Ezri Dax sat in the main lounge of the Aventine
, sipping a Fanalian toddy. She certainly felt like she needed it—after the close call with Sarina…well, she needed something
As she sipped, and sat, she read—or at least tried to read—a little something Julian had once given her, back…back when they were still—together….
“May I join you, Captain?”
Ezri looked up—and froze at the sight of Cynthia Mirabelle Holland standing before her, in a Starfleet uniform; junior lieutenant’s rank, with the blue collar of science and medical. She held a tall glass of her own, filled with a red drink—probably wine.
Ezri smiled in bitter amusement, and shook her head. “So, I take it you’re part of my crew now, or something?”
Cynthia nodded, beaming. “I’ve just been assigned here, Captain.” She paused…and her eyes narrowed as her smile grew. “Shall I tell you my position?”
Ezri sighed. “Let me guess…you’re an assistant counselor.”
The other woman nodded again, chuckling. “I thought it’d be apropos.”
Ezri shrugged, and waved to a seat across the low table from her. “All right, by all means, take a seat.”
She did, and her hands clasped together over her knees, where her legs crossed. She looked at Ezri’s book. “Ah—Pride and Prejudice
Ezri nodded, as she set it down in her lap. “I know…dark humor on my part, I guess.”
“Oh? What do you mean?”
Ezri chuckled. She’s playing her part—I’ll give her that.
“Well—just the idea of making decisions based on assumptions
. Elizabeth has a bad first impression of Darcy, and gets the idea that he’s just a jerk…when in reality…”
Cynthia nodded slowly, “He’s a sensitive soul…who was sadly unsure of how to behave around others—or how to handle love.”
Ezri nodded, looking off, with a sigh. “Julian gave this to me, when we were together…a little something, just because.”
Ezri looked at her. “I suppose you’re going to ask me how it went?”
Holland shrugged. “Perhaps.”
Ezri smiled. “Well, you’re going to love this, Agent.”
Holland frowned. “‘Lieutenant
,’ if you please, Captain.”
. I don’t suppose they assigned you a name, too?”
“Dominique, Captain. Gabrielle Dominique.”
“All right, I’ll have to remember that.”
The pleasant smile returned. “Thank you, Captain. Now…what happened?”
Ezri shrugged. “Well—as it turns out…Sarina Douglass has confessed
to Julian that she is an agent for Section 31.”
“Gabrielle Dominique” was just taking a sip of her drink—and at this, she very nearly spit it out. She froze…and managed to swallow. Finally, she stared at Ezri, eyes wide in astonishment. “What
“Wait—that’s not the best part. Apparently
…she swore to him that she’s actually working to bring you people down—and she’s recruiting Julian to help her.”
Cynthia blinked, silent for a moment. Finally, she shook her head. “He bought
Ezri’s lip tightened. “She sold it, but I don’t know if he bought it. To be honest, I don’t think he
Cynthia shook her head, and rubbed her brow. “Je n’en reviens pas
,” she muttered.
Ezri sighed. I don’t believe it, either.
“Interestingly enough…L’Haan—I’m assuming that’s…?”
Cynthia looked up. “The director of Miss Douglass’s division, yes.”
“Well, apparently, Sarina had gotten into some trouble, after DS9 was destroyed, and…well, to make a long story short, L’Haan went to Julian and assigned him with clearing her.”
Cynthia held up a hand. “So—let me try to understand this. L’Haan confirmed
for Julian something that her own agent’s assignment required
be kept secret?”
Ezri leaned forward. “There’s more. From what Julian tells me, L’Haan didn’t bat an eye when she learned he knew her name.”
Cynthia shook her head, looking off.
Cynthia turned to her. “Sorry, Captain…what do you think?”
Ezri shrugged, as she took a sip of her toddy. “You know, looking back…I can’t help but wonder if I
had something to do with this.”
Cynthia blinked. “What—what do you mean?”
“Well, think about it: my hearing—before the Council, remember?”
The agent nodded.
“You know—well, I’m not a spy, but…like you said, my first host was a politician.”
Holland smiled a little.
“Anyway,” Ezri continued, “Think about it: if I hadn’t
been cleared…if they’d done who-knows-what to me—lock me up, or something…”
“That’d have put you out of the way, as the ‘other woman’?” Cynthia’s smile grew, in amusement, as she shook her head. “Captain—if L’Haan is as logical as her ethnicity suggests…she would not have dared underestimate…let us say, the power of the tragic romance.”
Ezri frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Were you to be convicted…it could have enhanced whatever feelings Julian might have, regarding ‘what might have been’.”
Ezri froze…and suddenly, something clicked in the back of her mind: a connection, which she felt she should
have made beforehand.
The SI report—sent to the Council, and the president, at the last minute. The thing that no doubt transformed whatever the vote
would have been…into a landslide victory, for me.
Ezri shook her head. “Sarina…”
Ezri smiled bitterly. “She…when she ‘evaluated’ me, in my cell, she said something about her superiors ‘looking into it’—that they were very interested in the hearing…and that they’d find out the truth.” Ezri shrugged. “At the time, I’d thought she was just trying to break the tension with me, or something….”
Cynthia said nothing, her face unreadable.
Ezri chuckled. “So—I guess L’Haan was caught between a rock and a hard place, with that.”
“You think she’s…trying to adjust to the reality of your—continued presence?”
Ezri looked to Cynthia, still smiling. “Well, think about it—if anyone would’ve had a motive to put an end to Sarina’s ‘assignment’, it’d be me
—assuming I’d know
Cynthia returned the smile.
Ezri nodded. “So…politics in
Cynthia chuckled. “Well, I can assure you, Captain—Miss Douglass half-confessing was not a goal of ours
, by any means.”
“Obviously! Like you said, if he found out she was playing him, it’d close up your ‘door’. What I’m saying is…maybe L’Haan feels forced
to do this. If it somehow manages to work
—Julian works for 31 when he thinks
he’s working against it…and his satisfaction at, as far as he’s concerned, taking all of you down…”
“—will blind him to any suspicion.” Cynthia chuckled. “Well…I do
remember him being a little arrogant. Takes pleasure in feeling in control
, does he not?”
Ezri shrugged. “Well, personally, I think that’s one of his most endearing qualities.”
“Perhaps. But…if it doesn’t
Ezri leaned forward again. “If it doesn’t work…and the door’s closed—at least L’Haan has the satisfaction of knowing that…whoever
in the Bureau’s been harassing her…”
“…won’t have the satisfaction of succeeding, where she failed.”
Cynthia stared at her for a while. Finally, she shook her head in amazement, and said, “First host, huh?”
Ezri shrugged. “I guess. In politics, it’s called a ‘scorched-earth campaign’. You take off the gloves, and give everything you’ve got—a weapon of last resort. Win or lose, you take your opponent down with you.”
“It usually involves smearing them with all the dirt and innuendo you can dig up…but I think this applies, too—in a way.”
Cynthia nodded. “I see, Captain. But—if I may, how do
you defeat this…‘scorched-earth’?”
Ezri grinned. “That’s the fun of politics, Lieutenant—finding the balance between defending yourself, and still coming across to everyone as the ‘good’ side. But that’s pretty hard to do, and you have to be very
Her voice trailed off…and she leaned back in her seat, with a sigh.
Cynthia frowned. “Is something wrong, Captain?”
Ezri shook her head, staring into her lap. “Look at me—giving advice to you
“If…if I said—”
“Don’t thank me. I’m regretting it, already. If Julian knew what I was doing…” Ezri looked up. “You know—when this started, you told me I wouldn’t
be like Sarina.”
“You’re not, Captain. Her agenda is to ensnare him. You’re working to free
him. Or, better—help him free himself
Ezri shook her head again. “I feel like I’m almost using the same methods, though—reporting to you
, so you can do who-knows-what with him—”
Cynthia’s smile returned. “We
, Captain, will do nothing—not with Julian, anyway. Oh, we may
approach him, someday, but…it will be his
decision. Not Sarina’s…or L’Haan’s.”
…” Ezri muttered. “So that’s supposed to make me feel better.”
“It’s not ‘supposed’ to do anything, Captain. It is only the truth.”
Ezri nodded, somehow wishing she could have a guarantee on that. But…but as far as she was concerned—she had no choice. She had
to repair the damage she’d caused…and hang the consequences.
She stared into her mug. “You know,” she said, “You haven’t told me what you will
do, with what I gave you.”
Cynthia chuckled. “That’s correct, Captain—I haven’t. Just that it won’t involve Julian directly—unless, of course, he wants
to become involved.”
Ezri looked up to meet her gaze, and took another sip from the toddy. “You know—sorry for bringing this up, but…it looks like your Bureau is due for quite a lot of clean-up. Cole, with Locken—L’Haan, with Sarina and Julian….”
Cynthia’s smile turned bitter. “I’m aware of that, Captain. My director is, too.”
Ezri stared at her…and her smile returned. “‘Unless…he wants
to become involved’?” she repeated.
Cynthia leaned forward. “I’ll put it this way, Captain: people like Julian…or James T. Kirk, or Elias Vaughn—great
men, don’t misunderstand, but—they’ve long dreamed of…destroying the Bureau, once and for all: exposing it, dismantling it…putting all its operatives on trial.”
Ezri nodded. “But…?”
Cynthia chuckled. “It should be obvious
to people like them, Captain—certainly after over a hundred years of their trying—it simply can’t
be done! But—every once in a while, I admit…we need their help.”
Ezri shook her head. “So—you’ll make everyone think
the Bureau’s destroyed, when the time’s right…when in reality, all we’ll have done is…”
“Helped us ‘clean the house’?” Cynthia’s eyes sparkled, her smile genuine. “Precisely.”
Ezri nodded, solemnly. Until now…she hadn’t really accepted that, in agreeing to help Julian, she could well have made a deal with…
No—Cynthia Holland is
not “the devil”. If my skills and instincts mean anything…she’s an angel, with a lot of dirt on her dress…but no stains that can’t be washed.
Still…the question is: does she
want to wash it off? She—she
believes in Section 31—in what it is, and what it stands for! I don’t!
Or…or do I? Is there, in fact, some dark part of me that
understands them…and allows for people like Luther Sloan to have a valid purpose, in the universe?
And with this…not for the first time, Ezri Dax felt all too aware of how alike she and Cynthia truly were. She couldn’t help but picture the agent having the same conversation with herself…back then.
But…but the difference is—I
do want to wash my dress, when this is all over. Does
Cynthia rose to her feet. “If you will excuse me, Captain—it’s almost time for my shift.”
Ezri looked up at her, fighting a swallow. One of
my ship—and I’m letting her stay?
She nodded. “Carry on, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Lt. Gabrielle Dominique nodded, and turned to leave—
But just for a moment, she lingered, and Cynthia Holland gave an innocent, reassuring smile. “If it’s not too bold to say, Captain,” she said, “…you make a wonderful operative.”
Ezri stiffened, as she raised the mug to her lips, her eyes trained on the passage of Pride and Prejudice
where she’d left off.
She heard Agent Holland—Lt. Dominique—walking out of the lounge. She kept her eyes on the printed page, hearing the doors open and close…the song “Suspicious Minds” filling her mind, and her soul.
“I hope not,” she whispered.
* * *
And the adventure continues…