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Old December 5 2012, 07:00 PM   #23
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Seventeen
Julian Bashir entered Quark’s quickly sauntering towards a table already occupied by Sam Bowers, Prynn Tenmei, and Nog. With a triumphant grin, he showed them an isolinear rod containing a new holosuite program the four of them had been eagerly awaiting. “Is that it I hope?” Bowers gleefully inquired.

“It took a while,” Bashir replied. “These usually come out the last Tuesday of the month.”

He took a seat between Bowers and Tenmei, setting down the rod in his right hand and a padd tucked away under his left arm. Nog snuck a glance at the padd from across the table, seeing the name of the role he would play in the program. “'Morris O’Brian'?” he read aloud. “Perhaps an ancestor of our Chief O’Brien?”

“It’s a fairly common Irish name,” Julian retorted. “But this one spells it with an A not an E. Sam, you’re Curtis Manning and Prynn, you’ll be Jamey Farrell.”

“Why am I always the socially awkward computer nerd?” Prynn grumbled.

“It suits you,” Julian replied with a half wink. Ignoring Prynn rolling her eyes, he continued. “She and Morris provide technical assistance to Manning and Jack Bauer in stopping a mole from leaking top secret government information contained in a military base designated Area 51.”

Quark caught the tail end of Bashir’s synopsis of the program as he strolled by with the group’s drink orders. Hearing of Area 51 seemed to pique his interest while setting down the beverage glasses one at a time. “'Area 51'?” the barkeep repeated.

“What do you know about Area 51, Quark?” Julian curiously, but suspiciously, asked, thinking the Ferengi’s inquiry might be related to his visit to Earth’s past.

“Just rumors that it was being used to reverse engineer alien technology found in Roswell, I think,” Quark said with an embarrassed chuckle. Looking straight at Nog, he added, “That’s where we ended up because one of your father’s hair-brained ideas.”

“He saved our lives, Uncle,” Nog insisted, recalling his trip to Earth upon his acceptance into Starfleet Academy. Quark and Rom had volunteered to ferry Nog to Earth. As it turned out, Quark’s cousin and longtime rival deliberately gave him a ship with defective computer components, so Rom had to formulate a plan to force the ship out of warp that had the unintended side-effect of leaving the trio in Earth’s past.

“Still would have nice if he had kept us in the correct time period,” Quark huffed, walking off with the empty drink tray.

Meanwhile, Bowers’ eyes widened when he called up the profile of his character in the holosuite program. Looking at the photograph on the padd was almost like looking at a mirror image of himself from his days in the Starfleet Marines. “Wasn’t Curtis Manning the one Jack Bauer killed when he took some terrorist-turned-peacemaker hostage?” Bowers asked in regards to a vague recollection of the name of his character.

Julian had read firsthand accounts of the incident Bowers spoke of. In fact, this “terrorist-turned-peacemaker”, rumored to have used his conciliatory initiatives as a ruse to attempt a political assassination, may have been an ancestor of Julian’s. Though he held no malice towards the man who wove a bizarre conspiracy theory that Julian was Hamri al-Assad, he did not wish to be reminded of that incident. “That’s nine years after this story,” he said with a futile reassurance.

“Find someone else,” Sam insisted, while getting up to leave.

Before Julian could respond, the comm chimed.

All Defiant personnel,” came Dax’s voice over the speakers. “Report to your stations.

“Guess you two will have to resolve this later,” Nog teased while the group headed for the main entrance.

###

Dax was left in command of the station while Kira and the rest of the command staff were on the Defiant. She had just seen Kira off when a red indicator blinked on one of the main consoles on the Ops table. She entered a few commands to gauge the reason for the warning light. “Pendleton,” she called to the operations officer on duty. “What do you make of this?”

Emiko Pendleton received Dax’s quick station-to-station text message about a sudden power drain. She squinted her dark brown eyes at a readout screen. She then accessed a set of power consumption logs to confirm the acting commander’s findings. “I’m getting a two percent drop in power in one of the pattern buffers,” she said with a confused frown. “We just replaced those ODN circuits.”

“The transfer will take place in ten minutes,” said Ezri glancing over at the ensign with black hair pulled back to conform to uniform regulations and a light tan complexion indicating mixed European and east Asian ancestry. Creases around her lips and her eyes indicated she was a few years older than Ezri. “Should this be a problem?”

“Unlikely,” Emiko replied with a hint of doubt in her facial inflections. “I’d better run a level one diagnostic just to be sure.”

Ezri nodded and looked back at her console with a look of worry that the relatively raw junior officer was just telling her what she wanted to hear. She took a quick look at the transporter protocol to be carried out when Verad would be transferred from the station's holding cell to the prison ship. Ezri then tapped her combadge to hail the security office. “Dax to Escobar. Is everything ready to go on your end.”

“So far, so good, Lieutenant,” Escobar eagerly replied over the speakers. “We’ll be ready to energize as soon as you give the word.”

“We’ll keep you posted,” Dax said while rolling her eyes thinking the acting chief of security sounded too eager to please regarding a usually mundane activity.

###

Below decks, Benjamin Sisko was reconfiguring a circuit housing underneath a transporter padd. Runold was closely watching his every move while not having the first clue as to how all of this high-tech gadgetry actually functioned. That was fortunate for Sisko, allowing him to have something up his sleeve.

He removed a circular piece from inside the console and slipped it into his left hand and into a pants pocket. He then quickly noticed a screen on the control console that read, “Rematerialization buffer not at optimum levels. Subject may not rematerialize at desired location. Do you wish to continue?”

Sisko quickly selected “Yes.” The console’s chirping still caught Runold’s attention. “Don’t worry,” Sisko assured him. “One of the pattern buffers was out of alignment.”

“Whatever,” Runold scoffed impatiently. “Just get it fixed before the prisoner transfer takes place.”

“You’re not very good at this are you?” Sisko said while going back to tinkering with circuits underneath the pad. “For all you know, I could be curtailing this whole operation.”

“More is at stake for you this time,” Runold explained. “You mess this up, your son gets fried. I just want Verad for costing me my commission.”

“Is that what this is about?” Sisko retorted, placing an access panel back on the pad circuit housing. “The payment you were promised? How much more are you getting for his hit?

“I may not have always approved of the actions of the Maquis, but they stood for something. The Bajoran Underground sought the liberation of their home from the Cardassians. For however misguided Section 31 can be, they act for the preservation of the Federation. What are you after? Latinum? Rare gemstones? Do you even care that only one in a thousand Trills can be joined to a symbiont?”

“Not really, Runold answered with a shrug. “But a guy’s got to make a living. You done wasting time with chitchat? Let’s wrap this up.”

Benjamin raised both his hands while setting down a tool on the control console. “If you say so,” he said half sarcastically. He then went to realigning circuits and couplings in the console.

###

Escobar stood outside Verad’s cell awaiting a signal from the prison ship. Ensign th’Helek and Petty Officer Yndar accompanied the acting head of security to the main cellblock, all with phasers in hand. The chances of Verad escaping were almost nothing. On the other hand, Verad had faked his death according to Sisko and Dax, so nothing was impossible with this prisoner. As a security officer, Escobar knew to expect the unexpected.

“We’re ready to begin the transport,” the male pilot said over comm-line.

“We’re ready on this end as well,” Escobar replied with a tap of his combadge.

As planned, the cell’s forcefield shut down and Verad dematerialized within a fraction of a second. “Transport complete,” said Escobar, once Verad was gone.

We don’t have him though. Are you sure you programmed correct coordinates?”

“Stand by,” Escobar replied. “Escobar to Ops. Kalon beamed away as expected. But the transport doesn’t have him.”

***

“Put the station on Level One security alert,” Dax replied from Ops, “Lock down the docking ring and the landing pads.” Dax then sprung from the main console up the stairs to Ensign Pendleton’s station. “Did he at least rematerialize somewhere on the station?”

Pendleton’s fingers stumbled as they were pushing buttons. Dax wanted to voice her frustrations at the ensign, but then felt now was not the time to place blame for any slip-ups. She found the right controls that allowed her to see if the transporter carried out its expected function. “The rematerialization did happen,” she stuttered. “But, but…” She then sighed in frustration as if her mind was going blank.

Ezri began to wonder why a more competent officer was not on duty. Again, this was not the time. She, herself, had gone through a phase of intense insecurity prior to being joined. But Emiko had been in Starfleet longer than Ezri, yet was fumbling around the controls like a first year cadet. Given how much more urgent Verad’s escape was, Ezri decided to lend a hand with the controls. “Energy consumption logs indicate power was rerouted from the Ops transporter to transporter room six,” she said. “How did you miss that?”

“I’m sorry,” Pendleton replied repentantly.

“Don’t worry about it,” Dax assured, quietly chastising herself.

###

“Where the hell is he?” Runold demanded upon seeing the transporter pad was still vacant.

“I’m not sure,” Sisko disingenuously replied leaning over the control console. He looked away from Runold momentarily, and then kicked the burly Trill in the abdomen.

Runold quickly recovered and lunged at Sisko pointing a phaser pistol at him.

“How’s the shoulder?” Sisko taunted, slapping the pistol out of the Trill’s hand. He dove after the weapon as Runold grabbed him by ankle forgetting that his shoulder that Sisko had dislocated was still sore. Sisko spun back and incapacitated Runold with one shot.

Knowing that hostage takers were instructed to kill the hostage if a colleague failed to report back after a set time interval, Sisko removed the communication device from the right side of Runold’s waist. He entered a set of commands to send a message to his son’s Nausicaan captor. Hopefully, that would keep Jake alive and keep Kasidy and Rebecca safe.

That was all he was concerned about, even more than his former Starfleet career. He had given up Starfleet nearly two years ago. He had faced many dangers and he had lived among the entities within the wormhole. Benjamin did not fear the consequences of his latest actions whether they were in the form of criminal charges or reprisals from the Orion Syndicate. At least his family was safe.

For right now, though, he had to locate Verad. The component he had removed from the transporter pad was a key piece of the rematerialization buffer. Without that component, a subject would rematerialize within a hundred meter radius of the programmed coordinates. Sisko opened a storage locker and removed a phaser and a tricorder. He then locked down the transporter with a random encryption and locked the door once he stepped out into the corridor.

Sauntering into the corridor, Benjamin entered commands on the tricorder to locate Trill life signs within a hundred meters. While that scan was in progress, he programmed the tricorder to emit a locator signal to draw the attention of station security.

***

A red indicator flashed on a schematic of the station on the Ops table. “It’s a locator signal from a Federation issue tricorder,” reported Thelev, a portly Tellarite lieutenant junior grade manning one of the main Ops consoles “Habitat ring, level fourteen, section twenty-three alpha just outside transporter six.”

“Any Trill life signs?” Dax asked.

“Affirmative,” Thelev replied. “I can’t get an exact fix though. The surveillance sensors are still a little erratic.”

“Dax to security,” Dax called over comm, “Concentrate your search on level fourteen, section twenty-three alpha and all adjacent sections of the habitat ring. You have Ops, Mister Thelev.”

Thelev nodded as Ezri removed a phaser from a storage compartment in the Ops table and headed for the starboard turbolift.

###

Verad awoke in a corridor still feeling dizzy as a result of Sisko’s transporter modifications, as well as the partially functional rematerialization buffer dropping him off in a random venue. He groaned while feeling his forehead. He looked around with confusion, knowing this was not an escape he had planned. He was even more startled when he heard a familiar voice call his name.

“Verad,” Sisko called. “We have to get out of here.”

“Benjamin?” he gasped, helping himself upright. “What happened? Where are we going?”

“Just follow me. One of your colleagues tracked me down and coerced me into breaking you out.”

“Was it Runold?” Verad asked coyly. “He was suspicious of you from the start.”

“I would guess the Orion Syndicate has a bounty out on you after you cost them plenty of money.”

“Who can blame them? I promised some of their bosses a few thousand credits if they could spare a few assassins. Are you still sending me to prison?”

“You’ll be a hell of a lot safer in a Federation penal colony.”

“Until one of the Syndicate’s moles finds me, at least. What about you, Benjamin?”

“As if you care about my well-being. All that matters is that my wife and children are safe.”

“Whatever little part of me that’s still Dax cares. This little experience should demonstrate how relentless they are.”

Now that’s reassuring, Sisko wanted to say as he rolled his eyes. Their banter was interrupted when a forcefield appeared in front of them. Sisko and Verad looked back the way they came, but another forcefield appeared right on cue. They could hear footsteps in an adjoining corridor getting louder. Dax and Yndar then stepped before the two fugitives on the other side of the forcefield up ahead armed with hand phasers.

“Benjamin,” Ezri gasped. “What’s going on? Why are you helping Verad escape?”

“It’s a long story, Dax,” Benjamin replied, raising a hand. “Right now, I trust you’ll want Verad on the prison ship. You’ll find my ‘co-conspirator’ locked in transporter room six.”

Dax tapped her combadge to hail security. “Drop forcefields on corridor J.”

The forcefields quickly fizzled out while two additional Bajoran security officers--one male, one female--arrived at the scene. They walked over to Verad ready to escort him to the prison ship. He suddenly dematerialized. The other two raised their rifles, while Dax was ready to draw her hand phaser. It was an instinctive, yet futile move.

Dax tapped her comm-badge. “Dax to Ops. Kalon has beamed away. Can you locate him?”

“We’re running a full sensor sweep now, sir,” Thelev replied.

“Keep all outgoing ships locked down,” Dax instructed.

“Ops,” Sisko added. “Scan our position for residual electro-static charges. I’m willing to bet you won’t find any such evidence.”

The security officers shot Sisko confused glances, mostly wondering what he was getting at rather than the former Starfleet officer’s request.

“Do it,” Dax said to confirm the request.

###

“You couldn’t have got me out any sooner?”

Verad materialized in a dark chamber. A Vulcan woman with hair in a short coiffure sauntered up to him. She was flanked by two male human agents. All three of them were dressed in black leather jumpsuits. Verad sat down in a silver-colored metal chair. “I thought for sure I was dead.”

“We did not count on Sisko breaking you out,” L’Haan calmly replied. “Otherwise, we would have extracted you in a more clandestine manner.”

The two humans applied laser devices to the Trill’s spots on both sides of his face. Slowly, the markings disappeared. With the lasers trained on the rest of his face, his features slowly changed. His skin was less scrunched and wrinkled. Rather than projecting a reserved and withdrawn demeanor, he now projected self-assuredness. He was no longer Verad Kalon. He was now Luther Sloan, a senior agent of Section 31.

Sloan placed his hand over the former locations of the Trill markings. “Glad to be rid of those spots,” he said. “They really left my skin itchy. But I can safely say mission accomplished. Everything is in motion to stop the Omega device, I assume?”

“You assume correctly, Sloan,” L’Haan replied, nodding to the medical technicians. They slowly walked out of the room leaving the two senior agents to confer privately. "The Defiant is on course to Nimbus to intercept the Ku-Vok-leth. This seemed liked an overly elaborate plan to elicit the attention of Doctor Bashir and his colleagues. Perhaps if you had contacted the good doctor yourself…”

“No,” Sloan interrupted. “He has to think I am dead; that I killed myself rather than divulge the antidote for the Changeling virus. Besides, as much as he may dislike our methods, this will help him see that we exist to preserve the Federation.”

His voice did not give off a hint of doubt that Section 31’s operation would succeed. In his mind, though, Sloan knew too many things could go wrong. That was also the case on a very delicate mission inside the Romulan Neutral Zone during the Dominion War.
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