawing of the birds plucking fish out of the water, she closed her eyes and breathed the pure air, and savored the rhythmic rocking of the canoe on the water. However, just when she had truly begun to relax, she saw a dark object on the horizon, it’s harsh artificially stood in stark contrast to the natural beauty around it.
“There it is…” she whispered. “A ticket home.”
It was indeed a communications array, and huge one at that. It had to be a central hub for this entire sector. No wonder the Federation was fighting for it here.
Teewa artfully maneuvered the canoe to the beach at the base of the cliff below the array. When he had tied the boat to a rock, he motioned for Laria to follow him. An artificial path had been cut in the stone from the sand up to the base of the tower.
At the top of the cliff, they found a small building built into the base of the complex.
“This was where we spoke with the Federation warriors,” Teewa said. When she saw the condition of the structure, Laria’s heart sank.
“How long ago was that?” Laria said. “This place looked like it’s been abandoned for years.”
“Nine seasons ago,” Teewa said calmly. The jungle on Guada had done quick work. Vines and leaves had covered everything. Corrosion had begun to take its toll, and disrepair was starting to overtake everything.
Laria pulled open a rusty access panel on the side of the door, and found a manual release lever. She pulled with all her might, but couldn’t get it to budge.
“Could you help me?” she asked. Teewa walked over, and with all their combined strength, they finally unlocked the building.
Pushing their way inside, they found themselves in a control room. When the Federation left, they had stripped out much of the Dominion equipment, probably to be sent to technicians in the Intelligence Branch for analysis. The remaining control panels were dark and overgrown.
“Is this what you were looking for?” Teewa asked hopefully.
“I don’t know yet…” Laria replied with a worried expression. She began tracing the remaining panels with her eyes. She finally found what looked like the main power juncture in a back corner of the room. She brushed off the dirt and leaves that had settled on it over the past two years.
“I’m a scientist, not an engineer. At this point, Teewa, your guess on how to operate this stuff is probably as good as mine…” He looked back at her concerned.
She pried off another panel and began resequencing some iso-linear rods.
“What are you doing?” Teewa asked curiously.
“Well, I don’t see any fusion regulators in here…anti-matter would have eaten through its containment pods by now and blown this entire area into orbit…so whatever power source this thing runs on…” she switched two final rods and pressed a series of buttons. Sparks exploded from a nearby console, but slowly the entire room glowed back to life. “…must still be here.”
Laria grinned from ear to ear. Teewa smiled as well.
“That must be a good sign,” he said supportively.
“We’re about to find out,” Laria said walking over to what appeared to be the main control panel. She pressed a few keys.
“Impressive, Dominion…” she said pulling up a design schematic on the computer. “This entire array runs on geo-thermal energy. Making Guada work for you…”
“What do you mean?” Teewa asked cocking his long neck to one side.
“It means that the Jem’Hadar were using the Great Creator’s power to make their machines work instead of having to bring some of their own.”
Laria kept examining the schematics. A lot of key equipment was missing from the array, but sending out a basic un-coded message could still be possible…if she was lucky.
“But what about the dampening field?” she muttered quietly to herself still pressing keys and buttons. If the message was interrupted in transmission, then even sending them the exact spatial coordinates to her position would still be worthless. That’s when she noticed a rather interesting modification that the Dominion had made to this array’s design. Her eyes grew wide.
“That’s genius!” Laria shouted. She started furiously pressing buttons. “The Dominion didn’t put this here in spite of the dampening field…they put it here because of the dampening field!”
“I do not understand,” Teewa said walking towards her.
“They’re transmitting their subspace carrier wave on the exact same resonance frequency as the dampening field generated by the dolemite! When they transmit with a sufficient signal booster, the wave is actually accelerated into subspace at a higher relative velocity to normal space-time! They can talk to half the quadrant with this thing instantaneously!” She smiled as she looked at Teewa. He was obviously happy for her, but comprehended nothing in her last statement.
“You have absolutely no idea what I’m saying do you?” Laria said a little embarrassed.
“No…” Teewa said with a grin.
“Ok,” she said trying to think of a metaphor he could understand. “What happens when you drop a rock into water?”
“It will sink.”
“Right, that’s what the rocks in the ground are doing to messages that people try to send from Guada normally. However, what happens if you throw that rock at the right angle to the water with enough speed?”
“The rock will skip off the water and keep going.”
“Yes!” Laria said realizing she had gotten through. “The Dominion figured out the exact right angle and speed they needed to throw their messages at the dampening field so that the message would get pushed out and keep going.”
Laria pressed a few more buttons before kneeling down and removing a small access panel at the base of the console. She reached into a pouch hanging on her hip and pulled out her comm badge. She attached it to a junction and then stood back to her feet.
“The connections are really corroded,” she said nervously. “Once we energize the transmitter, I don’t know how long they’ll hold.”
“Will you be able to contact your people?” Teewa asked sensing her concern.
“It won’t be a full message, but if they hear it, hopefully it will be enough.
She keyed the final sequence, and looked up at Teewa. “Wish me luck…” she said looking at him.
“There is no luck, Laria,” Teewa said placing his hand on her shoulder. “If the Great Creator wills it, they will hear your words across the stars.” She nodded.
“Then, may the Prophets will it…” she said closing her eyes and hitting ‘transmit.’
The loud hum of electronics echoed through the room, but then there was a huge boom as the main power junction exploded in a shower of sparks. Everything in the room went dark.
“Are you alright?” Teewa shouted.
“Yes, I’m fine…” Laria said dejectedly.
“Did your message fly?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “The power failed before I received a confirmation.” She tried pressing a few keys, but the console was completely dead. She walked over to the power junction and examined the iso-linear rods. It was just as she feared. “Everything’s completely fused. This array will never work again.”
* * * *
Teewa had built a large fire on the beach next to their canoe. They couldn’t paddle back to the village in the dark, so they would camp beneath the array until morning. Laria stared silently up at the stars, hoping that somehow she had been heard. As she looked across the crystal clear sky, she wondered which of those little bright specks of light the Pershing was near. In her depressed state, she almost wanted to yell upwards in the hope they would miraculously hear her.
Teewa walked over and took a seat next to her.
“What is it like to fly through those?” he asked softly.
“When I was a child, I wondered the same thing. That’s why I joined Starfleet,” she replied barely above a whisper. “Then I realized that it isn’t about flying through the stars, it’s about the people you meet along the way…”
He nodded in understanding.
“How about you? Would you like to fly up there?” His response surprised her. He just smiled and said one word.
“You mean, knowing all the different types of people throughout this galaxy, you still don’t want to leave Guada?”
“Why would I leave the place where the Great Creator chose to place me?”
“The reason why Starfleet exists,” Laria said looking up at him. “To explore, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where you have never gone before…”
“Laria,” Teewa said. “Since I have known you, I have seen you meet new life, and a new civilization. I have seen you be bold and go where you have never gone…and yet the greatest wish you have had is to get back to your home.”
Laria sat in stunned silence as she considered his words.
“The only thing we must explore in this life is always with us.” Teewa pointed one of his long fingers right at her heart. “Though we may travel long distances, hear beautiful sounds, and see great things, we inevitably wander right back to where we began our journeys…the place with those we love.”
Laria instantly thought of Daniel.
“But what if I can’t get back?” she said softly.
“Then, hold the precious memories in your heart and never forget,” he said with eyes full of kindness. She leaned in close to him and he gently wrapped his long arm around her.