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Old December 13 2012, 10:10 PM   #31
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Four

USS Cerebrus; Tezwa Invasion Fleet Flagship

Admiral William Ross sat in the command chair on the bridge of the Prometheus-class USS Cerebrus. He was studying a padd containing shorthand versions of the latest communiqués from the fleet’s starship commanders. He prioritized answering those messages by rearranging each message capsule on the padd’s screen.

For some reason, he had come to find the hum of the engines rather distracting. Maybe knowing that he was embarking on a mission that was based on questionable intelligence had made the rest of his mind go blank. All Ross knew was that the Defiant had prevented an Omega detonation just outside the Tezwan system after the crew confiscated an explosive device from a renegade Klingon vessel. That was hardly conclusive evidence that Ku-Vok-leth terrorists were delivering Omega explosives to Tezwa.

Regardless of how outlandish the mission was, however, Ross was not in a position to disobey the orders of the Starfleet commander-in-chief. He could not prove that his upcoming was illegal simply because Tezwan weapons were two hundred years less advanced than those of Starfleet. All he could do was hope was some other reason to delay or even calling off the mission entirely.

“Estimated time of arrival at the Tezwan system?” the admiral inquired while staring down at the padd in his lap.

“Fourteen hours, twenty minutes,” answered Ensign Wallace, a dark-haired human woman at conn.

Ross set the padd aside next to the right armrest of his chair and took a glance at the starboard engineering station. “Commander Burkhart, a petite blonde human woman. “Engine status?” he inquired.

“Warp and impulse engines functioning at full efficiency,” Burkhart answered. “Maneuvering thrusters at optimum power.”

Ross then turned to Lieutenant Commander Reynolds, a tall and trim human male at the port tactical station. “Status of weapons and shields?” he asked the ship’s executive and tactical officer.

“Shields functioning at full effectiveness,” Reynolds replied, “as are primary dorsal and ventral phaser arrays. We should have secondary arrays up to specs in four hours.”

“Is the installation of the upgraded torpedo guidance system proceeding on schedule?” Ross asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“No complications that could possibly delay the mission?”

“None that I’m aware of on this ship or any other ships,” Reynolds answered, looking a bit confused.

“Very good,” Ross said plainly. He stood up and made a beeline for the ready room door, situated on the forward starboard portion of the bridge. “You have the bridge, Mister Reynolds.”

He saw a few of the bridge officers exchange perturbed glances. That was understandable considering he posed a few routine inquiries at the most random of moments. At least he had fourteen hours to think of a reason to call off this mission.

***

“I hope you’re not having second thoughts.”

Upon entering the ready room, Ross saw a Vulcan woman seated behind the desk. She was dressed in a black leather jumpsuit. Her black hair was in a long coiffure. Ross turned his head back towards the doorway to make sure no one was looking inside the office as the doors were sliding closed.

“Of course not,” Ross lied as he took quick paces towards the desk. “A CO can never be too careful. I’m sure you know that.”

“But posing a few mundane questions to your crew fourteen hours before the fleet reaches its destination?” L’Haan coldly responded. She stood up and circled around the desk until she stood face-to-face with Ross. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think she was taunting him.

“You’re officers and crew are all well versed in Starfleet protocols,” she continued. “They understand that this ship would not be course for Tezwa if certain precautions had not been observed. And the wording of one of your inquiries seemed to indicate you are considering some pretext to back out of this endeavor. ‘No complications that would delay the mission’? That could easily be construed as someone searching for a means of sabotaging this mission.”

“A mission ordered on the basis of flawed logic,” Ross sternly shot back. “We have no conclusive proof that Klingon terrorists are supplying Omega explosives to Tezwa. And more to the point, we’re technologically superior to the Tezwans by two centuries. They are no threat to us.”

“You seem so vehemently opposed to this operation,” L’Haan retorted, maintaining a calm demeanor in the face of Ross’s festering anger. “Instead of choosing to back out and file a formal protest, you are an active participant. And why? Because your past collusions with us would be revealed. And that wouldn’t just tarnish your distinguished reputation. Others at the highest levels of Starfleet and the Federation would be exposed in a black propaganda conspiracy. The population would lose confidence in its leaders. The history of your world is sufficient reminder of how dangerous that can be.”

“You would let others take the fall while you get off Scot free?”

“You knew that going in. It is how Section 31 has managed to survive for the last two-hundred years. The Federation’s image is protected while the actions of Matthew Dougherty, Erik Pressman and Lance Cartwright are viewed as those taken by a few misguided officers. For the good of the Federation, however, you need to make sure that William Ross is not one more disgraced admiral.”

L’Haan then blithely sauntered towards the secondary entrance to the ready room, which opened onto a corridor behind the bridge. She stepped out once the doors parted as if she belonged there and didn’t look back. The doors then closed, leaving Ross to contemplate the possible consequences. He could either go down in history as the man who forever tarnished the Federation’s image or as one more corrupt Starfleet admiral. And all because he aided Section 31’s extralegal activities in the name of acting on the best interest of the Federation.

###

Sisko and Bashir walked through a corridor in the station’s central core. They were both scanning the area with tricorders hoping to get closer to the origin of the transmission that triggered Cole’s suicide implant. It was certainly a long shot when considering that whoever sent the signal could’ve already left the station. And even if he or she were still on the station, this operative was highly skilled at moving about stealthily in an enemy stronghold. Finding out what this operative knew was still of great importance in order to learn what secrets Section 31 and President Zife were protecting on Tezwa in order to prevent an unprovoked invasion.

Sisko was now wishing he had not volunteered for a possibly foolhardy operation. Then he remembered what he told Kasidy: that he missed making a difference in galactic affairs. This particular mission, he realized, was more than that. It was a chance to prevent an act that was antithetical to Federation principles. There was no turning back now as he and Bashir neared the signal origin.

“Sisko to security,” Sisko said with a tap of his combadge. “Confirm this section as the general location of the transmissions.”

“Confirmed,” Escobar responded. “Central core, level thirty-six, section twenty-nine.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant, We’re now going dark. Doctor?” Both Sisko and Bashir tapped their combadges to shut off the badges’ transceiver signal in the hope of taking their target by surprise.

Bashir looked up from his tricorder when chirping from the scanner became a long and sustained high-pitched whine. “The emissions are getting stronger,” he reported. “Looks like our operative is not that far away.”

“Curious that he’s just waiting around for us to apprehend him,” Sisko remarked.

“Down this corridor,” Bashir said, indicating the corridor to their left. Both men drew their phasers and began walking in slow paces.

“What do you hope to accomplish with this little expedition?” Sisko casually inquired.

“Sir?” Bashir asked with slightly feigned ignorance.

“You’re hoping to accumulate information on Section 31,” Sisko persisted, “in order to bring them down. Has it occurred to you that they have ways of flushing out infiltrators? You are playing a dangerous game, Julian.”

“Someone still has to try,” Bashir insisted, diverting his gaze away from Sisko. “That an organization exists within the Federation is appalling enough. I thought humanity had overcome the need for this kind of cloak and dagger maneuvering. And then to find out they tried to wipe out an entire race…”

“And that was my point back in the Infirmary. Section 31 is your obsession. Consider how may lives were saved by using a bargaining chip to encourage the Founders to surrender.”

Bashir froze and flashed a cold stare at Sisko. “You’re defending such an abomination?” he asked.

“Absolutely not!” Sisko spat. In that moment, he was reminded of some of his own less than reputable actions during the Dominion War. If Bashir knew about Sisko’s role in bringing the Romulans into the conflict, he’d get even more of an earful. Bashir was almost lecturing Admiral Ross, he knew, after he was outsmarted by Section 31. “It was just one example of how many of us had to bend the rules during the war--myself included.”

“Yes,” Bashir mildly agreed, “going along with Keevan’s plan to have his own men slaughtered.”

“That was a matter of our survival. That wasn’t the only regrettable decision I had to make. I try to live with it knowing that we could’ve lost the war if not for those hard choices.”

Bashir stared long and hard into Sisko’s eyes, hoping to glean something from his former captain. Sisko simply stared just as long and intently while wondering if Bashir had learned anything from four genetically enhanced misfits, who had an uncanny ability to come to conclusions about another person by reading micro-expressions.

“You put me up to infiltrating Section 31. But you knew about them before my first encounter with Sloan…”

Sisko swung his head away from Bashir and back down the corridor. As they both approached a wide double-door. “Do not presume to interrogate me, Doctor,” he huffed. “You may be genetically enhanced and have a more idealistic sense of right and wrong in the universe. But that does not mean you know better than the rest of us.”

Bashir took a moment to absorb what he was just told while taking a glance at his tricorder. “Behind this door,” he said.

To their surprise, the doors quickly parted when Sisko pressed the button to open it. Inside was a vacant storage bay. The only item inside it was an automated transmitter in the center of the room. They both holstered their tricorders and double-checked the settings on their phasers.

They both took slow steps towards the compact cylindrical device with a blinking red light at the top. They made a quick visual survey of the device to find some central control mechanism. At the same time, Sisko and Bashir looked around the room to see if anyone was trying to sneak up on them.

Sisko looked up the ceiling vent to see if anyone was hiding there. He saw no one. In a split second, the blinking light flashed brightly and sent both him and Bashir to deck, unconscious.

The ceiling vent popped open and a humanoid figure fell through the opening. A youthful looking Romulan landed on his feet. He pushed a control on the back of the transmitter, and the blinking stopped. Afterward, he took the combadges off of Sisko’s and Bashir’s uniforms. He then removed a communication device from his belt. He beamed away with the two Starfleet officers and the transmitter.

***

An alarm chirped on the main Ops console, catching Lieutenant Dax’s attention. She keyed a command sequence on a panel to acknowledge the alarm and signal a departing runabout. “Ops to runabout Montana,” she said. “What’s your status?”

“We’ve completed prelaunch,” answered Lieutenant Tenmei, “and are ready for departure on your signal.”

“You’re cleared for departure then,” Dax answered. “Just make sure to stay within a range of fifty-thousand kilometers to avoid detection.”

“We’ve established locks on to both their sub-dermal transponders,” Ro added. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Good luck then.” Dax then closed the communication channel and quietly intoned, “Come home safely, guys.” In that moment, she was uncertain as to whether she was worried more for Benjamin or Julian, or for both of them equally. After quickly contemplating that question, Dax noticed the padd she was planning on delivering to the captain. Now was as a good a time as any.

***

Ezri sprinted up the stairs towards the captain’s office and rang the doorbell.

Kira was seated behind the desk, and she pushed a button to admit Ezri. Ezri took slow paces towards the desk and placed the padd on the desk. She felt the words on the tip of her tongue, but she could not say them. The insecure young woman she was right after the joining was seemingly burrowing to the surface, which seemed strange considering she did feel nearly as apprehensive when she took over the Defiant‘s bridge when its captain was killed two years earlier.

“What’s this?” Kira curiously wondered, taking a quick glance at the padd.

Ezri was briefly relieved that Kira hadn’t caught any of the text on the padd’s screen. “It’s my request to be considered for the first officer position,” she said plainly without putting much thought into what she was saying.

Kira was staring at the padd, but then set it gently on the desk when Ezri gave the shorthand version of its contents. She looked at Ezri with a confused expression. “Ezri,” she said, “Julian says that Elias will pull through.”

Kira’s tone almost sounded morbid to Ezri, possibly because she was requesting to fill the position held by a man who was presently comatose. “I know,” Ezri said with slight hesitation. “It’s just…” She suddenly could not find the words to explain her reason for believing that position would soon become vacant. Kira was becoming more confused; leading Ezri to believe Kira was not aware that Vaughn was considering requesting a transfer. “You mean he didn’t tell you yet?”
Kira stood up and let out a bewildered chuckle. “Tell me what?” she asked with a slightly amused grin.

“I had assumed he already told you that he was thinking about putting in for a transfer,” Ezri calmly explained. “He mentioned it in passing a few times, but I wasn’t sure how serious he was about it.”

“I’ll just keep this on file,” Kira replied awkwardly sliding the padd to the desk. “I won’t tell him if you don’t.”

“Of course,” Ezri said with an embarrassed grin.

She stepped out of the office and headed back for the main Ops console, continuing to feel embarrassed she brought up something that was supposed to be a well-kept secret until there was a level of certainty. At the same time, Ezri was relieved that she managed to save face for all people involved.

Maybe she was becoming too obsessed with career advancement, as Nerys and Worf had suggested she was. Serving as Deep Space Nine’s second-in-command would certainly be a major accomplishment at such a young age. Perhaps what had just taken place in the office was a reminder that her life shouldn’t have to revolve around her work.

###

The morgue adjacent to the Infirmary was dark.

A humanoid figure quietly skulked across the room towards one of the cubicles. He placed the scanning device in his gloved hand over the keypad to override the lockout restricting access to authorized personnel. The door to the cubicle slanted into a horizontal position and a slab slid outward. The dead body of Cole was on it.

The humanoid figure rolled the corpse over so that it would be lying face down and placed a tiny circular disk shaped device on the back of the neck. He then placed an uplink device at the end of his scanner and placed the tip on the relay device drawing implanted data from the brainstem.

After a few minutes, the figure dismantled the data extraction device and placed the components in his belt. He then rolled the corpse back on its back and closed the cubicle. He was about to signal for transport out of the morgue when the cubicle to his left opened.

“Computer, erect a level ten dampening field around the morgue.”

Jonas Escobar was lying in wait inside the cubicle. He sat up and shined a flashlight on the human Section 31 operative. The cubicle to the right of the one housing Cole then opened. Nog was inside. He walked towards the operative and removed the components of his data extraction device from the man’s belt.
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Old December 19 2012, 12:25 AM   #32
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Five

Sisko and Bashir were both drifting in and out of consciousness. Their arms and legs were chained to a wall. Bashir’s superior mental capacities were better able to resist the sedatives in his bloodstream.

Sisko appeared delirious while mumbling incoherently. Julian felt an instinctive need to attend to his former commanding officer, but was powerless to better appraise his condition. In his barely lucid state, he was also berating himself for letting his obsession with Section 31 get the best of him yet again. And now he and Benjamin were in the custody of a Romulan agent. Even knowing that Ro and Tenmei were tailing them was no guarantee that either of them would get out alive. He could not know with any certainty if he would see Ezri again or if Benjamin would get to be with his family again.

He heard voices on the other side of the door even through a metal alloy that was known for being soundproof. Bashir could not make out what the voices were saying. Even as he was falling out of consciousness once again, he could only make out two distinct voices.

***

“I managed to escape the space station, as well as apprehend two Starfleet operatives in the process.”
Rennek hovered over a desk monitor reporting his status to Commander Suran. Even though he kept his prisoners sedated, he repeatedly peered back at the door to the holding room hoping that they could not overhear anything. “I had hoped that by giving away my position,” he continued. “I could lure in a few Intelligence agents and glean from them how much they know of our plans to relay incriminating information to the Klingon High Council.”

“It was a risky move on your part that could have resulted in your capture,” Suran quietly reminded him. “Nonetheless, you need to know how much they know about what you’ve learned from your recon in the Tezwan system. And that end was worth that calculated risk. Use any means at your disposal to find out how much these operatives know of our plans and what they plan to do to stop us.”

“Of course, sir,” Rennek said with another nervous peek at the door. He quickly cut the transmission without a look at the screen and took quick paces towards the holding room entrance.

Rennek stepped into the holding room and used a hypospray to rouse the two human prisoners. He was pleasantly surprised that they quickly awoke, based on what he had heard about humans’ low tolerance for sedatives used by Tal Shiar operatives. The doctor, he knew, had undergone genetic enhancements that made him better able to handle such potent medications. The human captain, on the other hand, should not have regained consciousness so quickly.

“I had expected a team of Starfleet security officers to close in on my location,” he gleefully proclaimed. “But what would they know of any clandestine operations meant to catch us in the act of supplying classified technology to Klingon separatists and then do damage control once the Tal Shiar had double-crossed your Section 31?”

Bashir shook his head coyly. “I am just as in the dark about this as you are.”

“Do not play dumb with me, Doctor,” Rennek persisted. “I am rather pleased, though, that Cole was able to persuade his rather reluctant recruit.”

Bashir continued looking dumfounded, but Rennek was unconvinced of his feigned ignorance. “I know who you are, Julian Subatoi Bashir. I looked up your intelligence file after the curious chain of events that led to the late Chairman Koval’s elevation to the Continuing Committee. Despite your claims to despise Section 31’s mandate, you have a certain fascination with playing the role of spy.”

“I am flattered I am so well known in the Romulan intelligence community,” Bashir flatly quipped.

“We make it our business to know all there is to know about high profile Starfleet personnel.”

The Romulan took a few paces across the room and back towards his prisoners. This time he was face-to-face with Sisko. “Especially you: Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko,” he went on, pointing at Sisko’s collar to demonstrate his knowledge of Starfleet rank insignia, “one of Starfleet’s greatest tactical minds during the war with the Dominion and living proof that the Federation is not as naïve as many in the Tal Shiar believe it to be.”

“I’m equally flattered,” Sisko begrudgingly replied. “But I’m also certain you didn’t capture us just to express your admiration of us.”

Rennek grinned, having been reminded of how humans tended to use humor in these kinds of tense situations. He knew it was only an act, and that these two humans would break sooner or later. He was still certain receiving the information he sought was only a matter of time. “Someone of your rank and reputation isn’t foolish enough to fall for the trap I had laid so easily. That means someone is following me.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” Sisko effortlessly lied.

Rennek leaned in towards Sisko and squeezed his chin. “You would save yourself a lot of trouble, Captain,” he sneered, “if you just tell me exactly how my pursuers can see my ship through the cloak”--he shoved Sisko’s head against the wall and turned his cold stare towards Bashir--“as well as what Cole had told you, Doctor, before his unfortunate demise.”

“Then we can’t really help you,” Bashir fearlessly insisted.

Rennek scoffed, and then paced back and forth in front of his prisoners. “You say that now,” he said with a glance at Sisko. Then looking back at Bashir, he added, “Do not assume you are immune to our mental probes because of your genetic enhancements, Doctor. We’ve made a few improvements.”


USS Cerebrus

Admiral Ross could feel the tension level on the bridge rising slowly. The ship was at yellow alert. The klaxons flashed brightly, and all the bridge officers were eerily quiet as they attended to their stations.

An alert chirped at the conn, catching the attention of Ensign Wallace and drawing everyone else’s attention to the viewscreen. “Entering the Tezwan system, sir,” she announced.

Ross quietly stood up from the command chair. He hesitated to give the standard order when a starship entered a solar system knowing there was no turning back once he did. The unmanned sensor platforms along the outer reaches of the system already detected the fleet. Within a few seconds, the Tezwan perimeter sensors would alert military command of the fleet’s approach towards the planet. One way or another, they would soon go on the defensive by dispatching one of their interceptors.

“Slow to half impulse,” Ross reluctantly ordered. “Put us on a heading of three-three-six mark one-one-eight. Alert all ships to set their assigned attack vector.”

“Aye, sir,” replied a Deltan female communications officer.
Lieutenant Commander Reynolds from a flashing indicator on his tactical display. “Picking up two…no, three ships on approach,” he reported.

“Have they locked weapons on us?” Ross inquired, showing no indications of uncertainty about the orders he would soon issue.

“No, sir,” the tactical officer tersely answered. “Should we raise shields and charge weapons?”

“Not yet. Move to intercept, helm.”

“They’re hailing us,” the communications officer called.

“On audio,” said Ross.

A masculine voice piped through the speakers. Starfleet vessel: what is your business in this system?”

“Maintain radio silence and stay on our current course,” Ross calmly ordered.

Repeat, state your business here. If you do not respond, we will assume you are a hostile vessel and open fire.”

“They’re locking weapons,” Reynolds grimly announced.

“Raise shields,” Ross answered. “Load all phaser banks and stand by on quantum torpedoes.”

Starfleet vessel: this is your final warning,” the Tezwan captain persisted. “Come to a complete stop or we will open fire.”

Ross gave a gesture to direct the communications officer to cut the transmission, and then turned his attention back to Reynolds. “Any subspace explosives on board any of the three ships?”

“None, sir,” Reynolds said with a shake of his head. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any.”

Ross gave a disapproving scoff. Everything about this whole he had embarked upon seemed wrong from the beginning. Being blackmailed by Section 31 into participating was bad enough. And for all he knew, Reynolds could be one of their informants. Surely they had to have at least informant on board, but Reynolds remarks served as a reminder that he could have a mutiny on his hands should he decide to call off this fraudulent mission.

“Save any speculation for later, Commander,” Ross snapped. “Stay on our course, helm. What’s the standard weapons arsenal of a Tezwan interceptor?”

“Four phase cannons,” Reynolds plainly stated, “two merculite rocket launchers, class-one defensive shielding. We could take each of them out in one shot.” And as if on cue, the bridge rocked back forth as the ship was taking weapons fire. “They’ve opened fire on us,” he needlessly proclaimed. “Locking all weapons.”

“Hold for my order.”

“They’re targeting us with another volley, sir. Do I return fire?”

The bridge rocked once again, but not hard enough to send anyone crashing to the deck. Ross did momentarily lose his balance and fall gently into the command chair. “Shield status?” he inquired while calling up a status display on the panel on the chair’s right armrest.

“Minimal damage to forward shields,” Reynolds replied. “They just absorbed the explosive force.”

Ross stood back up and took quick paces towards the forward conn and ops consoles. “Helm, bring us about,” he ordered.

“Sir?” Reynolds gasped. He ascended from his chair and slowly approached the admiral.

“Do it,” Ross reiterated to Wallace. Then to Reynolds, he added, “I’m not going to inflict damage on ships in no position to defend themselves against us. Alert all ships, we’re aborting the mission. Repeat, we’re aborting the mission.”

“Aye, sir,” the Deltan communications officer quickly responded.

“What’s going on, sir?” Reynolds demanded. “We were told the Tezwan were in possession of subspace weapons in violation of the Khitomer Accords. Why, then, are we aborting?”

Maybe he’s just as in the dark as the rest of crew or maybe that’s just an act. Ross then gave Reynolds a firm stare. “Because they don’t have any such weapons,” the admiral adamantly proclaimed. “If they did, they most likely would have used them in this confrontation.”

Ross then walked along the port side of the bridge in order to address the entire bridge crew when making a stunning a revelation. “The President had a sought pretext to invade Tezwa to protect certain secrets that I am not inclined to specify at this time,” he continued. “I waited until the last possible second to call off this invasion so that all of you could see firsthand that the Tezwan do not pose any military threat to us whatsoever. Had we continued, we would be carrying out illegal orders.”

Ross stood in front of the viewscreen and watched as a few of his officers exchanged befuddled stares waiting, as if certain, for Commander Reynolds to countermand his order.

He didn’t. And no one else did.

“Lay in a reciprocal course for Starbase 157. Alert all ships to do the same.”

Giving that order felt very easy. The biggest challenge would be how to respond to Section 31 carrying its threat to reveal his past involvement in their activities.


Office of the Federation Council President

“You assured me that Ross would be willing to carry out this mission with very few questions.”

President Min Zife angrily pounded on his desk upon hearing what had taken place at Tezwa from his chief of staff.

Koll Azernal maintained a cool demeanor in spite of Zife’s rage. “I see now that may have been an error in judgment,” he replied with a rueful nod.

Zife scoffed, lurched out of his chair, and stared out the window at the Paris skyline. “Now that’s an understatement,” he sneered. “Recall the ships. It was my hope we would have the element of surprise on my side. If we continue with the invasion now, it will only attract too much unwanted attention.”

Azernal took slow steps closer to the desk “Is that a good idea, sir?” he asked while taking slow steps closer to the desk. “Prime Minister Kinchawn will be demanding answers.”

Zife rolled his eyes as he heard a statement of the obvious. “Yes, he will,” he calmly agreed. “So I want you to draft a formal response immediately. Inform him that those ships were conducting unauthorized reconnaissance of the system while acting on inaccurate intelligence reports. It was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“I will get on it immediately, sir,” Azernal obligingly responded.

“If there’s nothing else, you’re dismissed, Koll.”

“Yes, sir.”

Zife watched Azernal, through a reflection in the window, saunter out of the office. He continued staring out at the cityscape contemplating where it all went wrong. This problem certainly arose when he had placed advanced weapons on the home planet of a newly space-faring race. It seemed like a shrewd move hiding nadion pulse cannon on one of the last planets the Dominion would suspect in the event the war took a turn for the worse. The biggest problems arose when his efforts to remove the weapons proved futile, hence necessitating this complex operation. Now that it was taking shape, almost anything that could conceivably go wrong was going wrong.

He took a quick glance at the meeting area and saw a humanoid figure occupying one of the chairs. He quickly paced towards the chair, situated perpendicular to two sofas and facing a coffee table. He stepped closer and saw her--the Vulcan woman who often visited Azernal.

“I knew you didn’t have it in you to maintain this façade,” she remarked with a calm veneer.

“You gave me your assurances as well, L’Haan,” Zife said with subdued irritation in his voice. “You told me that Admiral Ross was the perfect choice to lead this mission.”

“And we had assumed he would be properly motivated by the possibility of his extralegal activities becoming public knowledge,” L’Haan attempted to explain, unfazed by Zife’s emotional state, “from circumstances that led to Chairman Koval’s elevation to the Continuing Committee to endorsing the use of fraudulent evidence that brought the Romulans to our side in the Dominion War.”

Zife gave an annoyed grunt, not wanting to be reminded of why Section 31 had recommended Ross for this mission. “A grave miscalculation on your part,” he barked, wagging his forefinger in L’Haan’s direction.

“I’d suggest watching your tone, Mister President,” L’Haan coldly warned.

Zife thought that the Vulcan Section 31 agent’s emphasis on that particular moniker was meant as a taunt, as if she could remove him from office without any impediments. He couldn’t blame her if she exercised whatever means she had at her disposal considering what had gone wrong. Her compatriots were just as accountable, but L’Haan was too arrogant to admit that.

“We can just as easily disclose your role in this as well,” L’Haan continued. “Of course, you were right to recall the ships. Continuing a preemptive invasion after Ross chose to subvert your orders would raise too many questions. Publicly, Kinchawn will accept your explanation, but privately, he’ll want your head and those of the officers conducting ‘unauthorized reconnaissance.’ And that means we can no longer afford any more of this administration’s failures. Reducing the fallout is now exclusively Section 31’s responsibility. We can no longer afford any more of this administration’s failures.”

“You wouldn’t…” Zife started to say. He looked away from her for a brief moment, but he looked back in her direction, she was gone. He sighed in disgust as his festering anger burrowed to the surface. He lifted a lamp off its stand and threw it across the office.

###

Luther Sloan approached a holographic imaging chamber, from which L’Haan exited. She was allowing an isomorphic projection of herself to appear in the Palais. Sloan was almost certain her meeting with the President even though she almost always had the same expression on her face. One of her eyebrows, however, twitched when she saw Sloan approach her as she exited the imaging chamber.

“I’ve just gotten a message from the acting director of Division Three,” Sloan informed his fellow director. “The sentry dispatched to extract sensitive data from Director Cole’s cortical implants has failed to report back. Either he was also captured, in which case his suicide implant was also triggered, or…”

“Or Doctor Bashir has learned of a way to neutralize that advantage,” L’Haan finished. “In that case, he is being held for questioning.”

The tone of her voice seemed to indicate that she was gloating over his failed attempts to recruit Bashir into the Bureau. He put that thought aside and continued to address the issue presently at hand. “Sentries don’t break that easily,” he assured her. “He won’t reveal any pertinent information.”

“That is a rather bold assumption considering the possible alternative scenario I had just presented. We have to make absolutely certain he does not break. Recent events at Tezwa are damaging enough. If the crew of Deep Space Nine were to learn the real reason this whole affair was staged, there are no guarantees regarding what they will do with that information. It would send ripples throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants and completely derail all that we have sought to accomplish.”

“Most likely, everything has been derailed already,” Sloan offered with a vague sense of what her next move was. “What are you suggesting?”

“Going through more official channels,” L’Haan plainly replied, “while your division continues to monitor the situation on Earth and take the necessary steps in the event that everything already has been derailed.”
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Old December 19 2012, 09:05 PM   #33
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Six

Worf entered his brother’s guest quarters, not certain whether he would answer to Kurn or Rodek. Since he knew they were brothers, he would probably identify himself as Kurn. On the other hand, his memories as Kurn were very fragmented. And he still identified himself as the weapons officer of the Gorkon.

Doctor Girani and two other medical personnel were examining Kurn. Girani scanned him with a medical tricorder while adjusting monitoring devices on Kurn’s forehead. The two other medics--a human male doctor and a Bajoran female nurse--were working at portable computer consoles to analyze the readings that appeared on their screens. Worf patiently waited for doctors and nurse to finish the exam, and once it was, he requested that they step outside while he had a private moment with his brother.

“How much longer before I can return to my duties?” Kurn asked.

Worf recognized Kurn’s raspy voice all too well, as well as his often grumpy demeanor. If people thought Worf was seemingly always brooding, Worf knew that was more often the case with his brother. “Captain Klag has authorized a leave of absence for as long as the Gorkon is at the station undergoing repairs,” the ambassador explained.

Kurn scoffed, suggesting to Worf, he was not comfortable with being on a leave he did not request. “I have been examined by Starfleet doctors for three hours,” he huffed. “All these tests they’ve been running while I have to sit still during that time; it’s all very disconcerting.”

Worf nodded in agreement, but was careful not to offer sympathy, a human trait Kurn was not too fond of. “How much of your old life do you remember?” he blithely inquired.

“‘My old life’?” Kurn dismissively repeated. “I do know of our family history and that our father was one of the unfortunate casualties of the treachery at Khitomer and that we fought side-by-side against the House of Duras to restore our family honor. Most of these new memories still seem disjointed, as if they are my own but still seeing through the mind of another person. The doctors tell me I may experience more of these memory flashes and that integrating these new memories will be a difficult process. But who am I now, Worf? What do I do with my life now? Do I continue serving on the Gorkon or do I once again become your brother?”

“What you decide in the next days is entirely up to you.”

Kurn grunted and quickly stood up. He took a few steps closer to Worf and looked at him straight in both eyes. “You should have killed me, Worf,” he hissed, “as you once tried before! I could’ve been among the honored dead in Sto-Vo-Kor. But instead you chose to erase my memory and let me live a lie for the rest of my natural life.”

“You approved the procedure,” Worf calmly reminded his brother, remembering Bashir’s adamant disclaimer that Kurn had to approve of a memory wipe before going through with it.

“I was told it would be permanent; that I would likely never regain any of those erased memories. I knew that regaining some of my memories of this other life might happen. But what do I do now that it has actually happened?”

Worf was about to speak, but was at a loss for words. That was because the person who had to approve what he was about to suggest was not yet conscious.

###

Jonas Escobar paced back and forth in front of the holding cell where the Section 31 sentry was being detained. Over the last hour, Escobar had been unable to get any information out of the youthful blond haired man, even his name. He had refused to answer what he was doing in the morgue or what information he had extracted from Cole’s cortical implant, in fact remaining completely silent through the entire interrogation session.

Escobar sauntered over to Nog, who was seated at the table in center of the cellblock, attempting to decrypt the data storage device the sentry had used. The engineer had been applying various tools to the device while it was attached to several cords connecting the device to a miniature computer console. “Any luck?” Escobar asked him.

“No real progress yet,” Nog said with a frustrated sigh. “I break one level of encryptions and the next one becomes harder to break. One thing we can be sure of is that all the data on it is still intact.”

“Well, the captain wants us to keep at it,” Escobar reminded him. “Hopefully, there’ll eventually be some way to break through.”

“Highly unlikely,” the sentry chimed in. “You don’t think others have tried what you’re attempting? Many have attempted to expose us to the outside world. All of them have failed because we’re always three steps ahead of them.”

Escobar scoffed, both annoyed and amused that his detainee chose to speak now. “Hey, shut up!” he snapped at the prisoner.

“‘Shut up’?” the sentry repeated. “Just a few moments ago, you were bombarding me with questions. And now you want me to shut up? Make up your mind.”

“I’ll keep trying,” Nog said without acknowledging the prisoner, “but it seems hopeless. We can’t decrypt the storage device and we won’t get anything out of him.”

“It’s all we can do to prevent a war,” Escobar reiterated.

“That still doesn’t seem possible,” the sentry taunted. “Maybe you should give up.”

Escobar rolled his eyes while continuing not to look in the direction of the incarcerated man’s cell. “Not on your life,” he said as he headed for the office.

###

Captain Kira and Lieutenant Dax were reviewing status reports when a communications chime sounded on the main Ops console. Dax set the padd in her hands aside to see who was hailing. Kira perched the padd she studying on the edge of the console, waiting to hear from Ezri who was calling.

“Captain, incoming message from Starbase 375,” Dax reported.

“That’s where Admiral Ross is stationed,” Kira remarked. “Isn’t he on the Cerebrus leading the invasion fleet at Tezwa?”

“He was,” Dax confirmed, “but there’s been no word on what’s happened there.” She took a quick glance back at the hailing indicator on her panel and added, “This hail is being relayed from the Starship Victory.”

“Admiral T’Nera’s transport? Why could she be calling?”

“Probably not a holiday greeting,” Dax offered, joking about how little the Vulcan deputy chief of Starfleet Intelligence socialized with colleagues.

“Put it on screen,” Kira commanded.

The image of a Vulcan woman dressed in a Starfleet admiral’s uniform appeared on the main viewscreen. Her hair was longer than those of most Vulcans, enough to cover her pointed ears. Her apathetic demeanor, the impassive tone in which she spoke, and her slanted eyebrows were sufficient clues, though to anyone who knew of her that she was Vulcan.

“Admiral, this is a pleasant surprise,” Kira continued, trying not to look worried that someone in Starfleet Command learned of her crews’ efforts to find out some of Section 31’s well-guarded secrets.

“Captain Kira,” the admiral said, rather pointedly, “what is your status?”

“Everything’s status quo right now. We’re just tying up a few loose ends regarding the Defiant’s most recent mission. We also have the Sword of Kahless and Gorkon undergoing repairs. Chancellor Martok and Commander Vaughn remain in critical condition, but both should make a full recovery. The details are outlined in Doctor Bashir’s reports to Starfleet Medical and the Klingon Ministry of Health.”

“That is very good news,” T’Nera indifferently answered. “Meanwhile, it has come to my attention that someone on your station has been attempting to break into classified Starfleet Intelligence files.”

Kira shot a somewhat nonplussed glance at Dax, who also appeared equally baffled. “I was not aware of this,” she unflinchingly declared.

“After your recent communiqué with the President,” the admiral replied, “he and the Joint Chiefs had concerns that you and your staff would attempt to investigate involvement of certain ‘rogue elements’ within the Federation in recent events at Tezwa and Nimbus Three. We will have to determine whether or not you or anyone on your crew authorized such an investigation. However, it is now my duty to inform you that you and your crew are under orders not to engage in any such investigation.”

The timing of that directive seems rather convenient, Kira mused. She continued, however, trying not to give off any hints of guilt such as dilated pupils or holding her mouth open agape. “For what reason?” she curiously inquired.

“I have none to give you, nor do I have any intention of divulging one. I am simply acting on orders from the Joint Chiefs. Furthermore, I will be arriving at the station within three hours to investigate this recent breach of security. It is in your own best interests to cooperate, Captain.”

Kira and Dax quickly exchanged confused glances, both of them similarly curious as to what T’Nera’s investigation would involve and whether they and the rest of their crew would be implicated in illegal activities. “Of course,” Kira deferently agreed. “If you don’t mind my asking, where is Admiral Ross?”

“Admiral Ross is in custody pending court martial. Rather than go forward with the invasion, he has submitted himself for arrest for his role in recent extralegal affairs. See you in three hours, Captain.”

The transmission quickly ended, leaving Kira to mull over what sorts of “extralegal affairs” had seriously jeopardized one of Starfleet’s most decorated Dominion War tacticians. Were she not Vulcan, T’Nera’s last words before signing could have construed as a taunt that other distinguished war heroes would soon meet their downfalls should they refuse to cooperate with the upcoming investigation.
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Old December 20 2012, 07:32 PM   #34
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Note: Just in case the end of Chapter 26 wasn't clear, L'Haan and T'Nera are the same person.


Chapter Twenty-Seven

“How much does she know?” Nog wondered.

“And does she think one of us is responsible for this ‘security breach’?” Escobar added as he trailed behind Nog as they sauntered to the main Ops console.

Kira momentarily grinned. They could have convinced her right there that she and her crew were not poking around in things they shouldn’t. Convincing a Vulcan admiral, though, was a whole different matter. “The admiral was very crafty in not revealing how much she knew,” she explained to them. “She just said that someone on the station was attempting to break into classified SI files.”

“Could this have to do with the man we captured in the morgue?” asked Escobar.

“It’s possible,” Dax plainly answered, “which would suggest someone at the highest levels of Starfleet is determined to cover something up.”

“Or it could be something unrelated,” Kira offered. “In the meantime, you are all under orders to cooperate with T’Nera’s investigation. Give the standard replies to all questions, but don’t volunteer any information. The station will be on lockdown, but her staff will not interfere with rest of the day-to-day operations of the station, including the Infirmary. So let’s try to get through this as best we can.”

***

T’Nera was seated behind the desk in the captain’s office, studiously reviewing the recent station logs. Her two aides--a human male and an Andorian male--were standing behind her, studying padds looking for any pertinent information in the station’s databases. Kira, Dax, Nog, and Escobar stood silently to the right of the desk with a security guard hovering behind each of them. They all remained calm and collected even as they knew that, at any moment, incriminating evidence could be uncovered.

Kira had hoped she had falsified enough of the logs to cover her crew’s activities. She had been in this situation many times before as a resistance fighter. She knew Escobar had similar experiences in the Maquis. Ezri and Nog, on the other hand, had very little experience in covert operations. So far, though, they had not given off any tells that could be construed as guilt.

T’Nera accepted a padd from a human enlisted man, who entered the office from Ops. “Thank you, Yeoman,” she said quietly. She stared at the padd for a few moments until she twitched an eyebrow.

“It would seem that the gentleman being detained in security was apprehended in your morgue,” she continued. “Your reports indicate that he was attempting to extract information from a biomechanical storage device implanted in this man.” She showed Kira the padd, which depicted a photograph of Cole. “You wouldn’t happen to know who he is?”

“Admiral,” Kira replied, “you said you would not interfere with the medical department’s activities.”

“That was before I became aware that your chief medical is conspicuously absent. So are your science officer and chief of security. Would any of you happen to know of their whereabouts?”

“No, sir,” Kira confidently stated.

“Curious,” T’Nera remarked. “I assume you don’t know anything about the man in your brig either?”

“He may have been responsible one of the recent security breaches,” Kira nonchalantly answered.

T’Nera stared pensively at Kira, and then slowly turned her gaze towards her human aide. “Have the body moved to morgue on the Victory,” she instructed, “and the man being detained in security to one of our detention cells.”

“Sir, we have no such orders,” the aide protested.

“I am awaiting official approval from the C-in-C. In the meantime, you are to carry out my orders. And dispatch all available ships in the immediate vicinity to locate the missing officers.”

The aide nodded and headed for the main entrance.

As he stepped out of the office, T’Nera turned her attention back to Kira. “Your station has experienced quite a lot of ‘recent security breaches’,” she observed. “Makes one think security is not doing its job properly. Do you not consider it questionable judgment, Captain, to have two former members of the Maquis at the top of your security department?”

Escobar flashed an angry stare at the admiral, but Kira raised a hand. “With all due respect, sir,” she offered, “I’m given to understand Intelligence handpicked Lieutenant Ro for an undercover mission inside the Maquis.”

“A regrettable decision on my part. But that is not the issue right now. Since I cannot get straight answers out of any of you, the four of you are confined to quarters for the duration of this investigation.”

Kira and the three officers were then slowly escorted out of the office by their respective guards. Never before had Kira felt so defeated. And she had faced many fair shares of obstacles during the Occupation, while the station was under Dominion control, and other setbacks during that war. Now, she and her senior staff were facing the prospect of a court martial in an effort to combat corruption at the highest levels of Starfleet and the Federation.

Their only hope now was that Sisko and Bashir could uncover any information from the Tal Shiar operative they were pursuing.

###

Rennek turned up the intensity on the memory probes on Bashir’s temple. He bobbed his head and forth, unable to resist the pain that resulted from the sonic pulses piercing through his skull. He gritted his teeth, trying to muffle the expressions of physical pain as the pulses kept altering in pitch and frequency.

Bashir considered his ability to resist the effects of Romulan memory probes a point of pride after Tal Shiar chairman Koval was unable to glean any information from him. It was one more thing that made him feel superior to the rest of humanity. Sisko made a good point, though, in saying he did not know better than everyone else. Ever since his genetic enhancements became public knowledge, Bashir did display a certain level of arrogance. These new and improved memory probes were a humbling reminder of Sisko’s words.

He was suddenly remembering his meeting with Cole and the mission for which he had recruited Bashir.

“And it's not so much about cleaning up our mess as it is about keeping other secrets buried. You needn't concern yourself with what that secret is, but it is imperative that we prevent a Tal Shiar operative…”

As he was remembering this conversation with Cole, Bashir was repeating the Section 31 director’s words--“…from delivering that secret to the Klingon Empire. Neither side is in much of a position to wage war, but that won't stop the traditionalists within the Empire.”

“So he did not disclose any details about the secrets hidden on Tezwa?” Rennek inquired.

“No,” Bashir deadpanned.

“What are Starfleet’s rescue plans?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t informed about the specifics.”

Rennek scoffed, but Bashir was pleased with himself that he still remained very stingy about revealing that information despite knowing how increasingly painful the memory probing would be.

Rennek then turned to Sisko and yanked at his collar. “I suppose you’re more privy to the details of any rescue,” he taunted.

“I don’t know anything either,” Sisko flatly replied.

“I find that hard to believe,” Rennek countered. “I had hoped you would have better sense.” He took a few steps back to his control console and entered a sequence to turn up the intensity on the memory probe. Sisko started writhing in pain.

Rennek turned slowly turned down the intensity. And during that same moment, the deck started shaking.

The runabout Montana swooped in on the cloaked Romulan shuttle, firing phasers. The second salvo had the deck of the shuttle rocking even harder, which sent Rennek to the falling to the floor.
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Old December 21 2012, 07:33 PM   #35
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Worf entered the Infirmary’s main exam room, having heard that Martok had regained consciousness. He had gotten used to visiting the station’s medical ward in the last two weeks, whether he was receiving treatment for his own injuries or consulting with doctors about the health of one of his brothers.

While he was waiting for permission to visit Martok, Worf remembered he was already part of several different families. He had grown so accustomed to his many of his crewmates on Deep Space Nine and on the Enterprise-D, that they were his family. He was willing to lay down his life for any of them. His adopted parents and their biological son were the family with whom he had grown up. He was a brother of the House of Martok, and now his biological brother was once again a part of his life. The big question now was where Kurn would fit as part of his family.

Doctor Tarses and a Bajoran female nurse stepped away from the reclined biobed where Martok was seated. Tarses then allowed Worf to speak to the still recuperating chancellor. “I’ll be outside if you need me,” he told the ambassador.

“Ah, Worf,” Martok said with subdued exuberance. “The doctors assure me I will make a complete recovery. I still feel as though I’ve had a few too many servings of bloodwine. I trust you’ve dealt with the ha’DIbaH’s who made a cowardly attempt on my life without letting me see their faces.”

“Yes,” Worf humbly informed the chancellor. “Subcommander Sulvek and General Grelik are both dead. They died knowing it was I who avenged you. Crewman Doran, an informant of the Neo-Purists, took his own life after transporting the bomb to your private chamber. And, assuming he has not gone into hiding, you may be able build up a case against Councilor Ru’qel when you return to Qo’Nos.”

“Good,” Martok nonchalantly replied, as if those three deaths were just business as usual. “I knew that becoming chancellor made me a more coveted target, but I did not expect that rooting out corruption within the High Council would be this difficult.”

“Their tactics may be dishonorable, but I have to come to see that as those clinging to the old ways realize they are fewer and farther between, they grow more desperate.”

“And we must be equally vigilant. You have served the House of Martok well. I am certain many songs will be sung of your great deeds.”

“I look forward to hearing them,” Worf said without feeling much pride in his recent accomplishments. Even though he had acted on behalf of the Federation, the Empire, and the House of Martok, he knew he had made many enemies, including those who would again accuse Worf of using his position as a Federation diplomat to manipulate affairs of the Empire. That was tomorrow, though. Today, he had a more personal request to make.

He paused for a brief moment before remembering the other reason for his visit. “I have a request to make of you regarding my brother, Kurn.”

“Your brother?” Martok curiously replied. If he still had his left eye, it would be widening at this moment along with his right eye. “Did he not agree to a memory purge and a new identity after the House of Mogh had been dissolved?”

“Yes, but in providing service to our House, he has begun to regain some of his memories of his former life. You could express your gratitude by accepting him and others in the House of Noggra into the Greater Martok Clan.”

“The House of Noggra,” Martok said, trying to remember what he knew of that rather obscure family who had adopted Kurn in the guise of Rodek. “They are mostly common farmers and laborers. But so was my family before many of us rose to prominence. I will have to discuss it with the other clan elders. I am certain they will agree to such an arrangement in addition to issuing special commendations to the rest of the officers and crew aboard the Gorkon.”

“That would be greatly appreciated,” Worf said.

Certainly, Worf was pleased by the recent turn of events--both the chancellor’s recovery and reuniting with a brother who was part of a now defunct Klingon House. For now, though, the time for celebration would be when that reunion with Kurn was formalized.

###

Ezri Dax entered the ward room with her security escort right behind her. Admiral T’Nera was seated at the head of the table just up ahead. The security guard standing behind Ezri took slow paces towards the other end of the table and rolled the chair out from underneath the meeting table. Ezri tilted her head slightly and widened her pupils, somewhat perturbed that the guard felt she couldn’t be trusted to pull up her own chair.

She took a few slow paces and sat in the chair and inched it closer to the table herself while shooting a disarming stare at her escort. The guard took a few steps backward, and Ezri gave a thankful nod. She then looked straight at T’Nera, who was almost in a trance-like state reading a padd. Ezri just stared the admiral’s direction, giving no visible signs of worry that she and her colleagues were about to brought up on charges of espionage or mutiny.

“You may wait outside, Ensign,” T’Nera informed the guard while looking up from the padd. Once the guard obliged and stepped out into corridor, T’Nera flashed a pensive stare at Ezri.

“I understand you’ve chosen a new career path for yourself,” the Vulcan woman declared.

“Yes,” Ezri replied.

“Third in command of the one of the most strategically significant outposts in the Federation,” T’Nera continued. “Quite an impressive achievement at your age alongside the accolades of your two preceding hosts, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Absolutely,” Ezri said with forced enthusiasm.

“I understand you terminated your romantic affiliation with Doctor Bashir nearly two years ago.”

Ezri shook her head in annoyance. She briefly looked away and then turned her attention back to the admiral. “With respect, sir,” she said, “what relevance does my personal life have to your investigation?”

“None at all. I was simply curious.”

Ezri gave a gentle nod, as if accepting T’Nera’s word, but knew that a Vulcan, especially one in a high-level bureaucratic position, rarely ever expressed curiosity about the personal affairs of lower ranking officers.

“I find it most intriguing that you have set rather lofty ambitions for yourself since your joining,” T’Nera went on. “It would be a shame if you were to taint the Dax legacy by aiding in any subversive activities. Putting that aside, for the moment, do you hope to one day command a starship?”

“I see that as a strong possibility,” Ezri obligingly replied.

“What if I were to tell you that I could shorten that timetable by a year? In exchange for certain information, I could put in the good word for you at Command.”

Ezri’s eyebrow twitched in a manner similar to the Vulcan expression of curiosity. “What kind of ‘information’?” she suspiciously asked.

“Any secrets you may know about not just your colleagues on this station, but your compatriots aboard the Starship Destiny and classmates at the Academy, as well as colleagues of previous hosts currently serving in high level positions within the Federation.”

All sorts of thoughts were rushing through Ezri’s mind as she was hearing that proposition. What kinds of secrets? Did T’Nera really want to know how good Julian was in bed or what Jadzia found so appealing about a Gallamite with a transparent skull or about the women Curzon had courted well into his old age? Or were these secrets more of the professional nature? Was T’Nera hoping to glean secrets about Worf that only Jadzia knew or about how much information Elias Vaughn had accumulated throughout his eighty years of service to Starfleet Special Operations? Or perhaps the admiral was hoping for privileged information Ezri had received from patients during her time as a counselor.

“Sell out friends and colleagues?” she asked with slight confusion.

“Nothing so dramatic,” T’Nera attempted. “Just a few bits and pieces about your fellow officers that are not included in an official service record, certain things that would give you an advantage over them in your ascent up the ranks.

Ezri lowered her head, still rather baffled that a Vulcan would be making such an offer. Maybe T’Nera had her own logic, but what she was asking was still deeply disturbing. “I serve Starfleet on the principles of duty, honor, and loyalty,” she proclaimed while looking straight into T’Nera’s eyes with strong self-assuredness. “What you are asking me to do violates all three. I will not undermine colleagues, acquaintances, or even friends simply to hasten my own advancement. That may mean taking longer to get a starship command. But I will have achieved it through my own merits without knocking others down along the way.”

“It was simply a suggestion,” T’Nera plainly replied. “Now, moving on to more pertinent matters…”

Ezri quickly tuned out T’Nera’s words. She knew all too well that Vulcan’s did not lie so readily. However, this Vulcan clearly had motives other than her investigation of possible illegal activities on the station. Of course, now was not the time to raise such issues since T’Nera was the one asking the questions in this interrogation.

###

The Montana continued firing phasers at the cloaked Romulan shuttle until it could no longer remain invisible to either humanoid eyes or conventional Federation sensors. As the shuttle, in the shape of a bird-of-prey that was consistent with the design of most Romulan military vessels, became more and more visible, the Starfleet runabout swerved around and out of the target vessel’s weapons range.

The interior of the shuttle rocked back and forth with each phaser hit. Each jolt was able to loosen the chains keeping Sisko and Bashir chained to the wall. The two humans and their Romulan captor struggled to maintain their balance. During the quaking in the floor, Sisko lunged at Rennek, knocking the Romulan to ground.

Rennek quickly lurched upright and scooped a fighting pike off the wall. He began waving the long metallic weapon in Sisko’s direction, but the captain kept ducking out of the way. Sisko lunged towards Rennek’s left arm while Bashir restrained the Romulan’s right arm, allowing their combined strength to restrain Rennek and pin him to the wall.

Rennek flung his arms forward, sending his escaped prisoners to the deck. The blade of his pike caught Bashir in the shoulder. While he nursed his wound, Sisko swung back towards Rennek and tugged at the pike. Rennek yanked the pike back, knocking Sisko on his back. Sisko rolled over as Rennek swung the pike towards him. He quickly crawled to away from the Romulan towards the main control console. Bashir gathered and tugged at Rennek’s foot in an effort to slow him down.

As Sisko was frantically pushing buttons, Rennek freed himself from Bashir’s grasp with the heel of his boot grazing his forehead. Sisko removed a circuit access panel and unfastened an electrical cord. Rennek lunged towards him and Sisko jammed the tip of the cord into Rennek’s abdomen.

Rennek was writhing in pain as he was being electrocuted. Sisko was able to dive out of harm’s way and attend to Bashir’s injury. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” he insisted.

They both glanced in the direction of their former captor and saw Rennek’s body transform into a mass of orange goo.

“It’s a Changeling!” Sisko gasped.

As electricity coursed through his deteriorating form, the protoplasm was gradually reduced to a pile of cinder. The two men stared in awe, considering the implications of one of the Founders of the Dominion in the guise of a Romulan involved in the recent state of affairs. Certainly, they had a stake in recent events as much as the Romulans did. Their contemplative stares at the Changeling’s remains were soon interrupted, though, by a communications chime on the main console.

Montana to Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir. Do you read?” came the voice of Lieutenant Ro.

Sisko pushed a control on the console to acknowledge the transmission. “We’re both here, Lieutenant. Our ‘Romulan’ captor was really a Changeling. We’re hoping his personal database would shed some light on what sort of incriminating secrets he was hoping to deliver to the Klingon Empire.”

Bashir was already in the process of attempting to access Rennek’s main database while Sisko was in communication with the runabout that had been stealthily pursuing them. “I’m into the main file directory,” Bashir announced.

“That was fast,” Sisko observed.

“One of the perks of being genetically enhanced,” Bashir retorted, “and why Section 31 keeps trying to recruit me.” He continued perusing through a few of the files on routine ship functions, but then stumbled across something jaw-dropping. “My God.”

“What did you find?” Sisko curiously inquired.

“You’re not going to believe this. Five years ago, President Zife had nadion pulse cannons placed on Tezwa in violation of the Khitomer Accords as part of some fallback strategy in the Dominion War.

Sisko stared at the screen in disbelief, trying to make sure his eyes were not deceiving him. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t believe it. Ordinarily, I’d question whether it’s accurate, but it’s consistent with why Zife was so adamant about launching a pre-emptive strike against a world that poses no threat after he fabricated evidence that the Tezwan were in league with Klingon radicals.”

“If this evidence had been delivered to the High Council,” Bashir added, “the fallout would be devastating. That’s what Cole meant when he stressed the importance of making sure they didn’t receive it.”

“It would serve as a rallying cry for traditionalist factions to seize power and declare war on the Federation. And that would make both powers more vulnerable to the Romulans, the Tholians, and even the Dominion. Prepare to transmit these files to the runabout’s library computer.”

“Of course,” Bashir replied, entering a sequence to transmit the entire database to the runabout. “But, sir, is our alliance with the Klingons worth a continued cover-up?”

“For now, it absolutely is,” Sisko unflinchingly proclaimed. “Hopefully, though, we can use this evidence to pressure the President to resign.”

“That may be easier said than done,” Tenmei chimed in from the runabout’s cockpit. “We’ve got a starship entering sensor range--Galaxy-class.”

“Starfleet runabout,” came a masculine voice on the ship-to-ship comm that was also easily heard by Sisko and Bashir, “power down your engines and prepare to be boarded.”

###

Kira Nerys entered the ward room, escorted by a security guard, to see Admiral T’Nera reading a padd.

Most likely, T’Nera was brushing up on Kira’s service record as a Starfleet captain, as a Bajoran militia officer, and as a member of the Bajoran Resistance. With that in mind, Kira worried that the admiral might try to use some of her off-book activities or her early clashes with Sisko against her, especially after T’Nera had attempted to elicit some kind of emotional response about two of her officers’ past affiliations with the Maquis. Right now, that was the least of her worries with a line of questioning about more recent events to come.

“Sit down, Captain,” T’Nera instructed.

Kira begrudgingly took a seat at the head of the table and watched as the guard sauntered out of the room.

“I was going over some of the station’s logs from the past two days,” T’Nera continued, setting the padd aside. “You and Captain Sisko had spoken directly to the President regarding his plans to invade Tezwa. Why did he contact your station?”

“We did speak to the President,” Kira reiterated. “The Defiant pursued a Klingon Bird-of-Prey traveling between Nimbus Three and Tezwa while carrying an Omega explosive. The President wished to hear our firsthand account of the recent events.”

“Yet, he already seemed adamant that the invasion still go forward. Is that correct?”

“Yes, despite my objections and Captain Sisko’s.”

T’Nera took a quick look at the padd in front of her and looked back at Kira. “From the official transcript of the communiqué, Captain Sisko made allegations that a renegade Starfleet organization calling itself ‘Section 31’ had attempted to fabricate evidence of Klingon terrorists aiding the Tezwan’s efforts to procure illegal weaponry to be used against the Federation and the Klingon Empire. What was the basis for this claim?”

“On Nimbus Three,” Kira said in recollection of what had transpired there, “Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro oversaw a sting operation where a mercenary sought to learn the location of a terrorist encampment from a former colleague. This individual was killed by a sniper, who Commander Vaughn identified as an agent of Section 31.”

“Fascinating,” T’Nera replied with an eyebrow twitch. “He has been attempting to piece together evidence of such a covert organization for decades. This incident, however, hardly constitutes proof of a conspiracy to falsely implicate a technologically inferior non-aligned world.”

“No,” Kira grudgingly agreed, “but the timing seemed very convenient, indicating someone wanted the delivery to go forward while allowing Starfleet to prevent the transaction from being completed. A member of the terrorist group that Ambassador Worf and Captain Klag managed to apprehend said that was the plan all along.”

“The President dismissed such a claim. Did he not?”

“Of course he did. But an honorable Klingon wouldn’t lie in an effort to spare his own life.” But Kira knew that was not entirely true based even on some of Worf’s actions. Such a notion was still a generally accepted rule of thumb about Klingons, just as Vulcans generally did not lie, except to save face for themselves, a relative, or a close friend. Clearly, though, this Vulcan sought to cover up certain truths.

“An assertion based on the ambassador’s overly-idealistic appraisal of Klingon culture,” T’Nera dismissively replied. “Even as the President dismissed such allegations, you, nevertheless, continued pursuing such an investigation. You don’t actually believe such an alleged conspiracy would extend all the way up to the President himself, do you?”

“After Captain Sisko’s repeated inquiries have all gone unanswered,” Kira assuredly answered. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Yes, I am well aware of your crews’ allegations that this ‘rogue organization’ attempted to exterminate the Founders of the Dominion, as well as Doctor Bashir’s encounters with one Luther Sloan. There never has been any individual by that name serving in Starfleet Intelligence, Security, Special Operations, or Internal Affairs, or one who closely fits his description. Perhaps he is merely covering his tracks while he and the other missing officers compile fabricated evidence meant to discredit Starfleet and the Federation. For all we know, the man in your morgue and the man in your brig were both compatriots of his.”

“I understand you had those men moved to facilities on the Victory,” Kira offered with a conspicuously inquisitive tone.

“If you intend to pose a question as to why, let me remind you, Captain, that I am asking the questions here.”

“While the questions you have answered, I never even asked.”

T’Nera’s eyes widened, indicating to Kira that her taunt had struck a nerve. The admiral was about to speak when a communications chime sounded.

“Ops to Admiral T’Nera,” came a masculine voice. “Urgent.”

T’Nera stood up and headed for the main entrance. Once out in the corridor, she placed an audio device in her ear to provide a measure of privacy while in the presence of the security guards. “Go ahead,” she said with a tap of her combadge.

“The Starship Venture has intercepted a Starfleet runabout and an unidentified shuttle. They’ve also apprehended the station’s missing officers, as well as Captain Sisko.”

“Once the Venture has docked,” T’Nera instructed, “escort those officers to the ward room for questioning.”

“Understood. One other thing, sir. Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir informed Captain Meyers that they had escaped a Romulan captor, who was really a shapeshifter.”

“Do they have any evidence to that effect?”

“Yes, sir, they do.”

“Thank you,” T’Nera said, tapping her combadge to sign off. She maintained a calm demeanor as she headed back to the ward room entrance, but felt a sense of defeat, knowing that the secrets she had desperately tried to keep hidden had been revealed.

The charade was over.
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Old December 22 2012, 07:47 PM   #36
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Kira entered her office and found Admiral T’Nera still seated behind the desk. She took slow paces towards the desk while still silently annoyed that the admiral was still there even after Kira and her senior staff had been released from confinement. She had to resist the urge to grab T’Nera by the collar and drag her out of the office. Doing so would lead to the same consequences as if she were brought up on charges of compromising Federation security. Hopefully, T’Nera and her staff would soon be gone and this whole ordeal would be over.

“I was just completing my final report on my investigation,” T’Nera explained after turning off the desk monitor. “You’ll be pleased to know that you and your crew have been cleared of any wrongdoing. The President will soon be giving an address indicating that recent events were the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“That’s it?” Kira scoffed. “No apology to us or to the Tezwan government?”

“If an apology would be emotionally satisfying to those parties who were wronged,” T’Nera said with her usual dispassionate tone, but with what Kira thought was a slight hint of sarcasm, “I’m certain Starfleet Command and the President would offer it.”

“That’s good to know,” Kira said with an insincere smile. “I have one additional request, sir.”

“I’m listening,” T’Nera said eagerly with an eyebrow twitch.

“Get the hell out of my chair.”

T’Nera rolled the chair away from the desk while grasping a padd. “I am certainly willing to oblige now that my business here is concluded,” she flatly proclaimed. She stood up, circled around the desk and stepped out of the office without another word.

Once the doors slid shut, Kira rolled her eyes and propped her arms on the desk. She stared at the empty chair and flashed a satisfied grin now that she had taken back her office.

###

An airlock door rolled open.

Kasidy Yates Sisko held her daughter’s hand while eagerly awaiting the arrival of her husband. She stared at the entryway, quietly watching as personnel from the Venture filed through.

She had experienced this moment many times before and it never got easier after all of his dangerous missions during the Dominion War. Benjamin had survived all those missions, so Kasidy almost felt that he was invincible. But then he disappeared in the Fire Caves on Bajor less than a week after the war ended, and her fears about the Prophets’ warning that marrying would bring them sorrow had been realized. Those same fears occupied her thoughts even more over the last two weeks. True, he came back from this undercover operation safe and sound, but Kasidy couldn’t smile until she saw Ben face to face.

Four officers walked through before the man she had awaited appeared.

“Daddy!” cried Rebecca.

“Ben,” Kasidy gasped. She took a few quick steps towards her husband, and they clasped each other’s hands. They then exchanged a quick kiss.

Afterwards, Kasidy lifted Rebecca off the ground and handed the girl off to Ben. Rebecca hugged her father, who held her tightly. He kissed the little girl on the forehead and gently set her back down on the ground.

“How many times have we done this?” Kasidy remarked.

“Too many times,” Benjamin retorted. “This time might not be the last time, but we’ll talk about it more when we get home.”

“I sure hope so.”

***

Ezri Dax weaved through a crowd of Starfleet officers and civilians on the Promenade, but with her mind on one person. She had just been released from house arrest shortly before Admiral T’Nera and her staff had departed the station, meaning she could not reach the airlock at one of the upper pylons where the Venture was docked. She was, of course, hoping to intercept Julian as he emerged from one of the airlocks connecting the Promenade with the habitat and docking rings.

Ezri was envisioning running into his arms and wanting him not to ever let go. Her recent conversations with Sisko, Worf, and Kira were playing back in her mind as she waited in anticipation near airlock across the way from Quark’s. She also thought about what she told Jonas after she turned down his dinner date invitation. She was on a journey of self-exploration, trying to distinguish herself from Dax’s other hosts, but at the same time worried that she could not equal the achievements of Curzon or Jadzia. She hadn’t put much thought into the fact she was throwing herself into lofty career ambitions the last two years until the last two weeks. Ezri had contemplated the possibility of one day commanding a starship off and on, but without very much consideration until T’Nera suggested it, alongside an offer to sell out friends and colleagues.

While her Starfleet career was important, other aspects her of life were just as important. Perhaps she was overcompensating by pushing Julian out of her life, and at any moment, she would be able to correct that mistake.

Bashir stepped through the doorway of an open airlock that was several paces from the Infirmary. He seemingly had his sights set on that location until Ezri spotted him and jogged towards him. “Julian,” she called to him.

“Ezri,” Julian said, looking slightly befuddled.

Without putting much thought into such action, she draped her arms around his shoulders and held tightly. After a very long moment, she loosened her grip and, while still clasping his shoulders, she planted a kiss on his lips. She was not the least bit concerned about embarrassing herself even knowing that she--or rather Jadzia--was an eyewitness to Kira and Odo sharing their first kiss very near this same spot.

They both gently separated from each other, oblivious to passing onlookers, with Ezri not certain whether Julian was flattered or confused. “I’ve been doing it all wrong,” she explained. “I’ve set challenging goals for myself in recent years. But what good is that life I don’t share it with you?”

“We can surely discuss this later,” Bashir eagerly responded. “I really should get to the Infirmary. I’m told Commander Vaughn has just regained consciousness.”

“I guess I’d better let you handle that,” Ezri said with an embarrassed grin. “We can discuss over dinner or at Vic’s.”
“Of course. My quarters, 1900 hours.”

“It’s a date then.”

They both walked off in opposite directions, but then Ezri turned around and silently stared at Julian as he stepped into the Infirmary.

***

Prynn Tenmei stepped into Infirmary’s waiting area and momentarily forgot which way to go next. She then continued straight ahead towards the primary intensive care unit. Upon arrival there, she saw Nurse Bandee scanning Elias Vaughn with a medical tricorder. He was sitting upright, having regained consciousness.

Prynn flashed a wide smile in her father’s direction and ran towards him while fighting back tears. Bandee stepped aside to allow father and daughter to have a few moments together. Elias and Prynn held each other in a warm embrace that lasted for almost a minute. Prynn wanted to savor this moment as long as possible. After an incident like this, she was again reminded that Elias was her only parent after her mother’s death. All the past arguments they had seemed trivial.

“I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” Prynn said, letting a few tears escape her eyes.

“Nobody’s getting rid of me that easily,” Elias quipped.

###

“On behalf of the entire United Federation of Planets, I deeply regret this unfortunate misunderstanding and wish to extend sincere apologies to Prime Minister Kinchawn and the people of Tezwa.”

President Min Zife delivered an official address from the Palais de la Concorde that was transmitted throughout the Federation. Some of Deep Space Nine’s senior officers, along with Captain Sisko, were gathered in the ward room to view the address on a time-delayed transmission. Commander Vaughn was also present and in uniform.

“I assume full responsibility for my administration and for the Starfleet Joint Chiefs for having been misled,” Zife continued. “A group of rogue Starfleet officers in collusion with Ferengi corporate leaders attempted to fabricate evidence that the Tezwan were in possession of destructive weaponry as a pretext for invasion to assure adequate dilithium supplies from a politically unstable world. Rest assured these renegade officers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Federation law. It is my hope that with no loss of life suffered in the aborted invasion, we can all move past this unfortunate incident.”

“In related news,” News Service reporter Marina Gomez reported after the presidential address, “noted Dominion War tactician, Vice-Admiral William Ross called off the invasion of Tezwa after his fleet’s entry into the system to demonstrate to his officers that the Tezwan pose no military threat to the Federation. He then confessed to having provided assistance to these renegades in the past and was being blackmailed into leading the invasion fleet. He has resigned from Starfleet and given the names of some of those co-conspirators in exchange for clemency.

“With FNS News Minute, I’m Marina Gomez.”

Ro scoffed after the transmission ended. “Well, that speech was utter targ manure,” she said while rolling her eyes.

“And it looks like Ross is another one to take the fall.” Kira remarked.

“How unfortunate that another great tactician should meet his downfall in such a manner,” Sisko added. He noticed Bashir at the other side of the table taking a quick glance in his direction and thought Bashir might comment about Ross’s involvement in one of Section 31’s machinations. Sisko glanced back at Bashir, seemingly convincing him not to mention the chain of events that to the ascent of a 31 informant to the Continuing Committee of the Romulan government.

“What about the Changeling?” Dax wondered.

“What about him?” Sisko asked, not sure what her question was.

“If one of the Founders was posing as a Tal Shiar informant,” Dax added, “that would mean the Dominion had a stake in this as well, and is up to their old tricks.”

“Officially, they’ve closed their borders,” Kira reminded Dax and the rest of the group.

“And unofficially?” Bashir asked with his eyebrows perked up.

“The Dominion is just another power that employs covert operatives to undermine their enemies,” said Vaughn. “That’s how it works unfortunately.”

“And that’s why Zife hopes to sweep this whole affair under the rug as quickly and as thoroughly as possible,” added Sisko.

“We may have prevented a war now,” Kira mused, “but sooner or later, someone else might use these events to their advantage. And we might not be able to stop them.”

Each of the officers in the briefing exchanged pensive stares amongst one another, all of them wondering how the recent events would lead to more dire consequences in the long term, as well as how high-ranking officials in the Federation government and Starfleet would try to further reduce the fallout.
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Old December 22 2012, 07:51 PM   #37
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Re: Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Epilogue

“He killed his own man to protect the enemy?” Jonas Escobar asked with confusion.

He and Sam Bowers sat at a table in the Replimat sharing a meal while reviewing various security protocols for the station and the Defiant. Both men had barely touched their food while discussing rather mundane technical details. That discussion had soon drifted to one about characters in a holosuite program.

“It wasn’t quite that simple,” Bowers replied while taking a quick sip of his beverage. “They were acting on intelligence provided by an enemy turncoat who had renounced terrorism. Whether Assad’s conciliatory initiatives were genuine, we might never know, but it seemed like the right course of action. Unfortunately, Curtis Manning could never forgive some of Assad’s past atrocities, and put a desire for revenge over duty.”

Escobar smirked as he was reminded of some of his experiences during the war. “During the war, I had a clear sense of who were my friends and who were my enemies,” he remarked. “And we just risked our careers going after people within our own ranks.”

“You mean you never faced that paradox while you were in the Maquis?” Bowers curiously wondered. “I know many Starfleet veterans were not too happy with having to shoot at some of their former colleagues.”

“That seems like a distant memory,” Jonas coyly replied. “And I was never in Starfleet before the war.”

Sam winced skeptically. He then saw something along the walkway of the Promenade. Julian and Ezri slowly passed by while holding hands. “Looks like they worked it out,” he remarked.

Jonas turned his head around and saw them. He scoffed as he wondered what had changed Ezri’s mind after her speech about defining herself before being in any kind of committed relationship. Maybe Bashir’s undercover mission had changed her mind.

***

Bashir entered his quarters and walked towards the replicator. He glanced at his own shadow on the wall as he pushed a button on the panel to replicate a mug of tea. He took a small sip and saw that another shadow was cast on the wall in front of him. Bashir turned around and saw the one person he never expected to see again.

“Good evening, Doctor,” a blond-haired man in a black leather jumpsuit said. “I bet you didn't expect to see me again.”

“Sloan,” Bashir said with an ominous stare. “Should I be annoyed or relieved that you're still alive; that is assuming you are not another figment of my imagination?”

“Oh, no,” Sloan replied with a chuckle. "I am quite real. You probably wonder how capturing me three years ago was so easy.”

“It never crossed my mind,” Julian lied.

Sloan grinned as if having expected that sarcastic response. “But you had to assume that my colleagues could have extracted me any time they wanted. So why didn't they?”

“Because you wanted to save Odo while appearing not to have given up the cure voluntarily. But that doesn't explain how you're still alive.”

“You actually captured an isomorphic projection—a very sophisticated isomorphic projection. One that could give off human life signs, be rendered unconscious by phaser fire, and even activate the neural paralyzer on cue.”

“So again, you were three steps ahead of me. How should I respond to that?”

“Now, Julian, you would never cut off your nose to spite your face. You saved Odo. He cured the other Founders. The end of the Dominion War was far less messy.”

“And that's supposed to justify attempted genocide?”

“Doctor! So much could have wrong with supplying Omega to terrorists. But it had to be done to protect a devastating secret that could lead to a war that would leave us more at the mercy of enemies such as the Romulans, the Tholians, or the Dominion. Cole knew of your determination not to let that happen.”

“Speaking of Cole, might he still be alive as well?”

“That really isn’t your concern, Doctor,” Sloan brusquely replied. He then paced towards the door and stepped out.

Bashir sighed as he considered all the implications of recent events and the role he played in them. While he was greatly disturbed that an organization within the Federation was manipulating circumstances in the Federation’s favor, what could be done to change that? It was all in the name protecting other secrets that were just as damaging.

When he first learned of Section 31, Bashir wanted to do everything in his power to bring down this bureau that spit in the face of Federation values. The idealist in him felt Section 31 was a cancer within the Federation that needed to be destroyed. The realist in him, though, felt the damage done to the Federation if these secrets came out would be far worse. Even knowing that made him feel powerless. Despite his superiority to his peers, he was just another human.

###

In the Chancellor’s VIP quarters, Martok, Worf, and Kurn were gathered around a pit of fire. They were all participating in a ceremony to formally admit Kurn into the House of Martok. “Martok degh, to-Duj degh, bat-LEH degh, mat-LEH degh,” Martok proclaimed.

“Martok degh,” Martok and Worf repeated in unison.

“Kurn, vih-nob dok-tog,” Worf added.

Kurn removed his dagger from his holster and handed it to Martok. Martok then used it to draw blood from his own palm. Afterwards, he mixed it with oil in the bowl and dropped it in the fire.

Mat-LEH gih-Hegh,” Kurn declared.

DAH!” Martok replied.

Kurn picked up the insignia and stared at it before placing it on his left sleeve.

“Welcome to the House of Martok, Kurn,” Martok announced, “brother of Worf, and son of Mogh.”

###

“I am in position.”

L'Haan stood several blocks away from the president's procession communicating with a Klingon colleague. “Then proceed exactly as we discussed,” she said.

***

Grelik weaved his way through the crowd of people wanting to shake President Zife's hand while slowly removing a well-concealed disruptor pistol from a holster on his right hip. He then aimed it straight at the president. The onlookers who surrounded him did not even notice. But one of Zife's personal guards did see the weapon being pointed at him.

“Gun!” the Bolian guard cried out. “Gun!”

He began nudging Zife out of harm's way. But he took a single energy projectile. The other three guards were also hit, and then Zife.

“The President's been hit!” a voice called out as Grelik tried to lose himself in the crowd. Additional guards rushed to the scene to shield frightened onlookers and to attend to the United Federation of Planets’ wounded leader.

Zife was barely conscious, but alive. Of course, no one who had witnessed this shocking turn of events knew for how long.
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