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Old December 1 2012, 12:38 AM   #16
ISS Enterprise
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Eleven

Worf was headed for the shuttle that would ferry him back to the Sword of Kahless when he spotted Ezri Dax having just disembarked from the Defiant. Three years ago, he would try to avoid her. The idea that she carried the memories of his late wife Jadzia was awkward to him. They had reached an understanding after a series of events that led to their capture by the Breen. Though Ezri could never completely replace Jadzia, he still cared about the choices she made, even feeling that she deserved better than Julian Bashir, who--in Worf’s own words--got excited “playing with toys.”

“Ezri,” he called out, as she was about to turn a corner. She stopped when she heard Worf’s voice.

“We have not had a chance to catch up since I have been back,” Worf continued.

Ezri felt a moment of awkwardness, knowing that Worf did not openly seek to make small talk. Jadzia was certainly one exception, as were a number of fellow officers on the Enterprise-D. Behind his words, he was wishing to address a more serious and urgent matter. “What is this pressing matter?” she jokingly, but tensely asked.

“It is my understanding that you and Doctor Bashir are no longer together.”

“I thought you didn’t listen to gossip,” Ezri teased. After a moment of exchanging confused stares, Ezri sighed. “If you’re going to say ‘I told you so’, just say it already.”

“That is not my intention. You have achieved a great deal in such a short time. But do not become too focused on your Starfleet career.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Julian and I, though, we wanted different things out of each other.”

“Maybe so, but speaking from experience, I would suggest not letting opportunities for happiness slip away.”

Ezri grinned during another moment of awkward silence. The experience from which Worf was speaking was his son Alexander. He had shoved his son aside as if he was an inconvenience. From that point, the relationship between father and son remained strained, especially after Alexander was adamant that he did not want to follow the Klingon warrior tradition. In Ezri’s case, she had begun realizing her full potential, transferring from counseling to command. Her change of profession put a strain on her relationship with Julian. They eventually decided to go their separate ways.

Ezri was not sure what else to say on the subject, and so decided to see him off at this moment. “So you’re headed back to Qo’Nos,” she said. “Safe trip and I hope you find whoever is responsible for the attempt on Martok’s life.”

“And good luck to you,” Worf replied before they headed in opposite directions.

###

Just as Worf’s shuttle was departing the station, a prison shuttle had arrived from Bajor transporting Zeyner Antis. Ro had made special arrangements in order to avoid drawing attention to the fact that a former officer who “resigned under mysterious circumstances” was back on board. A route from the airlock to the security office was off-limits to all but security personnel. Ro supervised the escort on the surveillance monitor to make sure the escort went smoothly.

Ro stared with contempt at the screen as her former lover was escorted in shackles. He had grown a full beard during his two years in prison, and his curly dark blond hair had a few noticeable gray streaks. She was lost in wondering how Antis had managed to fool her for so long, and so didn’t hear Kira enter until she set a padd on the desk.

“Federation President Zife and First Minister Asarem have signed off on a pardon,” Kira said in reference to Federation Council president and Bajor’s First Minister respectively.

Ro scoffed at the idea of setting Zeyner free after he used his position as a senior medical officer to poison a man to death. She picked up the padd on her desk, but then set it back down without reading a word. “I’ve been down this road before,” Kira remarked. “Finding out someone I cared about was a collaborator.”

“You only learned about your mother and Dukat years after her death. He was by my side in the Maquis, and I never saw it. He’s worse than a collaborator. Selling information to the highest bidder.”

“That’s why I’m having Lieutenant Escobar conduct the interrogation.”

“You can’t be serious,” Ro snapped, her jaw dropping.

“You’re too personally involved in this, Laren,” Kira shot back.
“I am chief of security, Nerys. I will be able to put my personal feelings aside.”

“Your service record suggests otherwise.”

“That is not fair,” Ro angrily insisted. She wanted to continue expressing her annoyance at hearing her service record used against her. The Bajoran Militia blocked Starfleet’s efforts to court-martial her for defecting to the Maquis. She was hired as station chief of security despite Kira’s objections. She spent two years earning back her fellow officers’ trust.

She held her tongue, instead adding, “We don’t know if that son-of-a-bitch will provide accurate information. And I’m off the investigation?”

“He’s our best lead at the moment. And no. You’re not off the investigation. You will be supervising. You know him better than most of us.”

“Great,” Ro sarcastically muttered. “I’m supposed to tell if he’s lying, which I couldn’t do for six years.”

“Do what you can,” Kira offered, though realizing Ro still felt that her assignment may as well have been relegation to the sidelines.

###

Dax noticed Benjamin Sisko sitting at a table at the Replimat. When she removed her meal tray from the replicator. She was not sure whether to sit across from him or go somewhere else as if she hadn’t seen him. During the trip to Torman Five, she sensed Benjamin wanted to get his mission over with and exchange as little pleasantries as possible with his old friends.

Ezri quietly passed him as he took a sip of his coffee. Ben set the mug down on the table and gently nudged it away saying, “I don’t know if I can get used to replicated raktajino again.”

“So what’s next for you?” Ezri curiously inquired, setting down her tray. She sat down grinning wondering if more awkward silences would accompany Sisko’s answer to her query.

“Heading back home to the wife and kids,” Benjamin retorted. “My transport leaves in the morning.”

“Sounds awfully mundane.”

“I can live with mundane. After I had to make so many hard choices during the war, laying low seems better for me right now.”

Sensing more awkward silences, Dax decided to get to the heart of the matter of what was on her mind about Benjamin. After the death of his first wife at Wolf 359, he spent two and a half years toiling away at the Utopia Planitia shipyards. Of course, the Dominion War incurred far more loss of life, and Sisko had the difficult decision of sending husbands and wives out into battle, and to their deaths. “The counselor in me would say you were running from something, “ Ezri remarked. “You were in the same rut after Wolf 359.”

“You were a good counselor. Why did you give that up?”

Ezri chuckled. Ben’s remark was often a therapy patient’s avoidance of an important subject. But this was not a therapy session. “It might have been when I led the mission to save Ghemor from assassination,” Ezri recalled of a mission when renegade Cardassians tried to assassinate the Castellan of the Cardassian Union. “I had to draw on Curzon’s and Jadzia’s knowledge of Klingon martial arts. I started to realize I could be so much more.”

“But you still are psychoanalyzing me.”

“We can’t always hide from the people we are. Sooner or later, you’ll end up back in the game.”

Maybe Sisko’s baseball metaphors were rubbing off on others. He sighed while considering what Ezri had just said. “This feels different though,” he said, “like that part of my life is over.”

“Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be for the best.”

###

Sisko’s face was on a monitor screen at the official police headquarters of Torman Five. Or rather, it was a computer-generated image of a face resembling Sisko’s. A program made minor alterations to the facial features so that they matched the description of the man who assaulted Runold. Verad and the rest of his team did not return twenty-four hours after their departure, so Runold suspected something had gone awry. Perhaps this Russell guy was responsible.

Once the alterations were completed, Runold instantly recognized the person who had dislocated his shoulder. “Yeah, that’s him,” he confidently stated.

The head of planetary security was a native of Torman who had a tan-skinned face resembling those of most Earth fish with a ridge that extended from the forehead to the chin. He had been altering the image on the screen according to Runold’s description. “I’m cross checking this with our police records and Starfleet Security files.”

Almost instantaneously, the name Benjamin Sisko appeared in red letters on the screen. “Sisko,” Runold muttered. He recalled hearing of Verad’s previous face-to-face encounter with the commander of Deep Space Nine nearly eight years ago. And Verad was actually going along with the masquerade.

###

Kur’Tok took a sip of Klingon bloodwine, grimaced, and spat it onto the floor. It had not sufficiently aged for his tastes. Well-aged bloodwine, however, was hard to come by on Nimbus Three. Kur’Tok still was willing to take any kind of bloodwine, even if this particular vintage was not to his liking.

A chime on his desk monitor diverted his attention. He slammed his mug on the table, which sent some liquid spiraling in the air. He entered the requested authorization code to decrypt the data file being transmitted. After he downloaded the file to a padd, he headed for the cargo deck.

Several other Klingons stood at computer consoles throughout the heavily spacious room running tests on the boronite shipped to them three days earlier. The Klingon closest to the door looked up from his console upon Kur’Tok’s arrival.

“Is that the additional data?” Mirok inquired.

Kur’Tok handed the padd off his subordinate. “We can now synthesize a stable omega molecule.”
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Old December 1 2012, 12:48 AM   #17
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twelve

Commander Donatra stared at the shipboard status reports on the monitor in her private chamber off the bridge. It was all she could do to pass the time while waiting on Suran’s next move.

The Valdore had tracked the Tiralihaan to the Baber Nebula. Perhaps he was meeting with one of his contacts in a Tal Shiar operation. Donatra had known of Suran’s affiliation with the Tal Shiar since her first training days at the Imperial War College. Because she had never been recruited into the intelligence agency, she kept this knowledge quiet and accepted that any actions Suran had taken as a member of the Tal Shiar were taken in the best interests of the Star Empire. That was until after the Dominion War and the suspicious death of Praetor Neral when Suran started rumors that the Federation manufactured evidence of a planned Dominion attack on Romulus and arranged the late Senator Vreenak’s death to prevent him from revealing that the evidence was fraudulent. More often than not, such stories were just propaganda to spur the military. Furthermore, Donatra was among the first to learn that Vreenak’s shuttle was destroyed during its return trip from the Dominion outpost on Soukara.

Donatra saw in the Romulan people a race that had lost its way. Ambition was a trait encouraged in all Romulan citizens, but that soon came to mean assassinating ones way up the political and military hierarchies. Assassination was an accepted last resort when a leader was deemed ineffective. Such a tactic had been overused in the last three centuries by soldiers and politicians putting their own ambitions ahead the honor of the people. The current praetor Hiren might have achieved his position this way given that the sitting praetor wouldn’t just be pecked to death by poisonous birds. Donatra could not prove that Hiren was responsible, so she had hoped to undermine him by digging up dirt on Suran.

The comm chimed, catching Donatra by surprise. The usually mundane reports had nearly lulled her to sleep. She gazed eagerly at the message from an informant aboard the Tiralihaan. The printout message indicated that Suran transmitted specifications for a harmonic resonance chamber to Nimbus Three. Such a device was often used to stabilize a volatile substance such as trilithium or the Omega molecule. Whatever Suran was up to would be a recipe for danger, especially on a planet that was a hotbed for terrorists and smugglers.

“Bridge,” she said, tapping the comm-panel. “Set a course for Nimbus Three.”

###

Kira entered the cellblock behind the security office just as Zeyner was escorted into a cell. Escobar accompanied her, holding a padd containing the official profile on the latest prisoner. Once the security deputies activated the forcefield, Kira nodded to them and to Escobar to step outside for a few minutes to have a word in private with Zeyner.

“Like the new uniform,” he remarked, “though I could never get used to the comm-badge on the wrong side. Seems like a demotion though.”

Kira smirked, trying not to get swept up in Zeyner’s usual charming manner that had Ro fooled for years. He was right, though, that as both a major and a colonel in the Bajoran Militia, Kira did outrank captains in that same military organization. But because Starfleet used traditional naval ranks, Starfleet captains did still outrank her. “Tell me,” she plainly began, “does the name Turan Getz ring a bell?”

His eyes widened at the mention of a name he had not heard in nearly a decade. He paused for a moment to consider his answer. His hesitation was enough indication to Kira that any answer he did give would be a lie. “Of course not,” he attempted.

“You don’t remember the name of the leader of your resistance cell,” Kira retorted. “Even though he was a fellow collaborator?”

“I didn’t start sleeping with him after the Occupation ended.”

Kira rolled her eyes but chose dignify that jab at her brief romance with former First Minister and former Resistance leader Shakaar Edon with any verbal response.

“So were all the former members of that resistance group collaborators?” he continued. “Guilty by association is hardly sufficient proof.”

“After you were caught trying to impede our investigation two years ago,” Kira blithely replied, “I checked with the Intelligence Ministry. They had no record of a Zeyner Antis or anyone remotely fitting your description.”

“The names of agents are not available to just anyone. You know that, Nerys.”

“No, but the names of Dukat’s network of Bajoran sympathizers became available after a list of eight names was confiscated from the Vaatrik widow, including Turan Getz.”

Zeyner gave a wry grin when he heard the name Vaatrik. Realizing he was letting his guard down, he turned away from Kira’s gaze. “There’s another name I haven’t heard in ten years,” he quipped, referring to the man who served as intermediary between Dukat and his spies within the Bajoran Resistance. Zeyner did not want Kira to see his expression of pride that no Bajoran during the Occupation suspected him of selling attack plans to various Cardassian military units and that his former leader was courageously willing to give himself up if any other cell suspected a member of the Turan Resistance of selling them out to their Cardassian oppressors. “I understand not even Odo was able to prove that you killed him.”

“He was on the side of justice,” Kira replied fondly of the station’s former chief of security, whose first assignment as constable under the Cardassian regime was to investigate the murder of Vaatrik. In fact, Odo never identified the killer until nearly a year after the Occupation ended. “He knew how harsh the Cardassian system of justice was, and he didn’t want to implicate anyone without solid proof.”

“Or it was love at first sight,” Zeyner taunted, in reference to Kira’s relationship with Odo prior to his departure to rejoin the Founders of the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant. “Dukat might have suspected Kira Meru’s daughter the second you entered the picture. Or was her name by that time Tora Naprem?”

Nerys’s blood boiled the instant she heard the name of the now deceased Tora Ziyal’s mother. Ziyal was the illegitimate daughter of Dukat with another Bajoran mistress, born the same year that Meru died. Nerys wanted to go in the cell and deck Zeyner for suggesting that one of Dukat’s half-Bajoran children was her half-sister. Not that she ever held Ziyal’s paternity against her, but the thought just planted in her mind was utterly disturbing. Such an act, however, would not be appropriate for the station CO, especially after not wanting to take a chance that Ro would lose her temper. She took a deep breath and stormed out of the room.

Escobar was waiting in the office with Ro when Kira entered. She told Jonas and the two Bajoran guards they could go back in and proceed with the interrogation, doing her best to keep her own emotions in check. “He’s a practiced liar, so no type of autonomic response analysis would be that accurate,” she said to Ro. “I thought I’d get under his skin to get a baseline comparison.”

“Sounds like he got under your skin more than you got under his,” Laren replied with a hint of sympathy.

“Don’t worry about me,” Nerys somberly answered. “Just make sure everything goes smoothly.”

***

Back in the cellblock, Escobar took a seat at the center table and opened a file on the padd. Zeyner stared in his direction trying to remember if he had seen him before, perhaps when he was in the Maquis. But it was a very long time ago, and his colleagues in the Maquis were just people he spied on. The cause rarely mattered. “Weren’t you once in the Maquis?” he asked feigning interest in his interrogator.

“I’m going to be asking the questions around here,” Escobar answered plainly, without even glancing at the prisoner. “Who is your primary contact in the Ku-Vok-leth?”

“Why isn’t Laren conducting the interrogation? I know she’s still the station’s head of security.”

“Your contact?” Escobar persisted, trying not to show annoyance.

“She’s probably watching on the surveillance monitors,” Zeyner continued, looking up at the ceiling where a camera might be. “You like having that kind of power, don’t you?”

Ro viewed the interrogation on a monitor in the office, letting out a disgusted scoff. He continued to taunt her, questioning whether she was fit to be a security officer when he had pulled the wool over her eyes for so long. Trying to contain all of her cumulative anger at Zeyner, Ro got up and stormed into the cellblock.

Escobar barely had any time to react to seeing his superior make a beeline towards Zeyner’s cell. Kira was close behind, but not making much of an effort to coax Ro back into the office. Ro quickly lowered the forcefield and grabbed her ex-lover by the collar to force him upright. She then tugged his hair and slammed his head against the cell’s bench. “We’re not fooling around,” she snarled. “Give us a name.”

“You always liked it rough,” Zeyner teased. “He’s on Nimbus Three. That’s all I’ll say right now.”

Ro flung him on the deck and pulled her phaser. She slowly raised the setting to maximum stun, so that he could see that, even on stun, a point-blank shot to the chest could still kill him. “It’s a big planet last I checked,” she retorted. “We need a name.”

“Holster your weapon, Lieutenant,” Kira called out, grabbing the handle of her own phaser. “That’s an order.”

“That’s the Ro Laren I remember,” said Zeyner, barely containing a giggle. “He’ll kill himself before giving himself up to Starfleet. He believes in his cause that much. You want any information out of him, you’ll have to let me speak with him.”

“No way in hell that’s happening. How do we know you won’t use this opportunity to escape?”

“The pardon is only valid if I provide accurate information.”

“He’s got us there,” Kira offered.

After a momentary staredown between Ro and Zeyner, Ro holstered her weapon, then stepped out of the cell and reactivated the forcefield. Kira shot Ro a slack-jawed glare as they both slowly stepped out of the cellblock. Escobar gave shocked stares at everyone else in the room as he whisked his padd off the table.

###

Elias Vaughn entered the Infirmary to see Doctor Bashir in the middle of a conversation with Prynn. He stopped in his tracks and slowly backed up towards the door to avoid the appearance of a parent too involved in his adult child’s personal life. He had seen his daughter spending a lot of time with Julian during off-hours whether it was playing darts at Quark’s or sharing drinks in the Replimat. Neither Julian nor Prynn said definitively. All Elias really had to go on was Worf’s suggestion that they were dating. And Worf was never the type to gossip or listen to gossip. On the other hand, his daughter did not strike him as a “one of the guys”-type girl. And Julian’s wide array of historical holosuite reenactments was something the good doctor shared with male colleagues.

“I would strongly advise that you adhere to this stretching routine,” Bashir was saying to Tenmei while handing her a padd.

“No problem, Doctor,” Prynn replied, making a point to address him by his title when she saw her father from one corner of her eye.

“And,” Julian continued as they both sauntered towards the exit out onto the Promenade, “if you’re still sore in the morning, stop by before you go on duty.”

Prynn simply returned Julian’s wide smile with a quick nod. She gave Elias an embarrassed glance as if he had caught them behaving inappropriately. Vaughn knew that Bashir was friendly with all his patients, but even more so towards his female patients. His biggest failing was probably that he got too emotionally involved with women who had unique medical needs, be it Melora Pazlar, a native of a low-gravity planet, or Sarina Douglas, who, until three years ago, had severe deficiencies interacting with the world around her as a side effect of her genetic modifications.

“Commander,” Julian gasped, sounding equally embarrassed. “What can I do for you?”

“I’ll be chaperoning Lieutenant Ro and Zeyner on their trip to Nimbus Three,” Vaughn plainly responded. “That planet’s not up to specs health-wise….”

“And you want to be properly vaccinated,” Bashir finished, cringing at the mention of one of his former staff. Though his genetic enhancements gave him the ability to read body language and facial cues in ways other humans could not, he never for one second suspected Zeyner Antis was involved in less than reputable activities. “I can take care of that. But I should warn you the vaccine for Rigalian mud fleas can have really difficult side effects.”

As Julian headed for the computer terminal in the main entryway, he noticed Elias had not budged. “Something else, sir?” he asked nervously.

“It concerns my daughter.”

“What about Prynn?”

“Are you interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with her?”

“No,” Bashir replied, wondering where Vaughn got something so ridiculous.

“It’s just that I overheard Ambassador Worf suggest it the other day,” Vaughn innocently explained.

“Worf,” Julian repeated, recalling that particular awkward encounter with the ambassador prior to his departure from the station. “When Ezri and I were together, Worf sort of took on the role of a disapproving older brother. While he was more than happy to step aside, he still felt we were not right for each other.”

Elias momentarily looked away to hide his embarrassment over this latest error in judgment. “But there’s nothing between you and Prynn?”

“Of course not.”

“I only ask because when parent and child serve together, the parent can’t help but be curious about these things.”

“I understand. You should be commended for trying to make up for lost time with your daughter.” Bashir then gave Vaughn a friendly pat on the shoulder as he continued towards the computer terminal. “I’ll get to work on the vaccines.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Vaughn answered, heading for the exit.
Once the doors had opened, then closed again, Julian rolled his eyes wishing he had the last couple minutes of his life back.

###

Benjamin Sisko was ready to return to his family life on Bajor. The trip from Deep Space Nine was uneventful, as was the trip from the spaceport back to his house in Rekantha Province. Of course, what was morning and early afternoon on the station’s clock was evening at his residence on Bajor. He was expecting Kasidy to be putting little Rebecca to bed and Jake to be getting stuck on his latest manuscript. That’s why he was surprised to see the whole house was dark. “Hello,” he called out.

Sisko quickly surveyed the living room, the study, and the kitchen. No one. He slowly trudged up the stairs. He was beginning to worry because he couldn’t even hear his daughter fussing. Maybe she had already fallen asleep, and so had Kasidy even if it wasn’t that late at night. Ben slowly tiptoed towards Rebecca’s bedroom when he heard Rebecca cry out in his and Kasidy’s room. He quickly sauntered over to the room. As he opened the door, he quickly felt the tip of a phaser pistol on his chest. “Hello, Mister Russell,” a familiar voice said. “Or should I call you Captain Benjamin Sisko?”

Runold, the pudgy Trill who doubted Sisko during his undercover mission, was holding the weapon. From the bump on his dark gray jumpsuit, Runold wore a brace on the shoulder Sisko dislocated. Three Nausicaans were also present pointing phaser rifles at the rest of the Sisko family, one of whom walked over to Ben and patted him down, possibly to make sure he had no listening devices on him.

Kasidy held Rebecca tightly trying to protect her daughter from the intimidating alien thugs. “Ben,” she gasped. “Who are these people? What’s going on?”

“This is Runold,” Benjamin ruefully replied. “We met during my undercover mission.”

“And you kept picking fights with me,” Runold added, “so you could have a more active role in screwing us over.”

“Let them go,” Benjamin implored. “You’re quarrel is with me not with them.”

“Ben, what are you doing?” Kasidy asked with a look of regret at having persuaded her husband to go on this one-time mission. Now, not even the Prophets, who were not limited by linear time, could help them out of this predicament.

“I’m not after you,” Runold sneered, still angry with himself for letting himself be fooled by the famous Benjamin Sisko. “I want Verad. He went along with your little masquerade. And by doing that, he screwed over the Orion Syndicate as much as he did the Neo-Purists.”

“I can take you to Verad,” Sisko calmly replied. “Just let them go.”

“And lose my guarantee that I don’t fall into another one of your cleverly laid traps?” Runold retorted.

“Let these two go,” Jake suggested, referring to Kasidy and Rebecca. “I’ll be your hostage.”

“No, Jake,” Kasidy implored.

“Absolutely not,” Benjamin added.

“I’m not going to let these thugs,” Jake began as the Nausicaan who was guarding him pointed his rifle at his head, “harm a defenseless two-year old. Let Kasidy and Rebecca go, and I’ll stay with them.”

“You don’t have to do this, Jake,” Benjamin implored.

“Oh, really?” Runold asked. “You do what I ask or maybe I will harm a defenseless two-year old.” The Trill slowly pulled his phaser away from Benjamin and pointed it at Rebecca.

Rebecca let out a screeching wail as Kasidy began cradling the little girl’s head. “You wouldn’t dare,” the protective mother sneered.

“Watch me,” Runold shot back.

“All right,” Benjamin said firmly. His son had been in similar danger over the years from the massacre on Ajilon Prime to the Dominion’s occupation of Deep Space Nine during the first four months of the Dominion War when Jake foolishly decided to stay behind to report on the war. And had Quark and Ziyal not broken him out of the station’s holding cells, Jake would have faced execution for his involvement in trying to derail the enemy’s efforts to bring in reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant. After Starfleet regained control of the station, Ben had hoped Jake would never again put himself in that kind of danger again. Now Jake was willing put himself in that kind of danger in order to protect his stepmother and half-sister.

Runold pointed his phaser back at Benjamin while also nodding at the Nausicaans to lower their weapons and leave the room. Sisko hoped he knew how most of these hostage negotiations worked, and that Benjamin would not cooperate until he knew his wife and daughter were safe. One of the Nausicaans stayed behind to escort Jake out of the room.

“Let’s go,” Runold commanded of the men.

“Ben,” Kasidy said. Her eyes were brimming with tears, fearing for her husband as when he left to confront Dukat in the Fire Caves. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“So do I,” Ben somberly replied.

“Hate to cut this tearful goodbye short,” Runold patiently, “but let’s go.”

Benjamin and Jake left with their captors, leaving Kasidy to continue to console her scared child.
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Old December 1 2012, 12:54 AM   #18
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Thirteen

Office of the Federation Council President; Paris, France; Earth

Federation President Min Zife was on comm with an intelligence liaison from his office in the Palais de la Concorde. Darkness ascended over the city, but Zife kept the lights dim to avoid attracting the attention of people working late shifts at the Palais. After all, he was conducting top-secret business with a high-ranking operative of Starfleet Intelligence. More to the point, this was an off-the-record operation specifically ordered by the President.

Commander Kenyon Dietz had been assigned to the non-aligned world of Tezwa along the border between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The dark-skinned human male had contacted Zife just after midnight, Paris local time, to update him on his mission. Over the last month, Dietz was investigating rumors of increased military activity on Tezwa. The Tezwan people had never posed much of a threat to either the Federation or the Empire in the last century. Dietz’s mission was to gauge whether Tezwa was in any position to wage war with the two major powers in the region.

“I can confirm now,” Dietz said in concluding his report, “that the weapons are being added to the planetary defense system’s current arsenal. Your worst fears may be coming true.”

“Thank you for the information, Agent Dietz,” Zife replied stoically. “Contact me again in twenty-four hours when you can receive further instructions.”

Zife immediately cut the transmission, replacing the image of Dietz on the monitor with the UFP seal. The Bolian tilted his head downward as he massaged his temples. He was lost in his thoughts when his intercom chimed. “I thought I ordered no interruptions,” he groaned.

“You wished to be notified when Mister Azernal arrived,” a feminine voice replied.

“Send him in then,” Zife said, arching his fully bald head backwards against the top of his leather upholstered chair.

A tall, skinny Zakdorn male slowly paced into the office checking the wall-mounted monitor to make sure the President was not on comm with anyone. The chief-of-staff then walked over to the desk to face Zife.

Zife clasped both his hands together on the desk and shot Koll Azernal a cold stare. “I’ll come right to the point, Koll,” he somberly stated. “The weapons placed on Tezwa are in the process of being implemented into their planetary defense system.”

“It was a risky move five years ago,” Azernal recalled. “I knew then that Prime Minster Kinchawn was a loose cannon.”

“It was a calculated risk,” Zife replied. “Now we have to do damage control before all hell breaks loose.”

***

Azernal later stepped into his own office. As he fidgeted with a desk lamp in the darkened room, a humanoid figure sidled up to him. The other person pushed a button to close the door. Azernal successfully activated the lighting device, and then turned around startled to see a familiar Vulcan woman in a black leather jumpsuit.

“You shouldn’t be here, Director L’Haan,” the chief-of-staff nervously said.

“A most illogical statement,” L’Haan retorted, “considering the delicate nature of this operation. What do you have to report?”

“The President has confirmed that the situation on Tezwan is worse than Section 31 initially believed.”

If Koll did not know any better, he’d have thought L’Haan was smirking when the right edge of her lips twitched. No Vulcan would ever admit to even minor displays of emotion. But then most Vulcan women did not wear their hair in a short coiffure as L’Haan did.

“You’ll be pleased to know the operation on Nimbus Three is underway,” she said with an eerie coldness.

Azernal rolled his eyes as he circled around the desk and sat down. Doing damage control on Tezwa would be difficult enough. Now Section 31 was carrying out a mission more risky than illegally supplying classified technology to a minor power five years earlier.


IKS Sword of Kahless

Whether the Legend of Klag was true or not, Worf still considered Klag, son of M’Raq, one of the Empire’s greatest heroes during the Dominion War. After the IKS Pagh crash-landed on Marcan Five, Klag was the only survivor. Klag reportedly defeated a garrison of seven Jem’Hadar despite having lost an arm and suffering severe blood lost. How he pulled it off was of no great importance since he clearly survived that ordeal.

Of course, Worf had known of Klag and the Pagh well before that legendary confrontation when the Enterprise-D’s first officer served aboard the Klingon Bird-of-Prey as part of the officer exchange program. During that assignment, the Pagh’s Captain Kargan believed the Enterprise was responsible for a metallic parasite growing on the hull of his ship and was determined to retaliate. When Kargan was about to order the attack, Will Riker, courtesy of a command transponder Worf had given him, had Kargan beamed off the bridge. Klag, then second officer of the Pagh, stood by Riker’s order to stand down. Riker had earned the respect of his crew and his captain, although Kargan was also offended that Riker did not assassinate him per the long-standing Klingon naval tradition.

Worf had learned after Riker’s return to the Enterprise, that Kargan had a distinguished reputation for recklessness, often looking for any excuse for a fight without fully considering whether or not the cause was a worthy one. That recklessness might have led to Kargan’s ultimate demise at Marcan Five. The ambassador had informed the now-Captain Klag of the attempt on Martok’s life and gave his assurances that their chancellor was in good hands back on Deep Space Nine. Worf was now pressing Klag for specifics regarding the captain’s current mission.

“It is a dark time for the Empire,” Klag said, while in communication with Worf. “I regret that I cannot share all the details of my mission with a Federation diplomat. But I have great respect for you as a fellow warrior of the Empire, Ambassador Worf.”

“And I, you, Captain Klag,” Worf replied as he stood in front of a wall mounted communications monitor in the VIP suite. “What information can you share with me?”

“For the last six months,” Klag grimly stated, “I have been tracking the movements of warriors who continue to follow the old ways. I am certain you are familiar with the Ku-Vok-leth, my friend. They call themselves the Honor Brigade, but they have not always fought with honor ever the since the Federation first became our ally.”

“Yes. All too well,” Worf replied, recalling the Klingon warriors who were guests aboard 1701-D during his first year of service there. Korris and Konmel had reminded him that he could not ignore his Klingon roots even having lived among humans most of his life. But amid Korris’s insatiable appetite for battle, he lacked a sense of duty, honor, and loyalty, qualities without which, Worf had said then, a warrior was nothing.

“But this assassination attempt,” Worf continued, “could only have been carried out this easily if they had informants in the High Council and on this ship.”

“Then I hope you are on a secure channel. Otherwise you are taking a big risk contacting me.”

“Anyone hoping to eavesdrop would have to get through five layers of encryptions.”

Or so Worf thought as an officer aboard the Sword of Kahless was already listening in on the communiqué with Klag. The officer sat at a desk observing the transmission on a monitor. He began entering commands on the computer terminal to begin recording and transmission of the communiqué.

A profile capsule appeared on Worf’s screen containing information on a person of interest Klag had just transmitted. Pictured in the capsule was a Klingon with a cold stare in his eyes. His frizzy dark hair had streaks of gray hair down both sides. “This is Kur’Tok,” Klag explained. “He is a civilian engineer on Nimbus Three, the senior engineer of a pergium mine. In the last month, he has received bi-weekly shipments from Romulan military shuttles.”

Worf gave a skeptical wince as he continued to read Kur’Tok’s profile. This engineer’s dealings with Romulans were suspicious enough since the Star Empire had a wealth of pergium deposits within its own territory. So if these Romulans were military officers traveling to the hind end of the Beta Quadrant to meet with the senior engineer of a pergium mine, then that would confirm speculation the Romulan Empire was supporting the Ku-Vok-leth. “Then I will meet with you at Nimbus Three,” Worf said. “Qa’Pla, Captain Klag.”

Qa’Pla, Ambassador Worf.”

***

The eavesdropping officer turned off the monitor to Worf’s quarters disengaging the recording. He then entered commands on the terminal to send a discreet transmission to a member of the High Council.

An elderly Klingon with thinning white hair appeared on the monitor screen. The image of Councilor Ru’qel was barely visible because the officer was using various communications scramblers, including green numeral thirty-ones streaking across the top and bottom of the screen. Martok had suspected Ru’qel of trying to usurp his position and every chancellor before for as long he served in the Council. Though already next in line for the chancellor-ship, Ru’qel was the last person to start an insurrection because he was fading of old age and he had no male heirs.

“Why are you contacting me on this frequency?” Ru’qel demanded, baffled that a fellow Klingon was associated with a Federation black ops organization. True the continued alliance between the Federation and the Empire was in both their best interests even if that meant keeping certain secrets hidden. If war did break out over those secrets, then both sides would be even more at the mercy of nearby enemies such as the Romulans or the Tholians. Still, a Klingon Defense Force officer’s involvement with Section 31 could get him hanged for treason if such an association were public knowledge.

“Worf is on to us,” the officer plainly replied. “As is Klag. It is their hope to apprehend and detain Kur’Tok.”

Ru’qel chortled until the muscles in his throat strained. He started wheezing to the point where the younger Klingon officer thought he would cough out his internal organs. The elderly politician downed a shot of liquor to calm the coughing and took a few slow breaths. “He must be even more desperate than I suspected,” he mused, “if he’s sending Klag on these missions instead of someone in Imperial Intelligence. No matter. I will send a garrison to Nimbus Three. The traitorous son of Mogh will be in for a big surprise.”


IRW Tiralihaan

The Tiralihaan slowly exited the Baber Nebula, and then streaked into warp once the ship was clear of the nebular gases. Unbeknownst to the crew, Donatra and the Valdore were one step ahead of them.

Commander Inneraat Suran stared out the viewport of his private chamber, taking in one last look at the mosaic of colors across the spectrum that composed the Baber Nebula. Despite the many Spartan aspects of Romulan culture, Suran had a strong sense of aesthetics. Yet he was among those who would perpetuate the myth that the Romulan heart itself was gray. The relative lack of artistic creativity was perhaps derived from their Vulcan cousins; even though Suran and many other Romulans would be loathe to admit that to off-worlders just as no Vulcan would admit to an alien that his or her actions were motivated by emotion.

As the nebula became smaller in size from his vantage point, Suran turned around at the same time the door chimed. “Enter,” he called.

Subcommander Bralek entered carrying a padd containing the daily personnel report. “The personnel review,” he said, holding up the padd.

“Thank you, Subcommander,” Suran replied, pacing over to the replicator. “I’ll look it over.”

“There’s also a more pressing matter, sir,” Bralek continued, setting the padd down on the desk. “Our sensor readings indicate intermittent tachyon spikes along our course from ch’Rihan to the Nebula. They are highly concentrated suggesting a cloaked vessel on a course parallel to our own.”

Suran removed a glass of Romulan ale from the replicator tray and took a small sip as he walked back to his desk. “Are they shadowing us now?” he asked, starting to wonder who besides his crew and his superiors in the Tal Shiar knew about his secret trip to the Baber Nebula.

“No, sir. But the sensor logs from our passive scans indicate a warbird did uncloak at the nebula’s perimeter.”

Bralek entered a command on the padd and pointed to a set of numbers that appeared on the screen. “The warp signature registers as the Valdore,” the subcommander continued.

Suran’s eyes widened, indicating to Bralek that the commander agreed with his conclusion.

“Donatra,” Suran muttered. But of all his former protégés, Donatra was the last person he would expect to be that sloppy. I taught you better than that, Miette, he silently mused. Unless she wants me to know that’s her following me.

“Sir,” said Bralek, leaning downward until his eyes met Suran’s. “She could be headed for Nimbus Three. If that’s the case, she could undermine our whole operation. We should report this to your superiors.”

“Not yet. I want to wait and see what she does when she gets to Nimbus. That means it’s time for us to shadow her.”

“Yes, sir,” Bralek skeptically replied. He knew Donatra was often too intelligent and ambitious for her own good. Bralek knew to never question Donatra’s patriotism. On the other hand, of all his understudies, Donatra was one whom Suran was most fond of. Bralek feared that Suran would not be willing to make the hard choice if Donatra was, in fact, trying to undermine their whole operation.

Suran gave a suspicious stare at Bralek as the subcommander paced out of the office. Something about Bralek seemed suspicious. He had been a loyal soldier of the empire for almost six decades. A man of early middle age as indicated by a few streaks of gray in his hair, Bralek had certainly earned his way up the ranks without any special treatment. But his slightly slanted lips accompanied by a semi-involuntary twitch on the right edge seemed eerily familiar. The human operative he had met on Romulus a few days earlier had a similar twitch, as did Senator Vreenak’s chief-of-staff. Maybe that was just a coincidence.
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Old December 2 2012, 04:37 AM   #19
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Interlude: Flashback Three

Stardate 51698 (Earth Year 2374)

“I strongly advise you to reconsider, Senator.”

Commander Suran caught up to Senator Vreenak in the landing bay of the senator’s personal shuttle. Vreenak was traveling to the Dominion outpost on Soukara for a diplomatic meeting. Suran’s biggest concern was that Vreenak planned on taking just the shuttle with no military escort. Suran had known from experience how stubborn Vreenak was. Despite the non-aggression pact, Suran did not trust the Dominion no matter how much it honored the agreement.

“I have made up my mind, Commander,” Vreenak calmly answered. “This meeting is to discuss the possibility of an alliance after the war. We have to show our good faith.”

“Not even a squadron of cloaked warbirds outside the system?” Suran insisted.

“No. The asteroid belt has a web of tachyon scanners and gravitic sensor nets. They suspect anything…”

Suran raised a hand to concede the senator’s argument. “Fine,” he said with a sigh. “May you have a safe trip. Jolan tru, Senator.”

Jolan tru, Commander.”

The senator and the commander shook hands. Vreenak then made a quick jaunt over to the main entrance of the shuttle. Once Vreenak was inside, Suran motioned a fellow commander towards him with his right forefinger. “I want you to tail his shuttle,” he whispered. “Tune your cloak to this frequency. I have a feeling this will end badly.”

Suran handed a data padd over to the subordinate commander. The younger officer accepted the padd, placing it in his right equipment holster. “Yes, sir,” he said, placing his right fist on his left shoulder in the traditional Romulan military salute.

From the edge of his peripheral vision, Suran could see Tirak saunter towards the shuttle. He got a better look at Vreenak’s chief-of-staff once the junior commander walked away. The presence of Tirak somehow confirmed Suran’s hunch that Vreenak’s mission would have a disastrous outcome.

###

Senator Vreenak had made an off-the-record detour to Deep Space Nine during his return trip from Soukara. The meetings with Weyoun had gone well, although he found the Vorta’s disingenuous charm rather annoying. The groundwork had been laid for a possible post-war alliance. The initial treaty was just a compromise with the rest of the Senate. Vreenak was still hoping for much more.

Whether such an alliance would become a reality depended greatly on the veracity of Starfleet Captain Benjamin Sisko’s claims. Vreenak never trusted the Federation, but this “incriminating intelligence” was too important to ignore. To preface his presentation of evidence that the Dominion was planning an attack on the Romulan Empire, Sisko invited Vreenak to the wardroom to discuss the state of the war. While he was comparing replicated kali-fal to the real thing, the senator gave his perspective on the harsh realities of a war he felt the Federation would eventually lose.

“Dogged determination isn't enough to change the reality of your situation,” Vreenak tersely station. “Time is definitely not on your side. The Dominion shipyards are working at one hundred percent capacity. Yours are still being rebuilt. The Dominion is breeding legions of Jem'Hadar soldiers every day. You're experiencing a manpower shortage. But most important, the Dominion is resolved to win the war at any cost. You and I both know the Federation has already put out peace feelers. Now, in all candor, if you were in my position, which side would you choose?”

“I'd pick the side most likely to leave us in peace when the dust settles,” Sisko grimly replied. “Maybe you're right. Maybe the Dominion will win in the end. Then the Founders will control what we now call Cardassia, the Klingon Empire and the Federation. So, instead of facing three separate opponents with three separate agendas, you'll find yourselves facing the same opponent on every side. There's a word for that. Surrounded.”

Vreenak inhaled the scent his alcoholic beverage gave off. “It really is a good replica,” he remarked. “The aroma's starting to grow on me. For a moment there I almost forgot that it wasn't the real thing, but only for a moment. You make some very good points, Captain, but it's still all speculation and theory. Nothing that would warrant abrogating our treaty and plunging the Empire into war.”

What if I told you that the Dominion is planning a sneak attack on the Romulan Empire at this very moment?

“I’d want proof”

###

Elim Garak had been assisting Sisko in this effort to persuade the Romulan Star Empire to join the Federation Alliance in the war effort. The lone Cardassian residing on the station had procured a genuine Cardassian data rod and an individual who could create a fraudulent holographic recording of a planned Dominion attack on Romulus. Sisko would present the “evidence” to Vreenak, while Garak snuck aboard the shuttle to learn any secrets about the Dominion Vreenak had picked up at Soukara. Or so that was what Sisko had believed.

Garak materialized in the cockpit of Vreenak’s shuttle. It was a fairly standard layout--two forward piloting consoles, one center seat, and a number of secondary stations. Two of the guards were in the landing bay while the other two stood watch outside the wardroom. Garak slipped in unnoticed, and sat down at the port pilot station to access ship’s database. He used that innocuous computer entry to sneak into a decryption of the propulsion systems.

Garak entered a command to gradually increase the gravitational output of the warp drive’s artificial quantum singularity in small increments. Eventually, this programmed malfunction would cause the shuttle to collapse in on itself. This is too easy, Garak was beginning to think.

Upon ascending from the pilot chair, Garak came face-to-face with a Romulan civilian with graying hair. He must have been Tirak, the senator’s chief-of-staff. He gave Garak a conspiratorial stare. Garak did not even hear the man enter; leaving him to wonder how long Tirak had been spying on him. “Have we met before?” the Cardassian jovially asked, hoping to ignore the reality that he had been busted.

“You were a gardener,” Tirak answered, looking as if he was trying to remember a vaguely familiar face, “at the Cardassian Embassy on Romulus years back.”

“You don’t say,” Garak retorted. “Perhaps we have met.”

“And now here you are on Deep Space Nine as a… tailor.”

Definitely busted. “A tailor who seems to have gotten lost,” Garak replied heading for the exit. But Tirak stood in his way.

“You didn’t do a good job covering your tracks,” the Romulan hissed.

“Excuse me?” Garak asked, still sounded jovial in order to hide his apprehension at being caught. During a lengthy staredown, Garak began to wonder why Tirak didn’t just shoot him already.

“You and I have one thing in common,” Tirak said, with a wry smile. “Our dislike for the Dominion. Don’t worry, Mister Garak. I’ve got you covered. Vreenak has a misguided ambition. The only way to way to be rid of him is to create an unfortunate accident.”

Tirak then stepped aside, allowing Garak to leave. As he slowly sauntered out of the cockpit, Garak still could not help but question Tirak’s sincerity. And would Garak tell Sisko about this? The captain would probably feel obligated to prevent the “accidental” destruction of Vreenak’s ship. Garak decided to keep quiet, knowing he would need a Plan B if the recording that implicated the Dominion failed inspection. And if Tirak planned on ratting him out to Vreenak, then certainly a Plan C.

Garak knew he could not trust the senator's chief-of-staff to do as he claimed. Upon returning to his tailor shop on the Promenade, he used one of his isolinear rods in storage to hack into the station's surveillance system. An image of the Romulan shuttle's cockpit appeared on a screen on his main work desk. Two other readout screens indicated the engineering section and the aft cargo hold. At least, having sneaked aboard the shuttle did pay off.

Using a second isolinear rod, the one he had used to transport aboard the shuttle, Garak entered a set of commands to transport an explosive into the ship's engineering section. Once it materialized in the engine room, a holographic image appeared around it blending in with the nearby control stations. It was no ordinary explosive. It was similar to an explosive used by the Obsidian Order that could be prematurely set off by attempts to disarm it.

###

Vreenak held the data rod containing the forged recording vertically between his thumb and forefinger while seated in the command chair of his shuttle’s cockpit. That Starfleet had gotten its hands on something saying exactly what it wanted to hear in order to bring the Romulans into the war seemed rather convenient. Who was to say Starfleet hadn’t altered the recording for its own benefit. He knew the Federation was desperate but not that desperate. He contemplated whether he really would expose this “vile deception” to the entire Alpha Quadrant. His dissenters in the Senate would probably say it was an effort on his part to make his case for a cooperative alliance with the Dominion more convincing. Maybe he would hold onto the recording and use it to blackmail the Federation should the Alliance somehow win the war, yet still be left extremely vulnerable.

He was roused from his trance by the sound of an alarm on the main piloting console. Vreenak placed the rod in a wooden container and slipped it into a small storage compartment in the chair. “What’s that?” he asked the guard at the port station.

“An increase in the gravitational output of the warp drive,” the pilot replied.

“What’s causing it?”

“Unknown. We ran complete diagnostics before we left Deep Space Nine. I’ll try to isolate the problem.” The pilot entered commands into his console, but that did not produce the desired result. He sighed in frustration.

“What’s the problem?” Vreenak apprehensively demanded.

“Control circuits are fused. I’ll have to go down and do it manually.”

Tirak was observing the latest development from outside the port egress, making sure not to catch the attention of the guard standing watch on the other side of the entrance. Upon seeing the pilot at the port station head for the port exit, Tirak stepped aside. He knew he could not reach the adjoining corridors in either direction without being seen, so he needed some other method of escape. His body transformed into a shiny, gold-colored gelatinous material and blended in with the medium gray carpet.

Meanwhile, Vreenak looked over at the pilot at the starboard console. “Just as a precaution,” he instructed, “slow us to half impulse.”

The remaining pilot attempted to comply, but he was getting no results. “Controls are frozen,” he gasped in frustration.

Vreenak looked around the room wondering what would become of his ship and whether his impeding demise was only a matter of minutes. Was this Sisko’s Plan B? he wondered. The Federation did not resort to political assassinations, but that was most likely during peacetime.

***

Tirak was standing at the engineering controls hoping to make sure the ship’s destruction was carried out when the primary pilot arrived. “You shouldn’t be here, sir,” he told the civilian.

Tirak turned around and shot the Tal Shiar officer with a projectile disruptor, quickly sending him to the deck. Tirak then turned back to the console. A readout screen indicated a core implosion in thirty seconds. This was the Changeling’s plan all along while he was in the guise of a Romulan. He had hoped to plunge the Romulan people into a devastating war as retaliation for the Tal Shiar’s role in the failed attack on his homeworld. His calls for more direct action during the Founders’ infiltration of the Federation and other Alpha Quadrant powers had too often fallen on deaf ears. He had then set out on his own to manipulate key government officials. True, the Federation and the Klingon Empire would have a better chance of winning the war with the Romulans on their side. But whatever the outcome, all three of those powers would be in much of a position to threaten the Great Link and a great number of Romulan and Cardassian deaths would still result.

As time was running out, the Changeling-Romulan morphed through the ventilation system from which he previously entered the engine room. He quickly made his way through the fuel exhaust system to the outside of the ship. Morphing into a slug-like space-borne lifeform, the Changeling sped away as the Romulan shuttle collapsed in on itself.

###

“Forensic scans of the debris revealed no sign of the senator’s remains.”

Suran testified before the Senate revealing his findings regarding the sudden mysterious destruction of Vreenak’s shuttle. Senators Irrawik and Cretak seemed the most intrigued by this bit information the commander revealed. They were the most vocal opponents of the non-aggression treaty with the Dominion. Now the biggest supporter of such an arrangement was killed while returning from a diplomatic meeting with the Dominion. “Are you suggesting Vreenak was a Changeling?!” Cretak interjected.

“We can’t say for certain,” Suran replied, his voice echoing throughout the large and spacious chamber. The slight time-delay generated by the Senate session’s transmission on the planetary communication network also created an echo in the chamber most noticeable to the junior senators in the back of the room. “All we do know is that the senator’s shuttle was destroyed during a return trip from Soukara as the result of an increase in the warp core’s gravitational output well beyond safety limits.”

“This was information obtained from warbirds you dispatched against the senator’s orders,” Neral chimed in.

“Nevertheless,” Suran tersely replied, hiding his annoyance that the proconsul should reference a minor act of insubordination, “the information obtained in the wreckage is quite galling.”

Once Suran entered a command on a data padd, a three-dimensional holographic display filled the area between him and the proconsul. The display was of a Cardassian meeting room occupied by a Vorta, along with several Cardassians and Jem’Hadar. Suran was not sure he believed the contents of the recording when he first played it, especially since he recognized the Vorta as Weyoun, the Dominion representative Vreenak had met with. Vorta, of course, were notorious for their guile and treachery even towards the Jem’Hadar they commanded.

“And with the Cardassian Fourth Order protecting their flank,” Weyoun proclaimed in the recording, “the Twenty-third Jem'Hadar division will begin its thrust across the Glintara Sector. They should begin the invasion of Romulus itself on the following day. Once we've taken the homeworld, organized resistance will crumble when outlying systems and colonies begin looking out for themselves. Consolidation of the entire Empire will take three months at most.”

All the senators and the proconsul gazed and in awe as Weyoun presented a plan of attack against their homeworld. Suran had a good idea what Irrawik and Cretak were discussing between themselves. To those two, Vreenak’s assassination at the hands of the Dominion seemed a fitting end for with an unquenchable thirst for power and fame. To Suran, a lot of things still didn’t add up. How did Vreenak get his hands on such an incriminating recording? And according to the warbird commanders, Vreenak had gone off sensors for a single Earth solar day. Maybe it had something to do with Tirak, the man who had aroused Suran’s suspicions from the day he became Vreenak’s chief-of-staff.

At the next day’s Senate session, an overwhelming majority had voted in favor of declaring war on the Dominion. The dissenters had cited the convenience of various events from a faulty data recording thoroughly detailing plans for an invasion to the Federation’s desperation for a new ally to turn the tables in the war. But with Vreenak now out of the picture, their arguments did not carry much weight. Those in favor of war argued that they could not take the risk of dismissing such evidence no matter how faulty the recording.
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Old December 2 2012, 05:12 AM   #20
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Fourteen

A Bajoran civilian engineer sat at a cargo shuttle’s pilot controls. He looked at the results of the final diagnostics of essential systems before departure to Deep Space Nine. While glancing at the readouts, he handed a manifest padd off to his co-pilot, who then headed to the aft cargo hold. Unbeknownst to the pilot, Sisko was skulking towards the cockpit along the side of the craft.

The pilot continued to look down at the diagnostic results as Sisko swooped in on him, injecting a sedative into his carotid artery. Sisko then slid the Bajoran man’s unconscious body out of the cockpit. “Come on,” Benjamin whispered. Runold tiptoed behind him and stepped through the shuttle entrance. Sisko handed the burly Trill his hypospray. “You take care of the co-pilot,” he instructed. “I’ll go over pre-launch.”

His partner in crime walked into the aft cargo hold to incapacitate the other pilot. Sisko looked nervously over both his shoulders. The undercover assignment was hard enough. Any criminal acts on his part were to achieve the goal of learning this Trill terrorist organization’s connection to a group of rogue Klingons while on a mission sanctioned by Starfleet Intelligence. Now he was off the clock helping the man seeking retribution simply for the safety of his family. Regardless of the legal consequences, Benjamin wouldn’t have it any other way.

He prepared a brief message for station security, and then quickly encrypted it as he was hearing footsteps. Runold slid the unconscious body of the co-pilot through the cargo entrance, out of the cockpit, and into the landing bay.

“Next stop," Sisko said, once Runold re-entered the cockpit. “Deep Space Nine.”

###

The runabout Delphi streaked into warp once it cleared the station. Elias Vaughn manned the primary piloting controls while Ro conducted quick system checks at various stations throughout the cockpit. When she arrived at the starboard station behind the secondary pilot seat, she tried to avoid the taunting glare of Zeyner. He grinned at her from the corner of his eye. He grinned at her from the corner of her eye. She gritted her teeth while breathing heavily. He recognized that disarming stare all too well, that let him know she would not be fooled by him again. His grin became a smirk as if to say, “We shall see.”

“We’ll reach the Denebian corridor in four hours,” Vaughn said as Ro took the seat next to his. “That’ll get us to Nimbus in three days.”

Ro was hoping not to hear that part: three days in a runabout with an ex-lover with whom she was not on good terms. “I still don’t see why we couldn’t take the Defiant,” she said curtly. “The trip would be faster, and we could incinerate any Ku-Vok-leth encampments in a matter of minutes.”

“It wouldn’t be that much faster,” Vaughn retorted, even knowing the Defiant’s maximum warp speed would make the trip just two days shorter. "And of course Bajorans were on the receiving end of the Cardassians wielding such a blunt instrument."

“Besides,” Zeyner interjected, wanting to cross his arms in front of himself before remembering his wrists were once again in restraints, "the Klingons or the Romulans would say the most advanced ship in Starfleet violated neutral space."

Ro scoffed, both at hearing Vaughn’s appeal to pity and at Zeyner having the gall to mouth Starfleet platitudes. Zeyner ascended from his seat and skulked over to Ro’s seat. “You, of all people, should know when not to go in guns blazing,” he added.

“Stay out of this, Zeyner,” Ro sneered. “I just want to get this thing over with and exchange as few words as possible.”

“All right,” Zeyner half-heartedly relented, raising his cuffed hands in front of himself. “But just so you know, I’m going in alone to meet this contact.”

“The Fire Caves will freeze over that happens.”

“Then we may as well turn back. He doesn’t trust those uniforms of yours.”

“That’s why you’ll be doing all the talking,” Vaughn chimed in. “We’re still keeping a close eye on you.”

“I’d expect nothing less,” Zeyner replied, heading back to his seat.

“And at the first sign of treachery,” Ro began to say.

“Lieutenant,” Vaughn interrupted. He looked away from her wondering if letting Ro accompany this mission was a bad idea. Of course, time was of the essence if his hunch about Omega was true. And there was no turning back now.

Zeyner, meanwhile, sat back in his seat, and stared up the starboard side viewport. He gave a conspiratorial smile, wondering how long Ro would follow up on her promise to ignore him as much as possible.

###

In the absence of Commander Vaughn and with the Defiant idle, Ezri Dax was the station’s acting second-in-command She was at the main Ops console monitoring communications traffic and consulting with a male Bajoran officer when Captain Kira entered from her office. Dax handed off a padd to the subordinate officer, who then sauntered away.

“A Federation prison ship will be here in three days,” Dax told Kira. “It’ll be escorting Kalon to Starbase 621 for a hearing.”

“I’m sure you’ll be glad to have him off the station,” Nerys replied with a grin.

Ezri was almost frowning when she said, “No kidding. Thinking of him creates more disturbing images than memories of Joran that still resurface.”

“The crazy host who killed a Symbiosis Commission doctor?” Kira asked, squinting curiously. She leaned backwards on the control panel next to Ezri’s as she crossed her arms.

Kira’s body language reminded Ezri of the heart-to-heart discussions Jadzia had with her. Ezri’s relationship with Nerys did take a similar path, despite feelings of awkwardness once in a while from both of them. In Ezri, Nerys saw both Jadzia and an insecure and neurotic young adult. And Nerys to Ezri was both a dear friend and a less familiar “family friend.”

“Every so often,” Ezri said of a mentally unstable individual who had been a host to the Dax symbiont for six months even though the Symbiosis Commission went to great lengths to conceal that fact, “I still get flashes of memories that were Joran’s. As much as I hate to admit, he had more in common with me than any other previous hosts. We both hadn’t exactly planned on being joined.

“Verad, on the other hand, he’s almost a megalomaniac. I still feel his almost suicidal sense of inadequacy and how he overcompensates with a misguided desire to make the world a better place.”

“Is this the therapist you were before the joining talking?” Kira teased.

Dax gave a glib smile, not sure whether to be amused by that remark. “Benjamin said the same thing before he went back to Bajor, when we were talking about how the people we once were always being a part of who we are now.”

“He may have a point,” Kira offered, slipping into the stool, so that her gaze met Dax’s. “You’ve started to become more than the sum of your parts, but some of these major life changes are an effort to prove you’re just as worthy as Jadzia and all the other hosts.”

Dax did not know what to make of being psychoanalyzed, and in much the same way Sisko was scrutinizing her. And now Kira was coming close echoing Worf’s appraisal of her. She gave Kira a perturbed glance as if saying I know what you’ll say next. “Worf went as far as to say I’m married to the job now,” she said, rolling her eyes as if to dismiss what people had been telling her recently.

“Are you?” Kira asked, knowing the answer and expecting its opposite.

“Of course not,” Ezri scoffed.

“Julian might not agree. The problems in your relationship coincided with your self-exploration.”

“Julian? Seriously? We both wanted different things out of the relationship. And maybe it was a product of his leftover feelings for Jadzia…”

Nerys raised a hand to stop her friend in mid-sentence. “Now that’s just an excuse,” she insisted. “It’s commendable that you might make captain before you’re thirty. But you should know there’s more to life than career. Julian was the first one you pushed away. And I know you and Benjamin hardly keep in touch.

“We know you’re not Jadzia. We all know you. Ezri. You are still Ezri Tigan even with the Dax symbiont. That person is every bit as important as your efforts to live up to the Dax legacy.”

Dax was about to answer, but Kira’s words soon rang true. She thought back to all the awkward silences with Sisko in the runabout. Maybe it wasn’t just Benjamin. Maybe she was starting to see her closest friends--Jadzia’s friends--as small fractions of the three hundred sixty year lifespan of the Dax symbiont. “I suppose maybe you’re right,” she relented.

***

Jonas Escobar sat behind the desk in the security office. He was reviewing transporter protocols for moving prisoners from a holding cell to a prison ship when Dax stepped into the room from the Promenade. He gave her a wide smile that reminded her of when he was getting on her nerves on the Defiant. Ezri just gave a half-hearted grin to hide feelings of awkwardness while present in an official capacity.

“The prison ship will be here in sixty hours,” she said in a calm and professional tone. “How are the security arrangements coming along?”

“I’ve tied the cell’s forcefield in with the transporter,” Escobar replied. “Once the forcefield goes down, Mister Nog will be able to initiate a near-simultaneous transport.

“Good,” Ezri deadpanned, trying to avoid any awkward silences. “Speaking of Nog, he finished the diagnostic on the targeting scanners ahead of schedule. You’ll be glad to know everything checks out.”

Jonas nodded nervously, somewhat at a loss for words. The tension that filled the room was reminiscent to Ezri of when neither she nor Julian could work up the courage to discuss a possible romantic partnership. Furthermore, Escobar’s easy-going nature reminded Ezri of Julian’s annoying ebullience when he was fresh out of medical school. But that was Jadzia Dax he had an eye for. Though having Jadzia’s memories, Ezri couldn’t say she would respond to the doctor’s advances the same way Jadzia did in those days.

“Good,” Escobar stuttered. “I’d hate to have to bridge our transporter with the prison ship’s. We can never get the Starfleet and Cardassians systems to work well together.”

“Quite a challenge,” Ezri nervously blurted out. As is trying to let Escobar down easily, she thought to herself taking small steps backwards towards the door.

Seeing that Dax was about to leave, Escobar decided to come out and say it. He stood up and circled the desk took a quick and deep breath. “Are you available for dinner?” he asked. “Tonight or tomorrow night. Or maybe drinks in Quark’s.”

“I’m not sure,” Dax replied with an embarrassed blush. He projected an air of confidence, but not after he downgraded his offer. His approach was identical to Julian’s when he first asked out Jadzia. Maybe Julian was fascinated and intimidated by Jadzia all those years ago. The same was true of people who showed romantic interest in Ezri since her split with Julian. Those thoughts were mildly amusing to Ezri, but she kept it to herself not wanting to hurt Escobar’s feelings even more.

“Yes or no,” Jonas persisted.

“To what? Dinner or drinks?”

“One’s a date, the other isn’t,” Dax teased. “You’re free to join Julian, Nog, and me next time we all get together.”

Escobar drooped his shoulders and sauntered back behind the desk. The one name that stuck out from that invitation in his mind was Julian Bashir’s. “That’s what it’s about,” he said in a surrendering tone. “You’re worried about hurting Doctor Bashir’s feelings.”

“No,” Dax insisted. “That’s not it at all. I’m still trying to make sense of who I am as a joined Trill. That’s especially difficult for me when I never expected to be joined. I don’t want to place that kind of burden on anyone like I did with Julian. It’s nothing against you, Escobar.”

They both exchanged awkward smirks. Jonas still felt unburdened knowing he had at least tried. Ezri also felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders as well, not that she wouldn’t have to think of a way to turn Jonas down in a manner that saved face for both parties.

###

Sisko and Runold sat at the piloting controls of the cargo shuttle, quietly staring out of the front viewport as it crept closer to Deep Space Nine. Benjamin contemplated how many of his former colleagues he would have to incapacitate in order to break Verad out of confinement. Luckily he hadn’t needed to do so during the undercover mission. But how long would that luck hold? This operation would mean impeding a criminal investigation into a terrorist threat within the Federation. He had done his part already by learning Verad’s connection to a group of Klingon renegades. All he cared about now was that his family was safe.

Sisko took another glance at the readout screen, indicating the maximum limit of the station’s short-range sensor capabilities. A blip on the left side of the screen indicated the shuttle was nearing that threshold. “Once we’re in their sensor range, “ he explained to his Trill copilot, “I’ll alter course into one of the sensory blind spots. It will be tricky maneuvering.”

“Can’t we just dock where this thing’s supposed to go?” Runold inquired.

“Someone will immediately become suspicious when the pilots fail appear. They’re probably not expecting this shuttle for another couple hours. This should buy us some time. You’re not very good at being a terrorist are you?”

Runold wanted to deck Sisko for that jab, but thought better of it. “Hey, I do what I can to help out,” the Trill retorted. “A guy’s gotta make a living. Verad’s going to pay for costing me big time.”

“And I just want to make sure my family is safe. I was as involved the operation’s failure as much as Verad was.”
“Fine. How will we get aboard if this thing doesn’t have its own transporter?”

”I’m working on tying in the ship-to-ship communications with the station’s own transporter. We’ll end up in a docking ring cargo bay where no ship is docked.”

“Those Nausicaans are listening in on us. If we end up anywhere other than that cargo bay, your son gets it.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

***

Sisko and Runold materialized in a dimly lit cargo bay. A number of different shaped cargo containers were arranged throughout the bay. Runold quickly recognized a standard Cardassian transporter platform with a few of Starfleet’s aesthetic modifications. It still used a Cardassian materialization effect, which caused him some minor vertigo. A quick visual survey of the room, he was indeed in one of Deep Space Nine’s cargo bays.

“Let’s roll,” he instructed Sisko, stepping off the pad.



Note: The Denebian corridor is a "warp speed highway" where traveling at high velocities is safe (a notion introduced by some fan site). This particular corridor's name is derived from a statement in Picard's inaugural log entry--"Our destination is planet Deneb Four, beyond which lies the great unexplored of the galaxy"--Deep Space Nine being advertised as taking place at the "edge the final frontier".
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Old December 2 2012, 05:19 AM   #21
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Fifteen

“Put down the phaser.”

Worf removed the phaser from his holster. Across the catwalk on the upper level of the Enterprise-D’s engineering section, a Klingon Defense Force officer held a phaser to the engine core. He was one of two Klingon officers rescued from a derelict freighter. Korris and Konmel had then revealed to Worf that they had clung to the old ways and even destroyed a Klingon vessel dispatched to apprehend them. They had been taken aboard, and ship’s security later had placed them in custody for them to be turned over to Klingon authorities. They had soon escaped. Konmel was killed in an ensuring firefight, but Korris reached the engineering section and threatened to destroy the ship if he was not given the vessel’s star-drive module. He had then demanded to speak to Worf.

The Enterprise-D was in its first year of regular service, and Worf was serving his first year on board. For most of his life, he had been a Klingon living amongst humans. As a child not yet having reached the Age of Ascension, he had been orphaned following the Romulans’ massacre of the Khitomer outpost. He was adopted by Starfleet petty officer Sergey Rozhenko and his wife Helena. Upon reaching his eighteenth year, the age of consent for humans, he had enrolled in Starfleet Academy. He had rarely interacted with fellow Klingons in the intervening two decades. These two Klingons aboard Enterprise had stirred up desires in Worf that had been long suppressed. Worf had even failed to reveal these Klingons’ political views. He would come to regret his silence, yet he had thought then that he could keep quiet as long as these renegades did not harm any of the crew. With Korris now threatening to destroy the ship, his decision was obvious.

”Wait,” Korris gasped. “I do not believe this.”

"Believe it," Worf confidently stated, feeling in no way conflicted at the thought of having to shoot a fellow Klingon.

“I have tasted your heart,” Korris insisted, his arm trembling as he kept his aim at the warp core. “You have been with them, but you are still of us. Do not deny the challenge of your destiny. Get off your knees and soar. Open your eyes and let the dream take flight.”

”My brother, it is you who does not see. You look for battles in the wrong place. The test of the warrior is not without; it is within.” Indicating his heart, he continued, "Here, here we meet the challenge. It is the weaknesses in here a warrior must overcome."

"No."

"You have talked of glory and of conquest and legends we will write."

"Yes, the birthright of every Klingon."

"Yet in all you say, where are the words duty, honor, loyalty. Without which a warrior is nothing."

"What are you saying?" Korris asked, tiptoeing closer to Worf. “Living among these humans has sucked the Klingon heart out of you.”

"Put down the phaser," Worf once again demanded.

"You are a sham! My words were dust upon the ground. Your blood has no fire. You are weak like them. I don't care what you look like. You are no Klingon!"

"Perhaps not," Worf sneered, firing his phaser. Korris’s hulking figure then tore through the glass floor and he fell down on the main level.

It would not be the last time he had been forced to choose between the Federation and the Empire. “I am a Klingon,” he insisted to the Klingon officer who had temporarily served as 1701-D’s first officer as part of the Officer Exchange Program. “If you doubt it, a demonstration can be arranged.”

Kurn had then revealed himself as Worf’s younger brother. He wanted to be sure that Worf had the Klingon warrior instinct before enlisting his help in defending the family’s honor. Worf had later withdrawn the challenge to allegations that Mogh was the traitor at Khitomer to protect the corrupt and powerful House of Duras. More than a year later when Gowron was named chancellor, Worf had backed Gowron in exchange for the restoration of his family honor. He had even resigned from Starfleet to fight alongside Kurn in the ensuing civil war.

Worf would once again be ostracized when Chancellor Gowron had planned to invade Cardassia under false pretenses. Gowron had already withdrawn the Klingon Empire from the Khitomer Accords when he had asked Worf to join him. Worf summarily refused. Kurn had been dismissed from the High Council as a result of Worf’s defiance. And all of the House of Mogh was outcast once again.

“You regret,” Kurn hissed when he visited Deep Space Nine. “What’s next, Worf? Do you want to apologize to me? How many human weaknesses will you display?”

Rather than carry out the ritual killing of a family member, Worf had Doctor Bashir erase Kurn’s memory and provide him with a new identity. Kurn was now Rodek, son of Noggra and weapons officer of the Gorkon.

“Are you part of my family?” Rodek had asked Worf prior to his departure from DS9.

“I have no family,” Worf solemnly replied.

While the alliance between the Federation and the Empire was eventually restored and Worf was taken into the House of Martok, he was still no longer in Gowron’s good graces. That was most apparent when Gowron had taken over control of Klingon Defense Forces fighting in the Dominion War in a cowardly vendetta against Martok, a growing hero in the Empire. Gowron had sent Martok off into one unwinnable battle after another to humiliate his perceived rival.

“If you were a true Klingon,” Gowron said when Worf had finally spoken out against his dishonorable motives, “I would kill you where you stand. Fortunately, that child’s uniform shields you from your rightful fate.”

Worf ended up killing Gowron in honorable combat. Under tradition, that act made Worf the chancellor. He chose instead to instill that honor on Martok. Martok’s advancement to the chancellorship did spark another civil war after the Dominion War, which resulted in the destruction of the Great Hall and the deaths of many members of the High Council. While Martok and his supporters were victorious, this latest assassination attempt was an indication that the chancellor still had major enemies in the High Council.

Worf was on a quest to avenge his brother and see the cowards who had perpetrated this dishonor brought to justice. Still, he could not ignore that he was also a Federation ambassador seeking to influence Klingon politics. He then recalled what Ezri had said while still uncertain about whether to act against Gowron.

“How many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was for the good of the Empire? I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt.”

***

The sound of the doorbell to his VIP quarters interrupted Worf’s meditation. He stood up from his kneeling position and walked over to the entrance. “Enter,” he said.

The double doors parted and General Grelik stepped inside. He sauntered over to the desk, setting down a padd that contained crew duty rosters. Worf leaned forward to grab it, but Grelik yanked it back as he sat down. “The crew is willing to cooperate with your investigation,” the portly general said. “My question to you is whether you consider the investigation to be a conflict of interest. You have used your position as a Starfleet officer, and now as a Federation ambassador, to manipulate Klingon politics. I’m not too sure Starfleet and the Federation would be pleased if the situation was reversed.”

“Let me tell you, first of all, General,” Worf defensively replied, “that I am acting as a brother of the House of Martok, not as a representative of the Federation or Starfleet.”

“Of course,” Grelik answered, raising a hand. “Given your role in the installation of the last two chancellors, some of the crew who know your history and my contacts on the homeworld may believe you are again looking to advance a Federation agenda.”

“You can tell the crew and your contacts on Qo’Nos that I will not be using any Federation resources outside of the Embassy. And this is not about political manipulation. This is about seeing the cowards who ordered the assassination attempt brought to justice. They are as much to blame as the terrorists who carried out this disgrace. Someone on the Council had to have informed the Ku-Vok-leth of Martok’s trip to Deep Space Nine. And someone on this ship must have bypassed the security systems protecting the chancellor’s chambers.”

“That is why I will be questioning security and engineering personnel on duty at the time of the explosion. I would suggest you remain discreet.”

Worf rolled his eyes and snorted while he leaned back in his chair. He had initiated this investigation and he had explained his intentions to the captain of the Sword of Kahless. Grelik was still insisting that Worf maintain a low profile. Many in the Empire had suspected Worf of acting on Federation interests when he killed Duras, supported Gowron for the chancellorship, and then slew Gowron once he deemed him an unsuitable leader. Worf’s assassination of a sitting chancellor served as a rallying cry for various factions seeking to upstage Martok. The ends he had sought to achieve here and now was more of a matter of family honor than politics. Grelik surely had his own motives.

“You will keep me apprised of your findings though?” Worf asked.

“Of course,” Grelik obligingly replied, ascending from his chair. He slowly walked towards the door with a sinister grin on his face.

###

Sulvek handed off a work order padd to one of his engineers after he approved it with his thumb scan. Shortly after the chief engineer of the Sword of Kahless dismissed his subordinate, he noticed the lights had dimmed. The ship had just cloaked.

Sulvek walked over to the master situation console a few paces from the compartment’s main entrance. Entering commands on the console, he accessed information on the current power consumption. The readout on the screen indicated that all power outputs were nominal. He grinned as if he could carry out something he was planning without arousing anyone’s suspicions. With a few more commands, the readout screen highlighted power conduits hooked into the cloaking device on the three-dimensional display of the ship.

He headed for one of those power transfer conduits that was rerouting power from other systems to the cloaking device. He removed an access panel to reveal one of the power transfer conduits. He disconnected of the wires positioned horizontally across housing and plugged it into the socket on the top. He did the same with two other wires in the hope that would create a minor glitch in the cloak’s masking effect.

A rippling appeared across the cloaked Sword of Kahless from stern to bow. The rippling momentarily revealed the hull of the ship, which would have attracted the attention of any ship that might have been in sensor range.


Nimbus Three

The Valdore entered orbit of Nimbus Three. A few cargo shuttles and work bees were moving about the upper atmosphere of the planet. Nothing unusual. The Valdore assumed a low orbit near the planet’s southern magnetic pole as far away from the regular traffic as possible while continuing to run continuous active sensor sweeps of the planet’s surface.

Commander Donatra sat in the command chair nervously fiddling with a piece of metal with a gemstone in its center and staring at the viewscreen with the stoicism of a Vulcan. She took occasional glances at Subcommander Murot, while he patrolled the bridge. He hovered over the tactical officer, looking for any signs of apprehension from his commander.

“Hold this position,” Donatra told the youthful male pilot.

“Sensor status?” Murot asked, sauntering towards a port auxiliary station.

“Anything in orbit is a jumble on the sensors,” replied a senior uhlaan at a secondary sensor station. “I’m in the process of calibrating the lateral arrays for full sensor sweeps of the surface.”

Donatra turned to face the senior operations officer on her left. “Set the cloak’s power output at twenty percent of normal,” she told a young woman whose hair was arranged in a non-traditional, but still military-regulation compliant, coiffure.

The officer nodded in acknowledgement, while the order caught Murot off guard. He heard her mumbling, “If he’s following us, that should throw him off a little.”

“If who is following us?” Murot curiously inquired even though he knew she was referring to Suran.

“You needn’t concern yourself with that,” Donatra calmly replied. To the operations officer, she added, “Maintain full sensor sweeps and report any unusual subspace activities no matter how insignificant.”

Donatra then took a long look at the gemstone housed in the circular piece of metal in her right hand. It was part of a bracelet bearing the family crest of the House of t’Rllaillieu. To Donatra, it symbolized the efforts of her foremother Ael t’Rllaillieu to restore mnhei’sahe to the Star Empire. For nearly three centuries, the Romulan leadership had abandoned any semblance of its long-standing code of honor through proxy warfare and secret experiments with highly destructive weapons declared illegal in every interstellar treaty. It was a philosophy that resembled the Earth philosophies of hedonism and psychological egoism. A Romulan acted for the good of his or own honor. But such a concept was utterly meaningless if one was willing to act dishonorably for one’s own mnhei’sahe or for the Empire’s.

Her actions in the near future and those of her former mentor would determine the future of the Empire’s mnhei’sahe.

***

The Tiralihaan held station in the Nimbus system’s Oort cloud. On the bridge, Suran entered from a port egress. Subcommander Bralek was supervising the work of sensor technicians at two port auxiliary stations. He joined the commander, who seated himself in the command chair, to provide a status update.

“Sir, incoming standby message,” Bralek reported. “The Valdore has assumed orbit over the planet’s southern magnetic pole. The cloak is at partial effectiveness.”

“Interesting maneuver,” Suran mused aloud. Orbiting over a planet’s magnetic pole was a common maneuver to hide from sensors. So use of a cloaking device in that scenario was redundant. But with the Valdore’s cloak apparently only partially effective, Donatra must have known Suran was following her.

“That’s something I would try,” Bralek added. “What are your orders, Commander?”

“We’ll hold position here and monitor what she does.”
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Old December 2 2012, 05:29 AM   #22
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Sixteen

IKS Sword of Kahless

Sulvek was escorted into General Grelik’s private chamber by the ship’s chief of security. Worf was also awaiting the arrival of the two officers standing to the general’s right. The security officer shoved Sulvek against the desk prompting the engineer to spit in the man’s face.

Grelik raised his index and middle fingers pointing to two guards flanking the double doors. “Leave us,” he instructed. Then to the security chief, he added, “You may wait outside.”

The three security officers methodically exited the room as instructed. Sulvek glared at them as the door closed. “What is the meaning of this outrage?” he demanded of Grelik. “I have served this ship, its captain, and the chancellor with unwavering loyalty for three years. Why am I being treated as a criminal?!”

Grelik slid a padd showing schematics of the ship’s cloaking device across the desk. “Three hours ago, this ship became visible to anyone in range of our long range sensors,” the general explained. “It was the result of an interruption in one of the starboard EPS couplings.”

“A random malfunction,” Sulvek lied, rolling his eyes.

“Then how do you explain yesterday’s maintenance diagnostics?” Worf chimed in, towering over the engineer. “All circuits functioned within normal parameters.”

Grelik raised a hand indicating for Worf to back off. “If it was sabotage,” Sulvek offered, “That doesn’t prove I was responsible. I suggest you question every engineer on duty.”

Grelik quickly stood up, sending his chair to the ground. He then lifted Sulvek upright grabbing him by the collar. “If you hadn’t served under me for this long,” he growled, “I would kill you where you stand. Your insolence itself is still enough have you reduced in rank. Do you presume to tell me how conduct this investigation, Sulvek?”

"No, sir,” Sulvek breathed, trying to keep from choking.

Grelik shoved Sulvek back into his seat. Worf then picked up the padd and called up new sets of data. “Forensic examination of the couplings indicates that you were doing some rerouting. Several witnesses spotted you on Deck Twelve, aft section three-two-egma near the starboard power couplings. Furthermore, you made several transmissions to an individual being observed by Imperial Intelligence.” Worf entered a command on the padd, and then presented Sulvek with an image of Kur’Tok. “Perhaps you recognize him.”

Sulvek shot a dismissive glare at Worf and then looked back at Grelik. “Why is he here?” he demanded of his captain. “He is just a Federation puppet.”

Worf exchanged a quick glance with Grelik. Was this an admission of guilt? Maybe not after Grelik voiced concerns the crew might have had regarding a Federation ambassador’s involvement in a sabotage investigation even if Worf was recognized as the chancellor’s brother. “Then you admit to having misgivings about my involvement in this investigation into what is a Klingon matter,” Worf offered. “I only seek to bring to justice those who ordered this cowardly assassination attempt.”

“He is only your brother because he took pity on you,” Sulvek hissed. “Gowron saw you for the tok’vaht you are despite your support of his rise to power. And with Martok out of the way, who in the Empire will stand by you?”

Worf snorted and turned his back to Sulvek, not wanting to get into a philosophical debate with one of his skeptics. “Martok is also unworthy of the name Klingon,” Sulvek added. “The Federation helped us prevail against the Dominion. The Empire gains nothing from a continued alliance with them.”

“The evidence against you is quite clear,” Grelik proclaimed, circling around his desk. He then grabbed Sulvek by the collar to force the man upright. “Your authorization code disabled the security sensors in the chancellor’s chambers. Sulvek, son of Mik’Vaad, for attempting to assassinate the Chancellor of the High Council of the Klingon Empire, you are a traitor.” Grelik then slugged Sulvek’s right cheekbone with the back of his hand.

“Guards,” Grelik called, squeezing the communicator on his left arm. The chief of security promptly entered the chamber awaiting the general’s orders.

“Place Sulvek in solitary confinement and prepare for his execution,” Grelik instructed. “Any last words?” he asked the chief engineer.

“I am a loyal soldier of the Empire,” Sulvek sneered. “It is you who has betrayed the Empire.”

Grelik snorted and turned away from Sulvek. He raised a hand in the direction of the security officer. “Get him out of my sight,” he growled.

The security chief did as instructed, escorting Sulvek out of the room. Worf stood in silence, staring at Grelik. The ambassador was now intuiting that while Sulvek was guilty of sabotage and attempted assassination of the sitting leader of the Klingon Empire, he was not the only mole. Flushing out engineer seemed far too easy. Without exchanging words, he knew that Grelik agreed the real mole on the Sword of Kahless had even bigger plans.

The silence was interrupted when the comm-system chimed. “Bridge to General Grelik.”

“Go ahead,” the general replied.

“We have intercepted the Gorkon, sir. Captain Klag is hailing.”

“Set up a secure line in my private chamber.”


Nimbus Three

The capital city of Nimbus Three was abuzz with activity. The small shops and cafés, along with the various alien races passing through, reminded Vaughn and Ro of Deep Space Nine’s Promenade, only more chaotic. They had both changed out of their uniforms in order to look less conspicuous. Vaughn was dressed in thin dark gray trousers with a matching short-sleeve shirt and light jacket. Ro wore a modest navy blue jumpsuit and gray jacket, and even left her earring behind. Zeyner had observed Ro’s tendency to wear their people’s earring on the left ear as opposed to the right ear. Not that it mattered to him since he hadn’t worn one in nearly fifteen years.

The Starfleet team and their passenger had to dodge one Nausicaan chasing another down the dank and musty streets. A shopkeeper chased off a dissatisfied customer while shouting in an indistinguishable alien language. Now that I think of it, this place is more chaotic than the Promenade, Vaughn mused. He could actually remember a time eighty years ago when this locale was named Paradise City. Nothing about this city evoked thoughts of a paradise. The heat was scorching. The air was stale and dry. If anything, one of Dante’s nine circles of hell more accurately described this place.

“He owns a shop right this way,” Zeyner said, indicating an enclosure on his right that, from outward appearances, resembled an antique shop.

Ro removed a hypo-syringe from her jacket pocket. She grabbed Zeyner’s right wrist and injected a microscopic device between two of the arteries. “Sub-dermal communicator,” she explained. “Any attempt to remove the transponder will automatically activate the runabout’s transporter.”

“Still want to meet this guy yourself?” Vaughn asked.

“He’s never met either of you,” Zeyner insisted. “He wouldn’t know whether or not to trust you.”

Zeyner stepped into the shop, which had various antiques on shelves throughout the one room enclosure. The carpet on the floor had been shredded in several places. Pieces of broken ceramic plates were on the floor left unattended. A Tarakalian male stood behind a counter in the back of the main room staring at Zeyner suspiciously, almost as if he was hiding a fugitive in the back storage area.

“I’m looking for Tao Verin,” Zeyner said with a greeting nod. “Is he here?”

“There’s no one here by that name,” the Tarkalian replied with a hissing whisper.

“Tell him Antis is here,” Zeyner attempted.

Without another word, the Tarkalian walked through a half open door connecting the main room to the storage room. Zeyner took a few nervous paces as he waited, seeing Vaughn and Ro peering through the window. He softly waved them away when he heard footsteps advancing back towards the door. He diverted his gaze back towards the Tarkalian who reemerged through the door.

“Mister Verin can see you now,” the Tarkalian told Zeyner.

Outside the shop and a few feet down the street, Ro scanned the area ahead with a tricorder. The readout screen indicated that Zeyner’s sub-dermal locator was functioning properly. Ro then tapped a listening device in her ear that allowed her to listen in on Zeyner’s discussion with his contact while at the same time not attract the attention of passers-by. “How’s yours?” she asked Vaughn.

“All systems go,” Vaughn replied.

Ro then took another look at her tricorder and pushed a few buttons to scan for any new alien life signs. “There’s a Thallonian in there all right,” she said of the scan data. “At least he’s honest about that much.”

“Let’s head around to the back,” Vaughn said. “We’ll get a better look at what’s going on.”

***

A tall and muscular humanoid male sat behind a desk in the storage room working a padd. He had long unkempt black hair, breaking with the common practice of Thallonian males shaving their heads. Zeyner last remembered him when he had just a braided ponytail hanging from the back of his otherwise fully bald head. But that was before the fall of the Thallonian Empire, five years earlier. He still recognized the man’s stern dark eyes and thick cheekbones.

“I see the refugee lifestyle hasn’t been kind to you,” Antis teased.

“Antis,” Tao roared happily. He rose from his chair and circled the desk to greet his old friend. “How long has it been?”

“Three years at least,” Zeyner replied, as they embraced.

“Last I heard from you, your cover on Deep Space Nine had been blown.”

“I escaped from prison a month ago.”

“Then you came to the right place. The local authorities here can be bought and bribed at the right price.”

“I also need information. I’m told the Ku-Vok-leth’s attempt to assassinate Chancellor Martok is part of something bigger. I want in on it.”

Tao scoffed as if feigning ignorance of any other Ku-Vok-leth activities. “I have little interest in Klingon politics,” he snorted. “How did you hear of an attempt to assassinate the chancellor?”

***

Outside in the alley, Ro was peering through a partially shattered window covered mostly in dirt and grime. She grew worried when she saw Zeyner at a loss for words. If he could not answer, this whole sting operation would be a total failure.

“The man I sold the Deep Space Nine schematics to double-crossed me once the explosives were smuggled aboard the Sword of Kahless,” Zeyner lied. “He told them my role in this.”

Ro gave a sigh of relief. Her relief that the operation was not yet compromised lasted for a very brief moment when Tao asked, “But how did you know the Neo-Purists would use that information to carry out an assassination attempt? You sold Kalon the schematics two years ago.”

“Verad contacted me shortly after my escape,” Zeyner coyly attempted.

Before you knew he was a double-agent?” Tao asked with increasing suspicion.

“Of course,” Zeyner insisted. “I figured he or someone in the Neo-Purists sold me out once Starfleet spotted me here on Nimbus unusually quickly.”

“Or you could be part of Starfleet’s trap,” Tao suggested, removing a phaser pistol from a holster on his right hip.

“Damn it,” Ro grumbled. “We have to abort.” She removed her hand phaser from a side holster underneath her jacket and pocketed her tricorder.

Before Vaughn and Ro got one step towards the door, Tao cried out in pain and fell forward onto the floor. Zeyner dodged the hulking man’s falling form by jumping aside. A huge burn mark was on his back, indicating a sniper had shot him.

Ro pointed towards a window three stories up on the building across the alleyway. “Came from up there,” she said. “He wouldn’t have gotten a clear shot any higher up. Any lower down, and he’d have seen us.”

“Maybe our sniper was only interested in Tao,” Vaughn offered. “You nab Zeyner. I’ll go after the sniper.”

Ro sprinted through the storage area and out into the main room of the shop. She saw a door on her left that had been forced open and deduced that Zeyner had gone through that emergency exit. She slowly walked through the door to find the bottom of a stairwell. A door at the bottom of the stairs remained shut, so he was headed for the roof.

***

At the top of the stairs, Zeyner kicked open the door leading to the roof of the building. He scouted out the sky for any air vehicles while leaning against the wall perpendicular to the door. He had managed to grab Tao’s pistol before he made a run for it. He placed the tip of the pistol against his right wrist and fired a quick burst hoping to short out the transponder. He cried out in pain from the discharge, but it was well worth it.

That scream did get Ro’s attention, and she was soon standing near him pointing a phaser at him. “Didn’t think you’d get away from me that easily,” she teased.

Zeyner gave an embarrassed smirk. “I thought I’d throw the sniper off,” he said. “If he wanted Tao dead, he probably was after me.”

“But why did you short out the locating transponder? I think you tipped someone off so you could escape.”

Without giving anything away with his facial expression, Zeyner simply quipped, “You’re good.”

***

Vaughn made his way up to the roof of the building from where the sniper was believed to have been. He looked around the immediate vicinity, but he saw no one else, or any departing air vehicles. The sniper could have just beamed out, so that meant this chase was futile. He was about to consult his tricorder when he was a saw a hooded humanoid on the roof of a nearby building. At his advanced age, he was in no way able to overtake this person. With his phaser, he fired a warning blast in the humanoid’s direction.

That caught the humanoid’s attention, and he stopped to fire his phaser. Vaughn slipped behind a vent enclosure jutting out the top of the roof to dodge the blast. He peered over and continued firing in the humanoid’s general direction. The humanoid continued laying down cover fire.

Vaughn jogged over to the edge of the roof once his target’s back was turned to him. He was close enough to get a clearer shot. While the humanoid was attempting to force open the door, Vaughn aimed and fired, incapacitating his target. He then walked over to the unconscious humanoid, hoping to get some answers from him.

He flipped the body face up to see the sniper was a male human of early middle age. And he was dead. But how, if Vaughn’s phaser was on stun? Perhaps he had triggered some kind of suicide implant. That was a possibility after Vaughn saw a black leather wrist cuff underneath his light overcoat.

“Vaughn to Lieutenant Ro. Any luck finding Zeyner?”

“I’d call that an understatement,” Ro quipped. She was still pointing a phaser at the man while escorting him back down the stairs. “We’re hoping Tao had a personal database of some kind that will shed some light on all this.”

“That’s our best hope,” Vaughn replied. “Our sniper’s dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if he triggered a suicide implant. He’s wearing the official uniform of Section 31.”

“Section what?”

“When you accompanied Julian and Ezri to Sindorin two years ago to stop a human augment from unleashing a legion of Jem’Hadar loyal to him. Doctor Ethan Locken had broken away from an organization code-named Section 31. They’re a rogue organization that operates behind the scenes to counter threats to the Federation.”

“That would explain a lot. Ro out.”

***

Ro flashed Zeyner an accusatory stare as they continued walking down the stairs. “Are you a member of this Section 31?” she demanded. “That would explain how they knew we would be here.”

Zeyner snickered. “Do you and Vaughn hear yourselves? A rogue organization that operates behind the scenes? And when would I have gotten the chance to contact them?”

“Perhaps they let you take the fall when you got caught.”

“Oh, please. Do you read a lot of Earth crime stories? The very idea that such an organization could exist within the Federation is ludicrous.”

“Maybe so. But clearly, there’s more going on here than Klingon fanatics hoping to make a political statement.”

The two Bajorans reentered the storage room of Tao’s shop at the same time Vaughn came in through the back door. The three of them gathered around the desk in order to access the desk monitor. Ro entered a command decrypting the file lockouts that appeared almost immediately after Vaughn had activated the monitor. She then instructed the personal computing unit to run a search algorithm relating to planned Ku-Vok-leth terrorist attacks. Within a minute, the needed information appeared on the screen.

“Got it,” she said. “A pergium processing plant where some unusual components were delivered. Harmonic resonator coils. Micro-fusion initiators. Magnetic fusion processors for the refinement of… boronite.”

Vaughn knew instantly that an Omega molecule was being created at that plant. “That looks like our place,” he offered.

“What does boronite have to do with subspace explosives?” Zeyner inquired.

“I’m afraid that’s classified,” Vaughn replied. “Not that’s ever stopped you from getting such information.”

“I just cross-checked with the Nimbus central database,” Ro added. “It’s not even a registered processing plant.”

“Bingo,” Vaughn declared. “But it’s going to take more than the three of us to derail whatever they’re doing there.”

“‘The three of us’?” Zeyner repeated. “My part in this endeavor’s done.”

Ignoring Zeyner, Ro nodded in agreement of Vaughn’s assertion. “We should contact the station and request the Defiant’s assistance.”
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Old December 5 2012, 07:00 PM   #23
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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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Old December 5 2012, 07:05 PM   #24
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Interlude: Flashback Four

Stardate 52437(Earth year 2375): Federation-Romulan Neutral Zone


The starships Damocles and Apollo came to nose to nose with three Jem’Hadar fighters. The two Akira-class ships fired swarms of quantum torpedoes at the two flanking fighters as they were about to break formation. The center fighter sped up and fired its disruptors, just grazing the two Starfleet warships, to which those responded with phaser fire. The three enemy fighters then swept past a larger battleship, and then swung around into a formation alongside the battleship.

The bridge of the Damocles rocked hard as it took a volley of plasma torpedoes. Captain Ramiro Sanchez grabbed the arms of his chair to keep from sliding to the floor. “Evasive pattern epsilon,” he called to the helmsman. To the tactical officer stationed on his right, he added, “Mister McGarrett, return fire with a full spread of torpedoes and divert shield power to the forward dorsal.”

Luther Sloan was serving aboard the Damocles as executive and tactical officer under the alias Jack McGarrett in order to gather intelligence on ship movements within the Neutral Zone. He quickly carried out the captain’s orders by entering the proper commands. “Shield strength is now at seventy-one percent,” he reported. “Minimal damage on the battleship’s port fore-quarter.”

“Call in fighter squads three, six, and twelve to back us up,” Sanchez ordered the Deltan female communications officer. “Helm, maneuver us towards one of the sensory blind spots. Tell the Apollo to do the same. McGarrett, keep laying down phaser fire.”

The two Akiras arched downward dodging torpedoes from the battleship and disruptor fire from the fighters as phaser beams grazed the hulls of each of the ships. Three Miranda-class cruisers swooped in on the aft of the battleship firing swarms of phaser and quantum torpedoes. In the midst of that, three Klingon Birds-of-Prey uncloaked. The fighter on the battleship’s aft took out the opposing Jem’Hadar fighter with disruptor fire, while the Birds to port and starboard fired at the Jem’Hadar fighters. The battleship responded with torpedoes that destroyed the Klingon ship to stern and two of the Mirandas, while the fighters inflicted damage on the two remaining Birds. Meanwhile, the two Akiras fired their phasers and quantum torpedoes at the battleship’s ventral while maneuvering through its blind spots.

Two more squads of Federation and Klingon ships arrived from both forward and aft of the Dominion battleship, firing unending swarms of phasers and quantum torpedoes at the enemy ships. The fighters went down relatively quickly, while the battleship managed to survive the onslaught. Its plasma torpedoes managed to destroy four more of the ships bearing down on the large battleship, including the Apollo, while heavily damaging five other ships. The ships left standing moved off, and then swerved back sending swarms of phaser and torpedo fire. Without the maneuverability of the smaller opposing fighters, the battleship erupted in a huge fireball.

Cheers erupted among the younger officers on the bridge of the Damocles at the sight of the exploding ship. Sloan, however, remained blank faced, as he was watched sensor readouts from the corner of one eye. “We’re not quite out the woods yet,” he informed his subordinates.

“What have you got, Commander?” Sanchez asked, ascending from his chair.

“At least five more squadrons of Jem’Hadar ships along the outer reaches of the system,” “Lieutenant Commander McGarrett” replied. “Each of them led by one of those bad-ass battleships. They’ll be in firing range in ten minutes.”

“Move us into standard orbit of the fourth planet,” Sanchez ordered his helmsman. “We’ll do what we can dress our wounds.” Looking over to the communications officer, he added, “Call in the rest wings we have in this sector.”

***

During the lull in combat, Ensign Paulsen sat at one of the aft auxiliary stations reviewing the sensor logs gathered from active and passive scans from the last twenty-four hours. Under Captain Sanchez’s orders, science officers and sensor analysts were charged with relaying sensor data gathered on planets in the Neutral Zone to the first officer. As far as the crew was concerned, “Jack McGarrett” was a legitimate member of Starfleet Intelligence taking advantage of an opportunity to gather data on the border between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire.

Sloan sauntered over to Paulsen’s console while the youthful red-haired human male was sifting through endless sets of raw data and graphic representations. A sudden sensor spike represented by a jumbling of a normally straight green line similar to readouts on a heart monitor caught Sloan’s attention. “Wait, go back,” he instructed.

Paulsen reversed the readout presentation on the monitor and paused it when Sloan instructed. “A spike in the tertiary EM band,” the young man observed aloud.

“Route this data to the computer terminal in my quarters, please,” Sloan replied, keeping his eyes glued on the screen’s readout. “You know the drill. There’s to be no official record of this discovery, Ensign.”

“Understood, sir,” Paulsen answered with a curious stare at Sloan. He had heard of an extremely lethal form of electromagnetic radiation that could cause instant cellular necrosis. As far as he knew from his theoretical physics classes at the Academy, this radiation was only theoretical.

###

General Valnor of the Tal Shiar stood in a dark underground tunnel awaiting the arrival of an operative from Starfleet Intelligence. Although the clandestine message did not specify as to nature of this requested meeting, Valnor was quite certain it would be about the thalaron radiation generator on the Goloroth base. With Starfleet and Klingon forces on the verge of breaking the Dominion’s hold on the system, their allies would soon discover the illegal technology. For all of the Tal Shiar’s suspicion of the Federation and its opposition to an alliance with the Federation, its leadership knew of the importance of that alliance against the Dominion. The Federation’s discovery of thalaron radiation would be as disastrous as the Dominion getting its hands on a thalaron generator.

Out into a strongly lit area of the tunnel stepped a blond-haired human male of early middle age. Sloan had changed out of his Starfleet uniform, and he was now dressed in the black leather jumpsuit of Section 31. “Hello, General,” he said plainly. “Glad you could make it here on such notice. I’ll come right to point. I know all about the thalaron generator.”

With an almost Vulcan-like calmness, Valnor’s right eyebrow twitched upwards, curious as to how Starfleet Intelligence would respond to this violation of interstellar agreement.

“We keep quiet about the thalaron generator on Goloroth,” Sloan continued. “And you assist us in our own thalaron research.”

“I don’t follow,” Valnor skeptically answered. “In return for not reporting a violation of the Treaty of Algeron to your superiors, you would ask us to assist Starfleet Intelligence in further violations of the treaty?”

“Those are my exact terms. As our ships and troops push deeper into Dominion territory, the enemy will become increasingly determined to fend off attacks. Thalaron weapons may become a useful asset. And I am not speaking on behalf of Starfleet Intelligence. I am part of a more autonomous covert operations group. One that is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect the Federation by any means necessary.”

Valnor shot Sloan a sly grin, wondering what other kinds of damning secrets the Federation had, secrets that would validate the belief of more extremist elements within the Senate and the military that the Federation was a genuine threat to the survival of the Romulan Star Empire. That the Federation continued to expand its borders almost indefinitely in the name of exploration was enough cause for concern. But the idea of a black ops organization sanctioned by the Federation still seemed absurd. “Many in the Tal Shiar felt the ‘accidental’ death of Senator Vreenak came at a rather convenient for your people,” he recalled of the late chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “His political opponents dismissed the notion of such an organization as unfounded paranoia. Despite your Federation’s misguided idealism, I know your people don’t resort to clandestine political assassinations.”

“Let’s just say, General,” Sloan answered with a smirk, “I and others in my little group allow us our ‘misguided idealism’. Of course, should you or Chairman Koval decide to reveal the details of our conversation to the Senate and military leaders as a means of diplomatic blackmail after the war is over, I shall report my findings here to the Starfleet Joint Chiefs, as well as Koval’s role in the death of Vice-Admiral Fujisaki.”

“The deputy chief of Starfleet Intelligence,” Valnor replied, almost gloating. “I heard he died of food poisoning last year. How unfortunate.” Though it was one of the Tal Shiar’s proudest moments, Valnor was well aware of the negative consequences of such a revelation. The sudden death of Fujisaki took place when the Romulan Empire had a non-aggression treaty in place with the Dominion. Because the Empire was neutral, news that they were deliberately trying to undermine the Federation’s ability to win the war would negatively impact diplomatic relations down the road.

On the other hand, Sloan had no solid proof that the Tal Shiar was behind the food poisoning death of Fujisaki He knew, though, just the threat of exposing such a secret would sway the Tal Shiar. “Do we have a deal, General?” he asked, his face showing no signs that he was bluffing.

“I will make the proper arrangements,” Valnor affirmed. “I will contact you again within the next twelve hours.”
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Old December 5 2012, 09:01 PM   #25
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Eighteen

The USS Defiant was at high warp on its way to Nimbus Three.

The furthest thing from Kira’s mind was the resistance Lieutenant Bowers and his strike team would face when they stormed the deuterium plant while they were on the bridge in a communiqué with Worf. His most recent message to the station indicated he was also headed to Nimbus Three to rendezvous with Captain Klag and the IKS Gorkon to apprehend a person of interest. With Vaughn and Ro expecting reinforcements from the Defiant, Kira and Bowers were discussing a plan with the ambassador to pool their resources.

“At last report, Vaughn and Ro were conducting low level reconnaissance of a pergium plant that isn’t even registered on the planetary database,” Kira explained to Worf, whose image was on the bridge’s main viewscreen.

“Based on Captain Klag’s intelligence files,” Worf replied. “The man in charge of the facility is a Klingon civilian engineer named Kur’Tok. We are uncertain as to how strong his ties are to the Ku-Vok-leth. If this plant is a cover for terrorist base, sensor readings of the area may not be entirely accurate even at close range.”

“We had the same thoughts,” said Bowers, as he inputted new data into a padd. “Vaughn’s experience as a field operative should come in handy once we storm the compound. He’ll know deceptive readings when he sees them.”

“Anything you are able to provide will be helpful,” Worf replied with a nod. “Just remember, Imperial Intelligence wants Kur’Tok taken alive. Though I doubt he will be very cooperative if he strongly believes in the Ku-Vok-leth’s cause.”

“Our strike team will certainly keep that in mind,” Kira said. “Defiant out.” Once Worf’s image was replaced on the viewscreen with a logo of the Klingon Empire, she turned to Lieutenant Tenmei, who was manning the conn. “ETA at Nimbus Three, Lieutenant?”

“Seven hours, twenty-three minutes,” Prynn replied.

“Mister Bowers,” Kira added, seeing Sam return to the starboard tactical station. “See what’s available in the Starfleet databases on a Kur’Tok.”

“Aye, sir,” Bowers replied, preparing to access the requested information.

Kira then seated herself in the command chair, leaving herself with about seven hours to contemplate all the possible outcomes of this mission. During her time in the Bajoran Underground, she would never have considered using Omega as a weapon. But since these Klingons were willing to use Omega to advance their own political agenda, that made them far more dangerous than any Bajoran resistance fighters determined to win back their home.

###

Ro Laren looked through a set of field glasses to see three uniformed Klingon soldiers guarding the plant she and Vaughn had been surveiling. Zeyner Antis was also still tagging along, at least until Vaughn and Ro could confirm the accuracy of their informant’s database. Three against three, she immediately thought. Piece of cake getting inside. “Only three of them guarding the compound,” she said, handing Vaughn the field glasses. “Like those odds.”

Vaughn took a quick look into the magnifying device and nodded in agreement. “Of course, if we start shooting immediately,” he said plainly, “it could trip all kinds of alarms.”
“You should know to be a little more discreet in these kinds of strikes,” Zeyner teased.

Ro gave a snort of derision. “I’m a little rusty,” she retorted. “Having a desk job does that.”

“Rusty at betraying your colleagues for a higher calling?” Zeyner half-jokingly asked. “I’m still an expert at that. Still glad you brought me along?”

Ro just rolled her eyes, having once found his self-deprecating humor charming. Now it was nothing more than an attempt to lull her into false sense of security. It could be worse, though. A Cardassian could also have been present to brag about his or her ability to better handle the brutal desert heat than most other humanoids.

“That’s enough, you two,” Vaughn chimed in. “We need a more subtle approach.”

***

Zeyner skulked along the fence separating the pergium plant from a pedestrian walkway. Cradling a Starfleet issue phaser, he considered that he was the least trustworthy and the most expendable. But if he really were expendable, he thought to himself, then he’d be taking on the Klingons in hand-to-hand combat rather than firing a phaser from a long distance. Either way, the plan seemed like a sound one given the tendency of Klingons to shoot first and ask questions later. He tiptoed over to a hole in the tall mesh fence that was the closest to the building’s main entrance he could get without raising any suspicions. He then slowly walked across the street and fired his phaser just above the door.

As expected, that caught the attention of the guards, who began shooting in the direction of the phaser beam. The Klingon stationed right in front of the door moved slowly towards the gate, ordering his colleagues to stay behind in case this was a diversion.

Vaughn and Ro, meanwhile, snuck around the corner and came at the two other guards on the two sides of the door, incapacitating them with Starfleet Marine issue neural truncheons. Seeing the third Klingon who was headed for the gate turn back to confront the Starfleet team, Ro pulled her phaser and fired, taking out the last guard in one shot.

Vaughn walked over to the gate and unlocked it to let Zeyner inside. He quickly relocked the gate, watching as Ro attached a cylindrical device to the front end of her tricorder in order to access the front door lock’s entry code. She smirked when she heard a lock unlatch. She slowly opened the door and waved Vaughn and Zeyner over. All three of them then slowly slipped through the open door before relocking it.

###

“How much longer before we can safely launch?!”

Kur’Tok impatiently stormed down a set of metal stairs towards the cargo deck containing the magnetic resonance chamber. A number of Klingons, as well as persons of several different races were gathered around the large chamber putting in the finishing touches. One of them was Markalian, many of whom were often hired as mercenaries for various smuggling and terrorism operations. Far across the cargo deck, a number of Klingon and Thallonian engineers were preparing a shuttle for launch once the resonance chamber was aboard.

“The final diagnostics should take at least two hours,” the Markalian engineer replied, monitoring the stability of the single Omega molecule.

“We don’t have that kind of time,” Kur’Tok insisted. “Forces loyal to Chancellor Martok could be here before we know it.”

“This molecule is extremely unstable and unpredictable,” the Markalian replied. “One misstep could destroy half of this planet.”

Kur’Tok growled angrily as he grabbed his Markalian cohort by the collar. “I don’t need to be reminded of how unstable Omega is,” he hissed. “You assured me this resonance chamber would do its job keeping Omega stable for as long as we needed it to be.”

“It will. If all safety precautions are taken in the allotted time. Being allies with the Federation should’ve taught you Klingons patience.”

Kur’Tok let out a hissing exhale and shoved the Markalian against his console. He had no strong sentiments towards the Federation. So he did not particularly care to be reminded of the long-standing alliance with the multispecies coalition that had weakened the Empire over the last century. “If I did not value your contributions to this operation, I would kill you where you stand for your insolence,” he huffed. “Just do what you have to do and quickly.”

Another Klingon went racing down the stairs hoping to catch up to Kur’Tok. “Sir,” he called, getting his superior’s attention. “The three guards outside the main entrance were found unconscious. We may have an intruder.”

“Sound intruder alert,” Kur’Tok shouted at one of the engineers.

###

Vaughn and his team snuck through a hallway, quickly turning a corner when they heard footsteps. Fortunately one of the engineers passed through an adjoining corridor down the tunnel-shaped hallway. Seeing that the passing Klingon was out of his field of vision, he gestured for Ro and Zeyner to tiptoe down the corridor with him. At that moment, an alarm sounded accompanied by a masculine voice saying, “Intruder alert.”

The trio sped up down the hall, while still being careful to avoid any of the engineers working in the plant. They made a beeline towards a nearby emergency access port. Once they got there, Vaughn increased the setting on his phaser and fired it at the wall panel next to it to trigger the manual release. He and Ro slid the door open while Zeyner stood watch in all directions. He threw himself against the wall when Klingon disruptor fire came his way. He fired his phaser towards the Klingon shooting at him. “Move quickly,” he shouted, as more disruptor fire came at him from both sides.

On cue, the others were able to get the door open, and all three of them went through the access hatch and sped up the ladder towards the ground floor. Upon reaching the ground level, a forcefield went up at the exit to the outside and the floor hatch to the basement. Two latches clicked sealing the door to the inside of the building. “Looks a standard twenty-third century design,” Vaughn commented of the forcefield sealing them inside the building.

“And that’s supposed to help us?” Ro quipped.

“Sure it does,” said Zeyner. “It means we know how to break them in the twenty-fourth century. Isn’t there some trick Starfleeters can employ with a tricorder?”

“Then that’s probably your area of the expertise, Commander,” Ro offered, handing Vaughn her tricorder.

“I wouldn’t get our hopes up,” Vaughn retorted, opening the scanning device. “Our would-be captors probably still know every trick.”

Zeyner smirked at Ro, pleased that she was willing to listen to one of his suggestions. Ro just looked away not wanting to give him any satisfaction. Vaughn entered a set of commands into the tricorder to send out a sonic pulse that would knock out the forcefield. When the desired frequency did not interrupt the forcefield, he shook his head in disappointment.

“Hurry,” Zeyner demanded when the locks on the opposite side door unlatched.

“Just saying it won’t make it happen,” Vaughn replied. The forcefield still came down after a slight recalibration. Just as one door slid open, the trio rammed right through the exit door. A firefight ensued all the way to the fence. And it continued as they all climbed the fence one by one. The three Klingons shooting at them grunted in frustration when they landed safely on the other side.

“So did you find you were looking for?” Zeyner asked with feigned enthusiasm.

“Oh, yes,” Vaughn answered, as he was being helped down by Ro and Zeyner. “Whole bunkers filled with subspace explosives.”

“Including Omega?” Zeyner inquired.

Vaughn scowled at Zeyner grabbing him by the collar. He quickly let go when he reminded himself that the Bajoran was trying to bait him. Ro winced, wondering what had provoked that strong a reaction from the commander.

“What do you know about that?” Vaughn calmly demanded.

“Not as much as your flag officers,” Zeyner replied, “but enough to know that one unstable molecule can be catastrophic. But since you found what you’re looking for, I’ll be on my way. That was the agreement.”

Zeyner started walking away, but Vaughn grabbed his arm and shoved him against the fence. “This is the new agreement,” the commander replied. “Unless we’re able to stop to whatever they’re planning with Omega, I’ll make sure you’re put back in prison.”

“And yet you don’t know what they’re exact plan is,” Zeyner taunted. “Not sure I like those odds.”

“I’m keeping you with us as our guarantee you don’t pull anything before the Defiant gets here.”

“Ample incentive to continue to cooperate,” Ro added with a sly smile.

Zeyner sighed as if disappointed that he wasn’t able to use this opportunity to try and get away.

###

Nog briefed Bowers and his team in the Defiant’s transporter room on landing coordinates. Also included in the briefing, via audio comm-line, were Captain Klag on the Gorkon and Ambassador Worf on the Sword of Kahless. Vaughn and Ro had also contacted the ship from the planet’s surface. The Ferengi engineer indicated a schematic of the compound on a readout screen. A circle surrounded the graphic representation of the structure symbolizing the magnetic shield inhibiting transporter function.

“It’s a very outdated forcefield,” Nog explained. “It’s similar to one used on Rura Penthe in the late 23rd century. The sonic pulse Commander Vaughn used to escape the structure could overcome it, but that would take a lot longer and at a lower orbit.”

“We might attract too much attention,” Vaughn chimed in from down on the surface. “Especially if they call in reinforcements.”

“Exactly,” Nog replied. “We’ll have to uncloak just to use the transporter and its range is stretched as far it can go.”

“We’ll have to beam down at least a kilometer from the forcefield’s periphery,” said Bowers. “We’ll set down from the southwest. Klag’s team will come in from the north. Worf and Rodek will come at them from the east-southeast.”

“Just remember,” Vaughn added. “We were able to trigger the alarms, so they know we’ll bring reinforcements. Expect heavy resistance.”

“Transport coordinates have been received,” Klag said from the Gorkon transporter bay. “We’ve prepared simultaneous transport of my party and for Rodek’s to meet with the ambassador. With three squadrons, one of them should certainly get through.”

“No offense, Captain, but I plan on coming out of this alive,” Bowers quipped. “Are you ready over there, Ambassador?”

“Of course,” Worf replied. “Today is a good day die. Qa’pla!”

“Let’s go,” Bowers told his six-person team. In addition to Bowers, three other humans were part of the team--two male, one female. An Andorian female and a Bolian male were the last to step onto the pad.

###
Worf exited his quarters aboard the Sword of Kahless and quickly headed for the transporter bay. On his way there, General Grelik caught up to him down the corridor.

“General,” Worf said with a quick nod. “We are ready to proceed,” the ambassador plainly stated, wanting to avoid another conversation about any reservations either Klingon crew might have about assisting a Federation diplomat. He had gotten dismissive looks from Sword crewmembers who had assisted in his search for the mole. Despite his title and his history as the only Klingon in Starfleet, Worf was still certain that he was acting in the name of justice for the House of Martok.

“Are you sure you don’t want any of my crew to accompany you?” Grelik asked, as the set of double doors parted to admit him into the transporter room.

Worf gave a reluctant sigh once he stepped inside and turned to face the general. “With all due respect,” he said calmly, but firmly, “identifying Sulvek as a mole happened rather easily. For all we know, he has an accomplice waiting for the right moment to undermine us. I cannot be certain who can be trusted.”

“But you trust Klag and his crew?” Grelik asked with a hint of skepticism.

“With my life,” Worf confidently responded. He gave an affirming nod to the transporter technician upon stepping onto the pad. “Worf to Gorkon, ready for transport.”

“Standing by,” the transporter operator on the other Klingon ship replied.

Worf and Grelik exchanged one last look as the ambassador dematerialized. “Transport successful, General,” the technician reported.

“You are dismissed, bekk,” Grelik replied.

The technician obligingly stepped outside. Grelik then stepped over to the control console to send an encrypted message.

***

“Worf, son of Mogh,” Rodek declared, once the whole team had materialized on the surface. “I stand ready to assist the House of Martok.”

“I am in your debt, Rodek, son of Noggra,” Worf replied, his face betraying none of his emotions, acting as if the two were not well acquainted. The two had now crossed paths for first time since Rodek had his memories of his life as Kurn, son of Mogh, erased.

“That is the response I would expect from my older brother,” Rodek heard his own voice say. It was his own voice, but he felt it belonged to another person.

Qa’Pla!” Worf proclaimed.

Qa’Pla!” Rodek and the rest of the eight person team replied.

They all raised their bat’leths and marched off towards battle. From a faraway ravine, two Klingon warriors dressed in twenty-second century military jumpsuits stood watch, waiting to strike. Aiming his disruptor, one of them fired in the direction of Worf’s team, clipping the soldier on the far right and the one on the far left. Flurries of disruptor fire came at them from behind in all directions.

“Move out,” Worf grunted. “Lay down cover fire.”

Rodek and the rest of his party dispersed hoping to make taking them all out more difficult while firing in the direction of enemy disruptor fire. While they continued firing back and forth, four Klingons materialized behind them catching Worf’s attention. Two of the attackers knocked out two from Worf’s team with bat’leths. The three Klingons shooting at his team joined in the battle armed with mek’leths. Four against seven did not look like very good odds for Worf, Rodek, and the other two from their party left standing.

Determined to die on his feet, one of the downed warriors upended one enemy attacker with a bat’leth, and then jammed his dagger into his opponent’s chest. He barely had a few seconds to stand up and continue on the prowl when he took a bat’leth strike in the back of his neck. “You will not have this day,” he struggled to groan while twisting around to see the face of the coward who had just killed him. He got a quick at his killer choking out his last breaths while jamming a knife into the man’s abdomen. Both bodies then fell to ground, now empty lifeless shells.

Swords continued clanging together with neither side getting a decisive advantage. Worf had two attackers with which to contend, while the rest went one-on-one. Though it was often too bulky for its own good, Worf’s bat’leth kept the two mek’leths at bay. He thrusted the two warriors away from him, and then landed a killing blow into the chest of the man on his right. He then took a strike in his left arm from another enemy soldier. He gently nursed the wound, while seeing that his opponent was about to land a killing blow.

###

A squadron of twelve Ku-Vok-leth soldiers gathered in the cargo deck of the pergium refinery once word had gotten out that enemy soldiers were storming the compound. Whatever was about to take place in the next few minutes, these soldiers’ orders were to guard the resonance chamber and the freight shuttle carrying it with their lives. The lead soldier walked over to the staircase as he saw Kur’Tok storming down to receive any orders before heading into battle. “Two squadrons on their way here,” he reported. “One is Starfleet and the other is Klingon Defense Force. We are vastly outnumbered.”

“Do what you must,” Kur’Tok grunted. “We must make sure the shuttle is ready for launch.” He then motioned the Markalian computer technician over to him to issue instructions. “Get that resonance chamber on the shuttle now!” he barked.

“We haven’t completed the safety checks,” the Markalian insisted. “I warned you what can happen if Omega should destabilize…”

“To Grethor with safety checks,” Kur’Tok bellowed. “We are out of time! Move!” He then grabbed the technician by the arm and shoved him in the direction of the shuttle to punctuate his instructions.

An explosion momentarily blinded everyone in the room. A Starfleet team that included Vaughn, Ro, and Bowers stormed onto the catwalk. One of the human officers motioned for Zeyner to stand aside and stay out of the way of the shooting. He just snickered at the notion that he would follow those instructions to the letter. That officer and the rest of his team spread out along the catwalk laying down phaser fire against the unending swarm of Klingon disruptor fire.

A side hatch blew open and Klag’s team of eight soldiers ran through in a single file wielding mek’leths. One of the Ku-Vok-leth soldiers ran towards them shooting at them. Four others headed for Klag’s party armed with mek’leths. As hand-to-hand fighting ensued, the Markalian technician and a Klingon technician placed anti-gravity harnesses onto the resonance chamber and moved it towards the shuttle.

“They’re loading the resonance chamber,” Vaughn remarked to Bowers and Ro. “Bowers, cover us. Ro, with me.”

Bowers pointed his rifle in the direction of a soldier at the bottom of the stairs and fired to get his attention. The Klingon fired back, diverting his attention to the stairs, which allowed Vaughn and Ro to head straight to the shuttle. Others were shooting in their direction, but they countered with phaser fire of their own.

Amid all the chaos, Zeyner tiptoed down the catwalk to a ladder along the wall. He grabbed one of the rungs with both hands while wrapping his legs over the railing and climbing down. Upon reaching the bottom, he made a beeline for the shuttle.

Ro saw him in the corner of her eye while continuing to fire her phaser in the direction of two Ku-Vok-leth soldiers. “Zeyner,” she shouted. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” She fired at Zeyner, clipping him in the right ribcage area. He stumbled and fell to the ground. Ro was not able to get a clear shot since a mek’leth struck her in the right shoulder. That Klingon then took a kick in the stomach from Vaughn, who then shot him in the chest with his phaser.

The roar of an engine then caught Vaughn’s attention while taking a look at Ro’s stab wound and making sure Zeyner didn’t try to make a run for it. The cargo shuttle Kur’Tok wanted launched at all costs moved straight up towards the sun roof and tore through plexi-glass shield. The Ku-Vok-leth soldiers still standing then ceased firing, and Bowers signaled his troops to do the same.

“Vaughn to Delphi,” Vaughn called tapping his combadge. “Computer, three to beam out.”

Zeyner removed a device from his pocket as he, Ro, and Vaughn were dematerializing. That kept him from completely dematerializing while Vaughn and Ro had beamed up.
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Old December 7 2012, 12:03 AM   #26
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Nineteen

He was certain he would be on his way to Sto-Vo-Kor.

The Ku-Vok-leth soldier who had just overpowered Worf was about to land the killing blow with his mek’leth when a green phaser beam felled him. Worf sat up, looking in the direction of the phaser. He now knew with complete certainty that a Romulan weapon had saved him as Romulan soldiers were now shooting at the Klingon assassins. This sight still did not seem possible to Worf. From recent history, Romulans were usually on the side of Klingons who opposed any alliance with the Federation.

Rodek and his team used the distraction to get an edge on their opponents. The Ku-Vok-leth soldiers could not believe their eyes either. They had not expected Romulans to be on the side of every Klingon traditionalists’ favorite target. On the other hand, they had also been taught that Romulans were notorious for switching allegiances whenever that suited their goals. Rodek jammed his d’k’tag into the back of the man who had deserted him for a different target. He hardly had time to gloat when another Klingon charged him with a mek’leth from the right. In that brief moment, he had a flash of a memory that he was certain was not his own.

“He is my brother,” this other person whose life Rodek was remembering said. “I will not betray him.”

“Then you will die for him,” a Klingon who called himself Duras replied.

This other Klingon whose memories Rodek was reliving--Worf’s brother Kurn--was then ambushed by two assassins from both directions. Kurn put up a valiant struggle, but he was quickly stabbed in the abdomen.

The tip of the blade grazed Rodek’s right arm. He was spared further injury when Worf swooped in, jamming a mek’leth into the assassin’s chest.

“Brother,” Rodek gasped.

Worf did not let that appellation distract him from two Klingons charging at him from both sides. He was able to deflect both swords with his mek’leth. He delivered a kick to the abdomen of the man on his right and then stabled the man on the left in the chest.

The remaining two Klingons who had ambushed Worf and Rodek were in combat with Romulans. Bat’leths and Romulan combat pikes clanged against each other. That was until Worf and Rodek intercepted, landing blows to both enemy soldiers with the bat’leths of fallen warriors.

The two Klingons and three Romulans exchanged awkward stares for a brief moment. From the corner of his eye, Worf noticed two additional Romulans--one male and one female--sauntering towards them. The female commander was a woman of average height and with a lithe figure. She looked relatively young for someone of her rank compared to the tall man on her right with graying hair.

“Ambassador Worf,” the youthful woman said, “Commander Donatra of the IRW Valdore.”

“Commander,” Worf replied, still at a loss for words.

“You must not have expected Romulans to do Klingons these kinds of favors without asking anything in return,” the commander continued. “It has been a rarity even during the Dominion War, or when our peoples were allies against the Federation.”

“No,” Worf deadpanned hoping to avoid offending the unusually heroic Romulan. He had often had a tendency to stereotype alien races from Ferengi to Romulans. As a diplomat, he had tried harder to hold his tongue. But here, he was also careful not to be deceived by her charming nature. “Can I assume you are asking something in return?” he asked skeptically.

“You are the Federation ambassador to Qo’Nos. I know of your distrust of my people since the Khitomer Massacre. But I do not ask anything in return. I am here as a gesture of good will.”

Worf nodded silently, needing a moment to let Donatra’s charitable act to sink in. As he understood, Romulans did adhere to a code of honor similar to that of the Klingons, but only as long as it was beneficial to themselves, their extended families, or for the glory of the Empire. While achieving such ends was commendable, such an honor code was invoked to rationalize cowardly acts during Worf’s lifetime, from the sneak attack on the Narendra Three outpost to the Khitomer Massacre to secretly supporting political enemies of the last two Klingon chancellors. “But at great risk to yourself,” he offered. “Your superiors may be displeased with what you have done here.”

“You needn’t worry,” Donatra replied. “I have friends in ‘high places’ to quote a human expression. Do you or your ships require further assistance?”

“No, but thank you. You have acted… honorably here today, Commander.”

“‘Honor’ is a term to which many of my people have forgotten the meaning. Qa’Pla, Ambassador.”

Jolan tru, Commander.”

The two unlikely allies then shook hands. Worf still couldn’t help feel that he was still in debt to Donatra, while still uncertain that was good or bad. For now, however, Worf could safely say that a Romulan acted honorably for the first time that he could remember.

###

Nog strode across the Defiant bridge from the starboard tactical station to the port forward engineering station making sure all tactical sensors were in perfect working order. After all, the area could have been swarming with cloaked ships on the side of the Ku-Vok-leth whose crews were trying to penetrate the cloaking shields of the Defiant, the Sword of Kahless, and the Gorkon. He had matured considerably in the last three years on his way becoming chief engineer of DS9 and the Defiant. He didn’t worry so much about saying the wrong thing to a superior or pressing the wrong button. The rest of the bridge crew could see he was still visibly nervous given how precarious a situation the ship was in.

“No sign of any ships cloaked or otherwise,” Nog reported to Kira, who was looking over Prynn Tenmei’s shoulder at the conn. He took notice of Bashir entering the bridge from the port egress. “If the Romulans are providing assistance to these Klingons, why isn’t it in the form of their most advanced warbirds?”

“It’s gamesmanship, Nog,” Bashir answered, seating himself at the sensor station on Nog’s left. “They want plausible deniability and to say that we violated neutral space first.”

“So they appear to be defending themselves against invasion,” Nog added with a dismissive snort. After a brief pause, he said with a slight stutter, “But what if you’re wrong? What if a whole armada is lying in wait now?”

“Relax, Lieutenant,” Kira chimed in, sauntering towards the command chair upon hearing the comm chime.

“Bowers to Defiant: a cargo shuttle carrying some kind of magnetic resonance chamber has just launched. Vaughn and Ro just beamed aboard the runabout and are in pursuit.”

“Understood,” Kira replied. “Get the away team back aboard, Mister Nog. Take us to battle stations. Sensor analysis of the shuttle, Mister Donaldson?”

“The shuttle’s hull is composed of an alloy our sensors can’t penetrate,” replied the dark-haired human male at the science station, “I am attempting to compensate, as well as increasing the range by at least a light year.”

“Do what you can,” Kira replied, while entering commands at the control panel on her left, to assure that any sudden detection of Omega did not lock out the main computer. “We don’t want it getting out of our sights.”

###

Vaughn had not yet fully materialized when he ordered the Delphi’s computer to skip through pre-flight and activate the ascent thrusters. He then headed for the transporter control station to retrieve the emergency medkit stowed in a bottom drawer to tend to Ro’s wound while flipping open his tricorder.

“Where the hell is Zeyner?” Ro wondered aloud, having quickly noticed their traveling companion’s absence.

“That’s not important now,” Vaughn replied, holding the medkit in one hand and coaxing Ro towards the piloting stations with the other. “Computer, extrapolate the course of any vessels departing the coordinates uploaded from my tricorder and lay in a pursuit course. Full impulse.”

“Confirmed,” the computer’s feminine voice responded.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Ro lied, as Vaughn applied a cloth tourniquet to her wound. “We knew that bastard would pull this kind of crap and he still got away.”

“Looks like you’ll have to wait another day to finally settle the score with ‘Doctor’ Zeyner,” Vaughn retorted, while applying a dermal regenerator to the lieutenant’s wound.

““Defiant to Commander Vaughn,” Kira called over the comm chime.

“We’re on its tail, Captain,” Vaughn replied. “Recommend you move into a lower orbit to intercept that shuttle should it escape the planet’s atmosphere.”

“Acknowledged,” Kira replied. “Good luck, Commander.”

“Vessel approaching,” the computer warned. “Two thousand kilometers ahead, bearing…”

“I see it, computer,” Vaughn interrupted, noticing a shuttle emerging from the clouds. He quickly took over the main piloting controls in order to more precisely maneuver the runabout.

Three green bolts emerged from the aft of the cargo shuttle and struck the nose of the runabout. Those hits rocked the cockpit and sent sparks flying. “Romulan plasma torpedoes,” Vaughn remarked aloud.

“On a civilian freighter?” Ro asked.

“Don’t tell me the Bajorans didn’t try to reverse engineer Cardassian weapons onto those sub-impulse ships of yours.”

“It got very messy, though. Turned out to be more trouble than it was worth.”

“Tell them that,” Vaughn quipped. “Do you have phaser lock?”

“Locked onto its port thruster. Firing!”

Two phaser beams erupted from the dorsal emitter, the first grazed part of the hull and the second was deflected by the shuttle’s shielding.

“Those are Romulan shields, all right,” Ro commented of the new sensor readings on her console’s readout screen. “I’m reading a weak point on starboard ventral. If you can get us below them.”

“I’m pouring everything we’ve got into the engines,” Vaughn replied, “even any residual ions from the sonic showers.”

“What sonic showers?” Ro snapped, reminding herself she hadn’t showered in days since departing Deep Space Nine on this fool’s errand, especially not with a hated ex-lover aboard the runabout.

Vaughn just gave a devilish smirk while trying to maneuver the vessel below the target and dodge enemy weapon’s fire at the same time.

The runabout swooped in below the cargo shuttle. A swath of phaser knocked out the ventral shielding. A volley of photon torpedoes erupted, blowing apart the shuttle’s aft. The runabout cleared the explosion’s shockwave as quickly as it could while what remained of the shuttle spiraled down towards the surface.

With the shuttle’s hull heavily compromised, the Delphi’s sensors now could scan its interior. Vaughn’s right eyebrow twitched when he noticed a peculiar reading. “Vaughn to Defiant,” he called, opening a ship-to-ship communications channel. “It was a dummy bomb. The real one is on a ship that might have already left the system. Damn it!
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Old December 7 2012, 12:17 AM   #27
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty

“It was you all along.”

Worf stormed into General Grelik’s private chamber without even ringing the bell. Accompanying him was the first officer, Major Tarkan, wielding a bat’leth. Grelik chuckled wryly as he threw down a padd he was working. He had a joke about Worf having returned alive on the tip of his tongue, but he chose in the end to say nothing. He just silently expressed amusement that Worf was foolish enough to walk into an ambush. That is, unless Worf had purposely allowed to Grelik to eavesdrop on his communiqués with Klag and the Federation Embassy. In that case, then the joke was on him. He stood up and slowly strode around the desk to face Worf. “Was it really that hard?” he deadpanned.

“I was able to access the comm-logs of one of the assassins’ communicators,” Worf explained, showing a communications device usually placed on the upper left arm of a Defense Force soldier. “You had communicated instructions to them on an hourly basis. The last of these messages was immediately after I transported to the surface.”

“Would I not have tried to cover my tracks a little better?” Grelik curiously asked. “That seems rather careless to leave behind such an obvious trail.”

“You did become careless after your conversation with a member of the High Council. I suspected when you insisted upon distancing me from the shipboard investigation. In order to be certain, I contacted a Starfleet Intelligence informant at the Embassy. You spoke to Councilor Ru’qel, Martok’s most vocal political opponent in the High Council.”

Grelik opened his mouth to speak, but again held his tongue. His expression still said enough to Worf. Just communicating with Ru’qel was not proof that he was the mole any more than Ru’qel’s opposition to Martok proof that he was a Ku-Vok-leth sympathizer. He should not have been surprised if such communiqués were not highly incriminating. After all, breaking into the most secure of personal databases came with the territory of being an intelligence operative.

“You arranged the ambush shortly after our departure from Deep Space Nine,” Worf finished.

“So once again, you use your position as a Federation diplomat to effect change in Klingon politics,” Grelik taunted. “But are you Klingon enough to execute me for my treachery?”

“That is not for me to decide. That is Major Tarkan’s decision.”

Worf stepped aside and allowed the major to face his captain. “You are an accessory to a dishonorable assassination attempt against the leader of the Klingon Empire,” Tarkan proclaimed. “That makes you unfit to serve as commander of the chancellor’s flagship.”

“There can only be one answer to that,” Grelik replied, walking over to his bat’leth hanging on the wall.

Tarkan stood ready, forearms out, his sword ready to deflect the first blow from the opponent’s bat’leth. Worf retreated into one corner of the room to allow the fight to stay between the two combatants. He had been tempted to kill Grelik where he stood upon his return from the planet’s surface. But to punish him for his dishonor in such a way would, itself, be dishonorable. Throughout the history of many planets, including Qo’Nos and Earth, various individuals had taken it upon themselves to exact their own brand of justice outside the boundaries of what was considered legal. But societies that allowed the practice of vigilante justice would ultimately descend into chaos and cycles of violence that dragged on for centuries. Among warrior races such as Klingons, ironically, revenge killings, long-standing blood feuds, and assassinating ones way up the ranks had been made more civilized under a strict legal code. This was Tarkan’s fight now. He would seize command of the vessel or die trying. And Worf was just a spectator.

The two swords continuously clanged together, fending off one potential blow after another. Grelik held his bat’leth high above his head with one hand and swung towards Tarkan’s forehead. Tarkan deflected the sword with his own horizontally in front of his face. Grelik pushed his sword, and Tarkan pushed back. Neither would give way. Grelik then delivered a kick to Tarkan’s abdomen, which nudged him away. He then swung the bat’leth at Tarkan’s shoulder, impaling his opponent and bringing him to his knees.

Grelik prepared to deliver the killing blow, raising his bat’leth. Tarkan then slipped his bat’leth from his right hand to his left and slipped a d’k’tag from its holster. He lunged towards the general and jammed the dagger into his chest. He let go of the knife and delivered one more blow with the bat’leth.

Gagging, Grelik fell backwards to the deck. He tried to speak, but before any words could come out, he was dead.

***

With Grelik’s body now a lifeless shell, the corpse was jettisoned into the vacuum of space. After floating through space for a very long minute, the dead body was suddenly enveloped by a Starfleet transporter field. It fully dematerialized and was transported to who knew where.

###

Kira rose from the command chair upon receiving Vaughn’s page. The cargo shuttle his runabout had been pursuing was only a diversion to give the ship ferrying a single Omega molecule extra time to get away. It could be light years away by now. She paced over to the science station hoping Donaldson had some good news. “Tell me you have something, Ensign,” she said calmly.

“I have the ship we’re looking for on long range sensors,” Donaldson replied. “Approximately half a light year. I will attempt to extrapolate its course.”

“Prynn, set a course,” Kira barked. “Relay the coordinates to the Sword of Kahless and the Gorkon. We may need…”

“Tachyon surge,” Bowers interrupted from the tactical station. “Ships decloaking. Klingon Birds-of-Prey.”

“Shields up,” Kira commanded. “We should have no problem shaking them off.”

Two vessels uncloaked in front of the Defiant, as it was breaking orbit and fired its disruptors grazing its forward hull. The Defiant then returned fire with its multi-targeting phasers. To the surprise of some of the bridge crew, both attacking ships sustained minimal damage.

“Someone has been upgrading their defensive systems,” Nog observed, as the ship took more hits from enemy fire.

“Helm, project the fastest route out of the system that will allow us to pursue our target,” Kira said. “Prepare to go to warp inside this system if it’s necessary.”

“Already on it,” Prynn answered, dodging an electrical surge on the left side of her console.

“Mister Bowers,” Kira added, “ready a spread of quantum torpedoes on both vessel’s engines. That might slow them down.”

“Done,” Bowers said, programming the torpedoes to the appropriate specifications. “Firing.”

The port and starboard aft torpedo tubes fired two projectiles each hitting the ventral of both Birds, doing damage to the warp drives of both vessels.

The Sword of Kahless and the Gorkon emerged from the far side of the planet to lend some assistance as the Defiant continued its route out of the system. The two allied Klingon heavy cruisers fired disruptors and torpedoes at the smaller ships. From behind the heavy cruisers, two rippling effects were moving closer. From the shape of those ripples, they appeared to be partially cloaked Birds-of-Prey. Those two ships crashed into the ventral of the two heavy cruisers inflicting considerable damage to the two vessels.

The two Klingon vessels that had attacked the Defiant swung back around towards the Starfleet warship as if about to ram her as had happened with the Klingon heavy cruisers.

“That looks like a reason to go to warp right now,” Kira observed upon hearing from Bowers that the warp drives of the Sword of Kahless and Gorkon were disabled.

“Yes, sir,” Prynn replied, engaging the warp drive.

The Defiant then streaked to warp before the two Birds-of-Prey could get anywhere near it.

###

The Defiant was at warp in hot pursuit of the ship carrying the resonance chamber. The Klingon Bird-of-Prey belonged to an older model, so it was traveling at a slower warp speed to wherever it was going. That allowed the Delphi to catch up to the Defiant in order to provide some support should a long battle ensue. From what the crews of both Starfleet ships had observed, these older D-12 type ships’ weapons and shields had updated to more recent specifications, possibly Romulan in origin.

Kira was in communication with Vaughn and Ro on a monitor in the bridge’s aft situation area. A translucent screen was lowered in front of the master situation console to provide some degree of privacy while still allowing easy access to the rest of the bridge. “Once we catch up to this Bird-of-Prey,” Kira told the two runabout pilots, “we should expect them to put up more of a fight. Ideally, we’d be more than a match for a D-12 class.”

“Not what we’ve seen so far,” Vaughn replied. “They’re even willing to lay down their lives to take out a superior ship.”

“Speaking of which,” Kira added, “how badly were the two heavy cruisers on our side hit?”

“Their warp engines are shot,” Ro said, taking a quick look at a readout on her console. “They’ve taken heavy casualties. Captain Klag and Major Tarkan were adamant that they could handle repairs on their own without our assistance.”

“Klingons can be incredibly stubborn,”
Vaughn remarked. “But what more could the two of us do? How long before you catch up to our target.”

“Another hour, two at the most,” Kira answered. “I’ve asked Ezri to compile a list of the most likely destinations based on the ship’s current course… and her clearance level.”

“Yes, sir,” Vaughn said with a nod, knowing what Kira meant by the reference to the lieutenant’s clearance level. “Of course, these are not ideal circumstances. Normally, a team of Starfleet experts would be tasked to handle this. If these guys plan to use this thing as a weapon, we may not have that luxury.”

“You guys wouldn’t care to let me in on what exactly you’re talking about?” Ro quipped.

“No,” Kira and Vaughn both said. “In the meantime,” Kira added, “I’ll contact Starfleet Headquarters and apprise them of our situation. Kira out.”

***

As the Defiant remained in pursuit of the Bird-of-Prey, Kira had gathered much of the senior bridge crew in the mess hall, while setting up a teleconference with Dax back on Deep Space 9 and with Vaughn and Ro on the Delphi on a Code 47 frequency. After a brief conversation with a high-ranking admiral at Starfleet Headquarters, Kira had been officially authorized to brief her higher-ranking officers on the Omega molecule. In addition to informing Dax, Ro, Nog, Bashir, and Bowers of the ability of one unstable Omega molecule to destroy subspace throughout an entire solar system, Kira added that warp travel in the Narendra system had already been rendered impossible by an Omega detonation. Vaughn, of course, was already in the know as a former member of Starfleet Special Ops.

“Based on this additional information,” Dax said from the station commander’s office, “they could target any number of star systems near or along the Federation-Klingon border of major strategic importance.”

Kira took a long look at the holographic display being transmitted from the station, which included eight Starfleet deltas as markings, while taking a sip of iced raktajino. “And not a lot of time to guess which one they might be hitting. Each one of those systems is either on a major trade route or houses a strategic listening post.”

“I noticed Tezwa is one of the marked systems,” Vaughn offered. “It could be a prime time target.”

“Why Tezwa?” Kira asked, her eyes widening. “The Tezwan are neutral.”

“They’ve also become an important trading partner since the end of the Dominion War,” Vaughn added. “It could set back dilithium production considerably if our access to that system is cut off.”

Kira took another long look at the cartography display while considering Vaughn’s suggestion. Her mind went to the strategies the Dominion used. As the war dragged on longer than Dominion strategists had expected, both sides realized that supplies and materiel would be more of a deciding factor. For that reason, the Dominion had targeted shipbuilding and energy production facilities and freight convoys, sometimes more so, than strategic outposts and other military targets. The Federation had suffered a number of supply shortages in the outlying systems since the war’s end. In all likelihood, the Ku-Vok-leth might have the same goals in mind. “Then Tezwa it is,” she said. “Bowers, Nog, how are those graviton torpedoes coming?”

“The explosive yield is strong enough to eliminate Omega without damaging subspace,” Nog responded.

“We should be able to put the finishing touches within the hour,” Bowers added.

“Doctor,” Kira said, addressing Bashir, “prepare to administer arithrazine to the entire crew.”

“I’ve already initiated radiation protocol,” Bashir said, “I’ll start filling hypos right away.”

“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of stopping the Omega molecule,” Kira announced the whole gathering. “You all have your orders. Dismissed.”

“Bridge to the captain,” Tenmei called over the comm speakers. “The ship we’re pursuing has altered course headed closer to the Klingon border.”

“On our way,” Kira said. “We’ll soon confirm your hunch, Elias.”

***

The officers in the briefing quickly entered the bridge and assumed their stations. Donaldson was at the science station, monitoring the sensor readings the Bird-of-Prey was emitting, while Tenmei kept a firm hand on the helm. Donaldson inputted new data into his console based on the change in course, seeing Kira in the corner of his eye striding towards his right. “Captain,” he said, “the ship is now on a bearing of two-eight-six mark two-four. Towards any one of three star systems Lieutenant Dax has conjectured.”

“Helm, set a course for the Tezwan system,” Kira ordered. “Increase speed to warp nine. Stand by to drop to quarter impulse within five million kilometers of the system’s Oort cloud.” Then hailing the runabout, she added, “Commander Vaughn, ready where you are?”

“Just say the word and we’ll be ready, Captain,” Vaughn replied over an audio channel.

###

The Bird-of-Prey the Defiant was pursuing fell out of warp near the Oort cloud of the Tezwan system. As it neared the outer periphery, the Defiant uncloaked and fired phasers at the vessel’s aft impulse engine, momentarily slowing it down. The Defiant then sped up and moved deeper into the Oort cloud. Taking the bait, the Bird-of-Prey gave chase once emergency propulsion systems kicked in while firing disruptors.

“Shields at eighty-six percent,” Bowers reported.

“Keep firing, limiting targets to engines and shields,” Kira ordered. Hailing the runabout from the command chair, she said, “Defiant to Delphi. Are you ready to proceed?”

“Ready as we’ll ever be, Captain,” Vaughn eagerly responded.

***

The Delphi emerged from a patch of dense gases firing phasers at the Bird-of-Prey. The small and maneuverable craft fired continuous precision shots while retreating into gaseous patches. It was almost as effective as a cloak-and-run maneuver with the Bird-of-Prey unable to get an exact target lock. It fired its disruptors in the hope of hitting something, but kept coming up empty.

“Hunter probe is ready for transport,” Ro reported, energizing the transporter. Anticipating that transporter scramblers were in place around the resonance chamber, the runabout’s pilots intended to transport aboard a modified pattern enhancer often used by Starfleet Special Ops to get a better transporter lock.

“Now we wait,” Vaughn said in hushed tone.

Almost immediately, the console beeped indicating the hunter probe’s target had been located. “Ready for transport,” Ro said. “Energizing.”

The magnetic chamber keeping a single Omega molecule stable materialized on the miniature transporter pad just outside the cockpit. The cockpit then rocked from enemy weapons fire, causing Vaughn and Ro to lurch forward in their seats. “Looks like they’re not being as generous as we were,” Ro commented. “A plasma flow regulator has ruptured.”

“Feed whatever power you can into the warp engines,” Vaughn said.

“Done.”

“We’ve cleared the gases. I’m going to warp.”

The runabout then streaked into warp as the Bird-of-Prey tried to get off another shot. The Defiant swooped in towards it and fired phasers knocking out the warp drive. The Starfleet warship veered clear of the Oort cloud and went into warp.

###

With the runabout at warp and no signs of pursuit from enemy vessels, Vaughn and Ro headed for the transporter pad and scanned the item they had just pilfered with tricorders. From reports Vaughn had read, this device was a magnetic resonance chamber similar to one designed by the USS Voyager’s ex-Borg crewmember Seven of Nine. It was designed to keep Omega molecules stable for a potentially indefinite period of time. Just a few such molecules had the energy output of a single warp core. Given Omega’s unpredictable nature, Captain Kathryn Janeway still went ahead with the original mission after her ship had made contact with an alien race attempting to harness the power of Omega in late 2374. The tricorder scans had revealed this resonance chamber served the same purpose as any explosive device.

“Incredible,” Ro commented seeing how much energy the contents of the chamber were putting out. “If the Maquis or the Bajorans had something like this…”

“The same was said of nuclear energy on Earth four hundred years ago,” Vaughn countered. Quoting one of Janeway’s logs from that mission of four years earlier, he added, “‘The final frontier has boundaries that should never be crossed. This is one of them.’”

Ro nodded, hoping to avoid a lecture about the dangers of terrorists using such powerful weapons. She was a terrorist once, after all. “It’s designed to destabilize Omega on remote command,” she said of the device, “but only at a very close range.”

“If I could just locate the transceiver,” Vaughn said, fiddling through the circuitry, “and disconnect it.” He found what he was looking for and quickly disconnected it. “We’ve eliminated that problem.”

“Have we?” Ro asked having half-expected the bomb to go off if it was tampered with.

“We’re still here, aren’t we?”

Ro looked away from her superior and rolled her eyes when the ship-to-ship comm system chimed. Defiant to Commander Vaughn,” Kira said. “Come in.”

Vaughn quickly paced over the primary pilot seat to answer to page. “This is Vaughn,” he said. “We have the magnetic resonance chamber, Captain. It’s designed to explode on command, but I’ve disabled the communications transceiver.”

“Keep your eyes open, Commander,” Kira added, “We may not be out of the woods just yet.”

“No need to remind us, sir,” Ro said. “We’re ready to eject this thing into space once you’re ready to blow it to high…”

“Three vessels approaching,” the computer interrupted. “Klingon D-12 class Birds-of-Prey have locked weapons.”

“That was fast,” Vaughn remarked of the Bird the runabout had engaged just a few minutes earlier approaching from the port stern.

“He’s hailing us,” Ro said.

“Let’s find out if he’s all bark and no bite. On my monitor.”

A Klingon officer with an ominous scowl appeared on the monitor. “You have a weapon on your vessel that is the property of the Klingon Empire. You will return it immediately.”

“The same Klingon Empire that signed a treaty banning the use of such weapons?” Vaughn retorted. “Add to that, you’re commanding a vessel not authorized to be in Federation space. That’s two strikes against you.”

“The disruptors pointed at your puny vessel are all the authorization I need,” the enemy commander growled. “Return our property or be destroyed.”

“And risk losing that precious weapon of yours?” Vaughn taunted. “Your Empire wouldn’t like that.”

The Klingon commander hissed and cut the transmission.

***

The two Birds-of-Prey that had approached the Delphi from ahead, veered away and headed for the Defiant, while the one behind targeted the runabout. This time, the antiquated ships were inflicting some significant damage to both Starfleet ships using an arsenal that consisted of Romulan plasma torpedoes. On the Defiant’s bridge, Bashir leaped up from his seat to attend to injured crewpersons. “Looks like they’re showing all their cards now,” Kira said. “Have all weapons on full, Mister Nog. We’re shooting to kill this time.”

“Aye, sir,” Nog replied, who had taken on both tactical and engineering responsibilities with Bowers now below to finish the torpedoes designed to destroy the Omega device.

“Kira to Bowers,” the captain added. “Status of the graviton torpedoes?”

“Loaded and ready to launch on Commander Vaughn’s signal,” Bowers replied.

***

The Defiant fired both phasers and quantum torpedoes at the attacking vessels causing equally significant damage to both of them. The Delphi, meanwhile, was engaged with the third ship, firing phasers and photon torpedoes. “Prepare to transport the resonance chamber forty thousand kilometers off the Defiant’s port bow,” Vaughn ordered while the runabout took another hit that sent sparks flying through the aft of the cockpit.

***

“One ship’s number two shield has failed,” Donaldson reported from the science station.

“Let’s even the playing field,” Kira said. “Take him out, Nog.”

“No problem, sir,” Nog said with a wry grin.

A quick swarm of phasers grazed the vessel’s hull. That was followed by a swarm of quantum torpedoes that tore one of the two attacking ships to pieces.

Delphi to Defiant,” Vaughn signaled on an audio channel. “We’ve jettisoned the chamber, Mister Bowers. It’s all yours. And whatever happens, Prynn, I love you. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Prynn took in slow deep breaths. How many times had she gotten those goodbyes only to see her father again? He wasn’t dead yet and she had a job to do. She was emotionally prepared, yet hoping these were not his last words. “Good luck, father,” she mouthed inaudibly.

The Defiant swooped in on the resonance chamber, shaking off Klingon disruptor fire with its phasers. With two specially modified torpedoes, the Defiant then destroyed the resonance chamber, creating an explosion doing no harm to subspace.

***

One Bird-of-Prey fired two plasma torpedoes towards a hole in the Delphi’s shields, knocking out its starboard nacelle.
“Inertial dampeners are off-line!” Ro shouted over the myriad explosions heard throughout the vessel.

“Warning,” the computer added, “Antimatter containment failure imminent. Warp core breach in one minute.”

“Oh, shit!!!” Vaughn exclaimed, expecting the runabout to spiral into oblivion. Another hit threw him out of his seat, his head slamming to the deck.

The Defiant fired its phasers destroying the Bird-of-Prey on its tail before swooping in on the runabout.

Ro scanned the unconscious Vaughn with a medical tricorder while hoping to be beamed to safety. The two of them were encompassed in a Starfleet transporter beam as their vessel erupted in flames. The Defiant then went into warp, while absorbing some of the explosive shockwave.
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Old December 7 2012, 08:51 PM   #28
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Part Three: The Real Masterminds

Chapter Twenty-One

IKS
Gorkon

Worf entered the holding room uncertain as to why Captain Klag had summoned him there. Kur'Tok was seated behind a rectangular table with the same cold stare on his face. Worf flashed a smirk of pleasant surprise that Kur'Tok was still alive. A Klingon would rather die than be taken prisoner, especially if he truly believed in the Ku-Vok-leth’s cause. Otherwise, this was the point where the prisoner would try to make a deal with the justice system.

"He said he would only speak to you," Klag explained.

"Why?" Worf asked with a contemptuous glare directed at the prisoner.

"You have served both the Empire and the Federation honorably," Kur'Tok said with a wry grin. "I have information you might find useful."

"What kind of 'information'?" Worf skeptically asked.

"The Ku'Vok'leth were not responsible for today's events."

“You will say anything to save your own life,” Worf sneered, needing all his mental energy to restrain himself from assaulting the prisoner.

“I would not lie to avoid death,” Kur’Tok insisted. “You know that would not be honorable.”

Worf effortlessly flipped the table on its side, coaxed Kur’Tok upright, and shoved him against the wall squeezing his neck. “You speak of following traditions of honor,” the ambassador snarled, “yet you still use dishonorable means to achieve your goals. Tell me the truth. How did you obtain enough boronite to synthesize an Omega molecule? And who are your co-conspirators in the Romulan Empire?”

“What will you do if I told you?” Kur’Tok wheezed. “Lodge a formal protest? The Senate and the Tal Shiar would just deny everything.”

Worf shoved Kur’Tok’s head against the wall with his hand squeezing his neck, and then forced him back in the chair. Worf then whipped out his d’k’tag and held it to Kur’Tok’s neck. “Tell me what you know,” he demanded with a murderous rage in his eyes. “If the Ku-Vok-leth was not planning on using Omega explosives against the Federation, then who was?”

***

“This data chip will contains all the information you need,” Sloan told Kur’Tok, handing the Klingon a circular optical data reader. “Once the first field tests are underway in the Narendra system, you will have successfully infiltrated the Ku-Vok-leth.

“I understand,” Kur’Tok responded plainly. He took the chip from Sloan’s hand and placed it in a side pocket.

“Remember our agreed upon pass code. When we meet again, I will not be the person you are seeing now. You understand that this is not just about combating Klingon separatists still following to the old ways. We are looking to protect certain secrets, which if exposed, would give the Ku-Vok-leth and the political enemies of Chancellor Martok an excuse to stage a coup and declare war on the Federation. Such an outcome would be disastrous to both our peoples. According a Vulcan axiom, ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.’ Your people believe that a warrior’s honor is more important than his life. And sometimes we need to sacrifice a few lives for the benefit of the greater whole, even though they are your own countrymen. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Perfectly,” Kur’Tok sneered. He then quietly walked out of the room.

***

“What kind of secrets?” Worf demanded, pressing his dagger against Kur’Tok’s neck.

“He would not say,” Kur’Tok replied, trying to give no signs that he was afraid for his life. “We were to synthesize an Omega molecule and then ship the explosive device to the Tezwan system.”

“Does Martok know of this?” Worf asked, remembering that the chancellor sought out Kur’Tok as a “person of interest.” And Klag was sent to apprehend this agent. In all likelihood, Kur’Tok was an operative of Imperial Intelligence who was recruited into the Section 31, although the accuracy of that assertion was classified.

“As far as he’s concerned, I’m just another enemy agent,” said Kur’Tok. “He had to be out of the loop so he could have plausible deniability.”

Worf opened his mouth to speak, but then held his tongue. He simply placed the knife in his holster and looked back at Klag. Condemning the actions of Section 31 would not have done any good. As much as Worf insisted that he was acting as a brother of the House of Martok in seeking to bring the chancellor’s would-be assassins to justice, he knew now that he had the same aspirations as Section 31--to assure the continuation of a regime that was an ally of the Federation. That was the result when he murdered Duras in order to avenge the death of Alexander’s mother. And then when Gowron was a threat to Federation interests, Worf killed him giving Martok the chancellorship.

“Do you have proof of this?” Worf asked, pulling the dagger away from Kur’Tok’s neck.

“Do you think these people leave behind proof that can be easily found?” Kur’Tok retorted.

Worf placed the knife back in its holster and motioned for Klag to accompany him out of the holding room. Worf sauntered down the corridor while Klag had to jog just to keep up with the ambassador. Worf gave a quick visual survey of the general vicinity to make sure no one was around to listen in on them. “What is the status of repairs?” he asked in a hushed tone.

“Warp drive will be up and running within the hour,” Klag answered plainly, while still curious about Worf’s need for secrecy.

“I want you to make long-range communications a priority as well,” said Worf. “We have to warn Deep Space Nine. I believe everything that has taken place in the last few weeks was engineered by a secret organization working on behalf of the Federation that calls itself Section 31. They may have been seeking a reason to declare war on Tezwa.”

“The Tezwan are no threat to either of us,” Klag replied. “They have been a major source of dilithium since the end of the war.”

“True, but the fact that an explosive device containing Omega was being delivered to Tezwa cannot be mere happenstance.”

“Then we should inform Starfleet Command or even the Federation Council.”

“No. They have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such an organization in the past. Whatever the motives are, they are not honorable. We will have to take more… covert action.”


IRW Valdore

Commander Donatra entered Subcommander Murot’s quarters accompanied by her personal guards. Her second-in-command just rolled his eyes as if she had tried many times before to arrest him on trumped up charges and returned his gaze to the desk monitor. He had on previous occasions been accused of trying to usurp her position only to be swiftly exonerated. This arrest seemed like more of the same.

“Subcommander Murot,” Donatra announced sternly as a guard removed Murot’s personal sidearm, “you are under arrest on charges of mutiny.”

“I don’t understand,” Murot replied with feigned ignorance.

Donatra removed a padd from a holster presenting evidence of his latest transgression. The Romulan justice system was not required to disclose all the evidence against a criminal defendant. In this case, however, Donatra felt she needed to demonstrate she had an airtight case against her executive officer. “You have been in constant contact with the Tiralihaan. In fact, Suran followed us all the way to Nimbus Three.”

“Then I guess I’m guilty,” Murot taunted, rising from his seat and handing Donatra back the padd. Knowing that betraying a commander was a crime punishable by public execution, he added, “I await execution.”

That was probably what he was hoping for, Donatra mused, so that other moles aboard the Valdore could continue trying to undermine me. “Put him in the brig,” she ordered her guards. “High security priority.”

The guards immediately complied, leaving Donatra to consider how she would weed out the rest of Suran’s informants on the Valdore.


IRW Tiralihaan

Subcommander Bralek triumphantly entered Commander Suran’s private chamber without even bothering to ring the doorbell. Fortunately for the commander, he was not reviewing classified Tal Shiar reports. It wasn’t as if he didn’t trust his own executive officer, but Bralek seemed rather determined to find something incriminating against Donatra. That kind of ambition meant that he might consider Suran an impediment to certain career goals. “We’ve got her,” the subcommander proclaimed, holding up a cylindrical data storage device. “She came to the aid of the Federation ambassador to the Klingon Empire and a team from one of the attack cruisers orbiting the planet. These are the sensor logs taken from our passive scans as well as from the surveillance drones.”

Bralek placed the device in a slot on Suran’s desk monitor. A holographic display of Donatra’s conversation with Worf appeared just above the desk.

“You are the Federation ambassador to Qo’Nos,” Donatra said in the recording. “I know of your distrust of my people since the Khitomer Massacre. But I do not ask anything in return. I am here as a gesture of good will.”

“But at great risk to yourself, “ Worf replied,“Your superiors may be displeased with what you have done here.”

“You needn’t worry. I have friends in ‘high places’ to quote a human expression. Do you or your ships require further assistance?”

“No, but thank you. You have acted… honorably here today, Commander.”

Bralek quickly removed the data storage device from the disk monitor, and the display instantly disappeared. “We have enough evidence to charge her with treason.”

Suran quietly considered the contents of the recording. He then turned off the desk monitor’s screen and slowly rose from his seat. “No,” he said plainly.

“But, sir, it’s something you’ve been waiting for five years.”

“If we were to accuse a Supreme Commander in the Star Navy of treason, there would be a full military tribunal. And our involvement will be revealed. Too many people will know that we informed the assassins of the arrival of the two Klingon vessels. That is a risk the Tal Shiar would not be willing to take.”

“Then why did we bother following Donatra to Nimbus?”

“It was simply a cover in order to keep the minor details of the mission itinerary on a need-to-know basis. I only tell you now because everything has already happened.”

Bralek held his mouth open in disbelief.

“Now, should Valdore fail to return to ch’Rihan intact,” Suran continued, “or if Donatra should be injured or killed, I will know you were responsible. Guards!”

The two personal guards quickly marched into the room awaiting orders from their charge.

“Escort the subcommander to his quarters and confine him there.”

Bralek remained at a loss for words as the guards grabbed him by the arms and escorted him out of the room.

Suran then returned to his desk monitor, preparing to have the rest of his informants on the Valdore transferred off in the guise of orders from the khre'Riov.


Deep Space Nine

Doctor Simon Tarses ordered a mug of tea from a replicator at Deep Space Nine’s Replimat during his noon break from the Infirmary. He saw Ezri Dax sitting at a table by herself while slowly working a padd and sipping her beverage. Simon grinned and quietly tiptoed over to her table. “Hello, Lieutenant,” he said cheerfully, while seating himself in the empty chair.

“Doctor,” Ezri replied with a grin. “Is that a Vulcan blend?” she asked of the familiar minty aroma of his tea.

“Not sure,” Simon replied. “It’s definitely not Romulan though.”

Ezri squinted her eyes, not sure how to react to Simon having a sense of humor about the lie that could have ruined his Starfleet career when he claimed to be one-quarter Vulcan as opposed to one-quarter Romulan on his Starfleet application. “At least you’re finally out of the Infirmary,” she said, “If only for a while.”

“Today’s a slow day, fortunately. So what’s happening with Captain Sisko?”

“Bajoran Freight and Shipping is still deliberating whether or not to press charges. But not if Kasidy has anything to say about it. The Vedek Assembly will also be giving them an earful. It’s all just formality, really. He was trying to protect his wife and kids.”

“Who’s to say you or I wouldn’t do the same under those circumstances?”

“Audrid might have. Tobin definitely would have. Of course…”

The banter was interrupted with a comm chime. “Infirmary to Doctor Tarses,” came a feminine voice.

“Go ahead,” Tarses said, after taking a sip of tea.

“The Defiant has entered the Bajoran system. Doctor Bashir has wounded on the way.”

“On my way, Standard triage protocol.” Looking back at Dax, Simon added, “Duty calls, Skipper.”

“Please don’t call me that, kid,” Ezri snapped back. Why she called him that when he was older than her, she was not exactly sure. Maybe it was a habit she picked up from one of the Dax symbiont’s previous hosts. The Curzon in her was often annoyed at young men who seemed too eager to please.

She looked back at her padd when the comm chimed yet again. “Ops to Lieutenant Dax,” Thelev called.

“Go ahead, Mister Thelev,” Dax answered with a tap of her combadge.

“The Defiant will be docking in five minutes. Captain Kira wants to see you in her office as soon as she’s disembarked.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Ezri retorted, knowing the trip to Ops wasn’t that long. She had five minutes to spare plus another five usually devoted to the de-embarkation process. “Duty calls,” she muttered to herself taking another look at the padd she was studying.
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Old December 7 2012, 08:58 PM   #29
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Two

Benjamin Sisko sat on the bench in a detention cell in the main cellblock behind the security office. Having been the commander of Deep Space Nine for seven years, he did not think he would end up here. He had been held in a jail cell like this one before, as part of a virtual reality simulation the Dominion ran to gauge the Federation’s determination to keep the Gamma Quadrant empire on its side of the Wormhole.

During the long, quiet hours in this cell, he couldn’t help feeling he belonged in such a jail cell for his off-the-books action taken during the Dominion War. Surely, he would be let off the hook for assaulting the pilot of a Bajoran cargo vessel and for breaking a terrorist out of jail given the circumstances under which he was coerced. The deliberations were just a formality now, but that did not take away the disgrace of being confined in a prison cell and possibly being separated from his wife and daughter yet again.

Jonas Escobar stepped into the cellblock, quickly sauntering over to Sisko’s cell. Sisko remained seated with his arms folded in front of his chest, trying not to get his hopes up that the acting chief of security had good news. The lieutenant then tapped a set of commands that shut off the forcefield. “You’re free to go, sir,” he said.

“It’s about damn time,” Sisko replied with a triumphant grin. “Have Kasidy, Jake, and Rebecca arrived on the station yet?”

“Their transport should be docking in just under an hour. You really think they’ll safer here than on the station?”

“For now, they’re better protected from reprisals by the Orion Syndicate on the station than on Bajor.”

“Of course, sir,” Escobar said with a nod. “Also, Captain Kira wants to see you in the ward room. She’s on conference call with the President. So you might want to get into uniform, assuming you haven’t completely retired from Starfleet.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant, I’ll keep that in mind,” Sisko retorted, marching out of the cell.

###

Doctor Bashir was among four medical personnel gathered around Vaughn’s bedside in the Infirmary’s primary intensive care unit, all dressed in red surgical scrubs. Most of Vaughn’s other injuries he had suffered on the runabout--from bone fractures to internal bleeding--were easily treated in the Defiant’s sickbay. The major challenge was treating and monitoring the severe subdural hematoma, especially with the starship’s limited medical resources, which was even more of an obstacle on a ship designated a warship. Julian thanked his lucky stars that a delta wave inducer kept Vaughn alive and stable during the trip back to Deep Space Nine. Otherwise, he would have given Starfleet Medical Headquarters quite an earful about the severe shortage of medical resources on Defiant-class starships. He was on the receiving end of such complaints from his nurses on the Defiant when he began performing an archaic procedure known as a craniotomy in order to access the injured portions of the brain.

“Increased intracranial pressure,” Tarses called.

“I see it,” Bashir said, noting an indicator on a brain scan readout. “Increase oxygenation in that area, but slowly. Four CC’s thiazine.”

Nurse Bandee handed Bashir a hypospray with the prescribed treatment. Bashir then injected the drug into the top of Vaughn’s head.

“Pressure’s still increasing,” Tarses noted.

“We need to clamp off that artery fast,” Bashir snapped at a Bajoran female nurse.

She handed Bashir a laser device in order to counter the increased blood pressure before it became a hemorrhage, which he inserted through the top of Vaughn’s skull. “Let’s start with point six CC’s nitrophorozine,” he added.

Bandee handed Bashir a hypospray, which he injected into Vaughn’s carotid artery.

Bashir then took a long look at the readouts. He nodded once he was satisfied that the more immediate crises were resolved. “Keep adjusting the thrombic modulator as it’s needed,” he instructed Tarses. He looked over at his nurses saying, “Let’s stay vigilant, everyone.”

Prynn Tenmei stood in one corner of the room, observing closely while making sure to stay out of the way. Julian approached her with a grim look on his face while still trying to remain optimistic about the patient’s recovery chances. “He’ll be okay, right?” Prynn asked, fighting back tears.

“I wish I could give you a guarantee, Prynn,” Bashir said ruefully. “Traumatic brain injuries remain unpredictable even with all the recent medical advances. Even if he recovers, we have no way of knowing what condition he’ll be in.”

“Make sure he lives, Julian,” Prynn insisted, letting a single tear fall down her right cheek.

Bashir silently stared off into the corridor watching Prynn walk away. Losing her mother the way she did, he knew from a Gamma Quadrant mission two years earlier, was difficult enough. Now he might have to tell Prynn that her father might die, an even more difficult situation, given the often-rocky relationship between father and daughter. He was not yet in the position of having to pronounce Elias dead or dying, but was reminded of when he told Kira that her lover, Vedek Bareil Antos, had died and when he informed friends and colleagues that Jadzia was inevitably near death.

###

As Escobar had suggested, Sisko had donned the Starfleet uniform he wore when he was commander of Deep Space Nine for the conference call with the President of the Federation Council. He still felt out of place seeing Kira dressed in a Starfleet uniform with a command red collar and four gold pips signifying the rank of captain. This station was Kira’s command now ever since his final confrontation with Dukat in the Fire Caves and that remained so after Sisko had announced his intent to take an extended leave of absence. Still, walking through these corridors brought about all kinds of nostalgic feelings.

“Why did the President wish to speak to me?” Sisko wondered after seeing off a security guard and an engineering technician making a few last arrangements before the conference could begin, given the sensitive nature of what would be discussed.

“The chief of staff wouldn’t say,” Kira replied. She entered commands on a padd on the table in front of her while Sisko took a seat on the viewport side of the room on her right. Pixels came together on the viewing monitor on the opposite side of the table to form the seal of the UFP. The image of President Min Zife in the main office of the Palais de la Concorde then gradually appeared on the screen.

“Captain Kira. Captain Sisko,” Zife said with a wide smile. “I bring you greetings from the Federation Council. I wanted to compliment personally on the success of your mission.”

“Thank you, sir,” Kira replied with a light nod.

“Captain Sisko,” Zife added. “I requested you at this meeting once I had heard you were back aboard the station. You know what needs to be done now that Klingon separatists have been caught red-handed delivering a potentially devastating weapon to Tezwa. A fleet will be dispatched to Tezwa to occupy the planet pending the Starfleet C-in-C’s sign off on the order.”

Sisko and Kira exchanged befuddled glances upon hearing that the President of the Federation planned on taking prematurely drastic action. “Mister President,” Sisko began, “do you really believe such drastic action is necessary? From what I understand from the after-action reports from the crew on the Defiant, sir, only one Omega weapon was delivered to Tezwa. And the Ku-Vok-leth may have intended to use it there to cut off the Federation from a major supply line heavily relied on since the end of the war.”

“But you don’t know Prime Minister Kinchawn as I do. I helped to negotiate the initial trade negotiations five years ago. He was very persistent in his demands the Federation could not possibly have met at the time. While he was open to limited technological and economic aid, he did not seem like the kind of leader willing to let his world’s technological evolution proceed at its own pace.”

“Granted, sir,” said Kira. “But that’s a long way from proving that the Tezwan government is colluding with terrorists to obtain illegal energy sources.”

“Under different circumstances,” Zife insisted, “we would wait on more concrete evidence. We don’t have that luxury with Omega. Do you suggest we wait for the first Omega detonation in our space?”

“What I suggest, sir,” Sisko replied, “is a sane and rational investigation of the facts at hand. This is one incident hardly constitutes evidence of Omega bombs being shipped to Tezwa. With all due respect, sir, what you are suggesting is occupying a sovereign planet not currently at war with the Federation. Ambassador Worf has uncovered evidence an autonomous agency working on Starfleet’s behalf was behind this delivery.”

“You mean this so-called ‘Section 31’?” Zife asked, much to the surprise of both Sisko and Kira. Sisko had spoken to a number of senior admirals at Starfleet Headquarters and even Zife himself about the organization that called itself Section 31 after Bashir’s encounters with Sloan. Their responses were the standard non-answers and the usual platitudes that such an organization was in opposition to Federation principles. None of them would give a straight answer to his inquiries.

“I know you have been unable to shed light on it in the past,” Sisko added, not wanting to point out how unusually quick Zife was to mention Section 31.

“For all we know, this Klingon may have been trying to throw the ambassador off guard,” Zife snapped. “I appreciate your directness, Captain. Your advice was greatly valued before and during the Dominion War. Many in the Joint Chiefs revere you today even though you are now, for all intents and purposes, retired from the service. But I will not have you making unfounded accusations about rogue organizations looking to advance the Federation’s interests. The decision has been made and will be implemented in the next twenty-four Earth hours. Palais de la Concorde out.”

Sisko breathed deeply once the transmission ended and the UFP seal appeared on the screen. This would have been the kind of unilateral decision Admiral James Layton would have made had he been able to overthrow Zife’s predecessor. Fortunately, Sisko was able to stop his former CO from carrying out his treacherous plans in the name of protecting the Federation from the Dominion. “Why the hell did he bother contacting us on the matter?” he grumbled.

“So that he could at least say he consulted with the ranking officer at the scene,” Kira retorted, “and one of Starfleet’s top Dominion War strategists who was willing to make the tough choices.”

“A number of political commentators believe Zife did not act fast enough when the Dominion was fortifying its foothold in the Alpha Quadrant and that the decision to mine the Wormhole could have come a few weeks too late.” Not that he bought into everything such pundits had to say about Federation politicians. And while he didn’t agree with every decision recent Federation Council presidents had made, he was often baffled that critics would be on their case about taking so much as a days’ vacation or prognosticating about the annual Parrises squares tournament while they were in office.

“You don’t actually believe their brand of rhetoric, do you?” Kira asked.

“No,” Sisko said bluntly. “But the war was a major culture shock. It has made many of the brass more paranoid.”

“Not the Federation I know,” Kira quipped.

“You’re absolutely right,” Sisko said with a smirk. “How long before Worf gets back to the station?”

“His last reported ETA is just over four hours. Why?”

“We need to find something, any shred of proof that Section 31 was the mastermind behind the events of the last few days, and the President, himself, is somehow involved.”

“Easier said than done. If Julian’s right, Section 31 does a very good job of covering its tracks to the point of not even leaving a paper trail.”

“Maybe so. But right now, it’s our only chance of preventing an illegal invasion.”

“I’ll see what I can do when Worf gets here,” Kira said with a smile. “Good to have you back, sir. Even if it’s only for a while.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Sisko said returning the smile. “I understand you’ll probably need someone to fill in as first officer while Elias is down. That is until this crisis is resolved.”

“Know anyone qualified for that job?” Kira asked, knowing what her former CO was getting at. “That’s if you don’t mind being outranked by a former subordinate.”

Sisko arched his head backwards to consider that possibility. He seemed adamant that he was finished with Starfleet the last two years. But then he found he missed it after being brought back into the game, as it were. On the other hand, he would never dream of asking Kira to relinquish command of the station to him after three years. “It’s not unprecedented for a captain and first officer to trade jobs,” he said with a smirk.

“I’ll get the paperwork,” Kira teased while rising from her seat.
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Old December 10 2012, 09:24 PM   #30
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Three

Benjamin and Kasidy Sisko stepped out of an airlock that led out to the Promenade. Kasidy took a few seconds to take in her surroundings, having once been certain she would not ever this part of the station. Ever since the house her husband had planned to build had been completed, Kasidy saw no need to make very many extended visits at Deep Space Nine. Most of her time on the station in the last two years had been in the cargo holds taking inventories of cargo being offloaded to her freighter.

As they descended down the two steps from the airlock’s entryway, Ben took the duffel bag hanging from his wife’s right shoulder, allowing her to use both arms get a grip on their fidgeting daughter. “We’ve prepared guest quarters for your stay,” he informed her. “Unfortunately, family quarters aren’t available, so you and Rebecca will have to make do with one of the guest cabins.”

“Not a problem,” Kasidy replied with a slight scoff. She had dealt with more cramped quarters on the Xhosa. “I never thought I’d be living on the station again.”

“Neither did I, but for now, you’re safer here than on Bajor.”
Kasidy rolled her eyes momentarily at hearing that one of most strategically significant outposts in the Federation, especially during the Dominion War, was safer than her home on Bajor. “Now, that’s a statement I thought I’d never hear,” she grumbled. Even after mobsters broke into her home and tried to use her, Jake, and Rebecca as hostages, the notion that Deep Space Nine was a safer venue still didn’t sound right.

“Mommy, I wanna go home,” Rebecca whined.

“I know, sweetie,” her mother sympathetically replied, “but it’ll be a little while.”

Ben clasped his daughter’s hand saying, “Think of this as a little vacation. We’ll be home soon.”

***

Jake and Nog were lagging behind Benjamin, Kasidy, and Rebecca. They both slowly stepped onto the Promenade, sharing memories of the fun times they had when they were adolescents. Those good old days still seemed fairly recent even if they had done a lot of growing up in the interceding nine years. Jake was now a freelance reporter for the Federation News Service, and Nog the chief of operations of Deep Space Nine. They had very little room for hanging on the second level of the Promenade doing nothing.

“That was our spot,” Jake recalled of the second level walkway up ahead.

“Of course, these days,” Nog retorted, “it wouldn’t reflect well on my record for us to be flicking sand peas at passing aliens.”

“We have holosuites for that. Speaking of which, I got a new program: Games Six and Seven of the 2011 World Series.”
Nog scoffed. “It’s a game humans stopped playing two hundred years ago,” he said dismissively.

“I’ll remind Kas and her brother you said that,” Jake quipped.

###

Worf trudged down a staircase from the second level of the Promenade.

He quickly paced towards the Infirmary’s main entrance, oblivious to the possibility that Doctor Bashir could not spare a few seconds or that Ezri was right behind him trying to catch up. After Rodek was beginning to regain some of his memories as Kurn, the younger son of Mogh, Worf simply wanted answers--an explanation as to how this was possible after Bashir’s claim that the memory wipe was almost irreversible. Almost irreversible, not completely irreversible. Worf knew that Kurn was likely to regain memories in bits and pieces. Yet, Kurn was starting to remember even more of his former life during the trip back to Deep Space Nine.

“Worf,” Ezri insisted, “I don’t think he can spare a few minutes right now.”

Worf continued to ignore her as he stepped through the Infirmary’s main doorway. Bashir was standing in the foyer just outside his office, conferring with Doctor Tarses and two middle-aged Bajoran women. “Doctor Bashir,” Worf barked with very little regard for human social graces. “I need to speak to you.”

“Now’s not a good time, Ambassador,” Bashir reluctantly replied without dismissing any of his colleagues. “But the chancellor’s condition has improved if…”

“That is good news,” Worf interrupted, “but I wish to speak to you about Kurn.”

That name quickly caught Bashir by surprise. He quietly dismissed Tarses and the two Bajoran women and took two slow paces closer to Worf. “Kurn?” he repeated with a quiet and professional tone. “What about him?”

“He remembers many significant details of his life before the memory purge. You said the process was irreversible.”

“I said it would be next to impossible to regain all of his memories,” Bashir clarified. “There’s a lot about humanoid brains we still don’t understand. It’s a miracle we can manipulate memories at all without telepathy…”

“Doctor…!” Worf snapped, knowing of Bashir’s tendencies to ramble. “What are the chances now that he could regain more of his memories from his previous life?”

“Memory is a very tricky thing,” Bashir explained, trying to avoid giving a concrete answer to the ambassador’s queries. “All kinds of stimuli can trigger long forgotten memories.”

“Yes, we fought against assassins side-by-side on Nimbus Three. He does know we are brothers. Other than that, he remembers various events either as part of his own life or as someone else’s memories.”

“Almost like a Trill host who hadn’t planned on being joined?” Ezri chimed in.

Worf had forgotten that Ezri had been following him, attempting to dissuade him from distracting Bashir from attending to two comatose patients. Now aware of her presence once again, Worf remembered that Jadzia was by his side when he approved the memory purge as an alternative to the ritual killing of a family member. The House of Mogh had been disgraced in response to Worf’s condemnation of the late Chancellor Gowron’s unprovoked invasion of Cardassia. Unfortunately, Worf couldn’t have known then that he, himself, would be welcomed into the House of Martok a year later.

“Perhaps,” Worf answered in response to Ezri’s inquiry.

“I can conduct a full neural workup if I can spare a few hours,” Bashir offered. “Or I can refer Kurn to any number of medical specialists with greater expertise.”

“That would be appreciated,” Worf gruffly replied. He then stepped out of the Infirmary without another word to leave the doctor to his more pressing work. It was the least he could do to make up for his earlier lack of decorum.

###

Doctor Bashir stepped into his quarters and walked straight to the replicator. He ordered a glass of cranberry juice mixed with vodka and Bolian tonic water. It was the kind of beverage he’d normally order in Quark’s in the company of some of his closest friends. This evening, though, after working furiously to keep Vaughn alive, he preferred to spend a few hours alone in his cabin. After taking a few sips of his beverage, he could suddenly sense another presence in the room. He turned around slowly to see a familiar heavyset blond-haired man in standard Section 31 attire seated on the sofa.

“Cole,” Bashir said with a feigned smile. “To what do I owe the pleasure after so long?”

“Good evening, Doctor,” Cole replied plainly. “Despite the two year hiatus, I have an assignment for you.”

"I thought I made it clear to you after the Sindorin mission that I don't work for your group anymore."

Cole smirked at how adamant Bashir sounded. Of course, Section 31 knew him better than he knew himself, as his holosuite spy adventures would attest to. "You can resign if you choose," he replied, "but no one really retires from Section 31."

"Is that so? Are we going argue semantics? Or are you going to tell me what this 'assignment' of mine is?"

"All in good time, Doctor," Cole said, taking a seat on the sofa. "Contrary to all outward appearances, the Ku'Vok'leth were not the masterminds behind what nearly took place in the Tezwan system."

"Another one of your bureau's secrets I take it. And furthermore, you wish someone like me to clean up your mess."

"The incidents involving Darcen and Loecken were most unfortunate,” Cole said in reference to two human augments who had broken away from Section 31 to carry out more dangerous ambitions. “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 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."

"When you put it that way..."

Cole was about to speak when he suddenly fell to the floor convulsing.

Bashir quickly ran to a drawer in the corner of the living area. "Bashir to Infirmary," he called out, tapping his combadge. "Medical emergency in my quarters." He removed a medical tricorder and a hypospray and began scanning Cole while injecting him with a painkiller.

Sloan had tried to take his own life in the same manner three years before. A similar painkiller prolonged Sloan's life by roughly an hour. Bashir had no such luck with Cole as the tricorder indicated all his vital functions had failed. What was the most confusing was why Cole was triggering his suicide implant while attempting to reveal a huge secret of the agency.

###

A Bajoran female nurse turned off the cortical monitor on the main biobed, while Bashir observed Cole's vital functions on a display screen. At the same time, Bashir was placing various scanning devices throughout the corpse’s head in the hope locating the device that rendered Cole brain dead and any type memory storage device. Nog scanned the body with a medical tricorder, while Girani Semna, a Bajoran woman of advanced middle age, assisted Bashir in setting up the neural interfaces.

Bashir caught a glimpse of Kira and Sisko stepping into the exam room as he activated a monitor situated to the left of the biobed. “This gentleman paid me a visit earlier this evening,” he explained. He then gestured for Girani to watch the monitor while spoke with both captains. “What I don’t understand,” he continued with a sigh of frustration, “is why he would be triggering his suicide implant when he was about to reveal important details regarding the Ku-Vok-leth and protecting secrets on Tezwan.”

“We may found what you are looking for,” Girani informed Bashir, which directed Julian’s attention back to his patient. “Something like a memory shunt implanted along the parietal lobe.”

“Can you remove it?” Bashir asked with reserved optimism.

“I don’t see how,” Nog answered as he was scanning Cole’s head with the tricorder hand sensor. “Not without damaging the memory core.”

“No surprise there,” Bashir retorted with a shake of his head. “But use the multitronic engramatic interpreter to decode whatever you can.”

Bashir then noticed Kira’s eyes widen. She hadn’t been on the station at the time Bashir linked his mind to Sloan’s in order to find a cure for the disease that afflicted the Founders. Bashir had informed her after the Dominion War was over of his little adventure, and she was both pleasantly surprised and eternally grateful for the lengths Julian had gone to in order to save Odo’s life.

“You want to fill me in, Julian?” Kira asked with a disapproving stare.

“Sloan said all of Section 31’s operations were filed away in the minds of a select group of people,” Bashir explained, “possibly by way of a bio-mechanical implant. Which means someone will come along to extract the information, similar to how the Borg remove key memory circuits from injured drones.”

“And you’re hoping to beat them to it,” Sisko surmised.

Bashir remembered seeing the same look on Sisko’s face when he told the captain of his plans to find a cure for the morphogenic virus. “Easier said than done, I know,” Bashir said with a repentant nod. “They’re not going to allow anyone access to everything hidden in there. Don’t worry. I don’t plan to go poking around in Cole’s mind the same way I did with Sloan.”

That assurance still didn’t assuage Kira’s or Sisko’s worries. The silence was interrupted when Ro entered the exam room and immediately handed Kira a padd. “The surveillance sensors detected an unusual transmission originating from inside the central core,” she reported, “roughly the same time Mister Cole here dropped dead.”

“Whoever triggered his suicide implant?” Bashir offered. “That could be our Tal Shiar operative.”

Kira remained skeptical. “Kind of sloppy of them to leave an obvious trail to find.”

“Unless they want to found,” Bashir added. “And they must know everything Cole was about to reveal. We have to find him or her, and soon.”

“Let security do its job, Julian,” Kira authoritatively insisted.

“If this person has had dealings with 31,” Bashir persisted, “he’s very good at evading conventional security sweeps.”

“Julian, you’re getting that itch again,” Sisko ominously warned, “but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Bashir knew that tone all too well. “We have to stop this operative one way or another.”

“I understand, but you’re not going in alone,” Sisko replied. “Section 31 has become your obsession ever since you learned of its existence, so you may not be entirely objective in carrying out this endeavor. You’ll need a chaperone.”

“Anyone in mind?”

###

“You can’t be serious, Ben.”

Kasidy was in the process of unpacking her duffel bag in the living area of her temporary quarters when Benjamin broke the news of his plans to participate in Bashir’s sting operation. “Filling in for Elias is one thing,” she said firmly but quietly, making sure not to wake Rebecca, who had just been put down for a nap a few minutes earlier. “But this is more dangerous.”

“More dangerous than what I’ve been through these past two weeks?” Ben replied with confusion.

“It was supposed to be just one temporary assignment,” Kasidy reminded her husband. She walked away from the sofa where she placed extra stacks of clothes recently removed from the duffel bag and walked closer to him. “What brought this on?”

“I never realized that this is still where I belong until I was back on assignment for Starfleet,” he explained. “Besides, just a few weeks ago, you were urging me to consider this new assignment.”

“I had honestly hoped it was a very brief assignment,” Kasidy ruefully confessed.

Ben gave a humble smirk, momentarily unsure how to respond to that. Upon his return from the Celestial Temple, he opted for an extended leave of absence to make up for lost time with his wife and to be the proper parent to his newborn daughter. They had never discussed in much detail when or if he would return to Starfleet and in what capacity. Now the time for such discussion had come, and he was unprepared.

“So did I,” he said. “I never truly realized how much I missed making a difference in galactic affairs until I was actually carrying out that undercover assignment.”

Kasidy sighed. Ben knew from that look that she felt he had made up his mind and that dissuading him was futile. “Is there no way I can talk you out of this?” she asked, still knowing what the answer was.

“Not really,” Ben replied with a teasing smile.

“Just promise me we’ll discuss where we go from here after this mission is finished.”

“Of course.”

Kasidy planted her lips on Ben’s. She then paced back over to the sofa to continue, leaving Ben to wonder if he would actually come back from this mission alive. Surely he would be captured if this Tal Shiar operative he and Bashir sought wanted to be found.

###

“You know this isn’t a game, Julian.”

Ezri stopped by Bashir’s quarters after he had planned on locating the Tal Shiar operative hiding on the station. He could understand Ezri having these kinds of reservations when they were a couple. They still cared for one another deeply with their friendship extending back to when the Dax symbiont was in Jadzia, and he knew that would never change. Now that they were no longer together, Ezri’s attempts at dissuasion seemed rather intrusive and presumptuous. Julian felt a niggling temptation to try to use that to his advantage. He loved to manipulate Jadzia that way when he was a young man, but now his mind was focused on the task ahead.

“Of course I know it’s not a game,” Julian plainly replied. “If what Cole said is true, the future of our alliance with the Klingon Empire is at stake. And whatever secrets they’re protecting on Tezwa could be the key.”

“The ‘if what Cole said is true’ part is what worries me the most,” Ezri shot back. “You basically did their dirty work for them in one of these operations.”

Julian flashed an embarrassed grin, remembering how Section 31 had tricked him into pushing forward a plan to place one of their operatives at the highest levels of the Romulan government to assure more cordial relations with them after the Dominion War. He brushed those thoughts aside and turned his attention back to his former lover.

“I appreciate that you still care about my well-being,” he insisted. “This is still my decision.”

“I’m not disputing that,” Ezri replied. “It’s just that these guys know how to pull your strings. Something about them appeals to you. And don’t tell me you hope to accumulate enough evidence to expose them. Time and again, they’ve shown they are three steps ahead of you at every turn.”

“Still psychoanalyzing people even after your change of profession,” Julian observed.

Ezri let out a light scoffing chuckle. “I had this discussion with Benjamin a while back,” she recalled. “Who we’ve been earlier in life is still a part of us. Being joined has reminded me of that. You may be older and wiser, yet you still have your adventurous spirit.”

“You’re right,” Julian agreed. “I took this assignment for the wealth of opportunities that were ahead even before the discovery of the wormhole. I’ve accomplished so much since then. Lately, it feels a bit mundane.”

“There’s always Starfleet Intelligence,” Ezri offered. “Or one of the upcoming expeditions to the Gamma Quadrant. You can talk to Elias about…”

Ezri paused mid-sentence, although Julian still knew she had stopped herself from disclosing something she wasn’t supposed to.

“Wait, what are you talking about?” Julian asked. He knew that Vaughn was starting feel like his assignment to DS9 was becoming mundane, but hadn’t considered that the first officer was seeking a transfer. Not that it mattered since Vaughn was now lying unconscious in the Infirmary.

“Never mind,” Ezri said with a shake of her head. “Sure I can’t change your mind?”

“No,” Julian said firmly. “Like I said, a lot is at stake.”

“So Section 31 says,” Ezri retorted. “At least Benjamin will by your side to make sure you don’t get in over your head. I still have to remind you to be careful.”

“I completely understand,” Julian said with a plaintive stare.

Ezri then stepped out of his cabin, leaving Julian to wonder if she was hoping to rekindle their romance. That would have to wait, though, until he returned from this sting operation safe and sound. It was still something to look forward to and a reason to survive his upcoming mission.
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