A JEM'HADAR ATTACK SHIP, its rear section badly damaged with plasma venting from the damaged warp nacelles, continued on its erratic course towards the planet. The Federation starship Athena was in close pursuit of the crippled ship, still attempting to capture the vessel while dodging the futile final blasts from the doomed ship's weapons.
      "Still out of tractor beam range," tactical officer Henrietta Vorwoorts remarked, as she continued to attempt to lock on to the fatally-damaged ship.
      Damiko Matsubara, the science and sensor officer, continued to scan the crippled vessel, which was using the last of its impulse power on evasive manoeuvres. "The warp core has stabilized, but the interior of that ship is barely sustaining life support. We might have to switch to environmental suits if we board."
      The captain, Leonard Thorpe, leaned forward in his seat, said, "I'm hoping it will not come to that. Perhaps we can beam out the Vorta." He glanced sideways at the intelligence officer sitting to his right. T'Kor simply looked back, showing no expression. "If at least we get him, we know the information will not fall into the wrong hands."
      "I don't know," Matsubara remarked. "It's making a dead run for the planet. I don't think they're going to try to establish orbit."
      "Transporter range?" asked Thorpe.
      "Still outside of transporter range. The Jem'Hadar's still showing residual shields."
      "We can't risk getting closer," pilot Sanjay Indesakar remarked, "or else we'll follow them right into the planet."
      "But we've got to keep up the pressure."
      Matsubara added, "The Jem'Hadar ship will enter the atmosphere in ten seconds." By now, the planet, a dusty world that was barely Class-M, was large and growing on the viewscreen, and the Jem'Hadar attack ship was almost lost within the glare of the planet. Thorpe knew that as the Athena continued to accelerate on its impulse engines, in an attempt to intercept the enemy ship, they were running the risk of having too much momentum to pull out of the gravity well if they passed beyond a certain point. The Jem'Hadar ship, without weapons and knowing that its existence rested on the sole fact that Thorpe wanted to capture it and not destroy it, had no chance to somehow deceive the Federation ship and enter orbit.
      "Any attempt to break our jamming signals?" Thorpe asked.
      "Negative," Matsubara replied brusquely.
      "Five seconds."
      Indesakar looked up at the viewscreen. The planet was so large that it spilled over the edges of the viewscreen, and now one of the brown continents, with only some patchy green, was visible The Jem'Hadar ship was more visible by the gases and plasma that it was emitting than the hull of the ship itself. The pilot was getting very nervous as he saw the speed and the distance to the surface. "Sir," the man mumbled nervously. He could violate orders and keep themselves alive, he quickly thought.
      T'Kor remarked, "Be warned, sir, but the Jem'Hadar soldiers and the Vorta are likely to deceive us by beaming off just before the ship explodes, and hope we will believe they died when the ship did."
      "Entering the atmosphere now!" Matsubara remarked.
      Of course, as the Jem'Hadar ship slammed into the atmosphere, they would travel through it in just seconds, and in the process the shields would be overwhelmed and the hull would quickly follow. On the viewscreen, Thorpe could see an explosion, a tiny dot of reddish fire against the glare of the brown and blue planet, and then he ordered, "Helm, hard to port!" He swore that Indesakar was turning the ship even before he gave the order. He just hoped that through the strain of the turn, Matsubara was able to keep the sensors locked on the possible beam-down points. The Athena groaned as it suddenly found itself moving across a gravitational well, and several of the alert tones sounded. One that Thorpe recognized was that that the structural integrity field was stressed, and the second was that the inertial dampers were being pushed to the limit.
      "We're holding," remarked chief engineer Rodall Dewuchun. "But barely." The viewscreen flared momentarily as the Athena skipped through the atmosphere and then shot back into space.
      "Take us back, quickly," Thorpe ordered. "Matsubara?"
      "The energy of the exploding starship disguised their transport beams, if any, but at least we can narrow down matters to several hundred square kilometres on the surface."
      "Do we search for them?" Vorwoorts asked.
      "Do we have any choice?" T'Kor replied.
      Thorpe glanced quickly at the intelligence officer, who was again giving orders, and said, somewhat more quietly, "Unfortunately, I must concur."
      As Indesakar guided the ship back into a low, powered orbit over the position where the Jem'Hadar ship exploded-and the debris and explosive cloud were still visible-Matsubara reported, "I'm reading no lifeforms on the surface, but that, of course, does not mean they're not down there. We can't read Jem'Hadar through their personal cloaking devices from the ship."
      "But would a Vorta have one?" Vorwoorts asked.
      "He would if he wanted to hide."
      "We'll need to pinpoint the location, the best guess on where the Dominion soldiers could attempt to hide," Thorpe started. "Then we'll have to attempt to flush them out."
      "Risky," T'Kor agreed.
      "Unfortunately, yes, but this is war..."