“Goddamnit, goddamnit, goddamnit!”
“Calm Down! Calm Down? Don’t tell me to calm down! We’re going to die, don’t you get it? We’re toast.”
“You don’t know that.”
Sergeant Trevor Davis was too preoccupied to pay Corporal Rhett Baker’s ravings much attention. He didn’t know Baker all that well. They had never met before this mission to the surface to Mentru XII. He had seem like a decent enough Marine, perhaps a bit too talkative, but now after they had been cut off from their unit and left behind on the surface, Trevor wished that he was stuck in this unfortunate situation with a cooler head.
He tried the emergency beacon again. “This is Tango Seven-Eight, calling Tango Control, Tango Control, please come in.”
And again the only response was the discouraging sound of static.
“They’re going to level this entire valley, you know that. If we don’t get out of here now we’re toast!”
Trevor knew he was right. They had both been at the briefing before heading to the uninviting tundra covered planet. This mission was supposed to be a simple reconnaissance assignment. Get in with a small platoon, scout out the area and then return to a vessel in orbit before a massive bombardment would turn hundreds of square miles into nothing more than dust, ensuring the complete destruction of a hidden super weapon before it could be launched against nearby troop positions. Unfortunately the mission hadn’t quite gone according to plan. At least not for Davis and Baker.
“They won’t start the bombardment with us still on the surface,” Trevor said and tried another frequency. “Come in Tango Control. Tango Control, do you copy?”
“It’s useless. That piece of crap is busted,” Baker said and turned to look at the red sky and the bright hot Mentru sun as if he could somehow establish eye contact with the Tranquility in orbit.
“It’s our only chance. This transmitter is the only thing strong enough to cut through the Cardassian interference field. I’m open to other suggestions.”
“Well I’m not going to stay here and be vaporized,” he said and gripped his phaser rifle. “There was a building half a click east.” Without another word Baker began to walk off.
“That won’t help us, that building will be leveled like everything else around here.”
But Baker wasn’t listening.
“Damn,” Trevor mumbled under his breath when Rhett Baker continued through the lifeless tundra. He turned back to the bulky emitter, slung it over his shoulders and followed his fellow Marine. All the while making a mental note to file a strong worded report concerning Baker should he ever step foot on Tranquility again.
By the time Trevor caught up with Rhett Baker they had almost reached the building. It was not much more than a shabby prefab shack that threatened to collapse all by itself at any moment.
Baker had brought up his rifle and used a few large boulders for cover while approaching the building.
“I just saw somebody inside. A damn snakehead, I bet,” he said when he noticed Baker catching up with him.
“You sure?” Baker checked his own weapon. It was set to kill. The stun setting had been long since abandoned by the Marines during the costly and brutal war against the Dominion.
“Yeah, let’s get him! He’s bound to have a way to get the hell out of here,” he said, his glassy eyes fixed at the small, silvery shack.
“Alright,” said Trevor and took a knee next to Baker. The weight of the transmitter on his back was weighing him down significantly. “I’ll take the front and you circle–”
“We have no time for subtleties,” he said and dashed for the door, his rifle at the ready to blast away any opposition he might run into.
Trevor swore quietly and then followed with all the speed that the extra weight allowed.
Corporal Baker stormed through the open front door and out of Trevor’s view.
Phaser fire. A couple of shots. At least two weapons.
Trevor could feel the adrenaline coursing through his body as he approached the opening.
There was a loud cry. It sounded like Baker. And then a thud.
Trevor slowed down, determined not to make the same mistake his overeager companion had made, he pressed himself against the outer wall of the building, brought up his rifle and spun into the opening.
“Tell me how to get out of here! Talk to me you damn reptile!”
There had been two Cardassians in the building. Baker had shot one of them. Now he was sitting on top of the other one. He had lost his rifle and instead used his fists to batter his defenseless opponent’s face.
Trevor secured the room.
“You gonna die if you don’t talk! We’re all gonna die!”
Another hit. His fists were turning red.
Trevor took a step towards Baker. And then he realized his mistake. His victim was a woman.
“Stand down, Corporal!”
But the beating continued. Baker was no longer responsive, his eyes filled with hate and rage, his words had began to lose any coherence.
Trevor watched as her face was being pounded again and again.
His finger slipped to the trigger of his weapon.
Not a second later Corporal Rhett Baker lay dead next to the Cardassian woman.
The phaser rifle slipped out of Trevor’s hands as his brain slowly began to catch up with he had just done.
The woman coughed and pushed herself up. Her hands quickly found Baker’s hand phaser still clipped to his waist. She brought the weapon to bear on her human enemy with shaky hands.
Trevor didn’t seem to notice. Instead he just stared at his fellow man as if he could will him back to life. He sacked to the floor.
The Cardassian found a dirty piece of cloth and slowly began to wipe away the blood on her face. Her weapon however remained trained on the unresponsive Marine in the corner. Her bony facial structure had prevented any major injuries. When she was done she threw the blood-soaked cloth at the human.
Trevor looked up. For the first time he realized that she wore Cardassian military armor. She was also quite young, probably no older than himself. She had sparkling brown eyes and more color in her face than most other Cardassians he had seen. He couldn’t tell if that was because of her injuries or not. His eyes wandered from her face to the phaser which was pointed at him.
“Human. Consider yourself a prisoner of the Cardassian Union,” she said with a steely voice.
Trevor looked away. “Why not just shoot me now?”
She took a step closer and brought the weapon up a bit higher. Her finger hovered over the trigger. But then she hesitated. “You just saved my life. Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied after a moment. “Your pathetic compassion is one of your many weaknesses.”
“That’s just what I need now,” Trevor shot back. “Your cold-hearted Cardassian do-or-die mentality.”
“What do you expect? Thanks?”
Trevor stood up so suddenly that it forced the Cardassian soldier to take a quick step back. “Why the hell not?” he shouted. “Would it be so damn dangerous to open up your heart just a little bit? To show some compassion for once, some feeling? I am so sick of your people’s attitude!” Trevor turned her back to the speechless woman. “You’re right it doesn’t matter. Shoot me, don’t shoot me we’re all going to die today anyway.”
Trevor fully expected to be shot down from behind. Somehow he was beyond caring. He had killed a fellow man and for what? The ungrateful enemy. What could he expect if he would go back now? Nothing less than a full court martial that was for certain.
But the deadly strike never came. “What do you mean?” she said after nearly a minute of silence had passed.
Trevor noticed that the weapon was no longer trained on him. “The ship in orbit is about to bomb this whole valley into kingdom come and us along with it.”
“But you are still here. Why would they do that?”
“Because they don’t have a choice. It’s bombardment or risking your missiles to be launched against our positions on Mentru XI,” he replied and began to remove the transmitter he still carried on his back, thankful to rid himself of it.
The woman began to laugh. It was very subtle at first but within a few seconds it had developed into a full out belly laugh.
“What the hell is funny about being bombed to pieces?” Trevor demanded.
“You and your people,” she said while she continued to laugh. She found a chair and sat down. “There are no missiles on this world. I am certain of it. If anything it is a rumor started by the Dominion. A ruse you easily fell for.”
Trevor watched her amusement with his mouth hanging open. “That’s just perfect,” he mumbled and set up the transmitter again.
“You humans truly are pathetic,” she said and discarded the phaser.
“Tango Control this is Tango Seven-Eight, please come in. I repeat this is Tango Seven-Eight calling Tango Control.”
Nothing but static.
“Your ship is probably space dust by now.”
“Tango Control be advised I have new information regarding this mission. Be advised that our intelligence might be corrupted. I say again, intelligence might be unreliable. This might be an ambush. Tango Control do you copy?”
“You might as well give up,” she said with a chuckle. “They’re gone.”
Trevor whipped around with anger in his face. “What if they’re not? Ever think of that? In that case we’ll both die.”
“I am not afraid to die for the Union.”
“Tango Control, please come in. This is Tango Seven-Eight. Tango Seven Eight calling Tango Control. Goddamnit, Tango Control, respond!”
A powerful blow hit the transmitter. Which was quickly followed by another and another and then a few kicks until the indicator lights began to flicker.
Trevor stopped punishing the offensive transmitter, breathing hard now.
“That wasn’t very smart, human. We could have used your device to call for my people.”
The Marine sergeant got back to his feet. “To spend the rest of my days as a POW? No thanks I know how you people treat your prisoners,” he said and began to walk to the far wall of the shack.
“You better get used to the idea, human. Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen to you sooner or later.”
He slumped down by the wall. “Trevor. My name is Trevor.”
The woman didn’t reply. In fact she avoided eye contact altogether.
She remained quiet.
“I’m sorry, I forgot you can’t show weakness in front of your enemy. I understand your great Cardassian leaders would–“
“Latesh,” she said quietly.
“Well Latesh, how soon are your people going to be here?”
“Soon,” she said with no conviction in her voice.
“Funny because our reconnaissance registered no Dominion troop movements on this entire continent.”
Latesh briefly glanced at Trevor. Her previous intensity gone. She seemed vulnerable all of a sudden. For a moment Trevor almost felt pity for her.
“Why do I have the feeling that you are as abandoned as I am?”
“You are mistaken, human!” she snapped back.
“TangoSeven-Eight this is Tango Control, come in.” The weak voice coming out of the speaker of the transmitter was filled with interference but it was clear enough.
Trevor jumped to his feet. “Space dust, eh? I don’t know about you but I’m getting out of here,” he said to Latesh and rushed towards the transmitter.
“Tango Seven-Eight this is Tango Control, come in.”
“Tango Seven-Eight, copy.”
“Tango Seven-Eight this is Tango Control, do you copy?”
“Yes, yes, I copy, I copy. This is Tango Seven-Eight. Tango Control I copy.”
“Tango Seven- Eight this Tango Control, come in Tango Seven-Eight.”
“Damn it, something’s wrong.” He began to fiddle with the limited controls of the transmitter.
“Tango Seven-Eight be advised that strike is on schedule. Negative on evac due to heavy enemy opposition. Recommend you proceed to safe zone and stand by.”
“That’s over sixty clicks from here how do you suppose I get there?” he shouted at the machine.
There was no answer.
“Tango Control, come in! I can’t get to the safe zone! Tango Control! Tango Control!” Trevor didn’t find the strength to keep himself on his knees. Instead he dropped down next to the transmitter.
When he looked up again he saw Latesh standing over him. “ I lied earlier.”
He shot her an asking expression.
“When I said that I wasn’t afraid to die,” she said and sat down next to him.
“What are you doing?” he asked when he felt her closeness.
She smiled weakly. “Opening up my heart?” She let her hand slip into his. “I don’t want to die but if I have to I’d rather not be alone … Trevor.”
He nodded slowly as he looked into her eyes. Her intensity had returned but it was no longer that of a cold warrior. Those were the eyes of a living and breathing sentient being. More than that even. A woman.
“Do you think it be possible for two complete strangers, two enemies to come together and forget that they are enemies for just a few minutes?” Trevor’s voice was weak, not much more than a whisper, all strength had drained out of him.
They moved in closer to each other, his warmth spreading to her cold body.
A roar ripped through the skies above.
“It has begun.”