"Warning....30 seconds until auto destruct." Came the chilling call of the computer, counting down the remaining life of the USS Hermes. Just moments before, a Jem'Hadar attack ship ambushed the Intrepid class starship in the Ceti Alpha system, while en route to Jupiter station. Hermes would have easily been destroyed if not for the genius of her Captain, Graham Kennedy and his XO and elder brother Ian. After the initial exchange, it became clear that the Dominion knew about the critical and confidential data that she carried on the Omega particle, known only to the Captain and intended to seize it. Even with Hermes nearly disabled, the Captain continued to fight, managing to disable the enemy ships engines as well. Knowing it was a hopeless battle, the Captain rammed the Jem'Hadar ship and with both ships locked together, activated the destruct sequence. Now, just after activating the auto destruct , both Kennedys remained on the bridge, fighting to give the rest of the crew time to escape. Power and life support were already down, and Jem'Hadar troops had boarded the small ship and were massacring any of the crew they could find.
Mark looked around frantically for another enemy. His phaser was nearly depleted and he realized that he had no hope of making the shuttlebay. He had to find an escape pod.
"Warning....20 seconds until auto destruct" blared over the speaker as Mark began to loose his composure.
"Sir, over here" came a figure frantically waving his arms. Mark could make out both Ensign Stitch and Lieutenant Lazar waving to him through the acrid smoke.
"Thank the powers that be" Mark offered up the silent prayer as he made his way to the escape pod. The pod itself was already nearly filled to capacity, and Marks arrival left just one last seat.
"We need to get the hell out of here!" cried Crewman Bob. The poor kid was fresh out of training, on his first assignment serving in the galley of all places and has to deal with this. Mark shook his head.
Master Chief Tsuki, the real force down in Engineering barked "What we need to do is wait to see if anybody else can make it to the pod, Crewman!"
Both Ensigns Stitch and Nick, bridge relief officers looked at the crusty old Chief and snapped "Don't talk to our brother like that, Master Chief!" at the same time.
Master Chief Tsuki grumbled but held his tongue, even as Chief Petty Officer Rochey, the ships transporter chief snapped back, "Master Chief is right. We've got to go!"
"Warning...15 seconds until auto destruct." came the friendly sounding reminder.
Mark looked at Lieutenant Lazar, the ship's beta shift Operations Officer who shrugged his shoulders "It's your call sir."
Lieutenant Commander Mark, as the ships Second Officer as well as her Security and Tactical officer took a deep breath to order the pod launched when they all heard a voice scream "WAIT!!!"
Lt. Staplic, the gamma shift conn officer dived into the pod with violet beams sizzling through the air he just occupied.
"Warning...10 seconds until auto destruct." Mark wanted to throttle the person who programmed the computer's voice to be so calm in such a situation. Mark slammed his hand against the ejection controls and the door slid shut. Half a second later they were all slammed into their seats as the pod launched.
Ceti Alpha V - remains of the SS Botany Bay
The stranded crew cheered when they got the hail from the small Sabre class scout USS Honolulu. The small ship had recovered another pod in orbit, and were on the way to pick up Mark's team directly. Mark was speaking to Captain Teaos when in the background a commotion started.
"I don't believe it!" Teaos cried, looking up and over his panel then looking back at Mark. "We have a Founder on board, Commander. You'll have to sit tight."
"Understood sir." Mark replied, as the channel closed.
Mark informed the rest of the crew what was going on, and about the Founder's infiltration of the Honolulu. They all stood by the nearest viewport in a futile attempt to watch the sky. Suddenly, a fiery streak shot across the horizon. The wreckage of the small scout ship was clearly visible until it crashed into the mountains off in the distance. The crew fell silent.
"Now what?" Crewman Bob said.
"We wait for another rescue." CPO Rochey said.
"IF they sent one." Stitch added nervously.
"Kid," Master Chief Tsuki said "This is Starfleet. We DON'T leave any of our people behind. Period."
"What concerns me is what happened up there," Mark began. "Captain Teaos said that they had just rescued another of our escape pods from a low orbit, and shortly after, they were attacked by Founders."
Lazar looked at Mark and said, "I see where your going with this sir, and it scares me."
Staplic looked confused, "I don't get it. What are you guys talking about?"
Mark looked around.
"What if WE have Founders among us, too? Can I allow another ship to fall prey to those bastard?" Mark shook his head. "I've got to be sure we're all really who we say we are. I've got the medical kit and tricorder from the escape pod. In the morning I'm conducting blood screenings. But for now......I've got to get some sleep."
Mark rose and walked off towards the back of the ship and one of the old bunk rooms.
Later that evening
"If we act now, we may be exposed." the first Founder said.
The second replied, "And if we don't, tomorrow Mark WILL expose us. We have to move quickly."
The former medic laid in his bunk, sleepless. Nobody here knew about his last assignment, except Mark, and that was just what he wanted. Nobody would know that Smith died because he froze at seeing that wound.
Mark had already given him the medkit that evening, which he had cleverly hidden. As he lay there thinking, "It's kind of nice to be trusted again."he finally fell asleep.
The former Commando also lay sleepless that night, checking and rechecking the small type one phaser that he carried on him at all times. He tried very hard to get as far away from his old profession as he could, but sometimes he realized, you just can't walk away.
"I should go see Mark and let him know what I can REALLY do." he thought to himself, just as a big yawn erupted. "Well, it can wait till tomorrow, I suppose."
Both Founders crept into Mark's sleeping quarters and looked as his restlessly sleeping form. The first scanned the room looking for the medkit and hissed "Where is it?" before he could think better of it.
Mark sprang to his feet with his phaser in hand just as the second roped Mark around the throat with a shimmering golden tentacle. Mark's phaser whined in the confined space of the ship, sounding loud enough to wake the dead. With a jerk and a tug, the second Founder snapped Mark's neck like kindling, just as shouts of "What's going on?" could be heard coming up the hall. Again, quickly shifting shape again, they escaped into the vents, so the could circle around and rejoin the rest of the crew.
As the door to Mark's quarters lay open, the grisly scene was there for all to see. Mark's lifeless body on the floor with his his head twisted at an unnatural angle, and the survivors only weapon laying discarded on the ground.
LET THE GAME BEGIN
They say that in the Army,
the women are mighty fine.
They look like Phyllis Diller,
and walk like Frankenstein.