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7

“Matt, you’re back early,” Frobisher said.

“What is this?” he said again, his voice bordering on the hysterical as his eyes found Frobisher and then Michael and Jon Owens. “I told you to leave and never come back. Why are you here?”

“Please, Matt, calm down,” Jon Owens said as he took a few careful steps closer to the agitated man who looked so much like his son. “We can explain.”

“You come here and nearly kill Wes, and now you come back with more people and more weapons.” His voice and level of anxiety showed no signs of abating.

“Matt, I invited them,” Frobisher said.

“What?”

“Please, just calm down and we can explain everything,” Jon Owens said, continuing to close in on Matthew.

“Things are happening here that you may not be aware of but which will affect us all,” said Michael and he too took a step closer to his brother--this version of him, he reminded himself. Mostly though, he wanted to get to Jon Owens before he reached Matthew. There was something in that man’s eyes he didn’t like at all. Something he had seen in his own brother just once or twice before in his life. He had seen it when he had held his dying body in his arms. It scared him.

“You all need to get out of here now, do you understand?” he said, very nearly screaming the words with enough intensity it caused Nora and her people to unholster their weapons as a precaution.

Michael tried to gesture to her to stand down but it was already too late. Responding to the drawn phasers, Matthew grabbed Jon Owens who had stepped into his reach and with his free hand, he had retrieved a narrow-looking tool from a nearby workstation.

It took Michael a moment to realize that it was a laser cutter and when Matthew activated the beam, it hovered dangerously close to Jon Owens’ exposed throat.

“Matt, for the love of God, calm down,” Frobisher fumed, no longer trying to placate the other man. “There is no need for that.”

“They need to get out of here now. Make them leave. All of them,” he said while he kept Jon close in front of him.

“Son, please, we are not here to harm you,” Owens Senior said, very mindful of the razor-sharp energy beam that could easily slice open his throat.

“I am not your son.”

Michael took another very small step closer, showing Matthew his empty palms. “Whatever it is you are worried about. We can talk about this. Please, just let him go,” he said. He fully understood that this Jon Owens was not really his father, nor was this Matthew Owens his brother, and yet the idea of either of them getting hurt because of their presence here made him feel physically ill.

“Matt, listen to them,” Frobisher said, his voice showing more anger than empathy.

“You don’t understand,” Matthew fumed. “They need to get out of here or everyone’s going to die.”

Michael nodded, eager to deescalate this as quickly as possible. He glanced at Nora and the security team, as well as Xylion and Hopkins. He couldn’t spot Garla and Culsten anywhere. “Get back to the ship, now.”
“Sir,” Nora protested, naturally not willing to leave her captain under these circumstances.

“Do it now.”

Xylion followed the order promptly, contacting Eagle, and within seconds all five of them were gone, leaving just Michael and Jon Owens who was still being held by Matthew.

“You as well,” Matthew said. “You need to get out as well.”

Michael nodded. “I will but first you have to let him go. I can’t risk him getting hurt.”

Before Matthew could respond, Tazla Star got in touch. “Eagle to Captain Owens.”

“This is a bad time, Commander,” Michael said after hearing her voice coming through his combadge and while keeping his eyes on Matthew.

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but things are about to get a whole lot worse.”

“What’s happening?” he said, refusing to take his eyes off the laser cutter-wielding man in front of him.

“We just got sensors back and as if on cue, we picked up a Dominion fleet rapidly approaching the system. I think Hutchinson may have sold us out after all. They’ll be here any second.”

Michael marveled how crises never seemed to come alone as of late. He understood he had to make a split-second decision. He didn’t like his options but as a starship captain, he had gotten quite used to picking from a selection of bad ones. Some would have argued that it came with the job. “Commander, get Eagle out of here now. Protect the ship no matter what. We’ll find a way to get back to you but the mission must come first.”

To her credit, she didn’t hesitate at all. “Understood, Star out.”

“Oh God,” Matthew said upon overhearing the conversation and his attention seemed to slip for a moment.

Michael was tempted to make a move but he didn’t like his chances since that laser cutter was still far too close to Jon Owens’ neck.

Somebody else, however, did take full advantage of the situation.

Garla appeared out of seemingly nowhere and behind Matthew. She struck him hard into his side with a blow so well positioned, Matthew gasped in pain and let go of both the older Owens and the slicer, the latter tumbling harmlessly to the floor.

The Krellonian operative wasn’t quite done yet and with another well-placed hit, she twisted him around easily, and then in one quick blur of motion, she had him in the air, flipping him up above her and forcing him to land hard on his back on the floor.

Garla’s fighting skills were impressive and Michael thought that they might even rival those of Nora Laas who had to be at least ten years or so her junior. They may have been a little bit too impressive considering how much Matthew was groaning in pain, clearly having hurt his back from the mid-air flip and the subsequent landing.

And the sentinel wasn’t quite done yet. She had that laser cutter in her hand within a flash and with one knee pressing down hard on Matthew’s chest, she was bringing up that tool-turned weapon as if to finish the job.

Michael rushed in along with Frobisher. “All right, that’s enough. Stand down,” he said as he reached out for her shoulder to keep her from bringing the cutter down on Matthew.

Garla glared at him angrily and for a moment he faced the unenviable possibility of having to try and stop the formidable woman himself.

“You don’t give me orders,” she said but then stood and dropped the slicer.

“What is wrong with you?” Frobisher hissed at her as he quickly tended to Matthew still laying on the floor, breathless.

She just shrugged. “You’re welcome.”

Michael made sure that Jon Owens was fine but although he too was out of breath, he signaled that he was uninjured.

“It’s all right, Matt. It’s over now,” Frobisher said to Matthew as he knelt next to him, trying to get him off the floor.

But Matthew just shook his head. “No, it’s not. You don’t understand.”

“Uh, sir.”

Michael looked up to see Lif Culsten who had apparently snuck away along with Garla earlier but had now reemerged after she had handled Matthew. He was indicating toward the windows of the workshop.

Michael followed his gaze just in time to discover eight columns of bright blue light give way to the shapes of eight armed soldiers materializing just outside of the building.

“Jem’Hadar,” he said as soon as he recognized the hard, pebbled, and horned faces of the Dominion shock troops, he had hoped never to encounter again after the war had concluded.

“It’s too late,” Matthew said, his eyes closed and not even bothering to try and get off the floor anymore. “We’re all going to die.”


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