Stardate 76443.8; June 11, 2399
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Doctor V’Sal Arayne
Lt. Commander Turathan Karalis
Lt. Commander Ian Meade
Commander Amy Robinson
Lt. Commander Jayla Trinn
The Columbia was a very busy ship. After partaking in a series of tactical simulations, the Columbia was assigned to chart Sector 83024, an unexplored region of space near the Cardassian border. Save a brief, but pleasant encounter with a species called the Nu, Sector 83024 was relatively uninteresting. There were two trinary star systems and a small pulsar, but nothing out of the ordinary… and certainly nothing that required Harrison’s attention.
Thus, the Captain decided to sneak away from the bridge for a few hours. Now was as good a time as any to take a short break; besides, ever since he stumbled upon an archival recording of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, his mind had been somewhat distracted… Though it was an ancient, non-interactive movie, Harrison was nonetheless eager to watch its plot unfold before his very eyes.
He knew little about the film—only that it was about a people engaged in a constant struggle with some powerful insects called the ohmu, the guardians of a poisonous jungle creeping across the Earth. It certainly seemed interesting enough, but he would find out for himself soon enough.
Eager to get started, Harrison dimmed the lights in his quarters, grabbed a cup of green tea from the replicator, and seated himself on the sofa—just in time for the door to chime. For a moment, Harrison considered ignoring the chime so that he might watch his movie without interruption—but somehow he suspected that tactic would ultimately fail. So he carefully set aside his tea and said, “Enter.”
The doors slid apart with a hiss, and Commander Robinson poked her curious head inside. “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but… I have the final report on our recent contact with the Nu.”
Typically, Harrison left the status reports for Robinson to deal with, but first contact situations were a completely different story. Because meeting a new alien species was such an important event, Harrison wanted to make absolutely certain the report for Starfleet was flawless. And since this encounter with the Nu was Harrison’s first first contact situation, he was going to analyze every single word in the document.
After his movie.
“Set it on my desk,” Harrison politely instructed.
Robinson quietly crept into Harrison’s quarters. She set the sleek gray padd on the nearby desk and started to make her retreat, when her gaze suddenly fell upon the opening moments of Harrison’s movie. “Nausicaä!” she happily exclaimed. “That is one of my favorite movies!”
This certainly came as a surprise to Harrison. While there were countless anime fans in the galaxy, it had been Harrison’s observation that most Starfleet officers preferred the more interactive forms of entertainment offered by the holodeck (or holomatrix, as it was called aboard the Columbia). Thus, he didn’t expect to meet a fellow fan aboard the Columbia. “I have not yet seen this particular film, however, I am quite familiar with many of the other masterpieces from this genre.”
The sentiment brought a faint smile to Robinson’s face. “Are you familiar with the Ivalice series?” she asked, gently resting her hands on the back of the plush black sofa.
“Vaguely,” said Harrison, shaking his head. “I have seen a few episodes, but not nearly enough to hold an intelligent conversation.”
Robinson’s grin widened. “I have all fifty-two episodes if you’re interested… It’s similar to Nausicaä, so you’ll probably like it.”
Even though he still knew next to nothing about Nausicaä, Harrison was still very interested in this Ivalice series. “I would certainly like to peruse your library.”
“I’m sure something can be arranged.”
“Most excellent.” Harrison was tempted to invite Robinson to stay and watch Nausicaä with him, but he knew that she was still on duty. Still, he could not allow this opportunity to pass him by, and he was suddenly quite eager to discuss their common interest. “I recently came upon a complete collection of The Chozo Chronicles… Perhaps you would like to watch it with me someday?”
Since the collection in question was an incredibly rare find, Robinson had no choice but to agree. “I would like that,” she said after only a moment of contemplation. “‘Tis a date, good sir!”
And on that curious note, Robinson departed, leaving Matthew Harrison alone, and in a state of utter shock. A date? That was not at all Harrison’s intent; in fact, it was a violation of almost every Starfleet protocol he could think of! Obviously, the situation would have to be rectified before any rules or regulations were violated…
“I used to be the science officer aboard the Damocles,” said Ian Meade, indolently pecking away at the Columbia’s helm. “It wasn’t exactly what I would call my true calling, but… I learned quite a bit during my tenure there, so I guess it wasn’t a complete waste of time—got me interested in temporal mechanics…”
Sitting in the nearby command chair, Megan Reinbold tried her best to feign interest in the… conversation (for lack of a better term). Ian Meade was certainly a likable man—and a very competent officer— but… Reinbold was quickly discovering that the man liked to talk, and he didn’t seem to care if anybody was listening. Reinbold assumed that she was the intended listener, but since she very rarely got a chance to speak, it didn’t really matter.
“…I’ve been tinkering around in our temporal science lab,” Meade continued. “It’s impressive, but not nearly as nice as the one aboard the Starlight. Kendall Johnson is clearly a visionary when it comes to temporal science; I met him a few months ago—right around the time the Iconian Station was discovered. He seemed a little distracted, but—”
The sensors suddenly bleeped, and in the blink of an eye, Ian Meade was down to business. “A ship just dropped out of warp,” he gleaned from the data flitting across the helm.
“The vessel barely within sensor range,” added Turathan Karalis. The Andorian carefully studied the sensors for a few moments—but his twitching antennae gave away his neutral façade.
“What is it?” asked Reinbold, already on her feet.
Karalis shook his head, still slightly confused by the information. “The vessel’s warp signature is apparently consistent with Dominion technology. If I am not mistaken, that is a Jem’Hadar attack cruiser…”
“Jem’Hadar… in the Alpha Quadrant?” Reinbold’s curiosity was immediately piqued—but she wasn’t going to let that get in the way of the investigation. They definitely needed to proceed with caution. “Yellow alert.”
Reinbold quickly slinked over to the operations console to view the sensor data for herself—and sure enough, the purplish blip that represented the vessel was slowly creeping closer to the Columbia. It was, without a doubt, a Jem’Hadar attack cruiser.
“And where there is one Jem’Hadar ship,” grumbled Karalis, “there are usually two more lurking nearby.”
Even though she had no experience with the Jem’Hadar, Reinbold knew that they almost always worked in teams of three. “Have they detected us?”
“Yes,” said Karalis. And in retrospect, it was probably a stupid question; the Dominion’s sensors were equal to the Federation’s in almost every way imaginable. In fact, the Jem’Hadar were probably aware of the Columbia several minutes before their little attack cruiser appeared on the Columbia’s sensors. “They are hailing us.”
That was a surprise. Reinbold couldn’t even begin to fathom what the Dominion might want with the Columbia… and she would have preferred Captain Harrison deal with them—but until he got to the bridge, the Columbia’s fate rested entirely upon Reinbold’s shoulders. Thus, she pulled in a lungful of nervous air and approached the command chair. “On screen.”
The glittering starfield blinked away, and Reinbold prepared herself for an encounter with the Jem’Hadar or one of the Vorta… But she was quite surprised when a changeling flitted onto the viewscreen—and a very familiar-looking changeling, at that.
If her memory served, Megan Reinbold now stood face-to-face with one Constable Odo…