Ship's log, supplemental: Defiant has now been cloaked and keeping station with the mirror universe's wormhole on yellow alert for twenty six hours. The Alliance fleet is expected in another fifteen.
The Intendent was doing her best not to fidget. After his initial outrage at the receipt of the signal from Spock and the other Kirk, the Master had calmed down. In fact he had made a great show of sitting down urbanely to wait things out, insisting that Kira do the same, calling his butler to Ops to serve tea and otherwise wait on the duty watch while his Master extolled the virtues of civilization. But every once in awhile the Master would look at the main viewscreen with the hatred in his eyes from when he'd spotted the little space tramp in the background in Spock's signal. Whenever she saw this Kira looked away for something more pleasant - usually the butler. Perhaps again before the Master left ...
"Intendent," called the tactical duty officer suddenly. "A target. Coming in from the Badlands."
"What is it?" asked the Master.
"Still too far to identify anything that small."
"On the main screen."
"Do they really think a ragtag fleet of shuttles and runabouts can take on an Alliance fleet?" Kira wondered aloud.
"That depends on how many of them answer to Spock's call," said the Master.
"Kirk's call, you mean."
The Master snorted. "That middle-aged has-been? I thought I'd heard the last of him."
Kira looked over at him. "Is that how he's regarded on the other side?"
"Isn't it obvious? You saw him at Spock's side - what else could be thought of him?"
Kira chuckled derisively. "You have no idea what Kirk means to the Terran rebellion."
Sipping, the Master looked at her over his cup.
"He's the symbol of everything the Empire could be today but for the Alliance," said Kira. "He's the one who persuaded Spock to reform the Empire in the first place. They call their leaders 'kirks'."
"I've got an I.D.," said the tactical officer. "It's a runabout, and it's actually running a transponder. The Molly O'Brien."
"Smiley," Kira growled.
"The Molly O'Brien," said Dax.
"A transponder?" Sisko asked, suddenly wondering whether there was a Jake Sisko in this universe, and doubting it. "He's just wandering out of the Badlands, wearing a sandwich board with bullseyes on it?"
"Kirk and Spock sent a message, with their message," said Bashir. "Putting it on the public subspace waves said, 'We have nothing to fear. Let's get this out in the open.' Smiley's taking them at their word."
"We went to all the trouble of insinuating ourselves into their underground to get the message circulated quietly among the rebels," Eddington grumbled, "and then we shout it from the rooftops."
"Julian's right," said Dax. "It was the best way to tell everyone - friend and foe - that the rebels are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more. Gotta hand it to Spock."
"No doubt Spock rigged the transmission," said Sisko, "but the idea smells of Kirk's lateral thinking."
"We've still got an ally out for a stroll in a mine field out there," Odo reminded them. "Terek Nor's bound to take a potshot or two at him."
"Send one patrol scout after him," said the Master. "Anything else is overkill for one runabout."
The tactical officer looked at Kira. "Intendent?"
"Do as he says." She looked at the Time Lord. He was sipping his tea calmly, as if he knew his orders would be carried out. Well, he did. Damn him. It was a wonder he hadn't moved into her office.
"Alliance patrol runabout leaving stationkeeping," Eddington reported. "Intercept course with the Molly O'Brien."
"Will they catch him before they're both in our phaser range?" Sisko asked.
"The Molly O'Brien isn't really headed this way, sir."
"Odo, a tight-beam encoded squirt," ordered Sisko. "Let Smiley know where we are."
"What did he swerve that way for?" Kira asked. The Master didn't answer. Kira looked at him - he was watching the chase more intently now. "Master?"
The last day's tension boiled up in Kira. "I'm a fool? You're keeping essential information from me, you always do! That's usually how things go wrong!"
"Shut your mouth and open your eyes," the Master growled genteelly.
The patrol had caught Smiley in their range and were shooting at him when, looking at the viewscreen, Kira's eyes crossed. Something was swimming into view, fading into existence out of nowhere - decloaking. Kira boggled at the armor and armaments on the ship. It didn't sit idle for her regard; the Molly O'Brien ducked behind it like a baby chick, and it fired once and utterly vaporised the pursuing patrol runabout.
"What -" Kira blurted.
The Master was standing now, seemingly at ease but with his hands curled into fists at his side. "Defiant," he said. It was actually several minutes later before Kira realized this was the name of the ship. "Squatting right in front of it."
"In front of what?"
"Right in front of the jumpoff point for the invasion of the Federation," groused the Master.
This was a revelation. "Invade the Federation? You don't play small, do you?"
The Master glared at her. "Never."
"But why does it have to jumpoff there? What's so special about that point in space?" The Master only resumed his seat, continuing to glare, not answering. Kira realized that this secret was what made him valuable to the Alliance; he must have convinced them that the invasion would work, while nevertheless keeping this card in the hole. She looked back at the monster hanging in the center of the Master's plans. "You knew that was out there, when you sent the patrol after Smiley. Didn't you?"
"I thought it might be, after we saw the people from the other side in Spock's signal." The other side, Kira noticed he'd said; he was starting to use this universe's expression. "Only when the Molly O'Brien changed course was I certain."
"And you sent one patrol out there, knowing it was no match!"
"A small price to pay to flush them out," the Master shrugged.
The Intendent was no bleeding heart, but she didn't share the Klingons' and Cardassians' outright thirst for blood, and she didn't like to waste resources. But she was learning why the Master got on with them so well, so she exercised the better part of valor.
"Thanks for the save, Commander," said Smiley on Defiant's bridge viewscreen. "I don't want to miss the party."
"I wouldn't dream of going ahead without you," said Sisko.
Smiley was looking at O'Brien, a little ill at ease. "How's Molly?"
O'Brien shrugged. "Great. Reading her own bedtime stories now."
Smiley nodded, smiling wistfully. "I haven't seen her in more than two years." He shook his head. "Well, call me when the guests of honor arrive."
"I expect you'll know," grinned O'Brien. Smiley grinned back and the screen returned to the visual scan of Terek Nor.
"That was easy for you," said Sisko. "Meeting your other self, I mean."
O'Brien snorted. "Old hat for me. At least this wasn't a chronometric anomaly."
"Actually," said Dax mischeviously, "the Doctor says that going to parallel universes is traveling sideways in time."
O'Brien rolled his eyes. "I hate temporal mechanics."
"Alliance fleet ETA at Terek Nor is eight point zero four hours," Tuvok reported on the viewscreen.
"Our ETA?" Janeway asked.
"Eight point eight hours."
"Let's shave anything we can off of that, shall we?"
"Aye aye," replied both Tuvok on the screen and Chakotay in the pilot's seat of this ship.
Kirk watched the way Janeway ran the flight deck of her shuttle. Her "runabout", that is. He could well believe that she was a starship captain in Kirk's universe. Despite the almost magical effect his mere presence seemed to have on the Terrans, once back on her own ship Janeway had snapped into command mode - and seemed to start regarding him as nothing more than a mascot or good luck charm.
"Another contact," called Eddington at minus four hours. "No, six in close formation. Station's fired on them with phaser - er, disrupter battery three."
"Are we in range, Chief?" Sisko asked.
"Barely, sir," said O'Brien. "Ours, that is. If Terek Nor wants to fire on us they're S.O.L."
"Let's send a message of our own. Mr. Eddington, move up just into phaser range. Covering fire on battery three - continuous phaser barrage until the shield fails and the battery's destroyed."
"Signal on audio from the newcomers," said Odo as the newcomers cleared the now silent, besieged battery, "in clear, I think."
"You think? Let's hear it."
"Knight level two." Sisko thought the voice sounded familiar.
"That's Will Riker," said O'Brien and Dax simultaneously.
"Pawn level six." Smiley suddenly broke onto the channel.
"Pawn level six, acknowledged," the newcomer responded.
"Commander," sent Smiley, "that's code from my old resistance group. You're talking to one of the three people who know who the top man is."
"Their transponders read Knight Two, Queen Two, Rook Two, Queen Three, Bishop Three, and Knight Four," Eddington read.
"Defiant, this is Knight Two." Now Sisko did recognize the voice for Riker's. "Please consider us under your command."
"Welcome aboard, to you and your squad, Knight Two," said Sisko. On the main viewscreen the six new ships were converging on Defiant, turning in their course so that, when they came to station-keeping with Defiant and Molly O'Brien, they also were facing the station and the oncoming fleet. "Not to complain, but may we expect your king?"
"Already here, Defiant," said Knight Two. "'Fraid I can't say more."
"Understood," said Sisko, though he didn't, really; only that there were still some secrets that didn't need a general airing. After all, the crew of Defiant had been ordered not to be first to use the word "wormhole" in any communications with this universe's natives. But he had a good idea who King Level One might turn out to be.
Terek Nor's disruptor battery three was destroyed some twenty-three minutes later when defense shielding failed. O'Brien snorted, but having watched the process admitted having an idea or two he wanted to try when they were back on DS9.
Rebel ships continued to trickle in, including the rest of Smiley's group from the Badlands. "Going up solo against a whole fleet is more my style than yours," the other Bashir told Smiley (he was ignoring Defiant, or at least Sisko, which suited Sisko). Beside Sisko, his Bashir didn't seem to recognize the voice. Sisko allowed himself to wonder a moment whether the other Jennifer was out there, but then turned back to business.
Several more ships named for chess pieces arrived. One was one of two captured Alliance destroyers to show up. But everything else was scout class or smaller. They did have numbers, beyond even Sisko's expectation. By minus five minutes the impromptu rebel fleet consisted of thirty-one ships, all of whom placed themselves at Defiant's command.
None of them, though, were Kirk's.
"Pathetic," said the Master.
Kira too didn't see what the Terrans could accomplish against a fleet that had nothing smaller than a destroyer. But she didn't feel like agreeing with the Master so she didn't say anything.
"Terek Nor!" barked the comm. It was the Regent, commanding the invasion fleet. "We are two minutes out! Status!"
"There's a swarm of mosquitoes in your path," the Master announced derogatorily. "Nothing the fleet and the station can't handle if you shoo them our way."
The Regent laughed, loud Klingon guffaws. "Today is a good day to live!" That seemed to be his signoff.
Kira shuddered. She'd spoken to the Regent by comm before but never hoped to meet him. On the other hand Gul Dukat was probably commanding a ship in this fleet - be nice if he could get a night's layover at the station after the battle.
Moments later the fleet flew past the station, all around, like a river past a rock sticking up through its surface. Kira watched the dozen Klingon and Cardassian ships go by with awe, never having seen so much firepower in one place before. The Time Lord was definitely a power to be reckoned with if he could marshall such a massive strike force. It was as if she could hear the rumble as it went by.
She was hearing something.
There was a familiar undertone to the noise, but Kira couldn't identify it, largely because suddenly almost all she could hear was a screeching whine that made her ears hurt. Looking up to find the source, she saw that the Master was in pain as well - but the Cardassian duty officers and the Klingon guards were actually passing out.
She placed the sound's undertone in her memory as it faded away - it was the same noise made by the Master's TARDIS. At the same instant she finally spotted its source. A large blue wooden box was sitting outside her office doors where there had been nothing half a minute ago. She saw it just in time to catch three people exit it - the space tramp, the Terran girl with him in the signal, and Major Kira Nerys from the other side.
The girl had an ugly-looking homemade energy weapon out. "All righty, move away from the consoles," she said. Kira and the Master obeyed, raising their hands in the air.
"Doctor!" hissed the Master.
"You don't seem terribly surprised," said the Doctor. "I'll warrant you weren't so equanimitous when you saw me with Kirk and Spock in the civil defense broadcast."
"Your assumptions are as fanciful as your vocabulary," sneered the Master.
What? This scruffy little clown is the horrible menace the Master speaks of? Kira wasn't given a lot of time to think about it, though, because the major was approaching her. She was locking out station control systems as she proceeded. Kira suddenly realized how Sisko had known the codes when he was here last month - how he'd suddenly some back to life after his ship was destroyed. It'd been the other one! Of course they'd changed the station commanders' codes since then, but they hadn't thought to change the exec's.
The major stopped right in front of Kira. "I despise dealing with bullies," said the major, her voice on the verge of breaking like a weakling's, "because they don't understand anything but their own methods."
Kira saw the major's fist very close-up for a split second - then the Ops deck very close-up, and some stars.
Ace struggled to keep her attention on keeping the Master and the Intendent covered, over the increasingly vituperative demands for contact from the station that the Klingon fleet commander was broadcasting. On the one hand, the confrontation between the Doctor and the Master had quickly devolved into the same old meeting of minds, NOT!, that always developed when one got the drop on the other. Bo-ring.
On the other hand, the Intendent was a much better match for the major than Ace had expected of a pampered provincial governor. No schoolgirl hairpulling type stuff either - first blood had been simultaneous. In the TARDIS Ace had offered to help, suggesting to the major that fair play was all right, for the other guy; but the major apparently had something to prove. It was a real championship bout and Ace was following it with real enthusiasm.
"I wonder, miss, if I might beg your assistance."
Ace spun around brandishing her blaster at the voice behind her. The TARDIS's sonic stun had been rigged to take out the Klingons and the Cardassians - only the Intendent and the Master should have been left conscious! But this wasn't a Cardassian or a Klingon - it was a Terran, decked out in of all things black tie and tails, smiling imperturbedly at Ace and her weapon.
It was Jean-Luc Picard.
"All ships!" Sisko bellowed. "They're trying to edge us toward the station!" Just as we expected. But these people weren't Starfleet trained - not trained at all in too many cases. The Alliance tactic was working.
"Bishop Four has two destroyers on him," Eddington reported.
"Get us there," Sisko ordered.
"We're not going to make it," Eddington said.
There was a huge roiling flash from the main screen. "That was the Klothon!" crowed Dax.
"We might make it," Eddington said.
"Three of ours, one of theirs," said Dax.
"At this rate," remarked Bashir, "when we're all gone their 'invasion fleet' will consist of two ships."
"I don't like that scenario," Sisko declared. "Give me another."
Apparently Eddington wasn't listening. "Bishop Four is crossing into station disruptor range!"
Sisko watched Bishop Four on the visual display, waiting for the station to blow it away.
"What the hell?"
The two Cardassian ships that had cornered Bishop Four had obviously been sitting back expecting the station to join in too. In the intervening moments Bishop Four had damaged about thirty percent of one's weapons array and about sixty percent of the other's.
"The station's not firing," said Dax.
"All ships!" ordered Sisko. "Fall toward the station and regroup!"
"What if it starts firing eventually?" Bashir asked.
"Opportunity knocks, Doctor," said Sisko. "Eddington, cover the retreat."
"They'll go for the wormhole if we're not between them and it," said O'Brien.
"They've knocked several openings through our line and not taken them," Sisko said. "The Doctor's right - the Master is keeping that secret till the last moment. They don't know it's there."
"Commander!" called Odo. "Two new contacts. Coming from beyond the station. One's Tuvok. The other's transponder names it Supplanter."
James means "supplanter", Sisko thought.
"Defiant to all ships," he sent. "Log transfer of flag to Supplanter."
END OF CHAPTER 6
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