Chapter Sixteen (continued)
The capital city of Nimbus Three was abuzz with activity. The small shops and cafes, along with the various alien races passing through reminded Vaughn and Ro of Deep Space 9’s Promenade, only more chaotic. They had both changed out of their uniforms in order to look less conspicuous. Vaughn was dressed in thin dark gray trousers with a matching short-sleeve shirt and light jacket. Ro wore a modest navy blue jumpsuit and gray jacket, and even left her earring behind. Zeyner had observed Ro’s tendency to wear their people’s earring on the left ear as opposed to the right ear. Not that it mattered to him since he hadn’t worn one in nearly fifteen years.
The Starfleet team and their passenger had to dodge one Nausicaan chasing another down the dank and musty streets. A shopkeeper chased off a dissatisfied customer while shouting in an indistinguishable alien language. Now that I think of it, this place is more chaotic than the Promenade,
Vaughn mused. He could actually remember a time eighty years ago when this locale was named Paradise City. Nothing about this city evoked thoughts of a paradise. The heat was scorching. The air was stale and dry. If anything, one of Dante’s nine circles of hell more accurately described this place.
“He owns a shop right this way,” Zeyner said, indicating an enclosure on his right that, from outward appearances, resembled an antique shop.
Ro removed a hypo-syringe from her jacket pocket. She grabbed Zeyner’s right wrist and injected a microscopic device between two of the arteries. “Sub-dermal communicator,” she explained. “Any attempt to remove the transponder will automatically activate the runabout’s transporter.”
“Still want to meet this guy yourself?” Vaughn asked.
“He’s never met either of you,” Zeyner insisted. “He wouldn’t know whether or not to trust you.”
Zeyner stepped into the shop, which had various antiques on shelves throughout the one room enclosure. The carpet on the floor had been shredded in several places. Pieces of broken ceramic plates were on the floor left unattended. A Tarakalian male stood behind a counter in the back of the main room staring at Zeyner suspiciously, almost as if he was hiding a fugitive in the back storage area.
“I’m looking for Tao Verin,” Zeyner said with a greeting nod. “Is he here?”
“There’s no one here by that name,” the Tarkalian replied with a hissing whisper.
“Tell him Antis is here,” Zeyner attempted.
Without another word, the Tarkalian walked through a half open door connecting the main room to the storage room. Zeyner took a few nervous paces as he waited, seeing Vaughn and Ro peering through the window. He softly waved them away when he heard footsteps advancing back towards the door. He diverted his gaze back towards the Tarkalian who reemerged through the door.
“Mister Verin can see you now,” the Tarkalian told Zeyner.
Outside the shop and a few feet down the street, Ro scanned the area ahead with a tricorder. The readout screen indicated that Zeyner’s sub-dermal locator was functioning properly. Ro then tapped a listening device in her ear that allowed her to listen in on Zeyner’s discussion with his contact while at the same time not attract the attention of passers-by. “How’s yours?” she asked Vaughn.
“All systems go,” Vaughn replied.
Ro then took another look at her tricorder and pushed a few buttons to scan for any new alien life signs. “There’s a Thallonian in there all right,” she said of the scan data. “At least he’s honest about that much.”
“Let’s head around to the back,” Vaughn said. “We’ll get a better look at what’s going on.”
A tall and muscular humanoid male sat behind a desk in the storage room working a padd. He had long unkempt black hair, breaking with the common practice of Thallonian males shaving their heads. Zeyner last remembered him when he had just a braided ponytail hanging from the back of his otherwise fully bald head. But that was before the fall of the Thallonian Empire, five years earlier. He still recognized the man’s stern dark eyes and thick cheekbones.
“I see the refugee lifestyle hasn’t been kind to you,” Antis teased.
“Antis,” Tao roared happily. He rose from his chair and circled the desk to greet his old friend. “How long has it been?”
“Three years at least,” Zeyner replied, as they embraced.
“Last I heard from you, your cover on Deep Space Nine had been blown.”
“I escaped from prison a month ago.”
“Then you came to the right place. The local authorities here can be bought and bribed at the right price.”
“I also need information. I’m told the Ku-Vok-leth’s
attempt to assassinate Chancellor Martok is part of something bigger. I want in on it.”
Tao scoffed as if feigning ignorance of any other Ku-Vok-leth
activities. “I have little interest in Klingon politics,” he snorted. “How did you hear of an attempt to assassinate the chancellor?”
Outside in the alley, Ro was peering through a partially shattered window covered mostly in dirt and grime. She grew worried when she saw Zeyner at a loss for words. If he could not answer, this whole sting operation would be a total failure.
“The man I sold the Deep Space Nine schematics to double-crossed me once the explosives were smuggled aboard the Sword of Kahless
,” Zeyner lied. “He told them my role in this.”
Ro gave a sigh of relief. Her relief that the operation was not yet compromised lasted for a very brief moment when Tao asked, “But how did you know the Neo-Purists would use that information to carry out an assassination attempt? You sold Kalon the schematics two years ago.”
“Verad contacted me shortly after my escape,” Zeyner coyly attempted.
you knew he was a double-agent?” Tao asked with increasing suspicion.
“Of course,” Zeyner insisted. “I figured he or someone in the Neo-Purists sold me out once Starfleet spotted me here on Nimbus unusually quickly.”
“Or you could be part of Starfleet’s trap,” Tao suggested, removing a phaser pistol from a holster on his right hip.
“Damn it,” Ro grumbled. “We have to abort.” She removed her hand phaser from a side holster underneath her jacket and pocketed her tricorder.
Before Vaughn and Ro got one step towards the door, Tao cried out in pain and fell forward onto the floor. Zeyner dodged the hulking man’s falling form by jumping aside. A huge burn mark was on his back, indicating a sniper had shot him.
Ro pointed towards a window three stories up on the building across the alleyway. “Came from up there,” she said. “He wouldn’t have got a clear any higher up. Any lower down, and he’d have seen us.”
“Maybe our sniper was only interested in Tao,” Vaughn offered. “You nab Zeyner. I’ll go after the sniper.”
Ro sprinted through the storage area and out into the main room of the shop. She saw a door on her left that had been forced open and deduced that Zeyner had gone through that emergency exit. She slowly walked through the door to find the bottom of a stairwell. A door at the bottom of the stairs that remained shut, so he was headed for the roof.
At the top of the stairs, Zeyner kicked open the door leading to the roof of the building. He scouted out the sky for any air vehicles while leaning against the wall perpendicular to the door. He had managed to grab Tao’s pistol before he made a run for it. He placed the tip of the pistol against his right wrist and fired a quick burst hoping to short out the transponder. He cried out in pain from the discharge, but it was well worth it.
That scream did get Ro’s attention, and she was soon standing near him pointing a phaser at him. “Didn’t think you’d get away from me that easily,” she teased.
Zeyner gave an embarrassed smirk. “I thought I’d throw the sniper off,” he said. “If he wanted Tao dead, he probably was after me.”
“But why did you short out the locating transponder? I think you tipped someone off so you could escape.”
Without giving anything away with his facial expression, Zeyner simply quipped, “You’re good.”
Vaughn made his way up to the roof of the building from where the sniper was believed to have been. He looked around immediate vicinity, but he saw no one else, or any departing air vehicles. The sniper could have just beamed out, so that meant this chase was futile. He was about to consult his tricorder when he was a saw a hooded humanoid on the roof of a nearby building. At his advanced age, he was in no way able to overtake this person. With his phaser, he fired a warning blast in the humanoid’s direction.
That caught the humanoid’s attention, and he stopped to fire his phaser. Vaughn slipped behind a vent enclosure jutting out the top of the roof to dodge the blast. He peered over and continued firing in the humanoid’s general direction. The humanoid continued laying down cover fire.
Vaughn jogged over to the edge of the roof once his target’s back was turned to him. He was close enough to get a clearer shot. While the humanoid was attempting to force open the door, Vaughn aimed and fired incapacitating his target. He then walked over to the unconscious humanoid, hoping to get some answers from him.
He flipped the body face up to see the sniper was a male human of early middle age. And he was dead. But how if Vaughn’s phaser was on stun? Perhaps he had triggered some kind of suicide implant. That was a possibility after Vaughn saw a black leather wrist cuff underneath his light overcoat.
“Vaughn to Lieutenant Ro. Any luck finding Zeyner?”
“I’d call that an understatement,”
Ro quipped. She was still pointing a phaser at the man while escorting him back down the stairs. “We’re Tao had a personal database of some kind that will shed some light on all this.”
“That’s our best hope,” Vaughn replied. “Our sniper’s dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if he triggered a suicide implant. He’s wearing the official uniform of Section 31.”
“When you accompanied Julian and Ezri to Sindorin two years ago to stop a human augment from unleashing a legion of Jem’Hadar loyal to him. Doctor Ethan Locken had broken away from an organization code-named Section 31. They’re a rogue organization that operates behind the scenes to counter threats to the Federation.”
“That would explain a lot. Ro out.”
She then shot an accusatory stare at Zeyner as they continued walking down the stairs. “Are you a member of this Section 31?” she demanded. “That would explain how they knew we would be here.”
Zeyner snickered. “Do you and Vaughn hear yourselves? A rogue organization that operates behind the scenes? And when would I have gotten the chance to contact them?”
“Perhaps they let you take the fall when you got caught.”
“Oh, please. Do you read a lot of Earth crime stories? The very idea that such an organization could exist within the Federation is ludicrous.”
“Maybe so. But clearly, there’s more going on here than Klingon fanatics hoping to make a political statement.”
The two Bajorans reentered the storage room of Tao’s shop at the same time Vaughn came in through the back door. The three of them gathered around the desk in order to access the desk monitor. Ro entered a command decrypting the file lockouts that appeared almost immediately after Vaughn had activated the monitor. She then instructed the personal computing unit to run a search algorithm for relating to planned Ku-Vok-leth
terrorist attacks. Within a minute, the needed information appeared on the screen.
“Got it,” she said. “A deuterium processing plant where some unusual components were delivered. Harmonic resonator coils. Micro-fusion initiators. Magnetic fusion processors for the refinement of… boronite.”
Vaughn knew instantly that an Omega molecule was being created at that plant. “That looks like our place,” he offered.
“What does boronite have to do with subspace explosives?” Zeyner inquired.
“I’m afraid that’s classified,” Vaughn replied. “Not that’s ever stopped you from getting such information.”
“I just cross-checked with the Nimbus central database,” Ro added. “It’s not even a registered processing plant.”
“Bingo,” Vaughn declared. “But it’s going to take more than the three of us to derail whatever they’re doing there.”
“’The three of us’?” Zeyner repeated. “My part in this endeavor’s done.”
Ignoring Zeyner, Ro nodded in agreement of Vaughn’s assertion. “We should contact the station and request the Defiant