“I don’t understand why you now want access to classified Special Ops technology.”
Elias Vaughn was on a comm-line with a former colleague from Starfleet Special Operations in the security office. Ro stood off to one side keeping as quiet as possible to let the middle-aged man with a shaved head on the other end think no one else was listening. Marcus Hilliard had served alongside Vaughn as a field operative. Vaughn thought Hilliard’s completely bald head was appropriate in that line of work, but in the various desk jobs Hilliard had been in since late in the Dominion War.
“I understand your reservations, Marcus,” Elias calmly replied. “I can assure you, I will personally oversee the deployment of the transponders.”
“It’s too big a risk.”
Vaughn was dumbfounded at both at being denied this routine request and that this usually normal Special Ops task was labeled “too big a risk.” “How?” he asked.
“If these terrorists were to realize the deception,” Hilliard said sternly, “then the whole operation will be for nothing. Or worse, if they get their hands on this technology… “
“That’s always the risk; it’s never stopped us before.”
“Sorry to have to turn down an old friend, but the answer is no.”
Hilliard quickly signed off, his image replaced by the Starfleet delta.
“He’s up to something,” Vaughn mused. “It’s not like him to be so dismissive.”
“Maybe he’s been behind that desk too long,” Ro suggested.
Vaughn grabbed a padd on the desk and entered a set of letters and numbers. “Here is the authorization code to access the industrial replicator file,” he said, handing Ro the padd.
Ro’s eyes widened in confusion to resist the urge to blurt out, “Are you kidding me?” She grabbed the padd at a loss for any other words. After looking over the contents of the padd, she asked, “Why did you even bother asking permission if you were going to go through it anyway.”
Vaughn shrugged, not exactly sure how to answer. “It seemed the polite thing to do,” he said with a grin.
Once Vaughn exited the office, Ro fell into her chair rolling her eyes. Was this how the James Kirks or, more recently the Jean-Luc Picards and the Benjamin Siskos, of Starfleet got away with insubordination? Ask for permission, but do it anyway regardless? Her insubordination got her court-martailed and imprisoned, and she would meet the same fate after the end of the Dominion War. Yet these guys got slaps on the wrist. How could I have missed that?
Kira entered Ops from her office, just as Ezri entered through the port turbolift, Vaughn had just returned from his conference with Ro in the security office. They had between two and three hours before Verad’s group arrived to set off an explosion that would damage or even destroy the station. Since the Defiant
’s return, it now served as one of the evacuation ships. The rest of the crew stayed aboard while Dax came to Ops to give a status report.
Ezri considered the irony that they were allowing a terrorist attack on the station to go forward. She knew, or rather she and Curzon knew, that Vaughn’s former specialty involved this kind of subterfuge. But what if Verad was planning to destroy
the station, and was the goal of Sisko’s operation was worth sacrificing the station? She didn’t have any specifics after Sisko had gone dark. Was Kira prepared for such a possibility?
“Any other news from Captain Sisko?” Kira asked her.
, Ezri deduced in answer to question she had asked herself. “None,” she replied in response to the captain’s query.
Looking over to the science station, Kira asked Tenmei, “What has your analysis of the ultritium beamed out of the cargo bay turned up?”
“Forensic scans indicate enough ultritium to knock out power to half the station,” Tenmei replied. “Worst case scenario, if the explosion originates in the reactor core, the whole station could explode.”
“Any luck finding out where the ultritium may have gone?” Vaughn chimed in.
“We’re still running sensor sweeps,” Tenmei answered with a frown.
“How are the transponders coming?” Kira asked Vaughn.
“Ro and Nog are working on their deployment,” said Vaughn. “They should be up and running in the next two hours. And Ro has security teams standing by in case of any new leads.”
“Good,” Kira answered with a nod. “Everyone, stay sharp. But if the worst happens, I want you all to know, it’s been an honor serving with you.”
Everyone else in Ops exchanged curious glances. As far as some of the more junior officers were concerned, this evacuation was just a drill. Only the most senior officers knew exactly what was going on.
As rest of the group dispersed, Vaughn had an additional request for his daughter. “I want you on the Defiant
, too, Prynn,” he said calmly but sternly.
“I’m not leaving you behind,” Tenmei insisted.
“I don’t know how many times we’ve had this discussion. You still have a lot of good years left. I don’t want to have to make this an order.”
“You don’t have to, sir,” Prynn relented. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling at this moment. Maybe it was apathy since they were not always on the best of terms. Or maybe it was regret at having shut her father out of her life ever since the assimilation and later death of her mother. Elias had felt responsible, as those were unfortunate consequences of his own mission, but Prynn was just starting to get over the resentment. She ascended from her station and followed Ezri to the port turbolift without another word.
Using an uplink to the station’s transporter system, Verad’s group beamed into their designated areas. Sisko and Lek materialized in a dark and musty hallway. Somehow, engineers preferred parts of the station in proximity to the fusion reactors to be that way. Lek kept his weapon trained on Sisko as they walked towards a door to the fusion reactor they were targeting. “Open it,” the glowering Orion directed Sisko.
Sisko did as directed, pushing the button on the right side to open the double doors. They stepped inside just as Lek’s wrist communicator chirped. “Go ahead,” he said tapping it.
“We’re in position,” Verad replied on the other end. “What about you?”
“So we are,” said Lek. “The human hasn’t tried anything yet.”
Lek tapped his communicator to sign off, and then arched his pistol closer to Sisko’s head. “Start assembling the explosives,” he demanded, looking down at the floor at the power cells that had been transported there earlier.
Sisko set down the travel bag on his back and slowly kneeled down on the deck. He didn’t dare try anything surreptitious with a phaser pointed at him. Why he was thinking about not forcing Kasidy to raise their daughter without him now more so than when he confronted Dukat in the Fire Caves, he could not say. In both instances, a lot depended on Sisko’s actions in a very small time span. Lek then set down his travel bag and began emptying the metal rods with his free left hand.
Sisko shot quick glances at the Orion as he began placing packs of black powder into the metal rods. By itself, this powder was completely harmless. But at the right temperature, it and everything within a hundred meters of it would explode. Right now, he could see no opportunity to reveal his ace in the hole.