And now, the finale begins. Here we go....
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"From Risa With Love"
Mr. Crant led him through two more corridors, until they came to the doors of a suite. “Go on inside, Doctor,” Crant smiled, “Mr. Crolin is expecting you.”
“So I gather,” Bashir replied. “You’re not coming in?”
Crant chuckled. “Not yet—Crolin has something else in mind, for later. Don’t worry…I’ll be back soon, if you need me.”
Bashir shook his head in bitter amusement. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he muttered, as he stepped forward. The doors opened to allow him to enter.
In the center of the room was Cynthia Holland, strapped to a chair, dressed, he noted, in nothing but a linen robe—probably the one he’d taken note of last night, the one she’d teasingly made it a point not
to put on—
Stop it. This is no time for distractions, or regrets, or pain in your conscience.
Holland met his gaze, saying nothing. It was clear she felt the same way: the anger and resentment that he’d caused her to feel was absent, now. Her expression was serene and professional. For now, once again they were colleagues, once again associates on assignment.
In her eyes, he read a message of support. Be careful.
He gave a subtle nod. I will
Crolin sat at a desk off to the side, where a bed would normally be. He rose to his feet with a smile. “Good morning, Dr. Bashir!”
Bashir nodded in his direction, not returning the smile. “Mr. Crolin.”
Crolin chuckled. “Quite a merry chase, I must say. You’ve interfered a great deal—you and Miss Holland
Bashir crossed his arms. “Should I feel impressed that you know her name, Crolin? Because I’m not.”
“No…of course not. I am simply amused that you thought your misdirection would work for too long.”
“Perhaps I didn’t intend for it to be needed for too long.”
“Of course. You thought you could thwart us completely, with that interesting stunt of yours, last night. Of course, had you destroyed this
,” he gave a light pat to the device on his desk, “You would have. But you didn’t—for the simple reason that you couldn’t
. It’s a very rare form of technology, which I admit cost a great deal to apprehend. And therefore, you needed it intact, to study it for your own purposes.”
“I suppose so,” Bashir nodded, exchanging a glance with Cynthia, who gave a barely perceptible sigh, with a lowered gaze.
Crolin continued. “Unfortunately, you’ve now given us the opportunity to—”
“Yes, yes, you’ll naturally want to start over. Frankly, I’m amused you think you can do that, Mr. Crolin. Next time, we’ll be ready—and you, sir, won’t be able to set foot on Risa again.”
Crolin burst out laughing. “That’s assuming, Doctor, that anyone other than you are even aware
of what our intentions were.”
Bashir smiled. “I’m disappointed in you, Crolin. You really think we haven’t sent in any reports of this to our superiors?”
Crolin shrugged. “Whether you did or not…it will be similarly more difficult to know where to find us. I can assure you, Doctor, we’ll take care to modify our activities as needed—cover up our tracks more efficiently, and so on.”
“Indeed. Now—how do you intend to finish with us
Crolin smiled. “Ask Mr. Crant. He should be back, momentarily.”
As if on cue, the doors opened behind Bashir. He turned to see Crant, followed by three other armed men—one of which he recognized as the man he’d knocked out with the heel of his shoe, who was even now sporting the bruise on his forehead.
Goodness—is that all he has left? I shot six—meaning only
nine survived the explosion, alongside Crolin.
Bashir smirked inwardly. I suppose one should never underestimate the efficiency of Section 31. They certainly know how to clear their targets.
Crolin’s smile widened into a grin. “Now, tell me the truth, Doctor. Did you really
think you would have been able to rescue her, recover the device, and leave this building alive?”
Bashir shrugged, as he turned back to the Syndicate boss. “To be honest, I wasn’t particularly sure. But then, I didn’t have any particular choice. My duty, and all that. You understand.”
Crolin snorted. “Duty
.” He reached into a compartment under his desk, pulling a disruptor of his own. “Now, Dr. Bashir, you will appreciate the consequences of your ‘duty’. I sincerely hope it will be worth it—for both of you.”
Bashir smiled, as he stepped back until he stood just in front of Crant and the others. “Oh, I think it will.”
And with that—he swung around, yanking Crant’s gun-arm around, so that he shot a guard in the chest. Bashir released him, quickly enough to keep Crant from grabbing hold of him. Using his own momentum, he collided with the guard with the bruise—narrowly avoiding the disruptor beam from Crolin.
Bashir grabbed the guard’s disruptor, shooting the third at point-blank. He then lunged for Crant, knocking him flat with the butt end of the gun. The bruised guard, reached for another disruptor—but Bashir was ready, whirling around to fire. Three out, one down—one to go.
He turned to face Crolin—but the boss had swung his arm around him, trying with all his might to strangle him. He felt his grip on his disruptor weaken…and heard it clatter to the floor.
Bashir plunged his elbows into Crolin’s ribs. Unfortunately, this man seemed far sturdier than the thug in the spy program—there was little effect.
He plunged again—again—again, with what strength he could conjure up.
Finally, Crolin let him go—and stepped back, as if anticipating Bashir’s next move.
Thinking quickly, Bashir swung his legs around, hitting Crolin’s ankles as hard as he could—and the boss went down.
Apparently, Crolin’s bulk cushioned the fall, because no sooner did Bashir rise to his feet, kicking Crolin’s disruptor over towards the window—then the boss leapt up, swinging his arm to Julian’s torso with such force that the doctor felt himself fly across the room.
He landed at the feet of Cynthia Holland’s chair. The girl sighed, and muttered, “I don’t suppose I could offer any help—”
Bashir rushed behind the chair—whirling it around, so that her back was to Crolin.
He sighed at her. “Sorry about this…”
As Crolin rushed to him, Bashir pushed the chair back—and it collided with the Syndicate boss. Crolin shoved the chair aside, and Cynthia let out a yelp as it hit the floor.
Bashir rushed for Crolin’s disruptor—but the boss lunged for him again, tackling him down. Crolin swung a blow to the side of Bashir’s head, weakening him. Then, the boss stood up, picking up his disruptor. Bashir stiffened, preparing for death.
Crolin grinned. “I bid you adieu
, Dr. Bashir.”
The screech of a disruptor beam filled Bashir’s ears—
And Crolin went down…crashing through the window, tumbling down…down…down….
Bashir heard one last, faint, distant thump
, as Durantel Crolin met his all-too-timely demise.
Bashir shook his head, and smiled. “Adieu
, Mr. Crolin.”
He turned to see what had happened—who had shot Crolin.
He did not expect to see Mr. Crant, now recovered, give a contemptuous chuckle as he stood up and holstered his disruptor.
Bashir looked to the window, to see if Crolin had dropped the disruptor before his fall. He did—thank the Bird.
He lunged for it, and aimed it at Crant—just as the Syndicate operative pulled his own weapon.
“Come now, Doctor,” Crant said, with a smile, “Let’s behave like civilized men, for once—shall we? After all…I did save your life, just now.”
“I know,” Bashir narrowed his eyes. “But that’s the question, Mr. Crant: why
Crant chuckled. “Doctor, you’re a brilliant man; surely you can find the answer yourself.”
As Bashir stood up, the answer did
come to him. “Of course…. You saw all the errors Crolin made—how he rushed everything, how he allowed slight, subtle ‘clues’ to creep up …and it frustrated you, didn’t it?”
Crant spread out his hands. “Not at first. I thought the plan itself was brilliant, to be frank. Nonetheless, I doubt the Syndicate would give him credit for it merely ‘working on paper,’ as the saying goes. It’s…so often the little things that matter.”
Bashir nodded. “So—you’d allowed yourself to shrug off those ‘little things’, because Crolin has never paid for them, until now. And because of his previous successes…the Syndicate hadn’t taken note of them, either.”
Crant shrugged. “Perhaps….”
Bashir stepped towards the desk. “But, of course…mistakes tend to grow…and finally, they became just barely
noticeable for people like Miss Holland, there…and her superiors.”
Crant nodded. “To be honest, Doctor, you were right to imply that Crolin was deluding himself, thinking he could simply redo this assignment. Of course, had you not overpowered us like you did, just now...we may have."
"Unfortunately, the Syndicate wouldn’t allow
him to try again, were he to return like this
—just him and I, the rest killed, or else taken in by Starfleet. They’d kill him for his incompetence—and, just to err on the side of caution, they would have killed me, too.”
Bashir smiled. “But now, you get off clean as a whistle—because as far as they’re concerned, you
cleaned up the mess for them.”
Bashir chuckled. “With any luck…they’ll promote you, and make you into a crime boss of your own.” He raised an eyebrow, “A chance to put your brilliance to good use, instead of subordinating it to him
Crant gave a nod. “Call it that.”
“Yes,” Bashir narrowed his eyes, “But before you gloat over your great fortune—there’s still the issue of this impasse we seem to have reached—”
Crant snorted, and tossed his disruptor aside.
Bashir’s eyebrow shot up. “You seem very trusting, Mr. Crant.”
“Not at all. I simply happen to know that you’re a Starfleet Officer, Doctor—you have rules, which demand that you not shoot an unarmed man.”
“You could simply have another one, hidden.”
Crant shrugged, and spread out his palms upward. “I understand you’re genetically enhanced, Doctor,” he explained, as he slowly turned in this position, “and that you can naturally perceive things others would miss. So, tell me...” as he finished his rotation, “…am I armed?”
Bashir sighed, and set his weapon down on the desk.
“Good. Now,” Crant said, “I suggest you untie your little girlfriend, there.”
Holland let out a scoff. “I am not
Crant chuckled. “Well, regardless…I’d wager she can’t untie herself.”
Bashir narrowed his eyes, weighing his options. Finally, resolved that he had no other choice, he knelt down beside the toppled chair, untying Miss Holland, his eyes still on Crant.
As Cynthia stood up, bushing herself off, her eyes narrowed at the Syndicate operative, as she whispered, “Doctor, we should arrest him—we can’t risk his telling the Syndicate about us.”
Bashir thought for a moment, considering it. Finally, he sighed, shaking his head. “Look, we can’t be certain of what he and Crolin have already
told their superiors. At least here, they have the scapegoat of Crolin’s incompetence. If they go after us, it won’t be as clean and neat for them. Here
, at least as far as they’re concerned, they have nothing to worry about…and neither does Crant.”
Crant nodded. “You’re quite right, Doctor. It’s cleaner, this way. And further…I owe you, don’t I? Thanks to you,” he spread out his hands again, “I’ll command my own
Cynthia stepped forward. “That does not
prevent you from changing your mind, when you’re given that power. You know who we are, and what we look like. How can you expect us to trust you?”
Crant shrugged. “I don’t! However…the alternative is for us to all lunge for our disruptors, and kill one another. And…I doubt you want that any more than I do.”
Bashir sighed, putting his hand on her shoulder, “He’s right, Cynthia.”
Cynthia let out a sigh of her own, and spread out her hands in defeat.
Bashir turned to Crant. “Now, as for the device—”
Mr. Crant spread out his hands. “It’s yours, to do with as you please.”
Cynthia scoffed in disbelief at this. “No trouble?”
“No—no trouble, for two reasons. First: as I said, the Syndicate will not simply try this again. As far as I am concerned…it would be some time before we’d have further use for this.”
“And the second?”
Crant shrugged. “There are two of you, and one of me. I am not
one to take unnecessary risks. So consider it…an exchange—I let you keep the device, without a fight, and you let me walk free—without a fight.”
Bashir turned to Cynthia. “Well, it’s your mission, Miss Holland.”
Cynthia bit her lip…and finally nodded.
Mr. Crant chuckled, and spread out his arms, giving a slight bow. “Well, Doctor Bashir—Agent Holland—it was a pleasure doing business with both of you.”
Bashir crossed his arms. “Save it. You only did it because you had no other choice. In the meantime, I expect you to keep your
end of the bargain.”
Crant raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Well, let me put it this way…you told me earlier that you admired how worthy I was, as an opponent?”
Crant nodded. “I still do.”
“Of course. And therefore, I’d wager we’ll meet again…and you and I will take the same pleasure as we did here—if not more,” Bashir smiled.
Crant returned the smile, and nodded.
“But until that happens…I trust you’ll make sure the Syndicate doesn’t
retaliate for our…interference here? After all, I hate the idea of looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.”
Mr. Crant chuckled. “As would I. All right, Doctor—I’ll make sure to keep that sort of burden off of your shoulders this
time. But take care, both of you…because I hardly think I’d be open to such deals, the next time we encounter one another.”
Bashir smiled. “Well, in that case—I’d advise you
to take care.”
“Really? And why would I do that?”
Bashir narrowed his eyes. “Because, like the Syndicate, Mr. Crant…I always
collect on my debts.”
Mr. Crant nodded, the smile still on his face. And then he took his bow, turned, and left the room, off to see his ambitions fulfilled.
Julian Bashir turned to Cynthia Holland with a smile. “Well, that was an adventure!”
Holland shook her head, not amused. “Doctor,” she muttered, “You’re far too trusting for your own good.”
“Well, that’ll just be my problem, not yours. Somehow, I doubt your Bureau would be susceptible to the Syndicate’s…retaliation, if any. Now, when were you supposed to deliver that device?”
She let out a sigh. “Tonight—at 1800.”
“I’m going to deliver it with you.”
She whirled to him. “You—”
“I am not
letting you out of my sight, my dear. Frankly, I don’t
trust Crant to not try to get it back, if he can.” Bashir leaned to her. “Perhaps I’m not as ‘trusting’ as you’d think.”
She shook her head…and a thoughtful look came to her eyes.
“No,” she said, “Perhaps not.”
* * *