“Have Rhos summoned here at once,” Macet ordered after removing himself from view of the battle-hardened terhăn
. “It’s time.” Had he been a man taught to pray, he would have done so now to seek assurance that his statement to the Federation soldier would remain true after the sacrifice he asked of this young woman. As it was, Macet’s bronchial tubes constricted, forcing him to divert conscious attention to the rhythm of his breathing. He understood intellectually that he had to take this step to regain freedom of movement aboard his own ship, not to mention the latitude to lay his long-range plans—but that made it no easier to actually look the brave woman in the face when she stepped into the sensor-masked cargo bay where Istep had surreptitiously relocated an assortment of medical equipment. The conditions would be less than desirable, operating on top of a status table without the benefit of sickbay’s most sophisticated scanners, with a portable microbial filter to boot, but it would have to do.
Today, provided the most viable candidate accepted her mission, he would turn the technique the Obsidian Order used on Legate Ghemor to such great effect—upon an enemy that truly deserved every last minute of it “Rhos,” he reluctantly began, “I cannot delay this choice any longer. Arhaviyl must be dealt with at once now that we’ve begun our preparations in earnest. I remind you that I place this decision solely in your hands given the enormity of what I ask. You will risk your death at the hands of nearly everyone
aboard the Trager
, be they enemies or people you have long considered friends. Only a few of us—myself, Daro, Topak, and Istep—will know who you really are until the Jem’Hadar are dead. If we succeed in instigating a true uprising, should you become separated from the Trager
at any point you drastically lower any chances of reversing the procedure and you face a high chance of assassination at the hands of any Cardassian you encounter. Is this a sacrifice you are unreservedly willing to make?”
The engineering noncom chosen for her ability, in Istep’s estimation, to make the closest approximation of Arawil’s appearance of any Trager
crewmember—assented with a grave bow of her head. Far too young for such a weight upon her shoulders
, Macet ruefully observed, but as fate would have it, there was nothing he could do. “Very well, then,” he acknowledged. “After this is over, I intend to enter your name for the highest honors.” Macet fixed Istep with a deep-ridged stare and in soft basso tones, said, “Proceed, doctor. She must be ready the instant we seize Arhaviyl.”
The plan was quite simple, really: accost the Vorta somewhere she would be separated from her Jem’Hadar guards, and replace her immediately with Mindesa Rhos, who by then would have been surgically altered to look and sound identical to Arawil. Finding such a place had proven nearly impossible—the cursed Jem’Hadar followed the woman everywhere
; surveillance through some old Obsidian Order spy eyes Topak had managed to commandeer after Telle’s disgraceful departure revealed that those guards even watched over their charge as she showered. That observation had led to the suggestion of ‘accidentally’ shorting Arawil’s private head—and with the typical voltage of a warp-capable starship’s power grid, Arawil would have good reason to fear the charge might be lethal. The electrical hazard would force her to seek relief elsewhere: preferably one of the cramped ‘one-seaters’ off the main corridors where the Jem’Hadar could not follow and the high-traffic location would force the Vorta to shut the door.
“Those Jem’Hadar might be ready to die for the Dominion…in battle,” Glinn Topak had put in at that stage of the plotting, “but I somehow doubt throwing themselves upon a plasma-charged waste extractor is high on their list of honorable ways to die.” His subordinate, Haravl, had finally burst out laughing that here they all were--the gul and all his senior officers, huddled around a status table in the engine room seriously discussing whether the honor of a Jem'Hadar soldier included 'reclaiming' his life to secure his Vorta master a pleasant trip to the head.
Yet the damned thing of it was...depending on what the Jem'Hadar did--or wouldn't do, the plan might actually work
They would have only one chance pull it off, of course—Arawil’s first reaction would be to rake the Trager
’s maintenance crew over the ice and demand immediate repairs. Fortunately, Topak had suggested that the morass of Dominion equipment haphazardly patched into the Trager
’s system through Arawil’s quarters would provide an excuse for about one shift or so as to why their repair crews couldn’t reliably de-electrify the head for so long. Much longer than that, though, and Macet, Daro, and Topak all agreed that the Vorta would likely seek satisfaction by executing Topak and promoting Haravl into his place to solve the problem immediately
The other trick would be to keep Arawil from demanding to use one of the bridge officers’ private facilities—permission any of them would be forced to grant thanks to her official status. But if she were kept on duty long enough with one ‘crisis’ after another, the hope was that she would eventually relent and accept the nearest solution regardless. As soon as she did, Topak would beam her straight into cold storage and transport the altered Rhos into her place. It had been quite tempting to simply scramble the Vorta’s atoms into nothing but a cloud of dust—but ever since word had arrived of Weyoun’s ability to ‘reincarnate’ via clone, the fear was that the Dominion might somehow become aware of Arawil’s final demise the instant it occurred. So cold storage would have to suffice.
Macet did not offer a hand as Istep neared with the hypospray, for such contact between man and woman could easily give the appearance of something unintended—but the pensive look on his face made it very clear where his sympathies lay. “The Cardassian Union—and I—will never be able to thank you enough for what you’re doing, Mindesa. The fate of our people could turn upon this. We will do everything we can for you, but in case that isn’t enough…I swear upon the lives of my children that I will make sure Cardassia never forgets.”
Rhos smiled, a wan, fleeting expression that quickly faded with her consciousness.