The streets of the old quarter were trodden bare and strewn with litter. Trelliq cautiously made her way through narrowing, unfamiliar streets lined with ancient domiciles, vacant shops and broken fountains. Windows and doors were sealed shut against the springtime sun, against timeworn economic impoverishment, and against the gathering political storm. She felt as conspicuous in her cloak as she would have in her Starfleet uniform. Even before establishing contact – with someone
– in the form of a brief coded transcription, she knew she would meet them far from the orbital checkpoints, far from the gaze of authorities and the restive streets. Call it old habit.
Do you think he'll remember you?
Reg had asked.
She wondered about that. “I was only a child when I last saw him,” she had replied, recollecting her dark memories of this embattled soldier of the Resistance.
“It's possible that he's still in contact with his network in the Resistance. I mean – if he's still...alive.” Reg had brought the Cervantes
into asynchronous orbit over the sunlit southern hemisphere of Bajor. He'd turned to her and closed his eyes in halting self-reproach. “Sorry, Commander.”
“It's possible they know where to find him – unless time and tide has turned against him – even then he was a rogue among mercenaries and fugitive from justice. The authorities had even labeled him a sociopath.”
“But your parents – liked him?”
“Yes. I remember him well. I liked him too, as a child. At the time, I didn't know what he was. My parents...lived the life of refugees and Maquis sympathizers on Bajor.” Her eyes had scanned the continent for signs of her past; but the distance was too great. “You can imagine how it was then.”
imagination,” Reg had replied, “has its limits, Commander.”
Trelliq thought about all the people she had known, wondering where they were now – and whether the current crisis was breaking up what remained of their personal networks the way it undermined her own in Starfleet. She took her duty seriously, as a Judge Advocate General and provisional First Officer of the USS Resolute
; a duty to protect the Sector – the citizens here, the Maquis, and, (unfortunately), even Cardassians.
Her thoughts turned to the crews of Voyager and the Perseus. Were they in trouble? Were they in control of their ships? Both Janeway and Chakotay had had extensive command experience; but Captain Tuvok – had not sat in command of his own ship; but had always deferred to more experienced command authority. Trelliq did not doubt his experience nor character; but she frankly hoped he was up to the task of command of a new ship and crew. That is, if he – or any of them – were even alive. In even the best of cases, the Perseus Trial was now indeed her captain's trial by fire.
How quickly the citizenries they were sworn to protect could dismiss their loyalty. As an officer, Trelliq preferred not to speculate. As JAG, she would act according to the protocols of an officer of the court. This meant giving fellow officers of the fleet the benefit of the doubt, until demonstrated otherwise – with conclusive evidence. “Innocent until proven guilty” was a right enjoyed by every citizen of the Federation – a right unfortunately taken more often than given. Trelliq had no reason to suspect that the disappearance of those ships and crews was anything more than an unfortunate coincidence – and that was the absolute limit of her official and personal opinion on the matter.
Which makes you a loyal officer
, Reg had said.
She'd replied: Or a bureaucratic fool
Trelliq watched the streets carefully as she slipped through them, wondering if among these decaying city ruins she could find the evidence she needed to help mend the Fleet, and the Federation, with help from – a relic of Bajor's wartorn past.
A child at the time, she hadn't understood much of what had been happening around her. Looking back now, as a Starfleet JAG officer, and as an adult, Trelliq sifted her memory for clues to help put it all into place. Actually, she now realized, it was sharing a shuttle transport with Reginald Barclay that had brought her past vividly into mind. He had a way of asking innocent, loaded questions that made her wonder if he hadn't some credential or experience providing ship's counseling. For an engineer, he struck her as remarkably sensitive to her own psychology – and not easily taken in by a show of confidence.
She revealed to him her parents had known Baiku when he fought for the Nëhrun Resistance Cell during the Occupation. His was one of the many recurring faces of family friends in a string of refugee camps, speaking in hushed, heated tones and occasional outbursts of rage over the campfires. One of those disappearing for months – to return injured, exhausted, and silent.
“I took the liberty of reading your service record, Commander;” Reg had said. “I wanted to learn about your background. I'm – sorry.”
“Don't be, Reg,” she'd assured him. “What's that old Earth expression? Water under the bridge.”
She watched him, but he hadn't believed her then, either. Some officer of the court.
She told him that her parents had protested during a peaceful demonstration meant to persuade the Federation to refuse the Demilitarization Treaty with Cardassia Prime. She and the other children had been hied away to the mountains at the time.
“A squadron of Xepolite raiders attacked the protest, tried to “persuade” us – only farmers – to abandon our dry fields to developers. Hardscrabble we had hewn out of castoff land, by our own hands. After I became a Starfleet officer, I learned that the Xepolites had been funded and equipped -”
“By Cardassia?” he guessed. “You went to Earth after that?”
“Yes.” She had gone quiet. “The day after my mother and father were vaporized by proxy disruptor fire.” Every time these words left her lips in her life, they said to her, that this
injustice would be righted – without benefit of proxy
She rested her fingers on the windscreen, watching Bajor turn beyond her grasp. “A Federation ship came to our aid. A Human clinical psychologist named Aoki Sevier caught my fall. Took me to Earth, opened her own home to me – and put me in school. A bed, a home – it was my dream come true. A dream that had lost all meaning without them.
“In time I came to understand more. Aoki helped me piece together my parents' lives. I learned my parents had been itinerant school teachers and peace activists; Maquis sympathizers – but not warriors. They had no influence beyond the sound of their voices and the strength of their resolve. Me? I tried to do more than speak out. In time, with Aoki's help, I got myself into Starfleet Academy. Devoted myself to Federation law. Working with the system.” Trelliq had found herself divulging more to Barclay than – almost anyone she'd ever known; or was she just gathering her nerve before beaming down to – this
“Through it all I just hoped to somehow contribute to Bajor's cause. The freedom of those I had left behind. The freedom of every life taken by force. I would see it respected.” She'd turned to him and straightened. “Preferably from the command deck of a heavily armed tactical warship.”
“Your service record was wrong, Commander,” Reg had told her, studying her intently. “It wasn't academic excellence. It wasn't outstanding athletic ability. Or anything else it said about your rise to the rank of Commander before your twenty-eighth birthday.”
“No? What was it, then?”
He leaned in to her and captured her full attention. “Drive
. Pure and simple.” He had shaken his head in appreciation. “You've got a galaxy-class warp reactor in there,” he said, pointing to her heart. “The last place in the universe I would want to stand is between justice and JAG Commander Trelliq Pel, Executive Officer of the Starship Resolute.”
“One ready to beam, Mister Barclay,” she'd replied.
She slid Barclay's output-enhanced tricorder to her belt, emerged from shadow and navigated down increasingly narrowing streets, remembering the last time she had walked proudly on Bajor – it was the day she had returned home at last – a free woman, bearing the uniform of a United Federation of Planets Starfleet Officer. The same uniform now concealed under a cloak. Trelliq gritted her teeth and made a promise to herself.
A promise someone
was going to regret.
She hardened her fists and strengthened her resolve. She would meet this soldier of the Resistance, this outlaw defender of the DMZ worlds; planets reclaimed by Cardassia Prime and conscripted as weigh stations in an unceasing cold attrition against Bajor. Planets whose colonists were left defenseless under the turrets of totalitarian military domination. Planets that gave names to Baiku Ca'al and Grifahni Gage, and their mercenary forces who made the DMZ worlds a living hell for Cardassian intruders – but in so doing earned only Bajoran damnation. The Nëhrun Revolutionaries had become vilified radicals; impossible to reign in or otherwise control. They were the living incarnations of chaos, a threat to the entire Sector. A threat which, perhaps, had not yet ended.
Perhaps she too, wouldn't control him. But face him, she would
Baiku was a mercenary who, as she had explained to Barclay, hadn't adhered to any edicts of the Bajoran Provisional Government at the end of the Occupation. Instead he rousted Maquis extremists and continued aggressive acts against the military resources of Cardassian Central Command and
their proxy thugs. The patently criminal act of inciting rebel skirmishes in the DMZ continued to jeopardize the Bajor-Cardassia treaty; they had been named hostile terrorists by the Bajoran authorities, and eventually even alienated their own freedom-fighting Maquis – with incendiary, revolutionary assaults against the Bajoran Provisional Government itself.
The forced exiles of the Ilvian Proclamation hadn't satisfied these Nëhrun Revolutionaries for justice against the collaborators in their own government. The mercenaries had viewed the Cardassian Withdrawal as an opportunity to “fertilize the fields with ashes of betrayers”, as they had put it – the burning penitence of the Occupational collaborator, bureaucrat and holy hypocrite. To create an altogether new Bajoran system of rational self-governance. Starting with the abolishment of the Kai.
This was the man she now sought – this childhood hero she now understood was instead – this mercenary, this revolutionary, this radical, violent fugitive of justice. But if anyone can get through the Badlands with his hull intact, it is Baiku Ca'al
, she'd told Reg.
“But what would he want in return?” Reg had asked her. “As a man who fought and killed for the survival of his people, who armed for revolution against his own government
? Will he take up arms once more against an enemy?
“And what if – that enemy is – his own people?”
She slid down a narrow, littered lane, and walked to the end, to the remnants of a high stone wall. A hidden, armored door sat recessed in the wall; it was marked by a chiseled groove in the shape of an ideogram – an ancient indecipherable symbol, yet unmistakably Bajoran.
Trelliq inhaled deeply, steeled her nerve, and pushed the door open. A gust of cool, sickly-sweet air hit her face.
The door opened to a lush garden. On the path stood a man wearing orange robes.
“Welcome, Commander Pel,” he said in a placid voice. “Little Trella, is that you?”