Here is the third chapter of Secrets and Lies:
Day 4, 1430 hours
Inside the commander's office, Ezri was busy sifting through various bits of unfinished paperwork. She was shocked by Stoner's incompetence or rather laziness in letting such administrative issues pile up waiting to be resolved. She was concentrating on a padd when her a message showed up on her laptop. Ezri briefly checked who was sending it, and discovered it was admiral Ross, at once she rerouted the message through her laptop.
On the screen appeared Ross, who sat by his desk.
“Admiral a pleasant surprise, here to check on my captaincy so soon?” she said.
“Not quite...” Ross replied with a slight chuckle, his expression turned into something more serious. “Captain, I've received intelligence concerning a Cardassian prison located somewhere on Tau Primia in the Badlands. This place holds hundreds of prisoners and we believe that some of them are members of Starfleet.”
“The missing crew from the Liberty?” asked Ezri.
“Possibly, the Gul who runs this prison has seemed to have ran out of favour with his people, as the Cardassian government is now brandishing him a traitor. This is significant, because they are willing to participate in a joint assault on Tau Primia, to capture Gul Bordak.”
Ezri's mouth tightened when she heard Bordak's name. “Gul Bordak?” she inquired. “But he was the one who instigated the Arrettia massacre. Why would the Cardassians arrest one of their national heroes?”
“I know it may seem strange what the Cardassians are doing,” admitted Ross, “but President Garak assured me of Cardassia's full cooperation with the Federation to launch a joint strike on Tau Primia. Your mission is to lead the Starfleet task force and work with the Cardassians to free the prisoners on Tau Primia and capture Bordak. I'm sending the details of the operation and the intelligence files, pertaining to Tau Primia and Bordak, to you right now.
“The Bajorans will be assisting Starfleet and the Cardassians in this operation. This is something that the Bajorans have never done before; providing military assistance for Starfleet. Still it is another step towards healing the rift between the Bajorans and the Cardassians. By working together and setting aside their mutual distrust of one and another.”
Ezri considered it a sound plan, but she had one more question for the admiral. “How many ships are the Cardassians providing for this operation?”
“About five,” Ross replied, “And the Bajorans are providing fifteen ships. Starfleet is sending in five ships with the Defiant as the lead ship. This should be a tactically simple operation, however on the planet it could be a different matter... Good luck captain Ross out.”
The transmission ended, and Ezri paused briefly about what she had to do.
Her mind was made up, her finger tapped on a control panel to contact the senior staff. “This is captain Dax to the senior staff, report to the wardroom, immediately,” she said.
This was her first mission as a captain; it was not going to be easy. Nevertheless Ezri enjoyed a challenge...
Including Ezri there were seven senior staff members. Kira Nerys, was DS9's Bajoran first officer, she was second in command, she had a no-nonsense approach to her job and was deeply respected by the crew of DS9. Odo was chief of security and a shapeshifter, as usual his face was devoid of emotion. Julian Bashir was the chief medical officer and probably the smartest person in the room.
Despite being 51 years old, Bashir's face still looked quite young considering his age. Sitting right next to Bashir was Nog, Nog was chief of operations, he was a hard worker, but he got on with everybody well. Max was the chief of science and was the youngest person in the room, though technically Holo was the youngest.
Ezri was at the front of the table giving a presentation about the rescue operation, she was nearly done and was now summarizing the presentation. “To conclude; we are working with the Cardassians and the Bajorans.” Ezri gave a quick nod to Kira. “To free as many prisoners as possible and to capture Gul Bordak, any questions?”
Max was the first person to speak. “I have a question; why are the Bajorans involved? I mean Cardassian/Bajoran diplomatic relations are frosty at best, so why would the Bajorans work with the Cardassians?”
It was a naive question; Bashir and Nog exchanged smirks. Clearly Max was still new to the complicated diplomatic situation which DS9 was placed in.
Kira turned to face Max. “Because commander, Bajor wants to prove to everyone else that it is not dependent upon others. When the Cardassians pillaged Bajor 25 years ago, Bajor was left in ruins. Now Bajor has fully recovered and by helping the Cardassians and the Federation with this operation; it shows to everyone that Bajor is not a backwater planet,” she replied calmly.
“I'm concerned about the Cardassians,” said Nog. “We can't trust them and they still believe that the Arrettia massacre was justified. Hundreds of innocent Starfleet personnel were killed, and now the Cardassians are going to work with us to capture the instigator of that massacre? It doesn't make any sense, why would the Cardassians arrest one of their national heroes?”
It was a valid point, something that had crossed Ezri's mind numerous times. “Admiral Ross told me that President Garak was fully behind this operation,” she said.
“Risky move of Garak's isn't it?” said Bashir. “He may have upset the Cardassian military just enough to make them consider a coup-”
“I know Garak,” Odo interrupted. “He's a survivor and a consummate liar, and he may have deceived the whole of Central Command if he successfully managed, without backlash, to order Gul Bordak's arrest.”
It was Bashir's turn to interrupt Odo. “Garak wouldn't take such a big risk, it is-”
Ezri decided to put a stop to this argument, she cut straight through Bashir. “Enough!” she said angrily. “There is no point in speculating about Garak's motives. Our main priority is to focus on this mission. It is more important to be on the lookout for any Cardassian ploy, than it is to bicker over unsubstantiated claims!”
“Bicker?” Bashir retorted. “That wasn't...”
“Watch your mouth commander!” Ezri warned him. “I will not tolerate such pointless retorts, understood?”
Bashir had enough sense to back down. “Yes sir,” he said, trying to put as much contempt and disgust as possible into 'sir'.
It seemed Bashir's hatred of her had not abated, even after eighteen years, and Ezri felt terrible because of it. Nevertheless she was a captain and captain's controlled their emotions. Ezri decided to finish the senior staff meeting. “Good, any other objections?” she asked; looking from left to right. “No? At 0800 tomorrow, the Defiant leaves this station. Staff meeting adjourned then!”
Ezri watched her senior staff leave the room; Bashir was the first person to leave. She felt embarrassed; this was the first time she had spoken to Bashir in seventeen years, and she nearly came so close to having a petty argument with Bashir. She breathed out deeply, the argument had shaken her and even on a professional level Bashir vented his anger directly towards her. It was clear to her that there was next to no chance of talking on a personal level to Julian. So much for making amends...
Day 5, 0700 hours
Inside a dimly lit cell, Megan Felpes stirred. Her body was aching all over while her Starfleet uniform was in tatters, it was dirty and stained in her own blood. She wondered when Haydra was coming back. Though she was certain that Gul Bordak was torturing Haydra, and it had been two days since Haydra was taken from her cell.
Megan knew exactly what Haydra was going through: beatings, medical experiments and rape. Bordak never varied his routine when it came to personally torturing a prisoner; four hour-long periods of torture, a quick break, more torture.
Most prisoners quickly broke down in a matter of days; they lost hope and became psychotic wrecks. Fear, insanity and pain were there only companions. Megan was one of the few who had not cracked, not yet.
Bordak always liked to torture the high-value prisoners. The only exception to this was Megan herself; virtually everyday Bordak tortured her. For some particular reason, Bordak had a grudge against her, though Megan thought it was more like pure unadulterated hatred towards her.
She sat up against the cold, black ceramic wall, waiting for Haydra to return. Looking to her left she saw Jack sitting against the wall, his face was as usual expressionless, but his eyes didn’t seem to be staring at anything. Every time she looked at Jack she got this strange feeling, almost like a weight in her stomach. It was as if she knew that Jack could not be trusted, but how did she know?
The door opened, and two Cardassian guards kicked a human woman into Megan's cell.
The moment the guards had closed the door Megan hurried over to fetch a small bowl of water.
The woman was lying face down on the floor and was breathing heavily. Megan carefully turned the women over so that she was resting on her back; it was Haydra. There were numerous cuts and bruises all over Haydra's face, but Megan had never seen such a defeated looking person. “Here take my water you'll need it,” she said, handing to Haydra the bowl of water.
“No you have it,” said Haydra. “The Cardassians are going to torture you next, you'll need that water to keep your strength up.”
Megan shrugged her shoulders. “I've got accustomed to torture. It hurts, but I just block out the pain...”
Haydra looked at Megan disbelievingly. “How...” she stammered, “how can you say that? You're lying when you say it doesn't hurt, because there's emotional pain. Like being separated from your friends and family; don't you have a family?”
“The only family I have is my mother,” replied Megan dismissively, she had not spoken with her mother for over six years as both she and her mother were estranged.
Haydra though looked stunned and deeply hurt by Megan's comment. “Don't you care about how your mother feels?” she asked. “Your mother thinks that you are dead, I can't imagine what she must be going through.” Haydra paused, and her eyes were filled with tears. “I keep thinking about my husband and my two children, I miss them terribly.”
Tears were now starting to well up in Haydra's eyes. “The Cardassians shouldn't have captured the Liberty. I should have been better prepared for the worst,” she said despairingly. “As a captain I failed my crew...”
Megan grabbed Haydra's left arm, and Haydra looked wearily at Megan. “You did your utmost to protect the crew of the Liberty,” said Megan, “You never failed as a captain; you did everything possible to protect the crew of the Liberty.”
Her words though had zero effect upon Haydra. “What does it matter?” lamented Haydra. “There's no escape out of this prison. All of us are staying in here for good; there's no hope...”
“There is always hope,” Megan said passionately. “Are we going to succumb to our fear and pain, and start cowering in this cell? The Cardassians would love to see such a sight! Defiance and resilience are the only things we have left; it means the Cardassians haven't broken us.”
Haydra looked even more despondent. “I can't do do it,” she replied wearily. “I don't have your strength and your resilience...”
“Please don't give up,” urged Megan, and now her voice started to falter. “Have you got that?”
Haydra started crying, and Megan stopped trying to comfort her former captain.
Megan sat back down at her usual spot in the cell, listening to Haydra sobbing. Haydra was starting to crumble; it's inevitable
thought Megan sadly, that such a thing would happen, even to a Starfleet captain
For two years, she, Jack and Haydra had shared the cell, in this prison on Tau Primia. They watched out for each other, and all three had many terrible experiences in the prison. Sometimes Megan felt convinced that Jack was to blame for their predicament, and in those moments a terrible guilt lay in the bottom of her stomach.
She looked at Jack and tears welled in her eyes. She could not stop herself from crying. Jack noticed Megan's tears and he walked over sitting down right next to Megan. “Don't cry,” he said gently. “Like you said you can't give up.”
“Stop trying to comfort me,” Megan whispered, and she kept her voice low as Haydra was still sobbing. “I can't trust you.”
“Why can't you trust me?” Jack inquired.
“You...” Megan paused and she tried to recall this memory, yet every time she attempted this, an intense, emotional pain built up inside her. Yet it was this memory which was the reason why she could not trust Jack. “I don't know...” said Megan sounding confused. “But you did something, you somehow condemned us all to this!”
Jack hugged Megan, and he spoke into her ear. “I'm here to comfort you, not to hurt you.”
“I know,” replied Megan; her voice sounding distant.
At that moment, she was glad that Jack was with her; it made her realize just how much she loved Jack. Megan let him stroke her long hair, and it was quite comforting. She sat there, as she enjoyed a rare moment of tranquility. But that moment was soon shattered when a Cardassian guard opened the cell door.
At once she separated herself from Jack.
There was a nasty expression on the guard's face. “It's time for your next torture period Megan, Gul Bordak will be torturing you.”
“Why?” Megan asked.
The Cardassian guard approached Megan; he then swung his gun at Megan's face, knocking her to the floor. “Never question orders, rule number one remember?” said the guard.
Jack stood up; his fists were clenched, like Megan he disobeyed the prison's rules whenever possible.
“Don't!” Megan warned, her whole body was taut in defiance.
The guard promptly crossed the room, grabbed Megan by her hair and dragged her out of the door.