The Diary of Jake Sisko

The Diary of Jake Sisko
by Gail M. Eppers

When they materialized, the wind nearly knocked them over. And if
the wind wasn’t bad enough, it was frigidly cold, and the wind blew snow and
ice crystals all around them. It made it difficult to see, but then there was
nothing to see. They held their tricorders close to their faces in order to see
the readings, the fake fur overcoats and thick, oversized hoods making every
movement difficult. “Where’s that life sign?” Dax shouted over the wind.
“I don’t know. I’ve lost it now.” Bashir turned a little back and forth,
trying to find it again.
“I’m reading the runabout.” Dax pointed ahead of them. “Ten meters
ahead, but it’s already under eight feet of snow. No life signs at all.”
“They can’t be there,” Bashir told her. “They must have found shelter
or we wouldn’t have gotten any life signs. Look for a cave.”
They began walking, slowly, lifting each leg high to clear the drifting
snow. “It can’t be far.” Bashir shouted as he watched his tricorder. He turned
a little to the left. “Got it! Seventeen point three meters this way!” They
stayed close together, as much for warmth as to avoid getting separated.
“I’m reading a cave, but I can’t see an entrance,” Dax said, looking up
and squinting through the storm.
“Don’t use your eyes, Jadzia!” Bashir said. He sincerely hoped this
mission didn’t take much longer. He was already feeling frozen. If they didn’t
find them soon, they’d have to leave before they froze to death. How could
they have survived six days on this frozen wasteland? he wondered. But there
was the life sign, weak though it was. It was hard to tell if it was weak
because of the storm, or for other reasons.
It seemed he’d been walking for miles, but he’d only gone twelve
meters when he heard Dax shout, “Over here!” He followed the back of her
jacket, unable to see anything else but the unending whiteness. Suddenly, the
sound and force of the wind lessened. He straightened from the hunched
position he’d assumed to fight the wind.
They had found a cave. It appeared rather large, stretching out into
rooms, and branching off into tunnels of ice covered stone. But it was only
marginally warmer. He took several steps in, only to find that the temperature
remained thirty degrees below zero celsius. The tricorder led him around a
bend in the cave, where they found someone, well wrapped in blankets, lying
on a stone slab. Bashir hurried over, pulling out the hand held scanner. “It’s
Jake. He’s in severe hypothermia. Core temperature sixty degrees fahrenheit.
Damn.”
Dax looked around. “Where’s Lieutenant Barry?” She wondered aloud.
Six phasers lay discarded in a pile on the floor. Dax bent to examine them, but
found they were all completely drained. She stuffed them inside her coat. A
pile of stones also lay near the bed, and simple survival gear he must have
salvaged from the runabout.
“Dax.” Bashir had partially unwrapped Jake, in order to inject him
with a stimulant. Jake clutched tightly to his chest a datapadd. Carefully,
Bashir extracted the padd and handed it to Dax, who stuffed it inside her coat
with the phasers. Then he reached inside his own coat and hit his combadge.
“Bashir to Defiant. Three to beam up, directly to sickbay.”

Bashir and Dax had barely gotten Jake on the biobed, still wrapped in
blankets, when Benjamin Sisko hurried into sickbay. Bashir could not be
interrupted, but Dax approached Sisko, holding him back, “Benjamin, he’s
alive. Severe hypothermia, and frostbite, I’m sure.”
Sisko pushed past Dax, but managed to stay out of Bashir’s way.
“Julian, talk to me.” His voice cracked, and he licked dry lips as he saw his
son slowly being unwrapped. Jake looked more like he’d been in a fire, his
face blackened like coal. Bashir motioned for some help from Dax and
together they wedged the blankets out from under Jake. The blankets were
already soaked from melted ice. Julian let them fall to the floor and he kicked
them aside. He turned on a force field over the boy’s body. “What was that
for?” Sisko asked.
Bashir faced his captain. “His own protection, for the moment.” He
hesitated, but knew Sisko both deserved and needed to know the truth. “His
skin is very fragile right now. Any sudden movement on his part, or
unnecessary touches, could cause it to crack. Or extremities to literally fall
off.” He turned back to the bedside panel and explained, “The first step is to
get his body temperature back to normal. I’m using a thermal generator. But
it’s going to take time. Several hours, at least. It can’t be hurried. Later, I’ll be
inducing coma. He’ll heal much faster asleep, with less pain. But he will
heal.”
Bashir saw Sisko fighting back tears. “I expect a full recovery,
Captain.” He reassured Sisko.
“I want to stay with him.”
“You can take the next bed.” Bashir turned off the bio scanners on the
adjacent bed, and Sisko lay down tiredly, looking at his son.
Dax, having taken off her fur coat as well, began collecting the rescued
items in her arms. “I’ll take the phasers to the armory.” She adjusted her load
in order to take the datapadd in one hand. She held it out to Sisko, who took it
from her questioningly. “He was holding this, Benjamin.” Then, with the six
phasers somewhere on her person, she left sickbay.
Sisko looked at the datapadd. He pushed himself up to a partial sitting
position. Jake had been writing something. Sisko backed up to the beginning
of the document and began reading.

The Defiant had been gone for three days and Kira was getting worried.
It was hard to concentrate on her duties. It was slow in Ops, so she decided to
take a break and get a drink. She went into Quark’s and sat at the bar. Quark
stepped up. “What can I get for you today, Major?”
Kira hadn’t thought about specifics. “Something soothing.”
Quark grinned, “I know just the thing. Are you off duty, yet?” At the
shake of her head, he shook his in disappointment. “Maybe next time. Some
Brtiian plin juice ought to relax you, though. Be right back.” He disappeared
to the other end of the bar, past Morn.
Kira sighed and tried not to listen to the cries of “Dabo!” coming from
behind her. She wasn’t fond of gambling herself, but she seemed to be in the
minority. Quark returned with a tall thin glass of bright green liquid and set it
in front of her. He noticed how preoccupied she was. “Something wrong,
Major?”
Kira looked up, just then noticing the drink. She sampled it.
“Mmmmm.” She said absent-mindedly.
“Major?” Quark asked again.
“I’m sorry, Quark. I’m not feeling very talkative today.”
Quark stayed for a moment, letting Kira know he was willing to listen.
He waited while she brooded a bit more.
Her communicator chirped, and Kira tapped it. “Kira here.”
“We’ve just received word from the Defiant, Major,” Worf said. Kira
tensed. “They found Jake, alive. Julian says he’ll recover.”
Kira breathed a sigh of relief. “Lieutenant Barry?” She asked.
“He wasn’t found, Major. Their ETA is seven hours.”
“Thanks, Worf.” Kira closed her commbadge, and took another sip of
the plin juice. A cry of “Dabo!” behind her reminded her of Leeta, one of the
scantily clad dabo girls. Jake had dated her for awhile. Although she was with
Rom now, she might want to know about Jake. She was a nice girl, despite
what she did for a living. Kira swiveled on the stool to see if Leeta was
working that day. She wasn’t, but there were three other equally endowed
women spinning the wheels. For the millionth time, Kira wished she had the
freedom to shut the place down, or at least certain parts of it. Kira got off the
stool and turned to finish her drink, planning to go find Leeta elsewhere. She
downed it and put the glass back on the table, and noticed Quark still looking
at her. “Just a thought, Quark,” she said. “This place could use some dabo
men.”
As he watched Kira leave, Quark picked up the dirty glass thoughtfully.

**I’ve got to do something or I’ll die,** Sisko read. **Who knows?
Maybe I’ll die anyway, but at least I won’t die of boredom. Besides, I need to
let people know that this was all my fault. I bugged Dad until he let me learn
to pilot a runabout when I should have just let it rest. I don’t know. Maybe it
was just that I didn’t pay enough attention when I read the manuals, and did the
simulations in the holosuite. But when it came down to a real situation, I
panicked.
I need to back up a bit. It was my idea to practice on a real runabout. I
was tired of the simulations. I thought I’d seen all the variations, and I was
bored with it. I wanted to explore real space. “But you’re not ready to fly
solo.” Dad told me. I didn’t really think he’d let me go alone anyway. “I can
co-pilot, Dad,” I said. Poor Dad. He always had confidence in me. If I
thought I could do something, he thought I could do it. He always trusted me,
and gave me support, even after all the goof-ups I’ve done. But this is a big
one. I don’t think he’ll ever trust me again. A few days after I asked him about
it, Dad introduced me to Lieutenant Barry. He said that Barry would
accompany me in a runabout. “He’ll be studying Kriva’s Comet, which is due
to fly by the outer planets soon,” he explained. “Go early,” He added to Barry,
“Take the scenic route and let Jake try a few things.” Then he turned back to
me, “You don’t go through the wormhole, Jake. Got it?” I remember him
saying. That was the only thing I did right.
I was so happy to get in the Ganges. Barry was really nice. I thought
he’d resent having to chauffer me around, the boss’s son and all. But he
seemed to be looking forward to it, too. “Don’t worry,” he told me, as we went
through the pre-flight checklist, “I’ll play tour guide. There are some great
spots for free flying.” He winked at me, “I’ll show you some tricks of the trade,
if you promise not to tell your Dad.” He made me smile.
I tried to pay close attention through the launch. I got to engage the
thrusters, and I listened while Barry explained things. I knew by then why Dad
had asked him to do this. Barry was a great teacher. A natural, I guess you’d
call him. I watched the station shrink on the viewscreen, then switched to
forward scanners. “Okay, set a course,” Barry said. Since I’d really only been
to Bajor, I decided to go the opposite direction. He let me do a lot, right away.
He was basically there just in case, he said. To make sure I didn’t crash into
any planets. We flew for a long time, a couple of hours at least, and I was
really enjoying it. When I needed a break, Barry took over and did some loops
just to see the big stupid grin on my face. It was taking enough of my
concentration just to maintain level flight; I wasn’t about to try anything
dangerous.
But the space was mostly empty. Barry glanced at our location and got
excited. He took control and steered at a sharp angle. “There’s some great
sights over here.” I looked out the viewport and saw a few planets.
Uninhabitable, mostly. But as we rounded one of the planets, Barry pointed
ahead.
“What is that?”
“Kriva’s Comet,” he said in awe. He began activating all kinds of
scans, and moved us in close to the comet’s orbit.
This big ball of rock and gas blazed by us. Is was beautiful.
He blushed. “Yeah. I’m not in sciences, though, so I didn’t think I’d get
the chance to see it. Not up close like this.” He was still watching as it shrunk
rapidly on the screen. He glanced down briefly, and I heard him mutter “What
the–?”
I looked at my own panel and saw that all the readings, from internal
air pressure to warp drive manifold shielding, were fluctuating wildly. I knew
I didn’t have much experience, but it all seemed impossible. It the readings
were accurate, we would have blown up immediately. But it was also highly
unlikely that every computer system on the runabout would malfunction
simultaneously.
Then the Ganges suddenly bucked, and Barry quickly looked at his
readouts, still seeing meaningless gibberish. I could see the wheels of his
brain working as he took an educated guess, “A little too close. Damn!” The
runabout still wouldn’t fly straight.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. The comet’s tail might have hit us, or a piece of it. I
don’t know. I didn’t think we were that close.” He looked worried, and it
scared me. “The stablizers aren’t working. Jake, can you compensate?”
I tried to adjust the flight to the rocking of the runabout, but nothing
seemed to help. I noticed something else, too. “Barry, we’re venting just about
everything. It ruptured the tanks.” I knew then, that we weren’t going to make
it back to the station.
“I see it,” he said. “We’re going to have to come down on the nearest
planet. I’ll try to get a controlled descent.” He managed to point the Ganges
toward the planet. “Send an SOS, Jake.” I punched in the commands for
automated distress, but I couldn’t tell if the message got sent or not. My hands
were shaking. Thinking back, I may not even have pushed the right controls.
Looking up through the viewscreen, I didn’t like the looks of it at all. I
was hoping it was just cloud cover, but it was all white. “Well, it’s not Risa,
but it’ll do.” I quipped, trying to sound like I was in control as much as he
seemed to be.
Thinking of getting myself into a safe crash position, I moved to a
passenger seat and strapped in, but Barry called back, “No Jake! I need you up
here!” He pointed to the co-pilot seat, but I hesitated before I sat down and
strapped in there. He strapped himself into the pilot’s seat. “Tell me what
we’ve got, so I don’t have to read the instruments, Jake. Compensate where
ever you can.”
“They’re still fluctuating!” Nothing made any sense. It would have
been maddening, if I had had any time to get mad.
“Tell me anyway. They might be stablizing. Observe, Jake. I need
information.”
I looked at the gauges and tried to remember what it all meant. I raised
my head to object further, and saw an unbelievably large piece of hull float by
as the runabout continued its jerky, twirling path. Returning to the
instruments, I tried to make a guess on which ones were accurate. “There’s an
outer hull breach, and the force field is off-line, but the inner hull is holding.”
We hit atmosphere, and space was gone from the window. It was just white. I
tried not to look out much, to let Barry handle the steering. “We are venting
atmosphere, and plasma coolant. We just lost communications, and –” I
stopped. I bent down and tried not to tense up. I closed my eyes. The whole
runabout was shaking. It shook and listed from side to side for what seemed
like ages. The walls rattled.
Barry shouted at me, “C’mon Jake! Can you get attitude control?” I
kept my eyes screwed shut. Tried to tell myself this wasn’t happening. Willed
it to just be over. Then there was impact that nearly broke my restraints, and
the shaking stopped. But the walls still rattled. I opened my eyes. Through
the window, there was still nothing but white. A strong wind was making the
walls rattle.
I unstrapped myself and checked Barry. He was unconscious, and
bleeding from his head. “Barry!” I shook him gently. “Lieutenant!” Then his
head flopped, and I knew his neck was broken. He was dead.**

“Captain?” Bashir touched Sisko on the shoulder, distracting him from
the padd. “We’re docking. I need to get Jake to the Infirmary.”
Sisko blinked for a few seconds, then turned to look at Jake. “Of
course, Doctor.” He pushed himself off the biobed. “I’ll check in with Kira
and Worf, and be there shortly.”
With the padd tucked under his arm, he left the Defiant and headed for
Ops. Kira turned from her station to acknowledge his arrival. “Captain.” She
said solemnly.
“Mr. Worf,” Sisko said, “I want you and O’Brien to take the Defiant
back to that planet with a salvage team and try to retrieve the runabout. The
coordinates you’ll need are in the computer.”
Worf nodded and walked toward the lift. “Captain,” Kira spoke up,
“permission to accompany him?”
“Denied.” Before Kira could object he added, “I’ll be spending a lot of
my time in the Infirmary, Major. I’ll need you to stay in Ops. I realize you’ve
already had an extended shift, but –”
“Understood, sir.” Kira interrupted him. He didn’t have to explain.
“Go to your son.”
They looked at each other in understanding for a moment, before he
turned and left Ops.

Dax went into Quark’s and sat at the bar. She was worried about Jake,
but as she sat there she felt something else was out of place. Quark
automatically brought her a raktajino, and she stopped him to say, “Quark,
something’s different here. What is it?”
Quark shrugged.
“Morn.” She realized suddenly. “Where’s Morn? He’s always sitting
here.” She pointed to the stool next to hers.
“Oh, he’s at a Dabo wheel.”
“What?” Dax turned, and sure enough, Morn stood, silent as ever, over
one of the Dabo wheels, waiting for customers.
“It’s was Kira’s idea, actually. She said I needed some Dabo men, but it
doesn’t look like it’s working.”
Dax spewed a mouthful of raktajino. “Dabo men?”
“Am I doing something wrong?”
Dax collected herself, and studied the situation. Kira, obviously upset
at the perpetual sexism of Quark’s Dabo harem, had blithly suggested he
provide equal opportunity for the female customers. In response, Quark had
Morn in charge of a Dabo wheel. “Yes, something’s wrong,” she told him.
“Take a look at the Dabo girls.”
Smiling, Quark obliged.
“Now, look at Morn.”
“So?”
“Exactly. He’s not …uh…comparable.”
“Comparable? Oh, I see!” He hurried out from behind the bar and over
to Morn. He whispered something to Morn, and began helping him take off
his shirt.
Dax jumped up and hurried over. “No, Quark. That’s not what I
meant!” Quark and Morn both looked at her, confused. “No offense, Morn,
really, but Quark, he’s not the right type for this job.”
“He’s not?” Quark asked.
“No, he’s not.” Dax lowered her eyes. “Please put your shirt back on,
Morn.”
Quark helped Morn on with his shirt, “You can go back to your seat at
the bar. Tell Rom you get a free drink for your trouble.”
Morn nodded and walked away. “So you think it’s a bad idea?”
“The idea is sound, Quark.” Dax had to mentally applaud Kira for
coming up with it, but then cursed her for not being more specific. “You’re
just having problems putting it into practice. You need to find someone who
does for the women the same thing that, say, Leeta, does for the men.”
“And Morn wasn’t it?” He asked innocently. “Then who would you
suggest?”
Dax laughed. “Actually, anyone I’d suggest wouldn’t do it.”
Quark stared at her, unmoving, until she relented with a heavy sigh.
“I’ll see what I can do.”

Sisko returned to the infirmary and went to his son’s bedside. He told
himself that Jake looked better, but if so, it was very slight. “Report, Doctor.”
Bashir was solemn. “He’s still in a coma, but like I said before, I’ll be
keeping him in the coma for a few days. His body temperature is up to eighty
degrees fahrenheit and rising slowly. All life signs are low, but stable.” He
showed Sisko to a nearby biobed, just as he had on the Defiant. “I can’t say
he’s out of the woods yet, but at this point, it looks good.” Sisko looked up as
he settled himself on the biobed. Bashir knew he wanted to know specifics.
“There’s a possibility that his system will stop responding to the stimulants, or
that there may have been brain damage before we got to him. We won’t know
for sure about that until we waken him.”
Sisko took a deep breath and nodded. Bashir walked away to give him
privacy. Sisko pulled out the datapadd, and began reading where he left off.

**Barry was dead. I was alone. I wasn’t sure what to do at first, but
when I looked out the viewport I knew I couldn’t stay in the Ganges. Not that
the outside looked all that appealing. But the snow was coming down fast and
drifting rapidly and I knew the Ganges would be buried in a few hours. Nearly
all the systems were out, and I was already starting to feel the cold. The
shuttle was nothing more than an elaborate coffin. Then I had to decide which
equipment to take with me. Warmth had to come first. I opened the storage
cabinet and took as many thermal blankets as I could wrap around me. I
folded some and tied them around my waist to secure the rest of them against
the wind. I discarded the length of rope; it would only have been useful if
Barry had survived and we needed to stay together. As for climbing up or
down a cliff, I knew that if there was a cliff nearby I would either bump into it
or fall off of it before I even knew it was there. I took a travel bag and stuffed
all the smaller items into it. There were simple dishes and cups, some utensils,
a few ration packs, and a datapadd containing a survival manual. Then I went
to the arms cabinet and took the six phasers that were there. I looked around
to see if there was anything else I could both scavange and carry an unknown
distance. I went over to Barry’s body one last time. “I’m sorry.” I told him. I
tried to think of something else, but there was nothing to say.
I opened the door to the frigid wind and left the Ganges. I was
effectively blinded by the ice and snow buffeting me from every direction, and
stumbled that way, not even knowing which way to go, fairly certain that I
would be frozen to death before long. I don’t know how far I had to walk or
how long it took me, because there was no way to tell time now. I just kept
moving. Even after I grew more tired than I’ve ever been, I knew I had to keep
moving. I had to lift my legs high with each step to get through the snow, and
before long I couldn’t even feel anything below my knees. I found the cave
purely by accident. Sheer luck, no doubt. Act of the Prophets, as Major Kira
would say. I was walking, and suddenly the wind was gone, and I opened my
eyes. I had entered a large cavern. I shook the snow off my legs and went
further in, panting in exhaustion. Then fell to the floor. But I didn’t let myself
fall asleep. It was still too cold. I didn’t dare fall asleep.
After resting for a time, I found the strength to crawl even further in,
where the icy walls finally gave way to stone layered with crystals. This cave
had been built probably thousands of years ago. It didn’t look exactly natural.
Carved from one wall deep inside was a rocky slab obstensibly for sleeping on.
I dug out one of the phasers, and set it to the lowest setting. Then I fired on
the slab, slowly adjusting the setting up until the whole slab glowed pink.
With the blankets to protect me, I climbed my weary body up on top of it, and
lay down, finally confident enough to sleep. **

“No, I most certainly will not!” Bashir exclaimed.
“Oh, Julian. It won’t be so bad. Really!” Dax said in her sultriest
voice, “You’ll meet lots of gorgeous women.”
Bashir turned from his terminal in his office near the Infirmary, “No.”
He pushed past her to check some readings on an analysis he had run. “Ask
someone else. I’m very busy.”
Dax’s shoulders fell. “How is Jake?”
“So far so good.” He told her.
It seemed he was going to say more, but didn’t. “Julian, you’re
worried,” Dax said knowingly. “What’s wrong?”
Julian studied his readouts, “Maybe nothing.” He sighed, and rubbed
his eyes. “I just expected him to respond faster, I guess.”
Dax studied his face. He looked very tired, but what he said was
sincere. She looked over his shoulder at the readouts, too, and was glad she
did. “His circulation is back to normal. All extemities are getting oxygenated.
That’s good.” She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You’re impatient
because you’re too close, and too tired.”
He looked up at her, “I hope you’re right. But something just doesn’t
feel right. Like I’m missing something.”
“You are missing something,” she told him. “Your rest,” she clarified.
“You won’t be any help to Jake if you’re exhausted,” she pointed out.
He reluctantly admitted she was right about that. “All right,
Commander,” he mocked her playfully, “I’ll take a break. Computer, alert me
if there is any change in Jake Sisko’s condition.”
“Acknowledged.”
Dax watched as Julian lay down, then went to the main room where
Jake and Benjamin lay on adjacent beds. Jake was sleeping; his father was
lying on his side, watching Jake’s thin chest rise and fall. “Benjamin.” She
said gently, letting him know of her presence.
Benjamin Sisko pushed himself to a sitting position, the datapadd still
in his hand. “Hi, Dax. Any news from the Defiant?”
“No. Not yet.” She pointed to the datapadd, “So what was he
holding?”
“This?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to share it with anyone yet. “Just
some writing of his. He kept himself busy, I guess.” He downplayed it, not
mentioning that it was a diary at all.
Dax nodded. “He’s alive. He did good down there. When he wakes
up, you’ll have plenty to talk about.”
“When he wakes up,” Sisko repeated, although he was thinking “if”.
Dax peered at him. He looked as tired as Bashir. “Have you slept
since we got back?” She asked.
Sisko waved the question away, “I’ll be all right, Old Man.” He leaned
his head against the wall above the bed, trying to blink the weariness from his
eyes. “It’s a diary,” he blurted.
“Pardon?”
He lifted the datapadd. “He kept a diary.” Dax came forward and sat
on the edge of the biobed, concern easily seen on her face. “Apparently, the
crash was his fault.”
“Oh, Benjamin….” Dax said. “Is that what it says?”
Sisko sighed, accepting what he saw as the truth, “He panicked after
the runabout was hit by debris from the comet. Instead of compensating, like
Barry told him to, he went into a crash position. Barry couldn’t control the
runabout by himself. With a controlled entry, the computer systems might not
have been damaged. And Barry might have survived.”
“He blames himself for Barry’s death.” Dax stated, and she looked at
Jake’s unconscious form in a new light. “That’s a lot of guilt for someone his
age to carry. Do you think it’s true?”
“Would he make it up?” Sisko asked.
“Well, don’t jump to conclusions, Benjamin.” Dax patted his leg, “The
Defiant will be bringing back the runabout. An examination of the damage
will tell us all we need to know.” She rose, started to leave and turned back.
“Get some rest, Benjamin.” She saw him close his eyes, and she left.
After he heard the swoosh of the door closing, Sisko opened his eyes,
and lifted the datapadd.

**I don’t know how long I slept, of course. I woke somewhat stiff, and
still felt unbearably cold, but I was thankful that I woke up at all. I was
tempted to reheat the slab again, but I knew I couldn’t waste the phaser energy.
My stomach was rumbling, so I opened one ration pack and nibbled slowly
until the rumbling ceased. I’d need water. Clean water. Wrapping the
blankets tighter around me, and grabbing the cup I had salvaged, I went to the
mouth of the cavern.
Nothing had changed. Visibility was nearly zero. If the runabout was
still out there, unburied or not, I couldn’t see it. A storm still raged out there.
Who knew if it was night or day? Probably a permanent weather condition. I
reached out and scooped up a cupful of snow, and took it back inside. I sat the
cup on a rock, and picked up the phaser I had used before I slept, and heated
the rock until the snow melted and came to a boil. I didn’t want to run the risk
of accidentally vaporizing the only water container I had. I could have heated
the cup directly, or for that matter, even the snow, but a phaser has alot of
power and I wasn’t comfortable with it yet. That should take care of any
bacteria, I thought. I let it cool for a moment, then picked up the cup using the
edges of a blanket as potholders, and sipped it. It was still warm, and felt
really good going down. I tried to drink it as slow as I could, but it just didn’t
stay warm very long. By the time I finished the cup, ice crystals were already
forming in it.
I had taken care of the three most important things: shelter, food and
water. While I was still cold, I felt better. I tried not to think about Barry. To
occupy my time, I picked up the datapadd and began reading the survival
manual. It felt good to realize that I had done all the right things so far without
even consulting it. But I knew it got harder. The rations wouldn’t last very
long, and though I had access to all the water I could possibly drink, it
depended on the phaser energy to purify it for drinking.
I tried to get some sense of time, but it was nearly impossible. I knew
we’d been flying for at least four or five hours. The crash seemed to have
taken forever, but would have been five or ten minutes. I estimated three
quarters of an hour until I left the runabout and found the cave. And I must
have slept several hours after that. So I’d already been gone at least twelve
hours. The search for the missing runabout surely had begun by now. But
there was no telling how long it would take to track us down. Finding the right
planet shouldn’t take long, but these constant winter storms were going to play
havoc with sensor readings. The runabout would be buried, visibility close to
zero. It really began to look pretty bad to me.
Pulling the blankets closer around me, I pulled the datapadd inside
them with me as I sat on the cold stone slab and leaned against the cold stone
wall. I opened a new document and began writing. **

“Benjamin, wake up!”
Ben Sisko sat up in the biobed before even opening his eyes. He was
surprised to find Dax shaking his shoulder. “Dax, what is it? The Defiant?”
“No, nothing from them yet,” she said. “Benjamin, you said Jake’s
diary said the Ganges was hit by debris from the comet?”
Sisko nodded. What was she getting at?
She was shaking her head. “It couldn’t have been.”
“What? Why not?”
Dax pulled him off the bed and led him to a computer monitor.
“Computer,” she said, “locate long range sensor data from one week ago and
the following two days. In that data sample, locate and display data from
Kriva’s comet.”
On the computer monitor, data began scrolling past. Dax paused it
every few moments as she pointed things out. “Look. These scans are from
before they left. And these are from after the runabout went down, by our best
estimates. There’s no significant loss of mass.”
Sisko scanned the data as she spoke. “What’s the margin for error?
These are long range scans.”
“Not enough to account for the kind of damage that would take down a
runabout. Even if it were all in one big chunk, which it wouldn’t be, it would
have to be at least eight point three percent of the comet’s mass. The
differential is less than one percent.”
What she was saying finally sunk into Sisko’s still groggy brain. “If the
comet didn’t take it down, what did?”
“Exactly.” They looked at each other knowingly.
Sisko tapped his communicator and spoke on the run, “Sisko to Ops.”
He continued without waiting for Kira’s reply, “Kira, try to contact the Defiant.
I’m on my way up there right now.”
“Aye, sir.”
With one quick look back at Jake, the two raced out of the infirmary.
As they entered Ops, Dax moved smoothly to her science station.
Without being asked, Kira reported, “No reply from the Defiant…” her voice
drifted as she continued to work her console. “Wait. I’m getting something.
Some strange kind of feedback.” She raised her head, “It’s from the Defiant.
A coded burst.”
“What does it say?”
Kira read it aloud, “Under attack. Jem ‘Hadar. Maintain radio silence.”
She swallowed, “that’s all.” Damn, she hated not knowing what was going on
out there.
“It appears that O’Brien set the transmission to ride back on our carrier
signal, as soon as we attempted to make contact.” Dax’s eyes opened wider.
She was impressed. “Although I’m not exactly sure how he accomplished it.”
“I’ll be in my office.” Sisko said grimly, as he climbed the few steps
behind Dax’s station.
He sat at his desk and steepled his fingers. The Jem ‘Hadar had to have
come from Cardassian space. What was on that planet that any of them would
want? Cardassians could stand the cold even less than humans. The Jem
‘Hadar were rugged, but still used to jungle terrain. Only the Founders
themselves would be able to make use of it, he imagined. And that was not
characteristic of that isolationist race at all. The question was, was something
there that they wanted, or did they want to put something there? At least he
felt reasonably sure of Worf’s ability to command the Defiant in battle. He
wondered just how many ships the Klingon was facing, however. He hadn’t
asked Sisko to send for reinforcements, so he must have felt confident about
the situation. But the whole thing was making Sisko very edgy. Although it
was an outer planet, it was still way too close to DS9 and Bajor for comfort.

The Defiant came out of warp smoothly, and fell into a polar orbit, as
per log entries from the rescue mission, around the frozen planet. Worf
leaned forward in the Captain’s chair, anxious to get this salvage mission under
way. “Can you locate the runabout?” He asked Chief O’Brien, who was at the
con.
After establishing orbit, O’Brien got up and went to the weapons
console, where the tractor controls were located. He scanned the instruments
quickly. “This is odd.”
“Chief?”
“There’s some interference I can’t pinpoint, but I think I’m detecting
tectonic activity down there.” He adjusted some controls, trying to get a
clearer reading.
“Earthquakes? What about the Ganges?”
The frustration was beginning to show on O’Brien’s face. “This is
going to be tricky. The sensors aren’t responding like they should.” He
paused, concentrating. “I think I have it. There’s something there, but I can’t
tell if it’s the runabout. Locking tractor beam.”
Just then, the ship bucked. O’Brien accessed perimeter scans. “Damn.
A Jem ‘Hadar ship just decloaked and fired on us!”
Worf responded immediately, “Shields up! Hail the Jem ‘Hadar ship!”
O’Brien jumped back to the con, his instincts already in battle mode.
Without being told, he brought the ship around and powered up weapons.
“Phasers locked.” He squinted at his panel. “And we’re being hailed. No
response from the Jem ‘Hadar. It’s from the station.”
“Don’t acknowledge.”
“Sir?”
“Radio silence except for ship to ship.” The ship was hit again.
“Return fire!”
“Aye, sir.” Thinking quickly, O’Brien coded a short message and set it
to DS9’s sent frequency. He hoped he’d done it fast enough for the signal to
piggyback. Then he fired the phasers at the Jem ‘Hadar ship.
When the phasers had no effect, Worf said, “Photon torpedoes.”
O’ Brien fired a spread of three torpedoes at the Jem ‘Hadar fighter.
“Direct hit!” Even as he spoke, the Defiant was rocked again by incoming fire,
shot seconds before the torpedoes hit. “Our forward shield is down.”
“Keep our port side to them. Fire at will.”
“Aye, sir.”
Beams of energy criss-crossed in space, broken only by intermittent
photon bursts from the Defiant. O’Brien saw the opening he was waiting for.
The ship tilted, and for one unfortunate second, it’s phaser emitter was open.
He sent simultaneous torpedoes and phaser beams to that point, hitting the
emitter with full force. The explosion took out a large portion of their hull,
and the ship went silent. But a chain reaction had begun inside, and several
seconds later the engine core exploded as well, reducing the ship to a slowly
expanding debris field.
“Damage report.” Worf said.
“Forward shield is gone. Port shield is down to fifty percent. No hull
breech. No casualties.” It certainly helped that there was not a full crew
compliment aboard.
“Contact the station.”

Bashir was wakened by a shrieking alarm. He jumped up immediately
and raced into the infirmary, where he found Jake’s unconscious body
struggling against the restraints, in the throes of a seizure. Quickly, he grabbed
a hypo, then released the restraints and spread himself over Jake’s torso to hold
him down as he pressed the hypo against the boy’s neck. Slowly, he felt the
convulsions subside, and finally Jake was still again. Bashir was breathing
heavy from the sudden rush of adrenaline.
He took deep breaths to calm himself as he straightened. He opened
each of Jake’s eyes and peered at them. He couldn’t wait any longer. He had
to know what was going on in Jake’s brain. The scans could only tell him so
much. There appeared to be no serious damage, but that didn’t necessarily
mean there wasn’t any. The synaptic mapping had been inconclusive.
Julian turned to the next bed and noticed that Sisko wasn’t in it. He
tapped his communicator, “Bashir to Sisko.”
“Sisko here, Julian.”
“I’m ready to wake him up.”
“I’ll be right there.”
By the time Bashir had gathered the instruments to within easy reach,
Sisko came through the door. Bashir approached him. “Sir, before I do this, I
think I should warn you. There’s no way to know what might happen. Five
minutes ago, he was seizing. Not necessarily a bad sign, but not a good one,
either. I’m only going to wake him for a few minutes, to assess his brain
function.” He lead Sisko to the opposite side of the bed, “I want you to talk to
him soothingly. He might recognize you, he might not.” Sisko nodded
solemnly, and Bashir reached for the hypo, which he pressed gently against
Jake’s carotid artery.
“Jake,” Sisko said immediately, “I’m here. I’m right here for you. It’s
okay now. You’re safe. Everything’s going to be all right. Bashir is taking
care of you. There’s nothing to worry about.” Nothing had happened, and he
looked at Bashir worriedly. Bashir merely motioned for him to continue. “I
know you can hear me, Jake. We need you to wake up now. You’ve been
sleeping long enough. You’ll…” his voice cracked a bit, “you’ll be late for
school, you know.” Seeing the lack of response was difficult. He noticed
Bashir taking more readings, and preparing another hypo. “I love you, Jake.
Everything’s okay. You’re safe here. And warm. Don’t you feel warm now?
It’ll probably be awhile before you want ice cream again.” The attempt at
humor passed without comment.
Bashir placed the second hypo on the other side of Jake’s neck.
“C’mon, Jake,” he whispered himself, “you can do this.”
His eyelashes fluttered. A groan escaped his lips. His eyes opened,
blinking.
“Computer, reduce lighting to half,” Bashir said quietly.
The computer complied, and the light dimmed slightly. Jake opened
his eyes and looked around the room. He saw his father, and a smile curled
his lips. “Dad.”
Silent tears burst from Sisko’s eyes and ran down his cheeks. “Jake,”
he replied, swallowing the lump in his throat, “yes, I’m right here.” He took
Jake’s hand in his.
“Jake.” Bashir got Jake’s attention, was glad to see his head and eyes
turn. “Do you know who I am?”
“Doctor Bashir.” Jake said, tiredly.
Bashir went to the foot of the bed and pinched Jake’s bare foot. “Did
you feel that?”
“Yeah. Too tired to say ‘ouch’,” Jake said.
Bashir’s smile radiated. “That’s great, Jake.” He returned to the side of
the bed, “Jake, you’re going to go back to sleep now, but you’re going to be just
fine. You understand?”
Jake nodded sleepily, out even before Bashir used the last hypo.
Bashir took a deep breath of satisfaction, and met Sisko’s gaze. “He’ll
wake on his own in about six hours, hopefully hungry. And he’ll be weak for
several days. But there appears to be no permanent damage.”
Sisko looked down at his son, this time with much less worry. “I have
to get back to Ops. Thank you, Doctor.” Sisko returned to Ops, told Kira and
Dax the good news, then retreated to his office.

**I’m on the third phaser already. I stayed awake as long as I could but
I don’t want to drift off before heating the slab. That’s the major power drain.
I could probably reduce the surface area, but that would require using the
phaser, too, and I don’t thing it would be helpful overall. I’ve honed the water
heating to an art form, I think. I’m now able to fire the phaser directly at the
snow and bring it to an almost instant boil. It’s certainly become routine
enough. I only have one ration pack left, and I’m constantly hungry. But I’m
holding off. It’s hard, but I have to. I lost control once already and ate a whole
pack at one sitting. It helped for awhile, but I can’t help thinking how much
longer I’d have food if I hadn’t rushed through it like that. Partly it’s because
there’s not much to occupy my time. I have to stay awake as much as possible,
but there’s nothing to do but look out at the storm. Yes, the storm is still going
strong. I don’t know if this planet has longer days and I just haven’t seen the
sunset yet, or if the storm is blocking any noticeable light source. But there’s
nothing I can count to mark time. Except for my own heartbeat. I did that for
awhile. Actually got up to twelve hundred before I just lost interest. I’ve
attempted to sing every song I ever knew, including the alphabet. Anything to
keep going.
Dad, if you’re reading this, if I ever again complain to you that I’m
starving, please hit me. I’ve never known what that word meant until now. I’m
munching on the last ration pack now because I just got a real hunger pang.
Just a couple of pinches of dehydrated whatever it is and I’ll fold it up for later.
I was sitting here, thinking about what to write, when my stomach cramped up.
It seemed to last forever, and I huddled doubled over on the slab waiting for it
to go away. For awhile, I didn’t think it would. Nothing I’ve ever done, no
injury I’ve ever suffered hurt like that. Okay, I’ve put away the ration pack,
where I can’t see it. I guess I’ll just wait for the next hunger pang. I have to
wait. I have to. All I can think about is eating, though. I’m drinking more
water, and I always try to drink it while it’s as hot as I can stand it. That heat
feels so good. And then the cold comes back. Even in here, without the wind,
it’s so cold.
I can’t feel my feet. My fingers are stiff, but I think punching this
datapadd keeps what little blood flow they’ve got. I walk around some, but it
hurts. I try to do it even though it hurts. But that tires me out, which means
heating up the slab for sleep again. So I don’t know what to do. I don’t have
many resources, and everything seems wasteful now. I bet the Bajorans had to
deal with stuff like this during the Occupation. Are there any frozen
wastelands on Bajor? But I know they had to scrimp and save every morsel, at
least most of the time. I really admire Major Kira. And all the Bajorans, now.
They lived like this. Of course, they had people to talk to, but they lived like
this. I’m just going to die like this.
I didn’t mean that. I don’t want to die here. I’m so cold. Somebody
come. Please. **

Dax was walking down the promenade, heading back to the infirmary
to check on Jake’s progress, when Quark came running up alongside her. “Any
luck, Commander?”
It took her a couple of seconds to remember what he was referring to.
“Um, I’m sorry, Quark, but I’ve got work to do now.”
“And I’ve got a business to run, and an unmanned dabo wheel. And
you said you’d find someone.” He reminded her.
She stopped walking and gave him her attention. “I remember, Quark.
And I will find you a dabo man, but I’ve really got work to do. Why don’t you
put another girl there, temporarily, until I do find someone?”
Quark tilted his large head, “Well…..alright. Hey!” He brightened,
“That gives me a chance to advertise! Whoever gets this job, his first day is
going to bring in alot of business!” And he left, wringing his hands in glee.
Dax shook her head, but still felt a little guilty that she had only asked
one person so far. Just to add to her sense of accomplishment, she headed for
Garak’s tailor shop.
Garak greeted her as she entered, “Hello, Commander! What a
pleasure to have you in my establishment! What can I do for you? An evening
gown, perhaps? Or is it time for that wedding gown?”
Dax held her tongue. Her relationship with Worf was well known, but
how it was progressing was certainly not Garak’s business. “Not today, Garak.
I just have a question I need to ask you. Would you be interested in working
for Quark?”
“Quark?” Garak was taken aback.
“Yes. He wants a male dabo dealer. He started with Morn,” she
explained quickly, “but I told him he needed someone with more, um, sex
appeal. And he finagled me into helping him, so……” She let her voice drift
off, not even willing to make eye contact with Garak.
Garak smiled broadly, “sex appeal? And you came to me? I’m
flattered, Commander, really.” He folded some large pieces of cloth as he
spoke, “but I’m much too busy. I have my own business to attend to, afterall.”
“It wouldn’t have to be full time. You could arrange a schedule with
Quark, I’m sure, that would allow you to keep your tailor shop’s regular hours.”
There, that should fulfill her obligation to this candidate, she thought.
“Sorry, Commander.” Garak replied congenially, “but I’m really not
interested. Thank you for asking, though.”
Dax nodded her acceptance, and left the tailor shop, resuming her path
to the infirmary. She hadn’t gone far when her communicator beeped. “Sisko
to Dax. Report to Ops, please.”
“On my way.” She made an about face, and picked up her pace.
As she entered Ops, she was pleased to see Worf in his command chair
on screen, with O’Brien behind him. She slid into her science station
gracefully.
“The Jem ‘Hadar ship is destroyed and we are resuming the salvage
operation.” Worf was saying as she entered. “However, there seems to be
some unusual electro-magnetic interference in the area. We’re having trouble
pinpointing the Ganges and locking the tractor beam on it.”
“Yes.” Sisko agreed. “We noticed some interference as well. Once we
found Jake, of course, we didn’t stop to investigate.”
Dax spoke up, and directed her question to Worf. “Worf, can you send
us your sensor readings of the area where the runabout went down?”
“Of course, Commander.” He nodded, and O’Brien did so.
O’Brien added, “But I’m not sure they’ll be of much help. They appear
to be scrambled. I can’t seem to find the source of that interference, although
it must be massive to have this kind of range. It’s playing havoc with every
sensor array we’ve got.”
Dax’s brow furrowed as she read the incoming information. “He’s
right. None of this makes sense.”
Sisko seemed disappointed not to have an answer. “Keep trying, Chief.
We’ll see what we can do from this end. Sisko out.” The screen returned to its
normal view of local space, and Sisko again went to his office.
At the last minute, Dax rose to join him. As the door closed behind
her, she asked, “Benjamin, do you have that diary here?”
By that time, he had it in his hands, “Yes. Why?”
“I need to see what he wrote about the crash itself.”
Sisko began scrolling to find that section. “You have a theory?”
She sat in a chair opposite his desk and took the datapadd when he
offered it to her. “I’m not sure.” She scanned the few paragraphs.
Just then, Sisko’s communicator beeped. “Bashir to Sisko.”
“Sisko here. Go ahead, Doctor.” Dax lifted her head, also listening.
“Jake’s awake. I’m getting him a sandwich.”
Sisko silently thanked the Prophets. It was getting to be a habit, but it
was nice to have someone to thank. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Sisko out.”
“My God.” Dax said, as she resumed reading, and rose to show the
passage to Sisko. “Look. It’s all here! We’ve got a problem, Benjamin.” She
sank back into the chair, laying the padd on the desk.
Sisko picked it up and reread the section. “Would you care to explain?
I think I’m missing something.”
Dax apologized, “Sorry. You are. You haven’t compared the sensor
readings.” She slowed down and pointed to the padd. “Jake says the
insturments went haywire BEFORE the impact happened. We know they were
fired upon, but with what? No standard weapons would have that effect.”
Sisko hated the Socratic Method. “And what do the sensor readings
have to do with it? And what exactly is our problem?”
“I think the sensors are accurate; they’re just not showing us what we
expected. The readings O’Brien sent me show the Ganges at one and half
times its normal mass. That would be an intact runabout, not one minus the
debris we found in orbit when we found Jake. I think the Jem ‘Hadar shot
something into the runabout, something massive, causing it to crash on that
planet. Something like an incredibly strong electro-magnet. As it approached
the runabout, the systems reacted to the EM field.”
That was more like it. Sisko was following this explanation. “But how
did they know the runabout would be there? And why did they do it?”
Dax licked dry lips. “I think the runabout just got in the way. Or
became a convenient target, if the Jem ‘Hadar were watching and waiting. As
for why….” She paused, “O’Brien’s readings also show a slow, but exponential
increase in tidal forces. It’s already causing minor quakes. Another few days
to a week, and the planet could conceivable break apart or even shift orbit.”
“Causing a major gravitational disturbance throughout the solar
system.” Sisko finished.
“We have to get the Ganges, and that EM generator, off that planet.
The problem is, as the runabout gets tractored up, the Defiant’s system will
also react. They won’t be able to get a transporter lock on the generator to
beam it away, and if they bring it aboard, they could scramble the Defiant’s
computers worse than Eddington did.”
Sisko hit his comm badge. “Sisko to Ops. Kira, contact the Defiant.”

Jake, his skin now appearing his normal color, was sitting up weakly in
the biobed, eating the sandwich Bashir had given him. He wondered what was
keeping his Dad so busy. But Jake was sure he would be visiting soon. And
then, Jake knew, he would have to tell his father what he had done. He took
another bite, but the appetite he’d wakened with was gone. Thoughts of
Lieutenant Barry had come unbidden into his head. Instead of being hungry,
his stomach felt tight inside. He looked at the sandwich as if there might be
something wrong with it. He wished the ordeal was already in the distant
past. He didn’t look forward to the awkwardness that was sure to follow him
for at least several days. Awkwardness partly from his weakened condition,
but also from his own wondering what people were thinking. How much did
they know? Had they been close to Barry? Did they hate him for causing the
Lieutenant’s death? Did they feel sorry for him because of his brush with
mortality? Could they see the truth on his face? Then he remembered
something. “Doctor?”
“Yes, Jake?” Bashir asked from nearby, where he was logging Jake’s
progress.
“I was holding a datapadd. Where is it?”
“I believe your father has it. Should I ask him to bring it with when he
comes?” Bashir waited for a reply.
Jake thought about it for a moment. If he had it, he was no doubt
reading it. In a way, it made it easier. His Dad would know the facts. All
Jake would have to do is sit there and listen to a lecture. Very little
explaining. “No, thanks.” He finally replied. He took a drink of the milk
Bashir had also supplied, “I guess I don’t need it anymore.” The sandwich
slowly disappeared from his hand as he sat thinking about what he had written,
and how much of it his father had read. Well, he’d find out soon enough. If
things got rough, he could pretend to be suddenly very tired, which wouldn’t be
far from the truth, either. Under the blanket, Jake flexed his ankles and toes,
taking little joy in welcomming back sensation to his extremities.

Worf was again on the screen. O’Brien could be seen, still sitting at the
con in the foreground. Sisko and Dax had explained her theory, and O’Brien
admitted that it fit all the facts. “So what are our options?” Sisko asked of his
people. “We can’t leave it on the planet, and if we take it off, we’re
endangering both the ship and the station. I really don’t want to destroy the
runabout, either. Personally, I’d like to have that generator as evidence.”
“Then we’ll need to shut it down.” O’Brien stated. “That’s the only way
we could transport it safely. In an inactive state.”
“It’s under several feet of snow and probably ice. Do you know of any
way to accomplish that?”
“I could try to tractor it to the surface, then we’d have to send someone
down to deactivate the generator. Problem is, the transporters wouldn’t be
reliable. Not anymore. The field is too intense. We’d have to send down a
second runabout, which, as it nears the planet, would also lose control. The
pilot would have to survive a crash landing, as well as navigate from one crash
site to the other through blizzard conditions, without help. Communications
will be spotty at best, until the generator is deactivated. Then both runabouts,
with the pilot in the damaged one, could be tractored in.”
It really seemed to be the only way. “How can you ensure the pilot’s
safety in the landing? And make sure he or she doesn’t get lost on the way to
the other runabout?”
O’Brien gave a little smile at the “he or she” part. They both knew who
would be doing this. “The first part is easy. I’ll wear crash gear. The second
part, well….” He sighed, “I can rig some EM shielding around a tricorder, but
there’s no way to know if it’ll be strong enough to cut through the interference
at ground zero. But I can use a tether, to make sure I can at least find my way
back to the second runabout.”
“Sounds like a good plan, Chief. Keep us posted, Worf.” As he
climbed the steps to his office, Sisko wondered if O’Brien would be able to
pull if off, or if he would have to send yet another rescue mission. In the
meantime, he wanted to visit Jake in the Infirmary, but first he wanted to
finish reading the Diary. He sat at his desk and picked up the datapadd, which
still showed the passages Dax had looked at. He scrolled forward.

**The rations are gone. I’ve even licked the wrappings. There’s
nothing left. And I’m on the last phaser. Either some of them weren’t fully
charged when I took them, or I’ve been using them more than I realize. No
more phaser means no more hot water to drink to keep me warm. It’s a tough
choice. Do I drain the last phaser on one last cup of water, or use it on myself?
Even if I only stunned myself, at least I’d be unconscious before I froze to
death. I haven’t really slept in what seems like forever. I keep shivering.
Sometimes, I can’t make myself stop shivering. I could have prevented all this
if I’d just used that first phaser, before I even left the runabout. It would be
done now, and I wouldn’t be so hungry or cold. Well, I’d be cold, but it’s not
like I’d notice then. There are times when I find myself envying Lieutenant
Barry.
My fingers are so stiff, I’m having trouble using this datapadd. I don’t
think I’ll be able to write much more. I’m beginning to think it’s all pointless,
anyway. No one’s going to see this. No one’s going to find me. I’m sorry,
Dad. Damn it, if I cry my eyes will freeze! I can’t stand this anymore. All this
time I’ve tried to be disciplined, or maybe I was just accepting my punishment.
I don’t know. But there’s no fight left in me. I want to wrap myself up, and lay
down, and let whatever wants to happen happen. Then I think, they must be
close. I need to hang on a little longer. But that’s what I’ve been telling myself
since I got here. I get the feeling I’ve been lying. I’m sorry, Dad. I had so
much I still wanted to do. I mean, I know kids die everywhere, and it never
did seem right. But then, it never seems right for anyone to die, to me.
I want to keep trying. But I know it’s meaningless. I’m going to drain
the phaser now, and then I’m finished. **

Sisko raised an eyebrow. So what did he use the phaser on? He
scrolled a bit, but that’s all there was. Not even a “The End”. Just nothing. He
may have heated that one last cup of water. Without a time index, it was
equally possible that he had stunned himself shortly before being found. Sisko
didn’t want to think about it. Leaving the padd on his desk, he went into Ops.
“I’ll be in the Infirmary, if you need me, Major.”
“Aye, sir.”
Sisko had occasion to smile, for when he entered the Infirmary he saw
Jake sitting up, chatting with Dr. Bashir. “Dad!” He called cheerily.
“Well, you’re looking much better!” Sisko said, grinning broadly as he
came up to tousle the boy’s hair.
Bashir was also smiling. “He’s still weak, but I’ll release him
tomorrow. You’ve got quite a son, Captain.” With that, and a brief touch of
Sisko’s shoulder, Bashir retreated to his office to give father and son privacy.
Sisko pulled up a chair and sat at the bedside. “He’s right, you know.
I’ve got quite a son.”
Jake blushed. “Aw, Dad. Don’t.” The smile faded, as did the light in
his eyes. “It’s not true.”
“Who says?”
Jake hesitated, but still didn’t raise his eyes. “I say. And you know it. I
know you read it.”
Sisko tried to catch his sons eyes with his own, but finally had to use a
finger under his chin. “You did a good job, with that diary. Let me tell you
something.” And Sisko explained to his son what they had discovered, and
how his description of the events leading up to the crash played a major part.
He could tell that Jake was trying not to show any emotion on his face. It was
rigid throughout Sisko’s story. “Only Dax and I have read it. I want you to
know that. No one else will ever see it.”
“But what about…..what I did?”
Had he even listened? Sisko put his hands on Jake’s shoulders and
pulled him to face him, legs dangling off the edge of the bed, brushing against
Sisko’s own legs. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Jake. In fact, you did
everything right. You couldn’t have avoided the crash. If anything, Barry
caused his own death by not preparing himself as you did. Then you
documented everything. And you stayed alive so that we could find you.
Those are two big, important accomplishments. Do you understand me?”
Jake’s eyes were moist with tears. He didn’t speak, but nodded very
slightly.
Sisko pulled his son close, and held him. After a few moments, he
sensed his son had collected himself, and helped him settle back into the bed.
His voice, when he spoke, was so soft Sisko had to lean in close to hear him.
“Did you finish?”
“The Diary?” Sisko shrugged, “Got too busy. And there’s no reason to
read the rest of it now, is there?” He saw that Jake was falling asleep. “I’ll just
go ahead and delete it.”
“No.”
“No?”
Jake’s eyes were closed. “A writer never deletes anything. Save it for
me.”
Pulling the blanket up over his son, Sisko whispered, “I’ll do that.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Worf asked through the comm as Chief
O’Brien prepared the Orinoco for launch. The Ganges had been tractored
successfully to the surface, and it was now up to the Chief to deactivate the
electro-magnetic generator.
“Have some hot chocolate ready for me when I get back.” O’Brien
answered. “And I want marshmallows. The big ones.”
Worf was not sure if O’Brien was having fun or was serious. “You are
cleared for launch. No other vessels are detected in the area.”
“Aye, sir. Launching runabout. I’ll contact you when I’ve deactivated
the generator.”
“And if you are unable to find the Ganges?” As commander, Worf had
to ask questions like this.
O’Brien considered it. “If you haven’t heard from me in half an hour,
tractor up the Orinoco.” The implications of that statement hung in the air.
That would mean the generator was still operational. And the Chief himself
may or may not be inside the ship. If he was not, he may be pulled along
behind on the tether, or not be there at all.
A few minutes later, the Orinoco cleared the docking bay doors and
came about to descend to the planet. The flight was smooth until he hit
atmosphere, when high winds began buffeting the small ship. But O’Brien was
safe, already sealed inside an environmental suit and helmet. It was indeed
difficult to maintain a level flight. Even with an undamaged ship, O’Brien had
his hands full. He managed to steer toward the coordinates of the downed
Ganges before the readings began to fluctuate. The ground came up
unexpectedly and the Orinoco landed roughly on the planet. O’Brien felt his
helmet bang against the wall, and was grateful it wasn’t his head. When the
ship was still, it was only a relative term. An irregular rocking marked the
passage of a strong wind.
O’Brien unstrapped himself and pulled out the modified tricorder. The
generator was detected, now all he had to do was get there. Grabbing a phaser
and his toolkit, he opened the side door, cringing instinctively from the
snowstorm, and attached the tether mounted just outside the door to a secure
ring on his belt. He stepped out and let the door close, watching the tricorder.
Keeping his eyes on the screen, he stepped forward, feeling himself sink to his
knees with each step. After several steps, he looked up and around. It was
already as if he were alone. The runabout behind him was no more visible
than the one he hoped was in front of him. He put his free hand on the tether
to reassure himself, and moved forward again. He had to brush snow off the
tricorder’s viewscreen.
The cold was creeping through the environmental suit. Even it was not
impervious to these temperatures. After about ten minutes of walking, O’Brien
was getting worried that either the tether would run out or he had lost his way.
On the next step, the readings on the tricorder began to fluctuate. He stopped
dead in his tracks to make sure he’d seen it. It had to be close. Two more
steps and the tricorder was useless. He slung it over his shoulder. And then
another step, and dread filled him as the tether line went taut.
“Okay.” He told himself.
He reached out his arm as far as he could, stretched and turned his
torso to extend his reach, and maybe he was imagining it, but he thought he
felt a solid wall on the tips of his fingers. Hoping he was right, he reached
down and detached the tether, hanging on to the clip with one hand, he
reached out with the other again, and definitely felt a wall. He gave the tether
a quick pull, then let go. It retracted into the whiteness. Then he followed the
wall around. He recognized the rear end of the shuttle as he passed it, and
came around to the other side, where he gasped. There was a hole in the side
big enough for him to go through, stooping, which he immediately did. The
hole led into the small cargo area.
There, against the far wall, O’Brien found the machine. He rushed to it.
It wasn’t anything he was familiar with, but if he could interface Cardassian
technology with Federation he could do anything. Examining it quickly, he
tried to determine the best way to turn it off. It was the size of a replicator,
with a panel of blinking lights, and another panel of pressure sensitive
controls. The markings were all in an odd language, whatever the Jem ‘Hadar
wrote in, apparently. He was glad this wasn’t a bomb that might explode if he
did the wrong thing. It was just a machine, and the Jem ‘Hadar had meant for
it to continue working. At worst, the abort would be keyed to a voiceprint. In
that case, there would be little he could do except destroy it. He had a phaser
attached to the suit in case that was necessary, but an intact machine was
naturally preferred. He wondered how much time had passed.
The runabout shook violently as a quake ripped through the area.
O’Brien fell to his knees and waited for the quake to pass. It was only a mild
tremor. So far. But from his new eye level, he spotted something he hadn’t
seen before. An access panel. He pulled out his toolkit and had the panel
open in short order. Now this was what he understood. His trained eye
followed the connections and bypasses inside, found failsafes and
redundancies, and he smiled inside his helmet. Switching tools, he poked his
hands inside.
Soon, the lights were no longer blinking. He checked the tricorder and
found normal readings. He fell against the wall and hit his communicator.
“O’Brien to Defiant. Mission accomplished.”
There was no answer.

High in orbit, Worf heard the message. “Lieutenant Paza, fire at will.”
He said.
Lieutenant Paza, sitting at the con, fired full phaser banks at the Jem
‘Hadar ship dodging in front of the Defiant. They missed and faded off into
space. “Sorry, sir.”
Worf would have to speak to the Lieutenant about apologizing in the
midst of battle. Also for apologizing when it was not necessary. Even with
phaser lock, shots sometimes missed. The best the computer could do was
anticipate a ship’s most likely movement. Sometimes, a ship performed an
unexpected move and avoided being hit. “Photon spread.” He commanded.
“Target the engine core.”
He had no time for niceties, such as disabling the ship. This enemy had to be
disposed of quickly.
“Aye, sir.” He turned abruptly, “Sir, they’re retreating! Should we
persue?”
Worf saw that Paza was correct. The enemy ship was turning away,
and as they watched, went into warp and disappeared. “No. They detected the
deactivation of the generator and realized their plot had been discovered.” He
surmised. “Let them return home to announce their failure.” But that was all
the time he gave to that. “Activate tractor beams.”

Benjamin Sisko walked around the runabout, now sitting in docking
bay 4, amazed at the amount of wreckage. Chief O’Brien, finally getting a
good look at it himself, whistled. “Will you look at that…”
“Let’s get that generator out here,” Sisko said.
Together, they entered through the imploded hull and hefted the heavy
machine slowly out to the cargo bay floor. It was hard to believe that
collection of metal and wire was responsible for the damaged runabout, a
man’s death, and had the potential to destroy a solar system. “Dax tells me the
planet’s finally stablized. The tectonic plates have found a new configuration,
but the orbit wasn’t affected in an appreciable way.”
“That’s good news, sir.” O’Brien replied. “So what happens next?”
Sisko paused, thinking, we pick up where Jake left off. “We document
everything. Get complete scans of this thing, right down to replication detail if
necessary. That, and Defiant’s logs will go into my report to Starfleet.” He
sighed, “I’m not sure what they’ll do with it. It’s not like we can prosecute the
Jem ‘Hadar.” He straightened from a slouch he hadn’t realized he had, “But
knowledge is power, so they say. The technology might be useful for
something other than destruction.”
“In a scrap yard, maybe.” O’Brien muttered. “I’ll start those scans.” He
went off to get his tools.

Later, Dax, Sisko and Jake sat at Quark’s Bar. “Three synthales.”
Sisko ordered.
“Three?” Jake asked.
“Sure. I can drink two.” Sisko winked at his son, and was pleased to
see the smile light up his face. “You’ve earned it, Jake.”
In a moment, Quark arrived with the three drinks and placed two in
front of Sisko and one in front of Dax. Sisko pushed one of the glasses to his
son. Jake looked at it uncertainly, then lifted it to his lips and sipped. It was
stronger than he expected and he coughed a bit, but it tasted good.
Quark stepped over to Dax. “Didn’t you say you’d found someone for
me?” He asked as he wiped the bar top.
“Yes, I did.” She said proudly. “He’s perfect. He’s strong, and brave,
and recently proved himself in battle. Women will be clamoring to play dabo
at his table.”
Quark looked disappointed. “Commander, I really don’t think
Commander Worf is what I had in mind. He’s a Klingon. Klingon’s intimidate
people. Intimidation just isn’t good for business.”
She smiled slyly. “It isn’t Worf.” She hadn’t even asked Worf.
“Well, who else is strong, brave and proves himself in battle?”
Still smiling, Dax nodded her head to the left.

“Jake?!” Quark spurted. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Quark, he’s a celebrity right now. He survived almost a week in a
frozen wasteland and lived to tell the tale. And lots of people will want to hear
it.”
“He’s proved himself in battle?” Quark was skeptical.
Dax turned serious. “Yes. He battled a lot of things while trying to
stay alive, Quark. Hunger, thirst, even death itself.”
“What does his father say?”
Jake spoke for himself now. “He said I could try it for a week. Not
full-time, or anything. Just until I get my strength back. After that, we’ll see.”
Next to him, Sisko nodded in agreement.
Quark gave him the once over, acted reluctant to give in. “Well, all
right. Right this way.” He came out from behind the bar and showed Jake to
the dabo wheel, telling the girl he had put there to return to her previous job of
wiping tables. She pouted, but did so.
Dax and Sisko watched from the bar as Quark gave Jake a crash course
in the operation of a dabo wheel, and slowly players began migrating from
other tables to his. Sisko had quite a son.

THE END

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