While I'm taking a short break from "Stealing Fire" I wanted to shed some light on oft forgotten corners of the DT universe, starting with my take on Deep Space Nine. DS9 has been a part of my stories since the beginning, with the very first one I wrote, "Valley of Peace" taking place a lot on the station, and DS9 factoring even more into the events of my second story, "Under the Shadows of Swords". This short piece is a follow on of sorts to that. My plan is to write several of these shorts to catch up with some old friends and plant seeds for future stories. I hope you find them enjoyable.
DARK TERRITORY: DEEP SPACE NINE
“A Matter of Confidence”
Deep Space Nine
Office of Commanding Officer
Admiral Monica Covey propped her elbows on her desk, the glass of amber colored Saurian brandy below her half-finished. Her duty jacket was unzipped, showing a hint of her red undershirt, her five golden pips gleaming weakly in the wan lighting.
She looked up from her musing, unable to muster a smile. “What do you have for me Colonel Jatarn,” she said, expecting her stocky second-in-command to barge in. Her eyes widened in shock at her visitor. The admiral fumbled to zip up her jacket as she stood up. She smoothed the rumpled front of her jacket with one hand while extending the other.
“First Minister,” she said, not understating her surprise when she added, “this is unexpected.”
The tall, ginger haired Bajoran leader grimaced, even as he took her hand and shook it firmly. “About that…”
“Please,” Covey interjected, “A seat and a shot first?” Her grin was weak. She was expecting bad news.
The weathered man tried to smile in return, but found he couldn’t either. “Some other time,” he replied. They stood awkwardly, merely looking at each other for a few seconds, unable of how to go forward nor wanting to.
“A seat at least?” The admiral offered, her stomach starting to twist. She could feel something brewing in the air, had been feeling it for months. Ever since an assassin had used DS9’s own weapons systems to assassinate the visiting Cardassian premier. And she knew before he said it, but she let him say it anyway.
“I see no reason to ‘beat around the bush’ is the proper expression right?” Shakaar Edon asked. Covey gave a quick nod of affirmation, the twisting tendrils forming into a lead ball in the pit of her stomach.
“You know there was a vote of confidence in my leadership,” Shakaar said, pausing a second as he ginned up the courage to continue, “Well, I lost it.”
“I see,” she said quietly. The former First Minister’s eyes widened in shock.
“You already knew.” He intoned.
“No,” Covey shook her head, “I didn’t know about the actual vote, and I’m sorry that it has happened. But there has been growing talk, as you well know, not just on Bajor but on Earth as well that your opposition was gaining strength.”
“I know,” he finally plunked down into the proffered seat, dejected and weary. “I just didn’t think that their hand was strong enough yet to force this vote. I thought I still had time to convince my colleagues and the electorate to maintain our present course.” He shrugged, and gave her a jaundiced smile. “You know, when this position was first offered to me I didn’t want it, and even up until this vote, I could pretend that I could step away from the minister’s office at any time, but this…really hurts.”
“A total frinx up, I know,” Covey said, drawing a laugh from the rejected leader.
“You know Monica, I think I’ll take one of those drinks now,” he said, pointing at the half empty glass.
“Of course,” she said, sliding out of her seat and padding over to the replicator inset into the closest wall. Once the materialized brandy was in hand, she gave the ice-filled glass to the thankful Bajoran.
He sniffed it before taking a drink, wincing seconds later. “It’s got quite a kick,” he remarked.
The admiral chuckled, “This coming from a man who can down a whole bottle of Romulan ale. That stuff is like lava, the molten variety.”
“Ha,” he joined in the laughter. “I always knew you could cheer me up,” he said, taking a second, slower sip, and savoring the flavor. “Did you know that there is a push to outlaw all non-Bajoran foods and beverages?” He asked, his tone becoming dispirited. “Buy Bajoran was the new rallying cry, along with old standard Bajor for Bajorans,” he shook his head, “It smacks too much of Jaro Essa and the Circle,” he surmised, “and I thought our people had gotten beyond such narrow isolationism.”
“I’m sorry Edon, but it appears they have not,” Monica wasn’t in the mood to sugarcoat the situation, even to leaven a friend’s mood. “But it seems that isolationism is contagious, if you look at what’s happening in the Federation too.”
“Ah yes, Norah Satie’s campaign,” Shakaar remarked, “Her campaign seems solely based on reducing the Federation’s role in intergalactic affairs.”
“I’m of a similar mind on that,” Covey admitted.
“It seems the former admiral just doesn’t understand how important the Federation has been to keeping the peace across the Alpha Quadrant,” he continued, “If not for the Federation, things could be a lot worse than they are now.”
“I agree, but it’s that’s a tough argument to make to Federation citizens who see so much violence and bloodshed on their viewers a year after conflict with the Dominion ended. The Alshain-Son’a war is a continual loop of tragedy.”
“It is most unfortunate,” he closed his eyes and shook his head. “Especially for species like the Munzalans, Tarlac, and Ellorans that are caught in the middle while the two species that have abused them battle it out.” He finished the drink and placed the empty glass on her desk.
The admiral nodded in agreement as she finished her brandy. The bite was lessened only slightly due to the melted ice. “I guess this is a good time to share with you my bit of news.”
“This doesn’t sound good,” he intoned, leaning forward in his seat.
“I’m being reassigned,” she said.
“Now I see the reason you had started in on the Saurian brandy,” the ex-First Minister quipped.
“I did need something to take the edge off,” she admitted. “My conversation with Command wasn’t exactly a cordial one. But it seems that the current administration is looking to salvage what little relationship remains with the Alshain.”
“So they’re sending you, the one official that is most respected by them,” Shakaar finished her statement.
“Yes,” she said, “But I don’t know how effective I can be,” Covey admitted. “Things have changed drastically on Alshain Proper, with the Exarch deposed from the throne, a civil war brewing along with the war against the Son’a, it would be impossible for even Ambassador Sarek to fashion a peace deal.” She shook her head, and considered creating another drink.
“Well at least Starfleet Command and the Federation Council have confidence in you,” he replied, “Unlike my government.”
“Don’t lose heart,” Covey offered, “I know you are aware of how cyclical politics can be. As soon as you are gone there will be people wistful about your time in office and wanting you back.”
“I know,” his smile was weary, “I’m just concerned about how much damage the incoming administration will do to Federation-Bajoran relations before that occurs.”
“So, who will my replacement have to tangle with?” The admiral asked.
“The likely next First Minister is Visra Dilim, of the Bajor First Party.”
Monica was glad she had chosen not to get another drink, because if she had been imbibing when Shakaar dropped that news on her, she would’ve pelted him when she spat it out. “You’re joking right?”
“I wish I was,” he said.
“But last I heard, they were a minor, fringe party,” she replied. “I thought the center-right opposition was stronger?”
“It seems you pay about as much attention to Bajoran politics as the Bajoran people themselves,” his laugh was mirthless. “Bajor First was a minority party, but their supporters came out strong in the last election, giving their party an oversized voice in the Chamber of Ministers. The Bajor First Party vaulted to the front among the rightwing parties and now has cobbled together a coalition of them to make a working government.”
“I guess I do need to get up to speed on the local politics,” she admitted, “I’ve been so busy here and with politics in general being so sludgy…” The Bajoran picked up his empty glass and held it aloft as if to toast her.
“Truer words Monica,” Shakaar said. “Sometimes I wonder what I did to the Prophets for them to choose this vocation for me.”
“Perhaps you would like to take a ride to Alshain space with me,” the admiral joked. “I hear it’s lovely this time of year.”
“No,” Edon smiled, “I’ve got work to do here. Just because I won’t be at the head of government anymore doesn’t mean I don’t have a role to play, and the Federation will need advocates in the days to come.”
“I can think of no better spokesman than you,” Monica offered.
“Now I know you haven’t been paying attention to our politics, because if you had seen even one of my speeches such words would never come from your lips,” the man rejoined.
Deep Space Nine
Colonel Jatarn Yaro bottled his emotions as he saw the deposed leader of his people lumber from the admiral’s office and make haste over the turbolift. As innocuous as he tried to be, his arrival and swift departure drew everyone’s attention.
Yielding to the inevitable, the former First Minister nodded at a few of the most stricken Bajoran officers but didn’t slow down his pace.
The news had come across the comnet while Shakaar had been talking with the admiral. Unlike some of the junior Bajoran officers, Yaro had been expecting the outcome.
And in a way he welcomed it. Shakaar was a patriot, a decent leader, but he was too close to the Federation. Jatarn was among those who felt that wasn’t a good thing for the long term interests of Bajor. His wife disagreed, he thought, smiling at the thought of their political debates, which were the only arguments he enjoyed having with her.
“Something funny Colonel?” The harsh question jolted Yaro out of his reverie. He perked up, and looked in the direction of the rebuke. Admiral Covey stood on the upper level, looking down into the operations pit. “My office, now.”
The Bajoran’s expression hardened, but he swallowed back any bitterness at the human’s tone. He was a soldier first and foremost; he respected the chain of command, and he wanted his subordinates to do the same, even if some of them recoiled at being ordered around by an Earthling.
“At once,” he said, tugging on his tight, rust-colored militia uniform. He bounded up the stairs. The admiral had already returned to her office.
Jatarn held his head high as he strode in. It would probably be his office before long. Not that he wanted the post. He had been resistant to taking the position to begin with. He hated Terok Nor. It remained a symbol of repression. He had lost relatives and friends to its ore processing centers. But as solider he did what he was told to do. Soldiering hadn’t been his first choice; it had been forced upon him by the Cardassians and the need to defeat them. But it had become all that he knew how to do.
Yaro could only shake his head in grim amusement that he had fought so hard for freedom against the snakeheads only to be bossed around by humans. It made him wonder what he had truly fought for in the first place.
He caught the admiral in the midst of retaking her seat. His anger wavered a moment as he recalled his first wife. She also had auburn hair and fair skin like the admiral. If he squinted, he could imagine that Covey might have been a relation, though she didn’t sport proud nose ridges.
His momentary sentiment was eclipsed by the resurgence of anger at how the lizards had taken her from him. And he didn’t want the Federation to embroil the Bajoran people in another war, one that would take him away from his new wife, or she from him.
Kende, a nurse whom he had met in the Resistance, had been the sole reason that he had survived that horrific war to drive the Cardassians from Bajor. And he knew that the new won freedom would mean nothing for him if she was not in his life.
Another unbidden smile came to his lips at the thought of his salvation. Like him, she had a dark complexion, broad nostrils, and full lips, though gratefully she had a full head of hair.
“Quite the joker today huh, Colonel?” Though the admiral was sitting and he standing in front of her, Yaro felt small. “Take a seat,” she said. It wasn’t a request.
He stiffly sat down, his right earring jingling. “Have I done something to anger you admiral?”
“Listen Colonel Jatarn, I know you are not a fan of the Federation,” the admiral said, with a tense shrug. “And that’s your business. As long as you do your duty, you privately have the right to believe what you wish.” She caught her breath and stared at the man expectedly for a few seconds. “You may speak freely,” she added.
“If you truly believe those things Admiral, then what’s the problem?” Jatarn asked, honestly confused. To the human’s credit, she had been very charitable to him despite his known views about Federation imperialism or his past support for the Alliance for Global Unity. He had long since come to realize that Minister Jaro had manipulated him and others among the Circle in a base power grab, but just because the messenger had been misguided, didn’t mean the message was wrong.
Even after the unfortunate affair had ended, Yaro had not been moved from that point, and it was a wonder that his beliefs hadn’t gotten him cashiered out of the Militia. Oddly enough his principled stand had won him support from the government officials who had sympathized with the idea of “Bajor for Bajorans”.
One of his supporters had been the station’s previous commander, Colonel Kira Nerys. Even though she had been a fierce opponent of the Circle and helped lead to its defeat, the two had mutual friends from the Resistance, and shared a mutual respect. She had even once recommended him to replace her as second-in-command of Terok Nor, saying that the experience would broaden his view of the Federation as it had hers.
Jatarn had merely nodded at the memory of the woman’s confidence, not believing that any experience could uproot his strong views. He smiled again, thinking of the fierce Nerys, ailing in a hospital on Bajor, a victim of the same assassins who had struck down Natima Lang. He had to admit, Colonel Kira had been half-right.
“That little smirk of yours in the operations center,” Covey smoldered, “Your obvious glee at Shakaar’s removal from office. I won’t condone the injection of politics in the operations center, is that clear?”
“Admiral,” he collected himself, gathering his thoughts as he thought of the best way to address the issue. “I believe I was placed in this position because of my views, which represent an important constituency on Bajor, and that Starfleet would be wise to heed their concerns.”
She nodded tightly in response. “I’ve never denied that,” she said, “and though we haven’t agreed on many issues regarding Bajor-Federation relations I think you have provided invaluable counsel and support.”
“I appreciate that Admiral.”
“These are tough times for Bajor,” she said, before he could continue talking. “For the entire quadrant,” she added. “I don’t want there to be any claim of partiality to the Bajoran political situation coming from the personnel on this station.”
“I assure you that wasn’t the case,” he replied, “I was reminiscing, perhaps at an unfortunate time.”
“Is that all?” She leaned back in her chair, her expression skeptical. But Jatarn held his ground and her gaze.
“That is all,” he said, pausing, before deciding to continue. “But since we are speaking freely, I am not sad to see Shakaar go.”
“I had a feeling you were going to say that,” she said.
“Shakaar is a patriot. I fought alongside his resistance cell on more than one occasion. I know he cared deeply about Bajor, but his policies were misguided.”
“How so?” The admiral sat up again, her cheeks reddening. Jatarn could tell she was spoiling for a fight and he was in the mood to grant her wish.
“While Shakaar certainly cared about Bajor, the Federation cares more about the wormhole and the Gamma Quadrant beyond it. Bajor is a secondary concern.”
“That’s not true,” Covey’s voice rose. She caught herself and apologized. “Please continue,” she prompted.
“Not only does the Federation promote atheism, an affront to our faith, you also have maintained this station, this symbol of our oppression,” his voice took on a hard edge as old angers began to flare up. “If the Federation had truly been concerned about the plight of the Bajoran people they would’ve scrapped Terok Nor a long time ago and created one of their shiny, new starbases.”
“The Federation doesn’t have a state religion, but we respect all faiths as well as the beliefs of non-believers,” she rejoined gingerly. “And you know that Yaro. A little thing like two wars and the complications that have delayed Bajor’s admission into the Federation have prevented a discussion on the fate of Deep Space Nine.”
“That’s why Bajor First supporters decided to take matters into their own hands,” Jatarn said, his confidence starting to brim. “That is why Shakaar was voted out today, because there is a growing certainty that there is a disconnect between what the Federation wants and what Bajor needs.”
“And what would that be?” Through the irritation, Jatarn could see that the woman was genuinely curious about his answer.
“We want to manage our own affairs and with Cardassia in shambles, the Dominion licking its wounds in the Gamma Quadrant, and most of the major powers still rebuilding, many Bajorans are no longer buying the rationale that we need to be protected by the Federation.”
“I see,” Covey said quietly, as she contemplated his words.
“There is more,” the colonel said after a pause. “There is also growing concern that the Federation or Starfleet couldn’t protect us even if it wanted to.”
The admiral sat up with a start. “Why would anyone feel that way?”
“First that rogue Jem’Hadar attack on Bajor early in the year, right under Starfleet’s nose, and then assassins turning this station’s weapons against Premier Lang. Who is to say that the next time those weapons won’t be turned against Bajor itself, or the Celestial Temple?”
“I would never allow that to happen,” the admiral declared.
“Colonel Kira probably would doubtlessly have made the same boast and you see where she is,” he replied, wincing at his own callousness, but Covey asked for truth and he would not disappoint her.
The woman didn’t lash out at him, as he somewhat suspected she would. Instead Covey’s shoulders shrunk as the woman tucked her head beneath them, her chin on her chest. Now she looked small. “How did we come to this point Yaro? How did we engender such distrust among the new Bajoran leadership?”
“Well, the Federation still has some support,” he offered graciously, “but a growing number of average citizens as well do voice sentiments similar to what I have just told you. There is a sense of change in the air, and First Minister Shakaar was caught in the winds of it.”
“And you feel that the Federation-Bajoran alliance will be the next victim?” The colonel felt a pang of regret the woman’s genuine sadness.
“Time can only tell,” he replied with honesty, “But I am certain that the relationship will be altered.”
“I appreciate your honesty,” Covey said, “I always have.” The charitable statement rang odd to the Bajoran, especially in the middle of what was supposed to be verbal bout, but he dipped his head respectfully anyway.
“I only hope that you remain as honest with my replacement,” she said. Jatarn’s mouth dropped open at the news. For a few seconds he couldn’t move, could barely think. Had he heard her correctly?
Oblivious to his stupefied condition, the admiral explained that the growing Alshain conflict was the reason for her move. All Yaro could do was nod along as his brain still tried to process the bombshell she had dropped. Covey continued, “I called you in here to inform you that I am being reassigned,” she said, “but when I saw that smirk on your face as the First Minister left, well, I guess my emotions got the best of me. For that, you have my apology.”
“It is not necessary,” the colonel said, “You are human, after all.” Quickly realizing how that phrase might be negatively received, he added, “No disrespect of course.”
Her eyes narrowed and her mouth pinched, “I’m sure,” she said coolly. “I can only hope that you are as forthright with my successor as you have been with me. They will need the truth, not sugarcoating. I am confident you can do that with it interfering with your duties.”
“I will do all that I can to make the transition as painless as possible Admiral,” Jatarn promised, and he meant it. “May I infer when your successor will take command?”
“Already to push me out of the air lock huh?” The human said, a grim smile on her face. His own cheeks warming, Yaro threw up his hands and waved them excitedly.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” he quickly replied.
“That’s a joke Colonel,” Covey was deadpan. “I thought we needed a little levity right now to dispel the heated emotions in the room.”
“Oh, I understand, of course,” Jatarn said. He didn’t grant her a smile.
“Command has not made that decision, and in light of recent political events on Bajor, I can assume that their timeframe will be pushed back further, so you’re stuck with me for another several months at least,” she said, “Hope that doesn’t disappoint you?”
“It does not,” he said, a bit detached. Jatarn’s mind was still reeling over what the admiral had told him. Major changes were afoot and he was directly in the center of them. He had never been an ambitious man, merely a hard worker, and a patriot, but if the new government offered him Terok Nor, would he-could he-say no? And how would Kende feel about that? And what of his ancestors? To command a station that had perched in the Bajoran sky like a giant predatory bird, feasting on the entrails of Bajor, for decades. How could any self-respecting Bajoran not feel some rage at the idea?
He needed to pray on this. “Admiral,” he gently broached. “May I be excused?”
“I’m assuming you’ll not want to merely resume your duties at the moment?” The woman asked, as if reading his mind. Jatarn gave an affirming nod. “By all means,” she replied. The colonel was almost at the door when her words stopped him, “Colonel, I hope my confidence in you won’t turn out to be a mistake.”
A rush of emotions flashed hot across his face, from guilt to indignation. He buried them deep before turning back to her, making sure to keep his expression impassive. The admiral’s gaze was searching, pleading, hoping for some connection with him. It was both endearing and pathetic.
She had been a highly capable commanding officer and despite some misgivings, he had enjoyed serving under Covey, but the human need for validation was something he would not miss. Perhaps they will send a Vulcan next, he could only hope. “I have never given you a reason to question my commitment, and I will not do so for your remaining time here or beyond.”
The woman sighed, visibly relieved, “I’m glad to hear that Yaro, really I am.”
That makes one of us, he thought, but he silently dipped his head in again before exiting the office.