Note: Just in case the end of Chapter 26 wasn't clear, L'Haan and T'Nera are the same person.
“How much does she know?” Nog wondered.
“And does she think one of us is responsible for this ‘security breach’?” Escobar added as he trailed behind Nog as they sauntered to the main Ops console.
Kira momentarily grinned. They could have convinced her right there that she and her crew were not poking around in things they shouldn’t. Convincing a Vulcan admiral, though, was a whole different matter. “The admiral was very crafty in not revealing how much she knew,” she explained to them. “She just said that someone on the station was attempting to break into classified SI files.”
“Could this have to do with the man we captured in the morgue?” asked Escobar.
“It’s possible,” Dax plainly answered, “which would suggest someone at the highest levels of Starfleet is determined to cover something up.”
“Or it could be something unrelated,” Kira offered. “In the meantime, you are all under orders to cooperate with T’Nera’s investigation. Give the standard replies to all questions, but don’t volunteer any information. The station will be on lockdown, but her staff will not interfere with rest of the day-to-day operations of the station, including the Infirmary. So let’s try to get through this as best we can.”
T’Nera was seated behind the desk in the captain’s office, studiously reviewing the recent station logs. Her two aides--a human male and an Andorian male--were standing behind her, studying padds looking for any pertinent information in the station’s databases. Kira, Dax, Nog, and Escobar stood silently to the right of the desk with a security guard hovering behind each of them. They all remained calm and collected even as they knew that, at any moment, incriminating evidence could be uncovered.
Kira had hoped she had falsified enough of the logs to cover her crew’s activities. She had been in this situation many times before as a resistance fighter. She knew Escobar had similar experiences in the Maquis. Ezri and Nog, on the other hand, had very little experience in covert operations. So far, though, they had not given off any tells that could be construed as guilt.
T’Nera accepted a padd from a human enlisted man, who entered the office from Ops. “Thank you, Yeoman,” she said quietly. She stared at the padd for a few moments until she twitched an eyebrow.
“It would seem that the gentleman being detained in security was apprehended in your morgue,” she continued. “Your reports indicate that he was attempting to extract information from a biomechanical storage device implanted in this man.” She showed Kira the padd, which depicted a photograph of Cole. “You wouldn’t happen to know who he is?”
“Admiral,” Kira replied, “you said you would not interfere with the medical department’s activities.”
“That was before I became aware that your chief medical is conspicuously absent. So are your science officer and chief of security. Would any of you happen to know of their whereabouts?”
“No, sir,” Kira confidently stated.
“Curious,” T’Nera remarked. “I assume you don’t know anything about the man in your brig either?”
“He may have been responsible one of the recent security breaches,” Kira nonchalantly answered.
T’Nera stared pensively at Kira, and then slowly turned her gaze towards her human aide. “Have the body moved to morgue on the Victory
,” she instructed, “and the man being detained in security to one of our detention cells.”
“Sir, we have no such orders,” the aide protested.
“I am awaiting official approval from the C-in-C. In the meantime, you are to carry out my orders. And dispatch all available ships in the immediate vicinity to locate the missing officers.”
The aide nodded and headed for the main entrance.
As he stepped out of the office, T’Nera turned her attention back to Kira. “Your station has experienced quite a lot of ‘recent security breaches’,” she observed. “Makes one think security is not doing its job properly. Do you not consider it questionable judgment, Captain, to have two former members of the Maquis at the top of your security department?”
Escobar flashed an angry stare at the admiral, but Kira raised a hand. “With all due respect, sir,” she offered, “I’m given to understand Intelligence handpicked Lieutenant Ro for an undercover mission inside the Maquis.”
“A regrettable decision on my part. But that is not the issue right now. Since I cannot get straight answers out of any of you, the four of you are confined to quarters for the duration of this investigation.”
Kira and the three officers were then slowly escorted out of the office by their respective guards. Never before had Kira felt so defeated. And she had faced many fair shares of obstacles during the Occupation, while the station was under Dominion control, and other setbacks during that war. Now, she and her senior staff were facing the prospect of a court martial in an effort to combat corruption at the highest levels of Starfleet and the Federation.
Their only hope now was that Sisko and Bashir could uncover any information from the Tal Shiar operative they were pursuing.
Rennek turned up the intensity on the memory probes on Bashir’s temple. He bobbed his head and forth, unable to resist the pain that resulted from the sonic pulses piercing through his skull. He gritted his teeth, trying to muffle the expressions of physical pain as the pulses kept altering in pitch and frequency.
Bashir considered his ability to resist the effects of Romulan memory probes a point of pride after Tal Shiar chairman Koval was unable to glean any information from him. It was one more thing that made him feel superior to the rest of humanity. Sisko made a good point, though, in saying he did not know better than everyone else. Ever since his genetic enhancements became public knowledge, Bashir did display a certain level of arrogance. These new and improved memory probes were a humbling reminder of Sisko’s words.
He was suddenly remembering his meeting with Cole and the mission for which he had recruited Bashir.
“And it's not so much about cleaning up our mess as it is about keeping other secrets buried. You needn't concern yourself with what that secret is, but it is imperative that we prevent a Tal Shiar operative…”
As he was remembering this conversation with Cole, Bashir was repeating the Section 31 director’s words--“…from delivering that secret to the Klingon Empire. Neither side is in much of a position to wage war, but that won't stop the traditionalists within the Empire.”
“So he did not disclose any details about the secrets hidden on Tezwa?” Rennek inquired.
“No,” Bashir deadpanned.
“What are Starfleet’s rescue plans?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t informed about the specifics.”
Rennek scoffed, but Bashir was pleased with himself that he still remained very stingy about revealing that information despite knowing how increasingly painful the memory probing would be.
Rennek then turned to Sisko and yanked at his collar. “I suppose you’re more privy to the details of any rescue,” he taunted.
“I don’t know anything either,” Sisko flatly replied.
“I find that hard to believe,” Rennek countered. “I had hoped you would have better sense.” He took a few steps back to his control console and entered a sequence to turn up the intensity on the memory probe. Sisko started writhing in pain.
Rennek turned slowly turned down the intensity. And during that same moment, the deck started shaking.
The runabout Montana
swooped in on the cloaked Romulan shuttle, firing phasers. The second salvo had the deck of the shuttle rocking even harder, which sent Rennek to the falling to the floor.