Traxas Nebula: Republic of Cardassia
The shrill sound of a crying baby echoed through Annabeth and Alex's darkened quarters. Annabeth rolled over and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She looked at the nightstand next to the bed. It was 04:06 hours.
"How can he be hungry again?" she said staring up at the ceiling. Alex stirred and rolled onto her side.
"He's a boy," she said through a haze without opening her eyes. "He's going to be hungry for the next twenty years."
Annabeth sat up and stared down at the mass of black hair covering her wife's pillow.
"How helpful…" Annabeth muttered.
"Babies need food," Alex said pulling the comforter back over her shoulders. "What do you want me to do about it?"
"Isn't there some pill you can take that will bring your milk duds to the party?" Annabeth said climbing out of bed. Max was still crying at the top of his little lungs. "That way, we can at least trade off with night feedings."
"Beth," Alex said still trying to fall back asleep. "There are drugs in my dispensary that will also cause me to grow a third arm. That doesn't mean I should take them. I'll help bathe him, dress him, and change him, but the lactation luau is all yours."
"I am so not letting you forget this when you have the next one…" Annabeth said walking towards the living room.
"If there is a next one…" Alex mumbled.
"What?" Annabeth said looking over her shoulder.
"Nothing, Babe…" Alex said rolling over again. "You're imagining things," she said through a big yawn.
Annabeth hiked up her pajama pants as she walked up to the edge of Max's crib. He was bawling as hard as he could.
"Oh, mein kleiner Mann," she said in a soft, maternal tone. "Weine nicht. Weine nicht, mein Junge." She hoisted him over the wooden bars and began bouncing him up and down. He immediately calmed down when he heard his mother's heartbeat. "Oh, sehr gut. Sehr gut. Bist du hungrig?" she asked. His tired little arms rested on her chest.
"Don't teach our son to talk back to me in a language I can't understand…" Alex's voice sounded from the bedroom.
"Then learn German!" Annabeth snapped back. Max started crying again.
"Oh nein, nein, Liebling. Jetzt ruhig. Mama ist hier. Mama ist hier." She started bouncing him again. Finally, he calmed down. She grabbed a soft towel and took a seat in a chair. Just as she started to feed him, Alex's quiet snoring wafted into the room. Annabeth just rolled her eyes.
Alex leaned over her cup of coffee on the ward room table and fought valiantly to keep her eyes open. Phil, Katie, and Laria just stared at her. Scharr seemed to have little sympathy.
"You look like death warmed over, Doc," Katie said.
"Thank you…very much…" Alex said glaring at her as she took a sip of coffee.
"I'm guessing Max is still not sleeping very well?" Laria asked.
"He's a newborn," Scharr said with a chuckle. "He's not gonna sleep well until two Federation Days from now. Welcome to parenthood."
"How's Annabeth holding up?" Phil asked.
"She's hanging in there," Alex said. "I feel guilty that I can't do more," she said looking down into her beverage.
"Don't," Scharr said plainly.
"Don't what?" Alex asked.
"Feel guilty," he said with a nod from his antennae. "Do what you can. Take care of Max as much as possible, but most of all just keep being there for your wife. She understands that there are things you can't do…even if she'll never admit it. However, at least you're here with her."
He suddenly looked a bit distant.
"You don't always get that privilege in Starfleet," he muttered.
Before Alex could reply, the doors opened and Tigranian walked in.
"The Captain!" Katie shouted as the room rose to its feet.
"As you were," Tigranian said heading to his place. "Please, take your seats. How is everyone this morning?"
He looked down the table only to be greeted by a glare from Alex.
"Ok then…" Tigranian said. "There're just a few things on the agenda this morning…"
His communicator suddenly beeped to life.
"Duty Officer to Captain Tigranian…."
"Go ahead, Ensign Gleeto," the captain replied.
"Sir, we're receiving a distress call on the intergalactic emergency band."
"Put it through to the ward room," Tigranian said exchanging glances with Katie.
"To any ships in the area," a desperate voice echoed through the room's speakers. "This is the Cardassian State Science Vessel Gosnath. We have struck a gravitic mine along the border and have lost primary power and life support. We are being pulled into the gravity well of one of the protostars in the nebula and cannot escape. Radiation level and hull temperature are rising by the minute. Please, if anyone is listening, help us!"
"Is anyone else having flashbacks to a Maru named Kobayashi at the Academy?" Scharr asked.
"Gleeto," Tigranian said. "What is their current position?"
"Ten thousand kilometers inside Cardassian State territory, Sir," the Ensign replied. "However, they're starting to accelerate towards the nebula."
"Stations everyone," Tigranian said. "Scharr, take the engineering station on the bridge."
"Aye Sir," the Andorian said.
"I'm headed to sickbay," Alex said heading for the doors. "They may have casualties."
The crowd spilled out onto the bridge and headed for their consoles. Tigranian took a seat in the captain's chair.
"Phil, lay in an intercept course at full impulse," the captain ordered.
"Sir, if we cross the border…"
"I'm aware of my responsibilities, Mister," Tigranian said.
"Aye Sir," Phil said. "One minute to intercept…"
"I have them on sensors, Sir," Laria said. "Now entering visual range."
"Onscreen," Tigranian said as he steepled his fingers and leaned forward. The small Cardassian ship had a huge gash in its hull and was venting atmosphere into space. They were on the verge of entering the periphery of the nebula where a series of unstable protostars were forming in the clouds of gas.
"Their hull integrity is down to twenty percent and falling," Laria said. "They'll break up in less than five minutes with that gravometric sheer."
"If the radiation doesn't kill them first," Tigranian muttered. "Phil, get us within tractor beam range. Katie, get ready to pull them out of there."
"Sir," Katie said nervously. "Without structural integrity fields intact, a tractor beam could rip their hull apart like tissue paper."
"I understand that, Katie," Tigranian replied, "but I'm not taking this ship into a Class IV nebula. The gamma rays would cook us from the inside out."
"Acknowledged," Katie said adjusting her instruments.
"Bridge to sickbay," Tigranian said into his intercom.
"Hunter here," Alex said from below decks.
"Standby to receive casualties. We'll beam them directly to you. Radiation protocol in full effect."
"Roger Sir," she replied. "We're ready."
"I'm detecting six life signs aboard," Laria said suddenly becoming very nervous. Tigranian looked at the tactical display on the arm of his chair and understood her trepidation as soon as he saw the sensor feed.
"Sir, maybe we should…" Laria said, but Tigranian held up his hand.
"We'll deal with that when we have too…" he said, "But I'm not leaving them to die out there. Katie, go ahead and dispatch a security team to help Alex in sickbay."
"Yes Sir," Katie said with a nervous glance to Laria. "Tractor beam ready."
"Engage," Tigranian said.
A blue beam projected from the Pershing's belly and grabbed onto the Cardassian ship. The vessel started moving away from the edge of the nebula, but it's exterior plating immediately began crushing under the force of the tow.
"Their structural integrity is down to five percent!" Laria shouted. "They're breaking up."
"Tren, get them out of there!"
"It's not that easy!" Scharr said from the engineering station. "The nebula is throwing out a huge amount of ionizing radiation. It's masking their patterns."
"Figure it out and quickly!" Tigranian commanded.
Scharr cursed in Andorian under his breath. Tigranian pretended he didn't understand the gist.
"Five seconds to complete hull failure!" Laria said.
"Stone," Scharr said trying to adjust his targeting scanners. "Hold them steady. This is gonna be close!"
"I'm doing everything I can, Sir," Katie replied. "Emitters are already starting to overload."
"Two seconds!" Laria said.
"Got 'em!" Scharr shouted. "Energizing."
The Cardassian ship exploded into a fireball.
"Shields up!" Tigranian shouted. "Phil, full reverse! Get us back across the border!"
"Already on it, Sir," he replied from the helm.
"Did we get them all?"
"Yes Sir, we did," Scharr replied.
"Katie, you have the bridge. I'm heading to sick bay," Tigranian said walking to the turbolift.
Below, Alex was standing in the middle of her sickbay with her medical tricorder at the ready. Suddenly, the doors parted and three armed security troopers walked in.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"We were dispatched to make sure the casualties didn't cause problems, Ma'am," their leader replied.
Six transporter signatures appeared on the biobeds and materialized into unconscious bodies. Four of the six were Cardassian scientists. However, the two that appeared directly in front of the doctor caused her gasp in shock. Now, she understood why the bridge had dispatched the security team. They were Romulan.