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Rush Limborg August 20 2012 07:03 AM

August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri Dax
 
Special thanks to GatorDASH, for this month's contest theme.

Okay, folks...let me begin on an odd note: You know...sometimes, I can't help but wonder if the TrekLit novelists enjoy wierding me out. In this case, I'm referring to the revelation in the latest Typhon Pact novel, Raise The Dawn, that--



Oy, my head is spinning.... Fortunately, the book also gave the impression that said caveat is not to be accepted without question--to say the least.

Anyway--other than the question of, "Well...why didn't we see this 'revelation' play out, instead of DRGIII just giving it a passing mention?"...well, I find it just--wierd.

But...what is especially eerie, to be honest...is how well it fits into my own tales! Namely--my latest Ezri "epic", "Our Sacred Honor", which you can read here. (Of course...this is based on the assumption that Sarina is leading Julian on a merry chase, with this 'revelation'....)

Anyhow...this story is, in part, my working the revelation into my universe--along with my general arc of our beloved Ezri's struggle to bring about a reconcilation with Julian Bashir--despite all the obstacles TrekLit seems to insist on throwing in the poor girl's direction....

(Frankly, I won't be the least bit suprised if the upcoming novel Brinkmanship has Ezri note that she hasn't seen Julian since ZSG. *sigh*)

NOW--the fourth major character in this tale, one Cynthia Mirabelle Holland, is the heroine of my "From Risa With Love." You can read the story here--and, um...if you haven't read it already, and don't want to be spoiled (and you WILL be, if you read this one, first)--I strongly recommend you stop here, and read "From Risa" first.

(I must also warn that there are some spoilers for "Our Sacred Honor"--but they're decidedly less severe, I suppose....)


Okay! Now, with that out of the way...this story is set shortly after Raise The Dawn, probably some months after my "Our Sacred Honor".

The title is, of course, a reference to Elvis Presley's hit. The song itself is very appropriate--the lyrics appealing quite well to Ezri's conflict in this tale. (I felt I could get away with Ezri playing the tune, due to Alexander Siddig's cute description of her as a "rock chick". ;))

Word count: 10,000 words. (Woo! Talk about cutting it close! :))

Enjoy!


Star Trek
Aventine

"Suspicious Minds"



Ezri Dax stepped into her quarters…at the end of a trying day.

Trying…she felt as though her mind had been pulled in ten different directions, today. Ezri rubbed her closed eyes. At least it was over. At least she could focus on one thing—one! A book, maybe with music in the background—

Ezri froze, lowering her hand. She knew, without any proof…she was not alone.

“Computer—lights,” she said.

They came on, nighttime level…and Ezri saw another woman, standing against the wall, an arm folded across her chest, her other hand closed and pressed against her mouth, in patience and in thought.

When the room brightened, she straightened up, smiling, nodding respectfully at Ezri. “Captain Ezri Dax, I presume?” she asked, her soft, light voice having the air of a French accent.

Ezri blinked, taking everything in. The other woman was clad in a black leather one-piece suit and boots. It was pretty obvious what she was.

Ezri kept her voice even, as she said, “Well, I didn’t think I’d ever get a visit from you people.”

The young woman—well, actually, she seemed about Ezri’s own age, if not a little older—shrugged, and her smile turned amused. “Underestimating your importance, Captain?”

Ezri shrugged. “Well, it’s just…I didn’t think I was on the radar of Section 31.”

The woman chuckled. “After your trial before the Council? No…truly, Captain, you have impressed a great many persons—if it’s not too disquieting for you to hear.”

Ezri gave her a smile of her own. “Well…that’s one way of putting it.”

“Mm-hmm!” The other girl beamed, as she stepped forward, extending a hand. “My name is Cynthia Mirabelle Holland. It is a pleasure, Captain, to meet you in person.”

Ezri slowly took the hand, shaking it. “Well, um…thank you?”

Holland chuckled, as they released hands. “May we sit down?”

Ezri scoffed, shaking her head. “You’re asking my permission? After basically just—breaking in?”

“Oh—!” Holland actually seemed to blush a little. “Well…you’ll forgive me, Captain, but—as a rule, we prefer to be noticed by as few as possible.”

Ezri nodded, still smiling. “I’m sure you do.”

“As it is…consider my asking to be a—making of amends, if you will.”

Ezri shrugged. “Fair enough, I guess….”

She walked over to her desk, taking her seat. “I don’t suppose you locked down this thing?” she asked, pointing to her computer console.

Holland shrugged, as she pulled up a chair of her own, sitting down. “Standard precaution, Captain. You can try—however…no one will hear. And…your combadge won’t work, either—not until I leave this room.”

Ezri nodded, let out a sigh, and leaned back in her seat. Just to make sure, she tapped her combadge. No chirp—no signal.

She looked at the slender girl for a moment, taking in her existence. She couldn’t help but notice that Curzon would have found her a high-priority target: wildly beautiful and bewitchingly mysterious—with the flowing golden hair, soft face, rich lips, dark green eyes, and all the “proportions”. The sweet, vulnerable air, Ezri imagined, would only enhance her appeal to most men—if her own experience was any indication. Still, it was painfully obvious that this woman’s personality channeled it differently: a bit more…proactively.

Talk about a “femme fatale”! I guess it’s not hard to guess what some of her methods of “intelligence gathering” might be….

Holland looked off. “I did not lock down the replicators. Would…you care for some tea, Captain?”

“Well, I guess that depends,” Ezri said, an eyebrow rising, “You’re not going to drug it, are you?”

Holland blinked—and laughed. “Well…of course not, Captain! We’ve barely talked, have we?”

Ezri nodded. “Point taken. I’m partial to Fanalian tea, personally.”

Cynthia nodded, rose, and walked over to the replicator. “Two Fanalian teas, with…” she turned to Ezri, “Sugar?”

Ezri smiled. “Guess you haven’t had that tea in a while.”

“Oh?”

“Fanalian tea leaves are naturally sweet. If you add any more, you’ll probably get a sugar rush, or something.”

“Oh—I see!” Holland chuckled again, in slight embarrassment. To the computer, she said, “That’s all—just the teas.”

Two empty cups on saucers, with a teapot, materialized. Cynthia Holland took them all like a professional, and brought it to the desk, setting the saucers and cups down—one before Ezri, the other where she would sit. She then poured the tea for both, and set the pot aside. She sat down, taking her cup, and sipped.

Ezri beamed. “See what I mean?”

Holland returned the smile, and nodded. “Indeed!”

Ezri took a sip of her own, and asked, “Well, Miss Holland—what can I do for you?”

Holland shrugged. “Well, first…may I be perhaps the first of my organization to offer a belated ‘congratulations,’ Captain?”

“Well…for what?”

“Oh, for the outcome of your hearing, some months ago. Understand, there was a…significant concern that you would be condemned by the Council for—how shall I put it?—doing what was necessary.”

Ezri frowned. It had been quite a while since she’d allowed herself to look back on those memories—being brought before the Council, on charges brought up by the Breen—trumped up charges, eventually exposed to be all part of a frame-up….

It feels so long ago—and yet…

Ezri shrugged. “So you people were on my side, I take it?”

Holland returned the shrug, “Many of us were. As I recall…your address was quite impressive. And very true. Quite a relief, amidst all the—forgive me…moralist platitudes we are used to hearing.”

“Well…thank you—I guess,” Ezri replied, making sure to keep from reacting. The truth was…she was more than a little disturbed at the idea of an agency like Section 31 interpreting her words as a sanction….

“Truly,” Cynthia continued, “I feel I must compliment you, Captain—on many things. For one—I understand you are the…youngest—”

“—Captain in Starfleet history,” Ezri muttered, with a tired sigh. “Yeah, I…hear that a lot.”

“Nonetheless, it is very impressive—as is your record as Captain. I would imagine the pressures must be quite extensive!”

Ezri shrugged. “Well, it depends, I guess. I mean…I’d imagine you’ve faced a lot of pressures, as an agent.”

Cynthia chuckled, smiling so that white showed. “Touché, Captain! And you’re right, of course.”

Ezri nodded, as she finished her cup.

Holland noticed. “Oh—another?”

Ezri smiled. “It’s all right, I can get it,” she said, as she reached for the pot, and poured herself another cup.

“Still,” Holland added, “It has many rewards.”

Ezri chuckled. “I’d think it’d be kind of risky.”

“Oh, it is! But…there is an appeal to it. Have you ever been an actress, Captain?”

Ezri shrugged. “There was a drama team at the Academy I was a part of.”

Holland smiled, again showing perfect-looking white. “As was I, Captain!”

Ezri returned the smile. “No kidding!”

Holland shook her head, and went on in a slightly dreamy tone, “Anyway…I’m sure you can understand, then? The…sense of glamor it brings—using the imagination, taking it to such heights…”

Ezri chuckled, nodding. “So—that’s how you see your job, I take it?”

“In part—when I’m in the ‘field,’ as it were.”

Ezri nodded again…and found herself looking at the other girl again—in mild amazement, this time.

“You know,” she said, “You’re…not at all like I expected—from you people.”

Cynthia Holland smiled. “Too…?”

Ezri found herself smiling a little. “Too—well, innocent, I guess.”

Holland’s eyes widened, and she chuckled. “Familiar choice of words, Captain?”

Ezri blushed a little. “Point taken. Still…” she stared at the other girl for a moment, studying her. “Miss Holland, you…you kind of strike me as—well, kind of a romantic.”

Cynthia chuckled again. “Another familiar word?”

Ezri shrugged. “Maybe. But—if you are, then…what in I’nora’s name are you doing…?”

“…with the Bureau?” Holland gave a shrug of her own. “Well…I suppose calling it a ‘long story’ could sound a little…trite?”

Ezri sighed. “All right…point taken.”

“Suffice it to say, Captain,” Holland added, “There are times, I feel, when…fate chooses a path for us—to take, accept, and embrace.”

“I…suppose that’s true. But—Miss Holland—”

“Oh,” Holland shrugged, “Please—‘Cynthia’.”

Ezri chuckled. “You must be used to making friends pretty fast!”

The other girl smiled.

Ezri shrugged. “All right, Cynthia…you still haven’t answered my question.”

“Oh? Which one?”

Ezri returned the smile. “What brought you here. You’re not expecting me to think you just showed up to…send me your best wishes, or something—are you?”

Cynthia chuckled, and shook her head. “No…I wouldn’t insult your mind like that.”

“Thanks. So, what is it?”

Cynthia Holland paused for a moment, and rose to her feet, taking the teapot. As she refilled her cup—and Ezri’s—she said, “You’re correct, Captain. We do require your services, for something.”

Ezri shook her head, amused. “Well, I—guess I’d be lying, if I said I’d be glad to help….”

“And you’re wise not to do so,” Cynthia replied. “I’d be aware of it.”

Ezri tilted her head. “Not surprising?”

“No…we’re aware of your sympathies—or…lack of sympathy, really—as far as the Bureau is concerned. You are an…idealist, Captain—if you don’t mind my saying this.”

Ezri frowned. “Well, you don’t strike me as pretty cynical, Miss Holland.”

“Perhaps not. However…that’s only a part of it.”

“Okay…?” Ezri took her cup, and sipped her tea, as she looked up at Cynthia, still awaiting her answer.

It looked as though it was the other girl’s turn to study, standing before the desk…looking down at Ezri, seated across it from her.

“Tell me, Captain,” she said, “Do you still…”

Ezri frowned. “Pardon?”

Holland actually blushed again. “I—I mean…” she sighed, “I am…sorry, Captain. It…it was probably too personal—”

“Hold on a minute,” Ezri smiled, amused despite herself, “I’m going out on a limb, here, and guessing it’s something important.”

“It…well—it is, but…”

Ezri chuckled. “Well! An agent of Section 31, afraid of asking too personal a question? Come on, Cynthia—you’re not afraid of me, are you?”

Cynthia, stiffened, as she met Ezri’s gaze. “All right…if you wish.”

Ezri’s smile faded…as she braced herself.

Holland swallowed—and said, “It involves…Dr. Julian Bashir.”

Ezri’s heart skipped a beat at the name…and slowly, she rose to her feet.

“Excuse me?” she asked, her voice low and quiet.

Holland sighed. “Specifically—I…understand you once were…deeply—well, were very close, and—”

Ezri blinked…and she felt cold inside, with fear. “What happened? Is…” she swallowed, and managed to make herself go on, “…Did something happen to him?—is—”

Holland shook her head. “No…not really. But—I understand the two of you, are…well, at the very least, attempting to reconcile, of a sort…despite his—current relationship with…”

“What—what’s your point?”

Holland looked as though it were a struggle to meet Ezri’s gaze—but meet it she did. “Captain…I—it must be…I would imagine, quite difficult. Assuming, of course, that you still…still feel for him….”

Ezri sighed, as she sat back down, her gaze lowered. “What do you care?” she muttered.

Holland gave a sigh of her own—not a tired one…but sad, sympathetic…almost—compassionate? “I—I know, Captain. What it feels…”

Ezri looked up. “Do you?”

Holland nodded. “Yes….”

Ezri shook her head. “That must’ve been hard for you—your job, and all that.”

“It was. You see—”

Holland cut herself off…and her lip tightened. She broke her gaze.

Ezri frowned, concerned despite herself. “Miss Holland, is something wrong?”

The other girl straightened up, and said, “I…well, the doctor—and I…”

Well, now! Ezri raised an eyebrow in bitter amusement. “Really? When was that?”

Holland looked off for a moment…and swallowed. “On Risa. Some—some months after you—and he had…”

Ezri nodded, looking off, pursing her lips.

“For…for what it’s worth, Captain, I…suspect he partly fell for me out of a desire to…recover.”

Ezri sighed, and smiled sadly at the other girl. “No, it’s…it’s all right. That’s—understandable. It’s just…” she chuckled, “A—bit of a shock, I guess.”

“Well…” Cynthia smiled a little, “I suppose that’s understandable, as well.”

Ezri nodded. “So! You two were…close?”

Holland shrugged. “Well—in a way, I suppose. We…cared about one another.”

Ezri smiled. “Despite 31?”

Holland nodded.

“Did he…find out?”

Holland snorted. “Quite soon, to be honest! I was posing simply as an SI operative, and recruited him on a mission…”

“On Risa?” Ezri’s smile grew.

“On Risa. And, well…” Holland blushed, “He—he’s quite clever.”

Ezri nodded, still smiling. “He certainly is. But—” she frowned, looking at Holland questioningly, “The relationship—was it before or…after he found out?”

Holland’s eyes glinted. “Both.”

Ezri’s eyes widened in astonishment. “So—when he did…”

“Oh, he was…understandably angered.”

“Understandably.”

“But, he…” Holland smiled warmly, at the memory, “He saved my life, soon after.”

“He…forgave you?”

“In a way. It wasn’t that long after we’d met. And…” her smile grew, “That was not our only assignment, together.”

Ezri shook her head, chuckling internally at the idea. She found herself starting at the other girl…looking her up and down. “It must’ve been good….”

Ezri Dax wasn’t, as a rule, in the habit of making barbs like that—it had been more up Jadzia’s alley—but under the circumstances…

Holland blushed at it. “Well—it wasn’t just that. He…well, I felt—still feel…as though he understood me—saw me as me…if that…”

Ezri nodded. “Yes…” she said quietly. “It does make sense.”

“Despite who—what I am…” Cynthia shook her head in what looked almost like bewilderment, smiling at what had been.

Ezri recognized that look—of wonder, of romantic nostalgia. She saw it so often in the mirror, whenever she caught herself thinking of…of simpler times.

And someone like her—all right, like me—with Section 31? My goodness…there, but for the grace of I’nora

“Maybe,” Ezri said quietly, “He found himself looking beyond that. Maybe he knew you reached him in a way he needed—and…maybe you helped him, because of that.”

Cynthia looked at her. “You…you do understand!”

Ezri sighed. “Cynthia…I’ve known for quite a while, how much it hurt him—and me.”

Cynthia’s gaze fell. “I…I’m sorry.”

Ezri stiffened, suddenly remembering. “I don’t suppose you’re going to use that for something.”

Cynthia blinked, meeting her gaze. “What—use it?”

Ezri shrugged. “Well, I don’t know—he’s got someone right now, didn’t you know that? Sarina Doug—”

Ezri cut herself off…and she froze. Something Miss Holland had said a few minutes ago—something that hadn’t registered, then…

She slowly rose to her feet, her eyes lowered…as the connections became clear. Of course…I should have guessed.

“You were posing as an SI operative,” she muttered, “…and recruited him.”

Holland frowned. “Captain…?”

Ezri chuckled, shaking her head. And I thought it was just jealousy! But—but, somehow, I knew it, didn’t I?

Rush Limborg August 20 2012 07:03 AM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
She remembered—on Earth, in her cell, that night, as Sarina Douglass questioned her. Ezri had brought up the other girl’s superiors—at SI. And…and Sarina’s reaction, so brief, barely noticeable—as though she were caught off guard…

She remembered Simon—and what he had said, after the Breen mission: I’m just concerned for him, about the whole thing. Just—something about that girl…”

Ezri looked up, across the desk at Cynthia. “So—second time, or something?”

Holland blinked. “I…beg your pardon?”

“Sarina Douglass—she’s one of yours, isn’t she?”

Cynthia stiffened. “I—Captain, you must understand, I cannot speak for the rest of the Bureau.”

“The…rest?”

“I’m an agent of Section 31, Division Seven.”

Ezri blinked. “There…are divisions?”

Cynthia chuckled. “Surely you didn’t think we were one giant…cluster, Captain!”

Ezri shrugged, “Well, I…don’t really know.”

“We’re divided into divisions—cells, if you will—one director apiece. Each one runs their division as their own…and every time we discover a significant threat to the Federation—”

“All the directors meet, and the problem’s brought before ‘The Commission’,” Ezri said, dryly.

Holland shrugged, “More or less. But the point is, Captain—assuming that Miss Douglass is with the Bureau…” she smiled, “Officially—I would not know of it, unless our paths would be required to cross.”

Ezri returned the smile. “Well, officially, you people don’t exist in the first place.”

Holland beamed. “As you say, Captain.”

“But…unofficially?”

Holland shrugged. “Well—some of us have our suspicions, but—really, I cannot say.”

Can’t—or won’t? But then…it’s like she led me here, to this conclusion about Sarina—in the first place. I…I wonder…

Was this just a red herring? After all—with what could well have been Holland pressing to know the extent of Ezri’s feelings…could this just be Section 31 using those feelings for their own agenda?

And yet…and yet, looking at this woman, Cynthia Mirabelle Holland—if all of Ezri’s instincts, all her skills as a psychologist, if all that meant anything…there was a certain something in this woman’s eyes. Something…which told Ezri Dax that she could be trusted.

But…but Section 31! The darkest of the dark—surely the innocence is only an act? Surely…surely she was trained in this “look”—by someone with as firm, if not more firm, a grasp on psychology as I have—or had….

But something—in her heart, as well as her head—nonetheless was sure, and certain, that Holland was, Bureau or no, being truthful.

And this led Ezri to narrow her eyes slightly, as she stared at Holland. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

Cynthia met her gaze, “Why indeed? Perhaps, either way, your connection with Julian is what we need for…our agenda, perhaps?”

“What—but…” Ezri paused for a moment, “If Sarina is who you say she—I mean…who she might be…”

Holland smiled. “Confusing, isn’t it?”

Ezri held up a forefinger. “If she is…then why would you want me to know about it?”

Holland’s smile faded…and her features seemed to harden, for the first time. “I understand, Captain, the—first host for Dax was…a politician, was she not?”

Ezri nodded slowly, frowning. “Yes…?”

“My director is—concerned…that a certain colleague of his is…assigning the agent—assuming she is an agent—to effectively succeed…where, as far as the colleague is concerned, I had failed.”

“Wait—” Ezri held up her hand. “Let me get this straight. Sarina’s supposed to recruit Julian?”

“Not directly. The intention—again, Captain, this is merely speculation—seems to be that Miss Douglass, assuming she is one of us…is to behave as an SI operative, and therefore have Julian work for the Bureau without his knowledge.”

Ezri scoffed, shaking her head. Fool me twice…! “How long do they expect that to work out?”

“That was my question, Captain, when I first learned of the…possibility.”

“Right—with you, it only took…how long?”

“The end of our second day together.”

“But…”

“For what it is worth, I…would imagine the other director is counting on their past together to dispel suspicion on—on the doctor’s part.” Cynthia sighed, “As it stands, I would wager she may be correct. To a point.”

Ezri nodded, her mind filled with a bitter memory: “I remain…attracted to her—and interested in her. My feelings for her go beyond mere infatuation.”

Oh, Julian…I—what have I done to you? Had what happened, all those years ago—did it hurt you that much…so much, that you’d fall so eagerly, so desperately, for a “lost love”? And…and to think, I was just getting ready to accept it—accept that maybe it was for the best…that Sarina would help you heal.

But—but now, I discover this? She’s just playing you for a fool—or…or is she? It’s all on the word of this woman, who claims to have known you—who works for Section 31! How on Trill can I trust her, so quickly?

When she could bring herself to speak, Ezri asked, “What’s…your point?”

Cynthia pursed her lips for a moment, and said, “It is our concern that…were Ju—Doctor Bashir…to discover Miss Douglass’s true intent—”

“He will,” Ezri said, almost desperately. “He can’t just let himself be played for much longer—not without him…suspecting something.”

“Perhaps not,” Holland said quietly. “In that situation…it would effectively backfire for the Bureau—drastically.”

“Overreaching,” Ezri said.

“Precisely. To be blunt, Captain, targeting his heart—especially in that manner—is potentially the most drastic measure we could ever attempt, for that purpose. My director’s concern is…that it will prove excessively drastic.”

“So…” Ezri’s eyes narrowed, “This is just to make sure the door doesn’t close—and you don’t lose your chance at him.”

Holland stiffened. “I assure you, Captain, my past feelings for him are irrelevant to this—”

Ezri blinked in surprise, and replied, “I was…talking about Section 31.”

Cynthia froze—and let out a nervous laugh. “Right—I…”

Ezri sighed. “Look…I don’t want to see him—crushed again. Believe me, I don’t.”

Cynthia nodded, serious again. “If things proceed as they are…he will be.”

Ezri returned the nod, staring down at the desk. “I know. But…I can’t just—turn him over to you. And that’s what I’ll be doing if I…”

She frowned, looking at Cynthia in confusion. “What…would I be doing?”

The look in Holland’s eyes intensified. “That…is your assignment, Captain. Should you—take all of this seriously…you must work to be the ‘other woman’.”

Ezri felt her blood run cold. “The…what?”

Holland narrowed her eyes. “You must compete for his heart, Captain—and win. You have begun to reconcile your friendship. Now…you must reconcile your love.” Cynthia leaned forward, and her voice softened—but her gaze did not. “And I know you do love him, Captain.”

Ezri stared at her in shock, her mouth open in a silent gasp. She shook her head, and managed to whisper, “How…how can you ask me to—?”

Do you love him, Ezri Dax?”

“But…but that’s not the—”

“Then do this! If you truly care for him, you will not allow Sarina Douglass to gain a greater hold on his heart than she already has.”

“But—won’t that just—?”

“Leave the rest to the Bureau. If it eases your conscience—no, you will not be like her, deceiving him. Your feelings for him are true. Unless you think hers are, as well?”

Ezri’s gaze fell, as she fell into her seat. “I…” she whispered, “I don’t know….”

Cynthia stared down at her, palms pressed on the desk.

Ezri shook her head, and looked up at the other woman. “I don’t even know if she is—well, what you say she is. If—if she isn’t, and…”

Cynthia nodded. “I understand,” she said. She looked off for a moment…and something seemed to go on in her eyes—a clearing, as though a thought suddenly occurred to her.

She turned back to Ezri, with a warm half-smile. “Perhaps…you should go to them.”

Ezri blinked. “Visit them?”

Cynthia nodded again. “See for yourself—as a psychologist, and as a woman. Talk to them—talk to him. See how close she is, to his heart…and whether, for you, it is…worth it.”

Ezri felt her teeth clench. “Worth it?”

A look of regret passed Holland’s eyes—probably at her choice of words. But it passed, and she held firm. “All right, then…I’m sure you still possess your skills as a counselor…do you not?”

Ezri felt her eyes simmer.

Cynthia nodded. “Look for manipulation, on her part.”

Ezri shot to her feet. “Listen, Holland,” she said, in a low near-whisper, her voice struggling not to break, “I don’t know who you think you are, but I am not…” she swallowed, “I am not going to treat Julian like…like a—”

“Trophy?” Holland’s eyebrow shot up. “Is that what you fear, Ezri Dax? Are you afraid that if you ‘win’ him, he’ll have had no say in it?”

Ezri felt herself trembling, her eyes blazing. “You…”

Cynthia let out a light sigh. “Forgive me, Captain. I’ve forgotten…the truth can make one miserable, if stated too bluntly.”

“Get…out.”

She nodded, straightening up. “Of course…. I have overstayed my welcome, as it is.”

Ezri watched the woman turn, and confidently walk to the door out of her quarters.

But before she reached it, Cynthia turned to face her.

“I’m a woman as well, Captain,” she said. “And I should warn you—as a woman…if Julian does discover Miss Douglass’s true intent—he will be crushed. He wasn’t, with me—because we’d had no past. But here…what do you think he will do?”

Ezri said nothing, staring across the room at her.

“I’ll tell you,” Cynthia took a step back to her. “He will fall into a more desperate loneliness than he’d fallen, before. And he will lunge for the one escape.” Her gaze hardened once again. “You, Captain.”

Ezri felt her eyes widen, as Holland’s meaning became clear.

“He will go to you—but not out of love. He might think that he is, but…you and I will know the truth, Ezri Dax.” Her lip tightened...and it seemed as if her own eyes were moistening. “You will be a substitute, Captain—for the ideal that, as far as he’ll be concerned, he can never find.”

Ezri’s gaze fell to somewhere in front of the other woman’s shoes.

“Ezri Dax—as a woman…could you ever accept that?”

Ezri swallowed, and closed her eyes…and from her lips escaped a silent, whispered, “No.”

No, I can’t—not as a friend, either. I couldn’t let him kill himself inside, like that—I couldn’t! And…and…oh, Julian, she’s right. So help me—she’s right!

She looked up, to meet Holland’s eyes. And suddenly, despite herself…Ezri chuckled, shaking her head.


Cynthia frowned, staring at her questioningly. But the truth was…Ezri wasn’t laughing at her.

She sat back down, and gestured to the chair across from the desk. Cynthia hesitated, but she walked over, and sat back down.

“You know,” Ezri said, “I deserve all of this, don’t I?”

“Captain?”

She shrugged. “Well—I started it, after all, didn’t I—his loneliness, the ‘hole’ in his heart….”

Holland sighed. “For…what it is worth, Captain Dax—”

“Ezri,” Ezri said, smiling, “You can call me Ezri. It’s all right…for now, anyway.”

Cynthia gave a smile of her own, and continued, “When I left him, Ezri, I told him: we both knew that—well, that what had bonded us was…not love. Not really. It came close, but…not quite.”

Ezri frowned. Maybe we have even more in common than I thought…the same fear, ‘resolved’ in the same way…. “How could you be sure of that?”

Cynthia looked her in the eye, and her smile grew. “We were both…already taken.”

Ezri felt her eyes widen. Then again…maybe not.

Holland shrugged. “At any rate,” she said, “That is the past. Presently, the question is—will you take this assignment?”

Ezri sighed. “Look…again, I don’t even know if Sarina really is doing what you…imply she’s doing.”


“Of course—again, that is why you’ll go to them.”

“And—how do you expect me to do that, without…causing more than a few people to ask what the heck am I doing, flying over to DS9, when we’re currently…?”

Holland smiled. “Leave that to us, Captain. Quite soon, the Aventine will be ordered to bring supplies to the new station. It’ll be enough for you to authorize shore leave for your crew…?”

Ezri chuckled. “You people think of everything, don’t you?”

Cynthia beamed, and gave a light nod.

“Okay,” Ezri said, “I’ll do that. But—just so we’re clear, Cynthia, I am not going to agree to anything more, ahead of time.”

Cynthia nodded again. “That is all we ask, as of now, Captain.”

Ezri returned the nod, and rose to her feet. “Is that all, for now?”

Cynthia also stood. “For now. I’ll return, when you finish your observations.”

She finished her cup, setting it down. And then she turned, and walked out into the hall—where, Ezri knew, she’d beam back to who-knows-where in the nick of time.

Ezri sat back down, leaning back with a sigh. “I sure hope I don’t regret this,” she muttered.

And somehow, she knew all too well that, whether it turned out for the best or not…that wouldn’t make the next few months—or however long this “assignment” would take her—any easier.

She shook her head, and turned to her console, activating the screen. It worked.

Ezri paused, and thought for a moment. Finally, she entered the commands…and leaned back in her seat, as a song from 20th-century Earth filled the room.

“Suspicious Minds”: somehow…it seemed appropriate.

* * *

Rush Limborg August 20 2012 07:28 AM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Cynthia Holland had kept her word. It had barely been a week before the Aventine received its new orders: bringing supplies to the Bajoran system, to assist in the effort to construct the new Deep Space Nine. And when the ship entered orbit of Bajor…Ezri had felt more than a twinge of nostalgia…and sadness, as the loss of what had once been her home established itself in her heart.

She’d authorized shore leave for the crew—well, those not taking part in the distribution of supplest. And as for her…

It hadn’t been too hard to find him. He was currently residing in a housing facility owned by Starfleet, in the Bajoran city of Aljuli.

Ezri stood outside the door of his quarters, somehow unsure of whether to ring the chime, or to walk away. For a while, she did neither.

She hadn’t seen him, since Earth—since the trial, the hearing for what she’d done to defend a colony from the Breen. And…and now…

What are you afraid of? What…?

Ezri swallowed hard, staring at the door. There’s no turning back, Ezri. It’s too late to do that. You’re already here. No turning back….

She stiffened, and reached for the panel—

The doors opened before she could ring—and Ezri Dax found herself a mere breath away from Dr. Julian Bashir.

It was a moment transcending time, as they stared at one another in mutual shock.

Ezri felt her eyes widen, as she finally found her voice, “H-hello, Julian.”

He blinked. “Ezri…?”

Ezri’s gaze fell, as she cleared her throat. “Can—mind if I…?”

“Oh—of course, I—come in!!”

He stepped aside, and Ezri walked in, pausing in the center of the room. “I…” she sighed, as she turned to him, “I—hope I’m not holding you up, or—”

Julian shook his head. “No—not at all. I was…just going for a walk.”

Ezri smiled. “Bored?”

Julian shrugged. “Call it that. Sarina’s on duty, I suppose. In the meantime, I suppose my head needs to be cleared…as it were.”

Ezri nodded.

“So…” Julian asked, “How have you been?”

“Better, I guess. I’ve had enough to keep me occupied, anyway….”

He nodded. “I can imagine. So—delivering supplies, I hear?”

Ezri chuckled, and shrugged. “Not very glamorous, is it? But—I was in the neighborhood, I guess….”

Julian nodded again. “It’s…good to see you, again, Ezri.”

Ezri returned the nod. “You, too,” she said quietly. After a moment, she asked with a smile, “So—how have you been?”

Julian looked off, and sighed. “Better….”

Ezri frowned. There was something in how he’d said it… “What’s wrong?”

Julian shrugged. “We’d—why don’t we sit down?”

Ezri nodded. “Okay,” she whispered.

They did so. Ezri made it a point not to sit on the couch beside him, instead pulling up a chair. She didn’t have the right to do otherwise.

“So…” Ezri smiled at him, “Penny for your thoughts?”

He returned the smile. “I am glad to see you again,” he said, in an absent tone.

“Come on, Doctor—let’s hear it.”

He sighed. “You know, I don’t suppose it would’ve been more awkward between us, if Sarina had been here, with me?”

Ezri blinked. “What about her?”

“Oh, just her being here. I’m reasonably sure it’d have been harder for the two of us to ‘open up’, as it were….”

Ezri nodded. “I guess.”

That was why you—when you visited me, in my cell, then…you asked her to excuse us, wasn’t it? Something…something personal, between the two of us—

She shoved the thoughts aside, and muttered, “It seems like it’s awkward, now.”

Julian sighed again. “I know…. I suppose it’s been so long, since I was…able to open up to someone, as it were.”

Ezri felt a tug at her heart, at this. But she sadly asked, “What do you mean?”

Julian smiled, looking off. “You know, I was so sure I could throw myself into a relationship—share my thoughts with Sarina, express my problems…vulnerabilities—that sort of thing. For a while, I was sure that’s what I was doing. But…”

Ezri tensed, and her gaze fell, “Julian…are you sure you should be telling me this?”

He turned to her. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re the last person with whom I should be discussing…problems in my current relationship.”

Ezri met his gaze. “Maybe I am.”

Julian shrugged. “Regardless…I feel as though I have to. Somehow…” He spread out his hands, “I feel as though you’re the only one who’d understand.”

Ezri swallowed. “What—what do you mean?”

Julian shook his head, as if in bewilderment at herself. “I…I don’t know. I’m not sure what I mean. Just that…right now, I feel like I can talk to you. No problems…no past—we can be…” he shrugged, “—comfortable, I suppose.”

Ezri was not feeling comfortable, with this. “Julian…what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Julian said, then shook his head, “Everything.”

Ezri shook her head. “I…is something going on, with—with you and…?”

Julian chuckled. “You know, Ezri, there are times I swear you’re telepathic.”

“Tele—” Ezri shook her head again, quickly, “Julian, what is going on? Did you and Sarina have a…?”

“Fight? No,” Julian shook his head. “No, nothing like that.”

“Well, what, then?”

Julian looked off, saying nothing. Finally, he rose to his feet, and walked over to the replicator. “Two Fanalian toddies…hot.”

Ezri had risen to her feet…and upon hearing this, she froze. She lowered her gaze, and her eyes closed. A soft sigh escaped from her.

“Ezri?”

She opened her eyes, looking to him. “Do—do you remember the first time you…ordered that, for us?”

Julian turned to the replicator, and took the two mugs. He brought them over, handing one to her. “Yes,” he said…the nostalgia in his voice matching her own. “I do.”

Ezri took the mug, sipping it. The warmth of the drink helped her to relax…if only a little. But it was enough.

“Okay,” she said, “Tell me the truth, Julian…what is going on?”

Julian took a sip from his mug. “Well, lately, I’ve been wondering if I have a problem with relationships.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, just that I’ve never been able to ‘hold on’ to someone for too long. Well—for the most part, that’s not too bad, but…when I truly care for someone…”

Ezri tensed. “What?”

Julian shrugged. “Is it that I fail to understand them? Something I just can’t see coming—when, looking back…I feel as though I should have….”

Ezri swallowed. “What happened?”

Julian smiled—bitterly. “Just that I don’t know if I should feel like an idiot, or not.”

“About Sarina?”

Julian nodded, his jaw set. “She was a…an agent of Section 31.”

Ezri froze, her eyes wide…unable to speak. Her mind was reeling—with two thoughts.

The first: So, it is true—Cynthia was right! She was right—it…all this time. It wasn’t just jealousy—my suspicions of Sarina had a reason, after all.

The second: He knows? He already knows? But—how? Did Cynthia change her mind—no…no, she couldn’t have. After that warning she gave me—all the consequences of his discovering the betrayal like this, for himself…she couldn’t have!

But those two were suddenly overcome by another train of thought—and it led her to frown, and ask, “Was?”

Julian frowned, as if looking aware of the apparent insanity of whatever he was about to say. “She…told me she had been—”

“Wait a minute,” Ezri held up a hand. “She—told you?”

Julian sighed, in what resembled defeat. That was his only answer.

“But…well, what did she tell you?”

“That…that she was assigned to me, to claim she was an agent of Starfleet Intelligence…and—was to effectively recruit me back into the organization, without my knowing who I was really working for.”

Ezri shook her head in bewilderment. “Great I’nora….”

Julian nodded. “I know.”

Ezri shook her head, her gaze lowered. No—you don’t know, Julian. I’m not surprised that she is—was?—one of them. I…I’m just surprised that she told you! What on Trill—?

She looked up. “And…why did she tell you all this?”

Julian looked off—and what appeared to be a smile of amusement, at himself, played at the corners of his mouth. “She…tells me that she’d long since—well, decided to become a mole. Infiltrate the organization, pretend to work for them—that sort of thing.”

Ezri could barely speak. She’d come here, prepared for anything—she’d thought. But…but this?

‘Pretend to’…? But—for goodness sake, Julian…that doesn’t make any—

Wait…well, maybe it did. But then—

Ezri managed to ask, “When…when did she—tell you?”

Julian met her gaze. “Shortly after your trial,” he quietly said.

Ezri shook her head, suddenly feeling amused, herself. “What, she didn’t think you were ready before then?”

Julian sighed, and looked off.

“I mean…” Ezri went on, “Couldn’t she have just told you, when she—‘recruited’ you?”

“I don’t know, Ezri…” he muttered. “I just don’t know. I—suppose it was to sell the deception to L’Haan, so Sarina could be sure she wasn’t…watching us….”

L’Haan, Ezri logged the name in her mind. She must be the director of Sarina’s—‘division’.

She nodded. “But…?”

Julian’s lip tightened. “I don’t suppose you heard of what happened—the investigation into DS9’s destruction?”

Ezri frowned. “Bits and pieces, I guess. What happened?”

“Until…we uncovered the man responsible—Sarina was the prime suspect.”

“Okay…?”

Julian snorted, “Apparently, Ro found out before I did. Or, maybe Sarina told her….” He paused for a moment, and said, “Well, after the arrest…L’Haan—that’s her superior in the Bureau, apparently…”

Ezri nodded. “Go on.”

A bitter smile appeared on Julian’s face. “She commissioned me to clear Sarina’s name.”

“Well, that’s understandable, Julian, but—I don’t see…”

His smile grew, in bitterness as well as size. “Other than the woman confirming Sarina was an agent? Oh, I might have…idly revealed that Sarina had—informed me of her.”

Ezri blinked. “How did she take it?”

“L’Haan? As I recall…quite well.” Julian’s lip tightened again. “As if she’d expected it.”

Ezri nodded, her gaze lowered. “Or ordered it,” she muttered, through her teeth.

Julian stiffened…and slowly nodded. “Perhaps.”

Ezri sighed, shaking her head sadly. “Julian—I…”

“No, it’s—I can’t tell, either way.” Julian shrugged. “L’Haan’s a Vulcan—she could’ve just been…covering her reaction. But—” He let out a sigh of his own, spreading out his hands.

Ezri nodded. “But that would mean you were projecting—channeling how you interpreted her reaction through…what you were already feeling.”

Julian turned away, and started pacing the floor. “I’m supposed to trust her,” he muttered. “That’s what it’s supposed to be built on, isn’t it—a relationship? Trust?”

Ezri shook her head. “Julian, if she’d been arrested—”

Ezri,” Julian turned to her, “When you were brought before the Council—I knew, with everything I was…that you were innocent. No one had to reassure me—I knew it!”

“But—”

“I trust you, Ezri!” Julian said, frustration and anguish filling his face, “I can trust you—why can’t I trust Sarina?”

Ezri stiffened, as the warnings of Cynthia Holland filled her mind. “Julian, don’t.”

Julian stared at her, with a questioning look. “‘Don’t’…what? Don’t ask you that?”

Ezri closed her eyes, gathering herself. She opened them, and said, “Don’t compare that, Julian. It’s not that simple.”

“What…isn’t?”

Ezri swallowed, suddenly realizing that she’d gone too far. She managed to meet his gaze.

“Julian—when did these doubts begin?”

“About her?”

You’re treading on shaky ground, Ezri. Be careful. “About…whether you could trust her. Was it when she was arrested?”

Julian’s gaze fell. Finally, he shook his head. “No.”

“Then…?”

“It was—when she first revealed to me who…what she was—or ‘had’ been.”

Ezri nodded. “You were afraid she wasn’t telling the truth.”

He looked at her…and nodded.

Ezri couldn’t resist asking, “Did something happened, to make you suspect otherwise?”

Julian smiled, his gaze internal. “Well…not something she did. No, it—”

He froze, as his eyes widened a bit.

Ezri frowned. “Julian…?”

“Fool me twice,” Julian muttered—and chuckled.

Ezri shook her head in amazement. Right…that’s exactly what I thought, Julian. Cynthia…Cynthia Holland was a precedent, wasn’t she?

But something told her she had to confirm it. “Did this happen before, Julian?”

Julian shrugged. “Not exactly. Well…in a way, yes.”

It was all Ezri could do to keel from blurting out, I know….

Julian shook his head. “You know—sometimes I wonder if I’m becoming a masochist.”

Ezri blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Well, after we…you and I—well, what do I find myself doing? I fall for a woman who turns out to be with Section 31. After that’s over…I wallow in self-pity, without anyone—and then, Sarina shows up, I swear to myself that she is my one true love, and then—”

Ezri quickly shook her head. “Look—Julian, you don’t know, all right? For all you know, she is telling you the truth. I mean…she chose to tell you, didn’t she? You…you didn’t suspect anything…”

He shook his head.

Ezri swallowed. “So—don’t just…don’t just take this and…”

“Thank you,” Julian quietly replied, with a small smile.

Ezri, sighed, and stared at her hands, as she wrung them a bit. Finally, she looked up at him, taking a few steps forward. “Julian—I don’t have any right to…to lecture you, on her. But…” she found herself blinking back a tear, “Just—whatever you do, don’t do it unless you’re sure. Don’t break up with her, just because she might be lying to you. For—for all you know, you…and her…”

She couldn’t bring herself to say …were meant to be. She just—couldn’t!

Julian nodded, his eyes sad, as though he knew why she couldn’t finish.

Ezri swallowed, and her gaze intensified. “But—but don’t just sweep this all under the rug, and…”

Julian smiled. “And play the ‘sap’ for her, as it were?”

Ezri flinched. “Well—just don’t jump into things, either way.”

She didn’t add, Like we did…in the runabout, after Trill….

Julian nodded…in silent understanding.

Ezri returned the nod. “Okay,” she whispered, as she turned, and began to leave.

“Ezri?”

She stopped, and turned to him, wondering what it was.

Julian’s gaze fell, as he gathered himself. Finally, he looked at her, and asked, “You’re not…staying?”

“I—” Ezri sighed, and shook her head. “I don’t think…”

“Well—before you go, I…well, do you mind if I ask a—personal question?”

Ezri chuckled nervously at this. “Well, um,” she said, quietly, “Now would seem like an appropriate time.”

Julian nodded, with a half-smile of his own. But it faded, as he swallowed, and asked, “Have…has there been anyone? After…after me?”

Ezri froze, her lips pursed, as she stared at her hands, wringing them a little. He wants the truth…that’s all he wants—and he’ll know it, if I give him anything less.

She sighed, met his gaze…and shook her head. “No,” she whispered. “There hasn’t.”

She saw Julian’s lip tighten…as he accepted it, and all it implied. He nodded.

Ezri looked off…and tried to smile. “I, um…” she shrugged, as she looked to him again, “I—guess I haven’t…haven’t felt that way about anyone, in a while.”

Julian looked off for a moment longer, and finally said, “Don’t tell me you were waiting for me.”

Ezri blinked…and sighed. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I just…never felt—none of the men I’ve…well, none of the relationships I’ve had, lately—they’ve all been friends. I honestly never considered anything more—with any of them.”

A smile seemed to play at Julian’s mouth. “You know, from what I’ve noticed, Simon’s quite devoted to you.”

Ezri froze. And then—she laughed, caught completely off guard at this unexpected subject. She quickly restrained herself, and said. “Wow! Well, I…”

Julian’s smile formed.

Ezri paused for a moment…and shook her head sadly. “Look, Julian—I know it.”

“Simon?”

Ezri nodded. “But…he and I both know that it…it wouldn’t work. Even if his feelings were mutual—” she shook her head, “It…it just wouldn’t. He was my patient, for goodness sake! I…I doubt it’d be approp—”

Ezri froze, upon seeing Julian flinch at this…and right away, she understood what was going through his mind. He—and Sarina…

She quickly added, “But Julian—it isn’t just that I’m waiting for you.”

Julian frowned. “‘Just’?”

“I…I honestly just haven’t…found anyone. Maybe I’m just not looking, but…”

“Well,” Julian said, a small smile returning, “Neither was I, to be honest.”

Ezri nodded, and turned to go again.

“Ezri…” Julian began again.

Ezri turned to him, waiting.

Julian met her gaze, and said, “You don’t owe me anything, Ezri. Don’t…wait for me.”

Ezri stared at the floor for a moment, and sighed. When she met his eyes, she said, “If…if I do find someone—ever…I’ll let you know. Call that a promise, Julian.”

Julian nodded.

“But…until then…”

He nodded again. “Fair enough,” he said.

Ezri shook her head, and walked back to him. “Look—Julian…if you’re sure—really sure—that you can trust her, with your heart, I won’t stop you. I can’t, and I won’t try. I just…” a tear came to her eye, “…just want you to be sure.”

Julian stared at her in silence, saying nothing. Finally…his hand came, and gently wiped the tear away, as he’d used to. Ezri closed her eyes at this, feeling all too well how hard all of this was making it, for him. And yet…and yet, in some cruel yet tender way, it was right.

She opened her eyes, looking at him. He nodded, his hand lowered, and said, “Thank you.”

Ezri returned the nod with a smile…and took his hand. She’d probably meant to shake it, in acknowledgement of their everlasting, unbreakable friendship—but suddenly, whatever reason it had been just vanished, as they stood there…looking deep into one another’s eyes, and…

And then Sarina Douglass entered the room.

Ezri froze, slowly releasing Julian’s hand. He turned, and saw the other woman, and stood silent and still.

Sarina looked at both of them…and her gaze fixed to a point between them, as though the image of the hands held were burning in her mind.

Ezri cleared her throat. “Well, Julian, as I said, it’s—good to see you again.”

Julian turned to her, and nodded. “Likewise. I…believe I have some things to do.”

“Oh!” Ezri nodded, hands raised in acceptance—somehow, to Sarina as well. “Well—don’t let me stop you. I have to get back to my ship.”

“Very good. If—excuse me….”

And Julian turned, and walked to the door through which Sarina had just entered. He stopped, to give her a reassuring smile, and a nod. Sarina returned the smile, halfheartedly…so clearly uncertain what to make out of what she’d stumbled upon.

Julian left.

Ezri somehow managed to meet Sarina’s gaze. The other girl met it…her posture stiff, her face filled with anxiety.

Ezri tried hard not to swallow, and shrugged, forcing a smile, “Well, um…Sarina—how…how are you?”

Sarina nodded, with a forced smile of her own. “Hello, Captain.”

Ezri returned the nod quickly. “Well—like I said, I hate short notice, but…I-I have to get back—”

Sarina nodded again. “Right, um…good to see you again, Captain.”

“Yeah—the same,” Ezri returned it, eyes wide. “Excuse me.”

She walked past her, struggling not to break into a run.

* * *

Rush Limborg August 20 2012 07:43 AM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Ezri Dax sat in the main lounge of the Aventine, sipping a Fanalian toddy. She certainly felt like she needed it—after the close call with Sarina…well, she needed something to relax….

As she sipped, and sat, she read—or at least tried to read—a little something Julian had once given her, back…back when they were still—together….

“May I join you, Captain?”

Ezri looked up—and froze at the sight of Cynthia Mirabelle Holland standing before her, in a Starfleet uniform; junior lieutenant’s rank, with the blue collar of science and medical. She held a tall glass of her own, filled with a red drink—probably wine.

Ezri smiled in bitter amusement, and shook her head. “So, I take it you’re part of my crew now, or something?”

Cynthia nodded, beaming. “I’ve just been assigned here, Captain.” She paused…and her eyes narrowed as her smile grew. “Shall I tell you my position?”

Ezri sighed. “Let me guess…you’re an assistant counselor.”

The other woman nodded again, chuckling. “I thought it’d be apropos.”

Ezri shrugged, and waved to a seat across the low table from her. “All right, by all means, take a seat.”

She did, and her hands clasped together over her knees, where her legs crossed. She looked at Ezri’s book. “Ah—Pride and Prejudice!”

Ezri nodded, as she set it down in her lap. “I know…dark humor on my part, I guess.”

“Oh? What do you mean?”

Ezri chuckled. She’s playing her part—I’ll give her that. “Well—just the idea of making decisions based on assumptions. Elizabeth has a bad first impression of Darcy, and gets the idea that he’s just a jerk…when in reality…”

Cynthia nodded slowly, “He’s a sensitive soul…who was sadly unsure of how to behave around others—or how to handle love.”

Ezri nodded, looking off, with a sigh. “Julian gave this to me, when we were together…a little something, just because.”

“I see.”

Ezri looked at her. “I suppose you’re going to ask me how it went?”

Holland shrugged. “Perhaps.”

Ezri smiled. “Well, you’re going to love this, Agent.”

Holland frowned. “‘Lieutenant,’ if you please, Captain.”

“Whatever—Lieutenant. I don’t suppose they assigned you a name, too?”

“Dominique, Captain. Gabrielle Dominique.”

“All right, I’ll have to remember that.”

The pleasant smile returned. “Thank you, Captain. Now…what happened?”

Ezri shrugged. “Well—as it turns out…Sarina Douglass has confessed to Julian that she is an agent for Section 31.”

“Gabrielle Dominique” was just taking a sip of her drink—and at this, she very nearly spit it out. She froze…and managed to swallow. Finally, she stared at Ezri, eyes wide in astonishment. “What…?”

“Wait—that’s not the best part. Apparently…she swore to him that she’s actually working to bring you people down—and she’s recruiting Julian to help her.”

Cynthia blinked, silent for a moment. Finally, she shook her head. “He bought that?”

Ezri’s lip tightened. “She sold it, but I don’t know if he bought it. To be honest, I don’t think he does, either.”

Cynthia shook her head, and rubbed her brow. “Je n’en reviens pas,” she muttered.

Ezri sighed. I don’t believe it, either. “Interestingly enough…L’Haan—I’m assuming that’s…?”

Cynthia looked up. “The director of Miss Douglass’s division, yes.”

“Well, apparently, Sarina had gotten into some trouble, after DS9 was destroyed, and…well, to make a long story short, L’Haan went to Julian and assigned him with clearing her.”

Cynthia held up a hand. “So—let me try to understand this. L’Haan confirmed for Julian something that her own agent’s assignment required be kept secret?”

Ezri leaned forward. “There’s more. From what Julian tells me, L’Haan didn’t bat an eye when she learned he knew her name.”

Cynthia shook her head, looking off.

“Um…Lieutenant?”

Cynthia turned to her. “Sorry, Captain…what do you think?”

Ezri shrugged, as she took a sip of her toddy. “You know, looking back…I can’t help but wonder if I had something to do with this.”

Cynthia blinked. “What—what do you mean?”

“Well, think about it: my hearing—before the Council, remember?”

The agent nodded.

“You know—well, I’m not a spy, but…like you said, my first host was a politician.”

Holland smiled a little.

“Anyway,” Ezri continued, “Think about it: if I hadn’t been cleared…if they’d done who-knows-what to me—lock me up, or something…”

“That’d have put you out of the way, as the ‘other woman’?” Cynthia’s smile grew, in amusement, as she shook her head. “Captain—if L’Haan is as logical as her ethnicity suggests…she would not have dared underestimate…let us say, the power of the tragic romance.”

Ezri frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Were you to be convicted…it could have enhanced whatever feelings Julian might have, regarding ‘what might have been’.”

Ezri froze…and suddenly, something clicked in the back of her mind: a connection, which she felt she should have made beforehand.

The SI report—sent to the Council, and the president, at the last minute. The thing that no doubt transformed whatever the vote would have been…into a landslide victory, for me.

Ezri shook her head. “Sarina…”

“Captain?”

Ezri smiled bitterly. “She…when she ‘evaluated’ me, in my cell, she said something about her superiors ‘looking into it’—that they were very interested in the hearing…and that they’d find out the truth.” Ezri shrugged. “At the time, I’d thought she was just trying to break the tension with me, or something….”

Cynthia said nothing, her face unreadable.

Ezri chuckled. “So—I guess L’Haan was caught between a rock and a hard place, with that.”

“You think she’s…trying to adjust to the reality of your—continued presence?”

Ezri looked to Cynthia, still smiling. “Well, think about it—if anyone would’ve had a motive to put an end to Sarina’s ‘assignment’, it’d be me—assuming I’d know….”

Cynthia returned the smile.

Ezri nodded. “So…politics in the Bureau?”

Cynthia chuckled. “Well, I can assure you, Captain—Miss Douglass half-confessing was not a goal of ours, by any means.”

“Obviously! Like you said, if he found out she was playing him, it’d close up your ‘door’. What I’m saying is…maybe L’Haan feels forced to do this. If it somehow manages to work—Julian works for 31 when he thinks he’s working against it…and his satisfaction at, as far as he’s concerned, taking all of you down…”

“—will blind him to any suspicion.” Cynthia chuckled. “Well…I do remember him being a little arrogant. Takes pleasure in feeling in control, does he not?”

Ezri shrugged. “Well, personally, I think that’s one of his most endearing qualities.”

“Perhaps. But…if it doesn’t work?”

Ezri leaned forward again. “If it doesn’t work…and the door’s closed—at least L’Haan has the satisfaction of knowing that…whoever in the Bureau’s been harassing her…”

Cynthia shrugged.

“…won’t have the satisfaction of succeeding, where she failed.”

Cynthia stared at her for a while. Finally, she shook her head in amazement, and said, “First host, huh?”

Ezri shrugged. “I guess. In politics, it’s called a ‘scorched-earth campaign’. You take off the gloves, and give everything you’ve got—a weapon of last resort. Win or lose, you take your opponent down with you.”

“I see….”

“It usually involves smearing them with all the dirt and innuendo you can dig up…but I think this applies, too—in a way.”

Cynthia nodded. “I see, Captain. But—if I may, how do you defeat this…‘scorched-earth’?”

Ezri grinned. “That’s the fun of politics, Lieutenant—finding the balance between defending yourself, and still coming across to everyone as the ‘good’ side. But that’s pretty hard to do, and you have to be very careful….”

Her voice trailed off…and she leaned back in her seat, with a sigh.

Cynthia frowned. “Is something wrong, Captain?”

Ezri shook her head, staring into her lap. “Look at me—giving advice to you people….”

“If…if I said—”

“Don’t thank me. I’m regretting it, already. If Julian knew what I was doing…” Ezri looked up. “You know—when this started, you told me I wouldn’t be like Sarina.”

“You’re not, Captain. Her agenda is to ensnare him. You’re working to free him. Or, better—help him free himself.”

Ezri shook her head again. “I feel like I’m almost using the same methods, though—reporting to you, so you can do who-knows-what with him—”

Cynthia’s smile returned. “We, Captain, will do nothing—not with Julian, anyway. Oh, we may approach him, someday, but…it will be his decision. Not Sarina’s…or L’Haan’s.”

Oh…” Ezri muttered. “So that’s supposed to make me feel better.”

“It’s not ‘supposed’ to do anything, Captain. It is only the truth.”

Ezri nodded, somehow wishing she could have a guarantee on that. But…but as far as she was concerned—she had no choice. She had to repair the damage she’d caused…and hang the consequences.

She stared into her mug. “You know,” she said, “You haven’t told me what you will do, with what I gave you.”

Cynthia chuckled. “That’s correct, Captain—I haven’t. Just that it won’t involve Julian directly—unless, of course, he wants to become involved.”

Ezri looked up to meet her gaze, and took another sip from the toddy. “You know—sorry for bringing this up, but…it looks like your Bureau is due for quite a lot of clean-up. Cole, with Locken—L’Haan, with Sarina and Julian….”

Cynthia’s smile turned bitter. “I’m aware of that, Captain. My director is, too.”

Ezri stared at her…and her smile returned. “‘Unless…he wants to become involved’?” she repeated.

Cynthia leaned forward. “I’ll put it this way, Captain: people like Julian…or James T. Kirk, or Elias Vaughn—great men, don’t misunderstand, but—they’ve long dreamed of…destroying the Bureau, once and for all: exposing it, dismantling it…putting all its operatives on trial.”

Ezri nodded. “But…?”

Cynthia chuckled. “It should be obvious to people like them, Captain—certainly after over a hundred years of their trying—it simply can’t be done! But—every once in a while, I admit…we need their help.”

Ezri shook her head. “So—you’ll make everyone think the Bureau’s destroyed, when the time’s right…when in reality, all we’ll have done is…”

“Helped us ‘clean the house’?” Cynthia’s eyes sparkled, her smile genuine. “Precisely.”

Ezri nodded, solemnly. Until now…she hadn’t really accepted that, in agreeing to help Julian, she could well have made a deal with…

No—Cynthia Holland is not “the devil”. If my skills and instincts mean anything…she’s an angel, with a lot of dirt on her dress…but no stains that can’t be washed.

Still…the question is: does she want to wash it off? She—she believes in Section 31—in what it is, and what it stands for! I don’t!

Or…or do I? Is there, in fact, some dark part of me that understands them…and allows for people like Luther Sloan to have a valid purpose, in the universe?

And with this…not for the first time, Ezri Dax felt all too aware of how alike she and Cynthia truly were. She couldn’t help but picture the agent having the same conversation with herself…back then.

But…but the difference is—I do want to wash my dress, when this is all over. Does she?

Cynthia rose to her feet. “If you will excuse me, Captain—it’s almost time for my shift.”

Ezri looked up at her, fighting a swallow. One of them…on my ship—and I’m letting her stay?

She nodded. “Carry on, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Lt. Gabrielle Dominique nodded, and turned to leave—

But just for a moment, she lingered, and Cynthia Holland gave an innocent, reassuring smile. “If it’s not too bold to say, Captain,” she said, “…you make a wonderful operative.”

Ezri stiffened, as she raised the mug to her lips, her eyes trained on the passage of Pride and Prejudice where she’d left off.

She heard Agent Holland—Lt. Dominique—walking out of the lounge. She kept her eyes on the printed page, hearing the doors open and close…the song “Suspicious Minds” filling her mind, and her soul.

“I hope not,” she whispered.


* * *



And the adventure continues…

Enterprise1981 August 20 2012 08:32 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Nice portrayal of how efficient Section 31 is in staying afloat. I'll provide some more specific commentary later.

Rush Limborg August 20 2012 10:20 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Thanks!

Yep--Jake's reflections on the Bureau in The Good That Men Do notwithstanding--it is frankly laughable to assume that someone would be even capable of "wiping out" an organization like Section 31, organized as it is in the "cell"-like structure.

Still, I'd imagine 31 has to throw the Cabal a "bone," sooner or later--so they will think they've succeeded....

The Badger August 20 2012 10:42 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Now why do I never find a gorgeous blonde in leather waiting for me when I get home?

Good to see Cynthia again, or should that be 'Gabrielle'? Well written as always, really getting into the characters thoughts and feelings.

Rush Limborg August 20 2012 11:16 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Thanks, Badger! :)

BTW--recall that "Gabrielle" was the name she used when she and Julian were "checking out" the hotel in From Risa.

As for Cynthia...well, when I was writing Risa, I also wrote out a piece in my notes, in which I compared and contrasted the personalities of Cynthia and Ezri. Namely, a major element I thought out is that, though both are rather "innocent," "romantic," and, if you will, "feminine"...Cynthia is more concious of the "power" those attributes give her, over men--and she is quite willing to use that power to her advantage. Ezri, on the other hand, is less concious of that power--hence her seeming lack of awareness, regarding the flirtations of Jake and Quark on the show. When she is made aware, as with Julian (in "Afterimage") or Worf, she tenses up--she seems to fear the power she wields, when she discovers its effects on men.

Ever since then, I knew that someday...I would have the two ladies meet--and bring those contrasts out into the open.

I guess it turned out to be sooner, rather than later. ;)

Enterprise1981 August 21 2012 05:49 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
It's rather clever of Sorak to use Ezri as sort of a "Plan B". But isn't there a danger of those two divisions of 31 stepping on each other's toes? Maybe not that big a danger since L'Haan didn't definitively reveal to Sorak what she was up to. What's even more intriguing is how Ezri discloses to Cynthia exactly what Julian had learned from Sarina thus far.

I also rather enjoyed the remark about "cleaning house" every once in a while. It keeps people like Percy or Amanda--the two directors of the Section 31-like bureau on Nikita--from taking control of the whole bureau. As Sloan said, "It takes exceptional people to do we do. People who can sublimate their own ambitions to the best interests of the Federation."

Rush Limborg August 21 2012 07:05 PM

Re: August 2012 Challenge--"Suspicious Minds"--A Tale Of Captain Ezri
 
Quote:

Enterprise1981 wrote: (Post 6834920)
It's rather clever of Sorak to use Ezri as sort of a "Plan B". But isn't there a danger of those two divisions of 31 stepping on each other's toes? Maybe not that big a danger since L'Haan didn't definitively reveal to Sorak what she was up to.

...I also rather enjoyed the remark about "cleaning house" every once in a while. It keeps people like Percy or Amanda--the two directors of the Section 31-like bureau on Nikita--from taking control of the whole bureau. As Sloan said, "It takes exceptional people to do we do. People who can sublimate their own ambitions to the best interests of the Federation."

Mm-hmm! And remember, in "Our Sacred Honor," there's a moment where Sorak and L'Haan discuss their falling-out over the course of that tale's events:

Quote:

“And I can assure you, Sorak,” L’Haan replied, “That I have never conducted my affairs with any other motivation. I have respected you, deeply. I had thought that you viewed me in the same regard.”

Sorak stared back at her, meeting her gaze. He said, “I had, L’Haan.”
The truth is...Sorak had suspected for a while that L'Haan is in over her head. And this wierd plan of hers--revealing to Julian that Sarina's an agent, but is "really" a double-agent--actually proves it.

Frankly, my emphasis is that L'Haan is, bless her Vulcan heart, letting her pride get the best of her. This resulted in her refusal to truly take Sorak's warnings seriously (or, if she did, acted on them the wrong way)--which resulted in Sorak's loss of respect for her.

As far as he is concerned--she has to be "brought down a peg," so as to remind her of her priorities. (Indeed, readers of DRGIII's Raise The Dawn may recall how...odd L'Haan acts, in the way she talks to Bashir. Doesn't she seem a little...un-Vulcan, particularly in how she uses a more human style of speaking, there? I took that to mean she's allowing arrogance to get the better of her...in more ways than one.)

Quote:

What's even more intriguing is how Ezri discloses to Cynthia exactly what Julian had learned from Sarina thus far.
Yep! To be honest, she is all too aware that Cynthia has been in control of the situation from the moment she mentioned Julian, in the first scene. In part...I suppose Ezri's trying to take solace in moments where she can be in control. A kind of mild "cat-fight" between the two, if you will. ;)


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