Here is the next story: High Stakes
Season 2, 13th story. This is the third part of the Apocalypse story arc.
While Starfleet prepares an attack on Apocalypse, Team UFP must survive the dangers and rigours of life as Apocalypse gladiators. Unbeknown to Starfleet, Apocalypse's chairman, Coplin, is quietly implementing a plan that will rock the Federation to it's very core...
Warning: Contains strong, gory and sometimes graphic violence, and one use of strong swearing.
High Stakes, Chapter 1 part 1
Day 1, 1100 hours
Megan and Bashir arrived at the same time in the wardroom. Evidently they were puzzled because they were glancing up and down the empty table looking for someone.
“Where's the colonel?” asked Megan.
Bashir had stopped glancing at the table, his eyes were full of suspicion. “That's odd,” he said, frowning. “Computer locate colonel Kira.”
“That won't be necessary,” said a voice behind Bashir and Megan.
Having turned around, Bashir was gazing at the stranger with a mixture of concern and confusion. “And who are you?”
The man before Bashir smiled, as if he expected a more warmer welcome. “I'm the head of Section 31, Timothy Rooter.”
While Bashir looked at Rooter in a disgusted manner, Megan appeared more curious than angered. “Did Jack contact you?”
“He told me of your questions,” Rooter answered. “But there are more pressing matters... I am convinced that there is a mole in Section 31, and that he is stationed in DS9.”
Briefly both Bashir and Megan looked at each other in surprise, such a revelation seemed too extreme to be true.
“I'm not listening to you!” Bashir hissed, every syllable was tainted with rage. “Your organisation tried to exterminate the Founders! I'm surprised you had the audacity to come here and talk to me!”
Rooter sighed in an exasperated manner, and momentarily he shook his head in apparent frustration. “We could argue about the moral high ground for ages, suffice to say you don't trust me and I don't trust you, but we do have a common enemy here and that is Apocalypse.”
Strangely a smile formed upon Bashir’s face. “What's the matter Rooter?” he said, staring at Rooter nastily. “Can't the mighty Section 31 infiltrate Apocalypse?”
A ghost of a smile appeared on Rooter’s face, as he tried to brush off Bashir's scathing remark. “Let just say Section 31 wasn't to successful when it came to that matter... Until that is I thought I found what I was looking for; a defector, one who could play the role of the double-agent.”
“He betrayed you didn't he?” Bashir replied, the smile was now gone. “Despite all of your checks he still fooled you.”
This made Rooter look even more defensive. “I realised there was a problem when Section 31 lost contact with the infiltrator. One of my agents Jack Smith had requested that the infiltrator be sent to DS9, but unfortunately Section 31 had lost track of him three months ago. He may be here on this station or not, I just don't know.”
“I don't believe it,” said Megan, though more to herself, “Jack kept his promise...”
“He was ordered to do so!” said Rooter impatiently, giving Megan a cold but derisive stare.
“You want us to find this mole don't you?” Bashir asked. “You want myself and Megan to do your dirty work!”
“In a manner of speaking,” said Rooter, with a smile. “I believe the attack on DS9 was to silence Megan, as she had been attempting to pry into Apocalypse's affairs. Since Apocalypse must have known about Megan's contact with Jack, then they wanted to send Jack a message; no one interferes with Apocalypse's affairs.”
Bashir though did not look convinced. “Even if what you are saying is true, how can we find this person?”
“Put it this way; the Federation is going to attack Apocalypse, and our rouge agent will travel on the Defiant maintaining his cover while informing Apocalypse of the incoming attack. When the time comes and the Defiant is travelling towards Apocalypse station, that will be your opportunity to find the agent. That is your mission.”
Megan took Rooter’s words with great umbrage. “I refuse to take orders from you...” she snarled, her mouth twisted and contorted in loathing. “Your organisation isn't part of the Federation.”
It appeared that Rooter was expecting considerable objections to his orders, because he was staring at Megan in a sly manner. “Oh but I think you will follow my orders, the last thing you need in the heat of battle is an unknown saboteur onboard the Defiant. If he thinks he's cornered he may destroy the Defiant, personally I don't think he wants to be captured...”
Now Bashir looked even more suspicious, he was frowning so hard his eyebrows were almost scrunched together. “You seem awfully convinced that Starfleet will attack, how would you know the outcome of the admiral's meetings?”
Turning to address Bashir, Rooter folded his arms and he had the air of one explaining something in the simplest way possible. “Because Starfleet has no choice but to attack. Apocalypse will only grow bolder and more ambitious, it is funded by the Ferengi and the Tren, and with that sort of money Apocalypse is steadily building up fleets of ships and purchasing weaponry and mercenaries from various criminal elements.
“You can tell admiral Ross that according to Section 31's calculations, Apocalypse will have the weaponry and the ships not only to be impervious to a Starfleet assault in the Pushui system, but also it will considerably expand its zone of influence. These abductions are only the start, in a few years time there will be devastating raids on Federation worlds from an area stretching from the tip of the Breen Confederacy to the Romulan Neutral Zone! The civilian casualties will run into the millions!”
“And why haven't you told admiral Ross-or any other admiral for that matter-about this?” Bashir asked, he was looking daggers at Rooter.
Once again Rooter’s face slipped a little, he even seemed ever so slightly awkward about answering the question. “Well Section 31's working relationship with the admirals reached an all-time low after the end of the Dominion war. The thorny issue was the plan to cripple the Dominion-”
“You mean the murder of millions of shapeshifters!” Bashir exclaimed.
“You could call it that...” said Ross, in a chillingly uncaring voice.
“What else can you portray it as?”
Annoyance cropped up on Rooter’s face, and it seemed he had lost patience arguing with Bashir. “Please doctor spare me your holier-than-though morality,” he said, saying the words as if they were vile. “You and I both know that if the Dominion had won, the Founders wouldn't hesitate to exterminate our race. It was either us or them, and Section 31 had to make a choice that naive and decent men like yourself doctor could never make; to destroy or be destroyed!”
Bashir did not have an answer to that, and Rooter looked victorious having settled the argument decisively. “Now if I may continue... Certain admirals I know have kept me at arms length because they want nothing to do with myself or Section 31. So for the last nineteen years I've had to give information to the admirals through more covert measures, not as face-to-face if you get my meaning...”
“You want us to be the messengers?” Megan asked.
“Precisely,” said Rooter emphatically. “You can tell colonel Kira all that I have revealed to you.”
Some of Bashir’s anger had returned, and he was once more staring at Rooter in a partly smug and defiant way. “You're taking a risk, telling me this information, I could inform Starfleet and tell everyone I know about Section 31.”
This did not seem to worry Rooter whatsoever, he looked totally nonplussed. “My predecessor had a similar discussion and just like him I'm not that worried,” he said, a hint of impatience cropping up once more. “You see the top brass will lie through their teeth and deny that Section 31 ever existed. They have to do this otherwise the word will eventually get out that they allowed Section 31 to exterminate the Founders. That is why they distance themselves from Section 31 as much as possible.”
“But they're willing to use the intelligence you provide to them?” Bashir asked in seething tones.
Rooter moved some steps closer to Bashir, and there was a powerful self-confidence coming from this man. “I have one word for you doctor; leverage. Starfleet Command wouldn't dare touch my organisation because I know too many damaging secrets that Starfleet has very carefully hidden away. Suffice to say Starfleet did not come out of the Dominion war smelling like roses, and so Section 31's existence remains hidden and the status quo preserved. Now you can disagree with my motives all you like, but if you don't try to apprehend the rouge agent he may try to sabotage the Defiant, or disrupt the soon-to-be-coming Starfleet attack on Apocalypse.”
“How do we know you are not the mole?”
A smug smile came to Rooter’s face. “Because we wouldn't be having this discussion if I was the mole.”
“Why can't you find the mole?” said Megan, she appeared suspicious by the whole rouge agent matter. “I mean with all your technology couldn't you send someone to track this agent down?”
“As I said before Section 31 doesn't want to get its hands dirty,” Rooter explained.
He started walking away from Bashir and Megan, and came to a stop at one end of the table. Turning his head to the right he addressed the two once more. “Good luck doctor, commander, I'm sure you will find the rouge agent if he is still on board this station.”
A transporter beam then enveloped Rooter, and in a few seconds he had dematerialized. Rooter’s sudden disappearance had shocked Megan, and she dashed over to a computer interface some metres away from the other end of the table.
“Damn there's no trace of him...” she said, while examining sensor logs. “He must have wiped out all the computer memory…”
She turned away from the computer and gave a questioning stare to Bashir, who was now standing close by. “Are we really going to follow his orders?”
“I'm not sure,” said Bashir, looking somewhat surly and troubled.
To Megan’s surprise he then walked away to leave for the exit. “Where are you going?”
“To talk to colonel Kira about what just happened!”
Bashir left the room, leaving Megan standing there looking a little surprised by the prompt exit.
Bashir tapped the door chime outside of Kira’s office, before walking inside.
Kira looked exceptionally busy, with numerous padds strewn over the table. “What is it doctor?” she said impatiently.
“I just had a meeting with the head of Section 31, and-”
“You what?” said Kira, looking totally bewildered by what Bashir had just said.
Bashir sought to explain himself better. “Myself and Ms Felpes received a false communication from you telling us to meet you in the wardroom. But when we arrived you weren't there, some moments later the head of Section 31, Timothy Rooter, beamed in. Well at least I think he was beamed in.”
The padd Kira was holding dropped against the desk with a small clunk, it appeared that Kira had totally forgotten about her work as her eyes were fastened upon Bashir’s. “What did he want?”
“He wants me and Megan to find an agent of his who has gone rogue. This agent was formerly Section 31's infiltrator in Apocalypse, but he has now apparently defected or gone on the run. Rooter told me that he believes this agent could still be on DS9.”
“And how would he know that?”
Bashir frowned somewhat as he thought about his conversation with Rooter, he did not have an answer for that and this was starting to concern him. “Rooter wasn't exactly clear about that, but he was quite adamant that this agent would be on board the Defiant.”
“And why the Defiant?” asked Kira in a sharp manner.
Grimacing a little, Bashir felt deeply awkward about what he was going to say next. “Well Rooter believed that Starfleet would attack Apocalypse, and the Defiant would be involved.”
This statement seemed to both somewhat shock and make Kira more suspicious. “So somehow Rooter already knows the outcome of the deliberations going on amongst the highest ranking members of Starfleet Command?”
“There's more to this than meets the eye…” Bashir mused. “Rooter told me that the admirals and Section 31 aren't on speaking terms. This explains why Rooter gave me this warning about Starfleet not doing anything about Apocalypse.”
“A warning?” said Kira loudly, sounding deeply concerned.
“He said that Apocalypse is funded by both the Ferengi and the Tren, and with that kind of funding Apocalypse is steadily building up its armaments and fleets. It gets worse because Rooter believes that Apocalypse will only grow more aggressive and in a matter of a few years it would have amassed enough ships and weaponry to not only be impervious to a Starfleet assault in the Pushui system, but also carry out massive scale attacks upon the Federation.
“We're talking about a zone of danger from the Federation's border with the Breen to the Romulan Neutral Zone! Finally he said that given such attacks the civilian casualties could run into the millions!”
“Does admiral Ross know this?”
“I don't think so,” said Bashir wearily, he hated having to talk with all this vagueness and mystery. “Section 31 rarely communicates with the admirals, and when it does the occasions aren't always face-to-face... I think this is Section 31's way of warning admiral Ross and his peers about the dangers of not agreeing to attack Apocalypse.”
Kira looked deeply perplexed to hear this. “But isn't Rooter taking a risk talking to us about Section 31?”
Bashir shook his head, though Kira knew about Section 31, she did not fully grasp how this organisation worked, whereas he did. “Well firstly we already know Section 31 exists. Secondly we haven't told anyone else about it, and if we did mouth off then Section 31 would go into absolute hiding, which would only make matters even worse...”
Kira made a small tutting sound, her frustration seemed to have increased considerably. “I have heard your reasoning before and it still sounds like a glib excuse for not exposing Section 31.”
“I don't like it either,” replied Bashir as he tried to deflect the blame. “But I don't see how exposing Section 31 to the entire Alpha Quadrant will destroy it!”
The scowl on Kira’s face only seemed to deepen, while her hands which were resting on the table had now been clasped together. “Setting aside the matter of Section 31, what about this mission Rooter has given you, do you intend to complete it?”
Bashir gave out a brief and almost imperceptible sigh, he was not looking forward to talking about this mission, and what he was going to say would only make Kira more angry towards him. “As much as I don't want to work with Rooter I'm afraid I have to agree with him about finding this rogue agent. If this agent is on DS9 then he could pose a serious security risk... Besides the agent may have being staying on this station for close to three months, that places him in the timeframe before the Apocalypse attack. For all we know this agent could have sabotaged DS9...”
The expression on Kira’s face softened a little, and she did not seem so exasperated. “I fully appreciate the threat this person poses, but if Section 31 couldn't track him, what makes you think we can?”
“We won't have to track him,” answered Bashir craftily, and he could not help feel a little smug as he envisaged this situation happening so easily. “If events proceed as planned, such as Starfleet assaulting the Pushui system, then the Defiant will surely be involved in such an operation. If the agent is on DS9 then he will board the Defiant, no doubt posing as a Starfleet officer. Hence it will be on the Defiant that we find our agent.”
Kira raised a questioning eyebrow, and her voice went up half an octave. “If this agent really is posing as a Starfleet officer then surely the logical thing to do would be to question each Starfleet officer on board this station?”
Inwardly Bashir groaned to himself, what seemed like the logical thing to do was unfortunately the incorrect course of action for a situation like this. “I know this sounds complicated and we've already made to many assumptions. But if the agent is on DS9, if he has stayed here for three months, and if he is under the guise of a Starfleet officer, then it shows his skill at not being caught!
“We could question all the Starfleet officers on this station and we would more than likely finding nothing suspicious or anything to implicate one of them as this agent! That's why I maintain we will only find the agent once on board the Defiant when it is taking part in the more-than-likely Starfleet assault of the Pushui system!”
Almost immediately Kira shook her head, in an almost reflexive-like response, she looked deeply troubled by Bashir’s proposal . “It is still a risk deliberately letting such a person go on board the Defiant during a combat mission!” she exclaimed.
She paused, as she mulled matters over. “But under the circumstances it looks like we have no choice... However before we go along with this mission of Rooter's, I'm talking to admiral Ross first about your meeting with Rooter. If he gives his approval of this mission then we proceed with it.”
Bashir had one more thing to ask of Kira. “Also tell Ross about Rooter's warning about the consequences of leaving Apocalypse to its own devices!”
“Are you sure that's wise?” asked Kira, giving an almighty penetrating stare into Bashir’s eyes. “If I do tell him then it could heavily influence the deliberations he is having with the other admirals!”
“But that's exactly what Section 31 wants!” exclaimed Bashir, it all made perfect sense to him. “It wants Starfleet to attack Apocalypse! Besides I have the feeling that Starfleet Command still listens to Section 31 whenever advice, intelligence or warnings are given.”
“Alright I will tell Ross,” relented Kira, though she still sounded deeply dubious about the whole matter. “And if that is what it takes to convince Starfleet Command to attack then so be it!”
“Thank you,” said Bashir, glad that his friend had put up with such a huge amount of speculative talk and reasoning.
With the topic closed, and with nothing more to say, he moved away from the desk and left the office. He could fully understand Kira’s suspicions and doubt about this Section 31 mission and Rooter’s warning, as the whole situation did not feel right. But Bashir was prepared to get his hands a little dirty if it meant guaranteeing a Starfleet assault on Apocalypse.
He was coming to regard Section 31 as a necessary evil because it had its uses. Still he wished Section 31 never existed, and every time he had come into contact with Section 31, he left each encounter feeling that his morality had been a little sapped and withered. What he did not like about this was that he was playing Section 31’s game of for the greater good. The only thing he was certain about was that Apocalypse could not be allowed to continue on unchecked…