Gul Arek Latham sat at the head of the table in the briefing room just off bridge, listening to the reports of the chief engineer, Dalin Pirella Thomar. Latham had his own suspicions regarding unexpected arrival of Klingon and Romulan reinforcements outside the Tong-Beak Nebula seven days earlier. After all, he had authorized sending a clandestine communiqué disguised as a Starfleet emergency summons to those enemy vessels. The Dominion had plans to ambush a Federation Alliance battle group in the immediate vicinity of the nebula when its commander acted on intuition that the Dominion no longer considered the Kalandra sector to be of any value. The ambush would have been largely successful if not for the sudden arrival of a fresh set of ships. With Diralna attending the briefing, though, Latham needed to do his best to act as if he were disturbed by such a turn of events.
“Teams continue to analyze all computer data in an attempt to salvage deleted system logs,” Thomar informed the rest of the group, which also included Latham’s top aides, Glinns Orlak and Maret. “We’ve retrieved comm logs deleted for legitimate security reasons. We found no evidence, so far, of any transmissions of an elicit nature.”
Diralna sat across from Thomar, rolling her eyes as if she didn’t buy a single word the engineer had said. “Keep looking,” she spat. “Someone clearly sent a transmission that allowed reinforcements to arrive sooner than expected.”
Thomar gave an exasperated sigh, wanting Diralna to see how annoyed she was. The Vorta, as well as Jem’Hadar guards on the Pakar
, had been harassing Thomar’s repair crews over the last seven days, accusing them of sabotage in the guise of repairs. Diralna would also arbitrarily reassign Thomar’s crew, making repairs to the vessel more difficult and arduous.
“We don’t know that’s the reason for the early arrival of the Klingon and Romulan battle groups,” Thomar shot back, trying to hold in her frustration.
“The possibility of a mole on this ship cannot be ruled out. Your efforts to discourage any such investigation might be evidence of guilt.”
“I resent the implication,” Thomar hissed. She leaned against the table, still resisting repeated urges to wring the Vorta’s neck.
“Do you?” Diralna taunted. “Interesting that your eyes widened when I suggested your complicity.”
“My eyes widened because I’ve grown weary of your paranoia.”
Latham was almost hoping the two women would start physically fighting each other. Then again, that would hardly be productive. “Ladies,” he said. “This bickering is not helping. We have to consider all possibilities. Orlak, maintain full security measures, limiting all ship-to-ship communications to the most essential of matters. No personal transmissions of any kind until this matter is resolved.”
Glinn Orlak nodded in acknowledgment, but Diralna remained unsatisfied. “It still wouldn’t hurt to investigate all Martosian and Norsaian crewmembers,” she offered, “as well as all bridge communications officers and engineering crewmembers, Glinn Orlak…”
The first officer turned his attention towards the Vorta trying his best hold in his annoyance at her unfounded supposition. “Now, wait a minute,” he snapped.
“Only because you shouldn’t trust your immediate subordinate,” Diralna explained to Latham with an amused smile, “no more than I don’t entirely trust you or any of your crew. Now, I’d like a few minutes with the gul.”
Latham sighed, but kept his calm. “You’re all dismissed,” he told his three officers. They quickly filed out, once again leaving gul alone with the Vorta. Once they were gone, he rose from his chair and towered over Diralna. “I will not have you harassing my crew with baseless accusations,” he hissed.
Diralna stood up and looked towards the slightly taller Cardassian face-to-face. “Remember your place, Latham,” she said. “You’re all on a tight leash—not just Gorr Perron.”
The name of his extra-marital love interest immediately caught Latham’s attention. He had provided Nezhak with a recording of Diralna’s communiqué with Yelgrun regarding setting up an ambush for the enemy fleet. He looked away from Diralna upon realizing what kind of tells he might have been giving off. “What do you mean?” he asked with a slight glance at the Vorta.
“As records officer, she has access to every computer file,” Diralna explained. She looked straight into Latham’s eyes, but he stared back just as firmly and as intently to give the impression he had nothing to hide.
“Even those considered off-limits to non-commissioned service personnel,” she continued. “She can break through any encrypted records if she chooses.”
“Based on what evidence?”
Diralna grinned and paced across the room. She stared at him from ten paces away, seeing if the long silence would break his façade. His expression still remained neutral. “She has a cousin who is one of the members of the rebellion still at large,” she said. “They last corresponded shortly before the revolutionaries were defeated. Before Nezhak enlisted in the military, she was an apprentice to a man with known ties to the Cardassian Underground. She has a way of acquainting herself with individuals who have little respect for authority.”
“In other words, guilty by association,” Latham replied.
“Not so tough when you or the pretty young thing who shares your bed are judged guilty until innocent,” Diralna teased while sauntering back towards Latham in slow and suggestive steps.
Latham shook his head and scoffed. It was true that he did not enjoy being a suspect in a criminal investigation under his race’s means of dispensing justice quickly and harshly. Under the Cardassian judicial system, all criminal defendants were considered guilty until proven innocent—and many lacked the means to prove their innocence—while the Federation system followed the rule innocent until proven guilty. True, both systems were flawed, but Latham didn’t know how much of a hassle one of his crew being accused of a crime without solid, tangible evidence was until now—when a Vorta was wielding baseless accusations.
“The only thing I’m guilty of,” Latham plainly stated, “is allowing you to intimidate my crew. Yes, the possibility of this type of security breach makes us vulnerable. A commanding officer still has to trust his troops to assure the unit’s cohesiveness. Of course, that’s a concept beyond a Vorta’s comprehension.”
“Your people would still do well to learn from how we conduct our military operations,” Diralna retorted, stroking the ridges on Latham’s forehead. “But back to the matter at hand—I will forego the ‘witch hunt’ if you execute Nezhak yourself.”
Latham grabbed Diralna’s wrist and coaxed it away from his own face. “Absolutely not!” he spat.
Diralna yanked her arm away and flashed a devilish smile. “Your choice,” she said. “Though if your crew learned you could have prevented all this finger pointing, they’ll never trust
Latham took a deep breath to keep his emotions in check. Again, the methods his race used to force compliance from Bajorans and other subject races were now being used on him by a Vorta. “Get out,” he hissed with a murderous rage in his eyes.
Diralna chuckled and took a few steps towards the bridge entrance. “For once, I’m happy to oblige,” she said. “Feel free to change your mind.”
Once the Vorta was gone, Latham let out a snort of derision. Despite the quandary Diralna had placed him in, the choice was clear. He would not execute an innocent woman, especially not his lover.
Dominion Heavy Cruiser 9-47
Yelgrun stared at a three-dimensional holographic display of a star map when the door to his office slid open. Without even requesting permission to enter, First Mirak’tiral paced into the office. If it weren’t blasphemous, Yelgrun would curse the Founders right now for failing to program basic social protocols into the Jem’Hadar’s genetic makeups, especially in those bred in the Alpha Quadrant.
This “subspecies” of Jem’Hadar had greater capacities for independent thought, as the Dominion was at war with its most resourceful and cunning enemy to date. At first, the Alphas were small in number, even after the mining of the Bajoran Wormhole. They became more of a necessity, however, after reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant that would have brought a quick end to the Federation Alliance War mysteriously vanished after the minefield was taken down. Yelgrun often found the tendency of the Alphas to show greater initiative than the Gammas both pleasing and frustrating. That trait often led to heated arguments between him and First Mirak’tiral. He had a sense that Mirak’tiral was here now to lodge a complaint. No matter. It is not my place to question the will of the Founders even if they are on the verge of extinction.
“What is the meaning of this?” the First demanded as he held up a large padd containing a tactical display.
Yelgrun turned off the holographic display and stared at Mirak’tiral with a look of feigned ignorance. “I’m afraid I don’t follow,” he said.
“The recon wings consist exclusively of Breen vessels,” Mirak’tiral grunted. “I should be leading a squadron to one of those locations.”
“I require your expertise on the front line,” Yelgrun calmly explained, “for which I’ve come to depend on these last two years.”
Mirak’tiral flung the padd on the desk and looked at Yelgrun with a cold stare. “Unlike the Vorta,” he said, “the Jem’Hadar do not shy away from battle. If not fighters in this ship’s battle group, then at least one squadron at each target.”
Yelgrun flashed a wide smile while mostly maintaining his composure. “It is not just a matter of thirst for battle,” he explained. “I need soldiers I can trust on the front lines. I can rely on the Jem’Hadar in major engagements more than the Cardassians and the Breen. I would think by now you would understand how this works.”
“I understand completely. Because the Cardassians and Breen are more likely to betray the Dominion, they are cannon fodder. Many of them go along with it knowing that obedience makes victory more probable and that the price of defeat is too high. A similar arrangement exists for subject races in the Gamma Quadrant. It is still inefficient not to have the most efficient soldiers involved in efforts to soften the enemy, as was the case at Daxura.”
Yelgrun nodded as if he understood Mirak’tiral’s argument, but was just trying to purge it from his memory. “Your objection is noted, but the order still stands.”
Mirak’tiral then sauntered out of the office calmly and quietly, while still visibly annoyed. Once the doors closed, the Founder who had been giving Yelgrun orders behind the scenes emerged from the shadows, flanked by two low-ranking Jem’Hadar guards. The Changeling’s condition had neither worsened nor improved in the last twenty days. He had still been unable to change shape in that time. Yelgrun thought his death was only a matter of days.
Seeing the Founder wince in pain, Yelgrun asked, “Do you require treatment for the pain, Founder? We do not have a cure just yet, but we can make the last days of life more bearable.”
“No, but thank you,” the Founder gracefully replied.
“I trust you heard everything.”
“I did. It may have been a mistake to breed certain traits into a new subspecies of Jem’Hadar.”
Yelgrun was almost amused by that statement as he trying to keep himself from questioning his gods a few minutes earlier. “Gods do not make mistakes,” he assured the Founder with a look of submissiveness in his eyes.
“No, they do not. But Mirak’tiral is still someone to keep an eye on.”
“To what end?” Yelgrun wondered even though he knew the answer.
“The Alpha Quadrant Jem’Hadar tend to show greater initiative than the Gammas; both a benefit and a drawback. In the case of First Mirak’tiral, he may be capable of mutiny.”
“And if that is the case…”
“Order the Second to eliminate him… but do not wait too long.”
“Of course,” Yelgrun deferently replied. Because Second Turak’miron was a Gamma assigned to keep the First in check, Yelgrun felt the Second would easily carry out such an order. He also got a lingering feeling, though, it would not be that simple.