Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Enterprise1981, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Since I let this story sit for over a year without yet having written an ending, a few inconsistencies inevitably popped in one as long as this. Hopefully, I managed to weed them out with a recent read-through.

    Synopsis:
    A century before the Dominion War, the Ku'Vok-leth (The Honor Brigade) was a prominent military faction within the Klingon Empire. When the Empire and the Federation made peace, the Ku'Vok-leth became far less influential. Following the Dominion War, the Klingon High Council began turning a blind eye to the actions of the Ku'Vok-leth. Now, this anti-Federation group plans on using one of the biggest scientific discoveries, a single particle capable of destroying subspace, as a weapon.

    Retired Starfleet captain Benjamin Sisko must reunite with his former colleagues to stop these Klingon radicals before they can cut off a strategically important star system from the Federation forever.

    But this conspiracy turns out to be more than just a simple act of terrorism, as Section 31, the Romulan Star Empire, and the Dominion have a vested interest in the events of the next few days. And as the crew of Deep Space Nine come to learn, such a conspiracy reaches all the way up to the President of the Federation.


    This poster was made by Trelane back on August 22, 2011.



    http://img31.imageshack.us/img31/43/ds9aftermath1.png


    [​IMG]
     
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Preface

    For those not too familiar with the Pockets Books DS9-relaunch novels and other media, here is a listing of pivotal events alluded to “Omega” that provide a backstory for various characters.



    The Left Hand of Destiny

    Following the end of the Dominion War, Martok’s position as chancellor is threatened. In the ensuing coup d’etat, the Imperial Hall is destroyed claiming the lives of many on the Council. The coup fails, but comes at the cost of Martok’s wife and his four children.


    Avatar
    During an attack on Deep Space Nine by renegade Jem’Hadar, Commander Tiris Jast is killed on the bridge of the Defiant. Lieutenant Ezri Dax assumes command, drawing on the knowledge and experience of previous hosts. Afterwards, she transfers from the medical to the command division. This major life change is among the factors leading to difficulties in her relationship with Julian Bashir.

    Ro Laren, having returned to Bajor after two years operating behind the lines during the Dominion War, is named Deep Space Nine’s chief of security with a Bajoran Militia commission of lieutenant.

    Commander Elias Vaughn of Starfleet Special Ops accompanies the Enterprise-E as it is patrolling the Badlands when the ship discovers a derelict Cardassian freighter. An away team discovers the missing Orb of Memory. Vaughn, having contemplated retirement at 101 years of age, finds a new purpose in life. He requests and receives a posting as Deep Space Nine’s executive officer and commander of the USS Defiant.


    Abyss
    Julian Bashir is recruited by Section 31 agent Cole to confront Ethan Loecken, a human augment who had recently broken away from the bureau and now leads a legion of Jem’Hadar loyal to him. Ezri Dax, Ro Laren, and First Taran’atar accompany Bashir to Sindorin to derail Loecken’s plans. The mission is a success, but Bashir is unable to accumulate any evidence that might expose 31. Upon his return to the station, Bashir learns that Vaughn has been tracking the activities of Section 31 for at least the last year (referencing the events of Star Trek: Insurrection)


    Divided We Fall
    In this four-part comic book mini-series, Verad Kalon leads a terrorist crusade against what is perceived to be the oppression by joined Trills of the non-joined majority. With the help of the Defiant and the Enterprise-E, Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax are able to combat a virus being unleashed against Trill symbionts. Verad takes his own life to avoid being captured by the authorities.


    Mission Gamma tetralogy
    The USS Defiant embarks on an historic three-month journey of exploration in Gamma Quadrant.

    During this long-term mission, Elias Vaughn encounters his ex-wife, Ruriko Tenmei having been assimilated by the Borg. He is forced to kill her to save their daughter and Defiant flight controller, Prynn Tenmei. Ruriko's disappearance during a mission authorized by Vaughn and Starfleet Special Ops led to a gulf between father and daughter. Elias and Prynn were attempting to reconcile, but this incident puts even more strain on their relationship.


    Unity
    Benjamin Sisko returns from the timeless realm of the Celestial Temple in time for the birth of his daughter, named Rebecca Jae after Benjamin’s stepmother and Kasidy’s mother.

    Bajor is admitted into the United Federation of Planets. Kira Nerys and Ro Laren are among Bajoran Militia personnel granted Starfleet commissions. Kira offers command back to Sisko, but he refuses. Instead, he goes on an extended leave of absence to be with his family in his new house on Bajor.

    Quark, fearing that his business won’t fair as well under the Federation economy, had considered leaving the station and returning to Ferenginar. Instead, he elects to stay, becoming the Ferengi ambassador to Bajor and his establishment on Deep Space Nine becomes the Ferengi embassy. In effect, Quark’s Bar, Restaurant and Casino becomes sovereign Ferengi territory.


    Trill: Unjoined

    After they confront a crisis on Trillius Prime, Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax dissolve their romance.



    Other Pockets Books novels:

    Vulcan’s Soul trilogy
    General Hiren (Romulan praetor at the beginning of Star Trek: Nemesis) arranges the assassination of Praetor Neral by sending poisonous birds to Neral’s home. Hiren is then anointed the new praetor.


    Rihansu novel series
    "Omega" stablishes Donatra’s relationship to Ael t'Rllaillieu and Liviana Charvanek, the Romulan commander in “The Enterprise Incident”.


    A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal
    The non-aligned world Tezwa seemingly declares war on the Klingon Empire through the use of nadion pulse cannons. The Enterprise-E is dispatched to defuse hostilities. Away teams from the Enterprise discover the cannons to be of Federation origin. UFP President Min Zife placed those weapons there, in violation of the Khitomer Accords, as part of a fallback strategy in the Dominion War. Now, Prime Minister Kinchawn has gone made and is using the nadion cannons to advance his ambitions. Should the Klingon High Council learn of this illegal weapons deal, war would break out between the Empire and the Federation and leave the two powers highly vulnerable to the Romulan Star Empire and the Tholian Assembly.

    A coup d’etat ousts Kinchawn from power while Starfleet flag officers pressure Zife to quietly resign. To prevent any further political fallout, Section 31 arranges the assassinations of Zife, his chief of staff Koll Azernal, and other members of the administration.


    Note: Because I could not find a way to work Thirishar ch’Tane and Taran’atar into “The True Way”, these two characters are not part of this fanon series. Not all character backstories and other major events from the Relaunch are followed exactly, especially from 2378 and beyond.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2012
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Prologue

    The Narendra System: Near the Klingon-Romulan border

    An explosion sent blinding shockwaves through space. It had the appearance of a celestial body ripping apart as when Praxis was destroyed as a result of over-mining. The ripple effect caught the attention of a passing vessel.

    Leskit, the grizzly gray-haired helmsman of the IKS Gorkon, was at his station on the bridge when an alarm sounded on the navigation monitor. “Commander,” he called to the young first officer Toq. “I’m picking up subspace shockwaves from the Narendra system.”

    Toq, who was rather short by Klingon standards, marched to the station on the starboard side of the bridge. He knew what those readings meant from his Defense Force training. The destruction of Praxis nearly a century ago sent shockwaves all the way to Federation border. “Subspace shockwaves,” he observed aloud.

    “Yes, sir,” Leskit replied. “I’m attempting to localize the source on long range sensors.”

    “Set a course once you get a fix,” Toq commanded. “Captain Klag to the bridge.”

    ***

    The captain of the Gorkon stepped onto the bridge from the large double door aft within a minute of the summons. He joined Toq and Leskit at the helm. “Report,” Klag called out in his gruff voice.

    “Unusual subspace shockwaves have been detected somewhere in the Narendra system,” Toq replied.

    “We’re on course now,” Leskit added. “Estimated arrival time, fifteen minutes.”

    “That heading takes us dangerously close to the Romulan border,” Klag thought aloud. “Weapons officer, ready all tactical systems.”

    “Yes, sir,” weapons officer Rodek answered. His raspy voice sounded eerily familiar to Klag. Perhaps Rodek was a member of the House of Martok. Klag just wasn’t entirely sure.

    The Gorkon streaked through space at high warp towards the Narendra system. Almost without warning, the large attack cruiser fell out of warp. The bridge rocked violently as the transition from warp to impulse was almost instantaneous. All the officers and crew fell out of their seats and were thrown across the bridge. Klag gathered himself and walked back to his chair once the shaking stopped. “What in the name of Grethor just happened?” he demanded.

    Leskit paced quickly back to his station. “We have dropped out of warp, sir,” he replied.

    “Bridge to engineering,” Klag shouted over the comm. “Why have we fallen out of warp?”

    “Something just collapsed the warp field,” Kurak, a middle-aged female chief engineer replied. “I can’t explain it.”

    Klag had an idea why his ship suddenly fell out of warp. That reason he could not reveal to his crew, however. “Leskit,” he said. “Open a secure channel to Chancellor Martok. In my private chambers.”


    USS Excalibur, Sector 221-G: Near the Romulan Neutral Zone

    For nearly five years, the Galaxy-class USS Excalibur and her Ambassador-class predecessor had been assigned to the former location of the reclusive Thallonian Empire. Ever since that empire fell, the entire sector had been in disarray.

    The Excalibur had just been outfitted with new astrometric sensor technology that the USS Voyager brought home after that ship’s seven-year exile in the Delta Quadrant. The Voyager, itself, had been stripped of all alien technology it had acquired. The Excalibur was the beneficiary of that technology, on the other hand, while exploring a relatively uncharted area of space. Lieutenants Robin Lefler and Soleta were assigned to test the new sensor technology in the stellar cartography lab. The two officers were perched atop the end of a balcony overlooking a holographic star field that filled two decks.

    “Conventional long-range sensors don’t give us this much detail,” Lefler observed of the various astronomical phenomena taking place in adjacent sectors. “We can even sneak a peek at the Neutral Zone.”

    “This is a test run, Lieutenant,” Soleta replied with her Vulcan stoicism. “We are not supposed to be spying on the Romulans.”

    Robin grinned, while also rolling her eyes. “If the Romulans aren’t scheming against us, they have nothing to worry about,” she quipped.

    The star map display suddenly went blank. Lefler attempted to restore the image. All that appeared on her console’s readout was the Greek letter omega. “Strange,” she said. “This is all that’s coming up.”

    “Which one of your ‘laws’ can solve this conundrum?” Soleta asked, in reference to the famous Lefler’s Laws that Robin’s crewmates on both Excaliburs and the Enterprise-D became familiar with.

    “I’ve got nothing,” Lefler retorted. She then tapped her combadge to hail the bridge. “Lefler to bridge, we’re having a problem in stellar cartography.”

    ***

    “We’re also locked out of all systems up here,” replied first officer Burgoyne 172, a member of the hermaphroditic Hermat species. S/he was looking over readouts of the tactical station manned by the Brikar Zak Kebron. “Bridge to Captain Calhoun.”

    “I’m way ahead of you, Commander,” Mackenzie Calhoun, the Xenexian Starfleet captain replied, stepping off the aft port turbolift. He entered a few commands into the Mission Ops station, restoring all bridge functions. “Transfer all sensor data for the last ten minutes to the ready room,” he continued. “Helm, and take us to a full stop and disengage engines. You are not to discuss with the rest of the crew.”

    The officer at conn carried out the captain’s order. The rest of the bridge crew looked up from their stations shooting befuddled stares at one another. “You heard him,” Burgoyne announced to all of them. “We keep whatever this is about quiet.”

    ***

    Calhoun entered the ready room and ordered the doors sealed. “No entry without my authorization,” he added. Sitting behind the desk, he then told the computer, “Access secure data file Omega-one.”

    “Voice print confirmed,” the computer replied. “State clearance code.”

    His purple eyes, a distinguishing feature of Xenexians, gleaned at the monitor. “Calhoun alpha six seven, Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. Clearance-level ten.”

    Sensors have detected the Omega phenomenon five light years from this vessel,” the computer reported. “Please implement the Omega Directive. All other priorities are rescinded.
     
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Part One: Laying the First Stone

    Chapter One

    Federation Starbase Deep Space Nine, Bajoran Sector

    Commander Elias Vaughn stood at the main console of the operations center overseeing routine daily activities. All day long, he had been getting updates from all departments on the security arrangements in preparation for the arrivals of Chancellor Martok and Ambassador Worf. Visiting heads of state and major diplomats usually required special arrangements. Vaughn knew that from his more than eighty years in Starfleet. But now he was actually missing something as mundane as departing freighters’ cargo manifests.

    Vaughn was hoping Lieutenant Ro Laren was stepping off the portside turbolift to tell him that Quark was attempting to smuggle in contraband. “Commander,” the Bajoran chief of security called, “we’re still having some trouble with the surveillance monitors in level four, section seven of the habitat ring.”

    “I’ll get someone on it, Lieutenant,” Nog offered from the primary engineering station.

    “I thought we had new motion sensors put in last month,” said Ezri Dax, who was at a side panel of the main console.

    “We did place an order last month,” Prynn Tenmei explained from the science station. It was an odd sight to everyone in Ops since her specialties were engineering and ship piloting. Of course, no permanent science officer had been found after recent personnel changes.

    “But the sector quartermaster decided that the Free Haven colony was a higher priority,” Ro finished.

    “Lieutenants Ro and Nog,” Vaughn replied, “do what you can.”

    Ro headed back to the turbolift. Vaughn sighed and rolled his eyes. He looked to his daughter Prynn muttering, “If I’m still doing this a year from now, shoot me.”

    Tenmei briefly entertained that thought. Their relationship had been less than cordial in the last decade after a series of events that culminated in the death of Prynn’s mother.

    Vaughn, on the other hand, had become increasingly bored with the more menial duties of a first officer. On the cusp of retiring two years earlier, Vaughn felt reborn after an Orb experience. His assignment to Deep Space 9 at that time included commanding the Defiant on a long exploratory mission to the Gamma Quadrant. That post-captaincy was short-lived when Bajor was admitted into Federation, giving Kira Nerys a permanent Starfleet commission. Those missions were now divided between Vaughn and the newly minted Captain Kira. His requests for a transfer to one of the new explorer ships had not yet come through. For now, all he could do was muddle through the boredom.


    Bajor

    One thing Benjamin Sisko did not miss about Jake’s early childhood was having to chase him down to make sure he did not wander somewhere dangerous. He was now twenty years older and having to keep his two-year old daughter Rebecca out of harm’s way.

    Little Rebecca ran towards the stove where two pots filled with boiling liquid were perched. She was reaching towards the edge of the stove with her little hands when Ben whisked her off the floor.

    “No, no, no,” Ben murmured gently. “What have I told you about staying out of the kitchen when Daddy’s cooking?”
    The elder Sisko carried his daughter into the living room. “Jake,” he called to his son in the study. “If you’re still having writer’s block, you mind keeping an eye on your sister?”

    Jake threw the padd he was staring at blankly onto the desk and walked over to his father. Benjamin handed Rebecca off to Jake. “I hope I’m not getting too old for this,” he mused.

    “You still have a few good years left,” Jake retorted.

    That his firstborn was now an adult certainly reminded Benjamin of how old he was getting. Looking at Jake was like looking at a younger mirror image of himself, now that his son also had a shaved head and a goatee.

    The chirp of the desk monitor caught Benjamin’s attention. He walked into the study to see “Message for Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine” blinking in read letters on the screen. For nearly two years, he had been on an indefinite leave of absence to devote time to his new family. Now his former colleagues were summoning him back, and he was not sure how to react.

    Sisko then pushed a button deleting the incoming message. “Who was that, Dad?” Jake asked from the living room.

    “No one important,” Benjamin lied.


    Nimbus III: The Tri-Border Region

    Once designated the Planet of Galactic Peace, Nimbus Three quickly descended into anarchy. The basic premise behind the colony was sound when it was founded over a century ago, but humans, Klingons, and Romulans residing on the same planet proved to be a disaster waiting to happen. And even after the colony was disbanded, the planet still remained a center for various interstellar smuggling operations.

    One such smuggling operation was about to take place at a loading dock where a freight shuttle was landing. Kur’Tok, a Klingon civilian engineer, stormed towards the shuttle’s side entrance where a Romulan soldier stepped off. “What took you so long?” the hulking Klingon demanded.

    “You’d best watch your tone, Klingon,” replied Lurnak, who was a full head shorter than Kur’Tok. “I couldn’t just hand the cargo off to anyone. And my superiors are starting to become suspicious.”

    “That does not concern me, pe’taq,” Kur’Tok hissed with a murderous rage in his eyes.

    “It should. My delays are your delays. Nevertheless, I have the boronite in the cargo hold.”

    “If you are lying…”

    “I know better than to cross a veruul such as you. You’d do both of us a favor by learning patience, especially when dealing with the Omega molecule. Just one unstable Omega molecule can destroy subspace across an entire solar system.”

    Kur’Tok growled, looking the Romulan in both eyes before storming into the shuttle.

    ***

    Inside the shuttle’s cockpit, Lurnak’s co-pilot Murot was anxiously awaiting a response to a hailing message he sent. He was constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure Lurnak did not walk in during his communiqué.

    Murot became startled when Commander Donatra appeared. “Yes, Murot?” she asked with her charming smile.

    “The cargo is being off-loaded as we speak, Commander,” Murot whispered.

    “Excellent,” the youthful Donatra responded. “I have another assignment for you once you return to the Valdore.”

    Murot looked over his shoulder again to see that no one was watching. “I’m listening,” he said.

    “I need you to continue keeping a close eye on Commander Suran,” Donatra instructed, referring to her one time mentor. Since the end of the Dominion War, Donatra began to see Suran as an overly ambitious soldier whose aspirations could have destructive ramifications across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
     
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Chapter Two

    Captain Kira Nerys sat behind the desk sipping a raktajino. She could not get used to the absence of the baseball. For seven years, Sisko had a baseball perched on the desk during his tenure as Deep Space Nine’s commanding officer. Whenever he was off the station for extended periods, the baseball indicated that he would eventually return. While Kira had come to fully embrace her role as CO in the last two years, not seeing the baseball on the desk made her wonder if Sisko would ever return to Starfleet.

    Kira turned her attention back to reports of her senior officers on the desk monitor when the comm chimed. “Ops to Captain Kira,” Dax called. “Incoming message from Starfleet Command on a Code 47 frequency.”

    “I’ll take it in here,” Kira replied.

    The United Federation of Planets logo appeared on the monitor screen. “This is a Code 47 transmission,” the computer stated. “It is not to be discussed with fellow officers unless deemed absolutely necessary. There will be no record of said transmission.”

    “Understood. On the monitor.”

    Vice-Admiral William Ross appeared on the screen with his usual calm, but stern demeanor. “Captain, how long before Chancellor Martok and Ambassador Worf arrive?”

    “Twelve hours, sir,” Kira replied.

    “What about Captain Sisko?”

    “No word from him. You mind my asking why he’s being called back into service after two years?”

    “The chancellor and the ambassador specifically requested to meet with him regarding a very sensitive issue that’s on a need-to-know basis with your senior staff. As far as they’re concerned, those two are at the station to exchange diplomats with Bajor.”

    Kira took another sip of coffee before setting the mug far aside. “I’m listening,” she said to Ross.

    “Three weeks ago,” Ross replied, “the IKS Gorkon and the USS Excalibur encountered destabilizations of the Omega molecule in two different regions near the Romulan border. Warp travel is now impossible in those star systems. Both our intelligence agencies believe these instances are a harbinger to a greater Omega detonation.”

    “But if the Romulans are hoping to wage war using Omega, wouldn’t that hurt them as much as it would hurt us?”

    “That’s why Martok believes some rogue organization is largely involved. He has a lead, which he believes Sisko is the best candidate to follow up on.”

    “Then I’ll try again to get in touch with the captain.”
    “Good luck with that. Starfleet out.”

    Once Ross’s face was replaced by the UFP seal, Kira then prepared another transmission. “Computer, open a priority one communiqué to Benjamin Sisko on Bajor.”

    ###

    Kasidy Yates Sisko arrived at her family’s residence after a week of running freight throughout the sector. She got that urge to lie down on the sofa and go to sleep for several hours. Her maternal instincts kicked in when she heard little footsteps stomping on the floor.

    “Ma-ma!!!” Rebecca called out, running towards the door.

    Kasidy whisked her daughter off the floor. “Hi, sweetie,” she replied. “Mommy’s home.”

    Benjamin and Jake were close behind the excited little girl. Benjamin offered to take his wife’s duffel bag off her left shoulder. “Don’t worry about getting this child off me,” Kasidy quipped. To Rebecca, she said, “You’re sure getting heavy.”

    “I’ve got a surprise for dinner,” Ben told her after they shared a kiss.

    “That can wait,” Kasidy shot back, handing off their daughter. “I can’t think about food right now.”

    Kasidy trudged into the study, as she was too tired to walk all the way up the stairs. She sat down on the sofa when she quickly saw the desk monitor blinking. In big red letters, the words, “Incoming message from Deep Space 9 for Benjamin Sisko” flashed on the screen.

    “Ben, have you seen this message yet?” she asked.

    Benjamin walked into the study to see the same thing his wife saw. “Can’t blame Kira for her persistence,” he mused “But I should let her know I’m finished with Starfleet.”

    Those words caught Jake by surprise, so he joined the rest of the family in the study. “Dad, you’re on extended leave of absence,” he said. “You didn’t resign.”

    Benjamin sighed. He sat down next to Kasidy with Rebecca in tow. “I knew this day would come eventually,” he said. “I never realized that part of my life was behind me until they were summoning me back.”

    “But why, Ben?” Kasidy demanded. “Whenever you left on a mission, I would worry that I was seeing you alive for the last time. But that was your career and your life. What’s happened in the last two years?”

    “The Dominion War happened,” Benjamin replied. “And I constantly had to choose between my role as a Starfleet officer and that of the Emissary.

    “When I was with the Prophets, I saw how much of a role I had to play in Bajor’s destiny. And maybe Admiral Ross was right that I couldn’t be both. Jadzia died because I ignored the Prophets’ warning not to walk a different path.”

    “That’s not fair Dad,” Jake interjected. “You could’ve been on the station and it still would have happened.”

    Like everyone serving in Starfleet at the time of the war, he lost many friends. Jadzia’s death still haunted Benjamin. He had returned the Prophets to Bajor, and the Dax symbiont lived on in Ezri, yet he still felt that one death could have been averted.

    He welcomed Ezri’s presence, as he did Jadzia’s, as they were reincarnations of his friend and mentor Curzon. He had even gotten used to his old mentor being a young woman rather than an old man when the symbiont went from Curzon to Jadzia. Even so, he found he had trouble taking advice from someone who was relatively child-like. While Jake had just made a cogent argument, Benjamin knew not to take the Prophets’ warnings lightly. He ignored their warning not to accompany the mission to invade Chin’toka, and Jadzia’s death may have been a tragic consequence.

    “You’ve made a difference to Bajor in both roles, Ben,” Kasidy contended. “If you hadn’t convinced the Prophets to stop the Dominion reinforcements, things would be a lot different.”
    “And didn’t Gul Dukat say the Pah-Wraiths would overrun the whole Alpha Quadrant?” Jake added. “Not just Bajor.”

    “Whatever is being asked of you,” said Kasidy, “You can make difference again.”

    “All right,” Benjamin relented. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

    This was not the first time Benjamin Sisko was at this kind of crossroads in his life. He had considered resigning after his first wife, Jake’s mother, lost her life in the destructive Battle of Wolf 359 against the Borg. The beings inside the Bajoran wormhole gave him a new sense of purpose. Perhaps they had done so again since his last visit to their realm. Despite those considerations, he still got a lingering sense that this time was different. This time, maybe he truly was finished with Starfleet.

    ###

    Some hours after Quark’s had closed, the proprietor had a special guest in the establishment to conduct a black market transaction. An Yridian trader provided Quark with a case full of Angosian liquid crystals. The crystals were suspended in rectangular glass containers, to which the Ferengi barkeep had applied a hand scanner.

    “Looks like the merchandise is completely authentic,” Quark declared.

    “Glad you approve,” his Yridian business partner replied. “And in exchange for your services, four hundred bars of gold-pressed latinum have been forwarded to your account.”

    “Better put it on my account in the Bank of Bolius. You promised me a cut of the merchandise, but I still have to ask. Why did you need me to help you circumvent station security?”

    “These crystals are illegal in the Federation. Smuggling has become increasingly difficult now that Bajor is a Federation member.”

    “Of course. You came to the right place. This establishment is now sovereign Ferengi territory. But Angosian liquid crystals aren’t as lucrative as they used to be.”

    “We have a deal, Quark. We would exchange our services, very few questions asked.”

    “Right you are.”

    The Yridian nodded gracefully and quietly left the establishment. Outside, on the Promenade, a male Trill crewperson was staring at the Yridian form the second level as if he was waiting for him.

    ###

    Somewhere in the central core, the Trill man stepped into a dark storage bay. He slowly increased the light level, so not to alarm the room’s other occupant, Quark’s Yridian business partner.

    “Are the explosives on board?” the Trill asked.

    “Yes,” the Yridian answered. “The Ferengi was able to help get them in without raising any alarms. You’ll find them in Cargo Bay Twelve.”

    “They’d better do the job, or my employer will see that you have an unfortunate accident.”

    “You will not be disappointed.”
     
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Chapter Three

    The new Klingon flagship, the IKS Sword of Kahless approached Deep Space Nine. Because this class of ship was too large to dock at the station, a shuttle ferried the chancellor and the ambassador to one of the ports along the docking ring.

    Aboard the station, several senior officers were waiting at the airlock. Doctor Julian Bashir fidgeted with the collar of his dress uniform. Ezri offered to help adjust the collar having noticed his constant tugging while walking to the airlock.

    “You either need a new uniform or a new neck,” Dax remarked.

    “My neck is the same size as it was when I was in med school,” Bashir replied.

    “Any word from Captain Sisko yet?” Kira asked Vaughn.

    “He hasn’t contacted the station,” Vaughn replied.

    The inner airlock hatch rolled open. Two Klingon guards stepped through the entryway. Kira gave an approving nod. Chancellor Martok then stepped through the egress, with Ambassador Worf close behind.

    Kira nodded to both VIP guests feeling that her welcome would be awkward since both Martok and Worf had regularly been aboard the station through the end of the Dominion War. “Chancellor, Ambassador,” she stated plainly. “Welcome to Deep Space Nine.”

    “We are honored to be here, Captain,” the one-eyed Klingon chancellor replied.

    “The two of you know Lieutenant Dax and Doctor Bashir,” Kira continued. “And this Commander Elias Vaughn, first officer.”

    “An honor to meet you, Commander,” Worf said to Vaughn. “I have heard a lot about your major accomplishments.”

    “I am honored to meet you as well, Ambassador,” Vaughn replied. “I knew your paternal grandfather.”

    “While Klingons are not known for their intellectual prowess,” Worf stated, “Colonel Worf was one of our best legal minds.” In fact, the older Worf was the defense for James Kirk and Leonard McCoy when they were on trial for the assassination of Chancellor Gorkon during the first efforts towards peace between the Federation and the Empire.

    Martok looked around to see that Sisko was not part of the welcoming committee. “Is Captain Sisko aboard your station?” he then asked Kira.

    “We’ve tried to contact him with no success,” Kira replied.

    “He’s been inactive for almost two years,” Dax added. “I guess coaxing him back wouldn’t be easy.”

    “Well, that is a problem,” said the chancellor.

    “Hopefully, I’m not too late to solve it.”

    Everyone heard a familiar voice down the corridor. Kira, Dax, and Bashir smiled at the sight of their former CO, Benjamin Sisko back in uniform. After his confrontation with Dukat in the Bajoran Fire Caves, Sisko was pulled into the timeless realm of the Prophets. He returned the day Bajor was admitted into the Federation. Kira offered to relinquish command back to Sisko, but he declined.

    The welcoming committee and the two guests sauntered down the corridor. Bashir shot Sisko a grin and raised his eyebrows. Julian was now remembering when Sisko dressed him down for not wearing the proper uniform as part of a welcoming committee for an alien delegation.

    ***

    The group that welcomed Martok and Worf aboard the station later convened with the two Klingons in the station’s wardroom. Their visit was mainly for routine diplomatic reasons. However, Vaughn could immediately deduce that they had other reasons for having specifically requested to meet with Sisko.

    Martok began the briefing with what the Gorkon encountered in the Narendra system. Only he claimed the Gorkon encountered the detonation of subspace weapons banned by the Khitomer Accords. “Intelligence reports indicated the Ku-Vok-leth are involved,” Martok added. “A century ago, they were considered the elites of the warrior class. They have a much more literal interpretation of the teachings of Kahless.”

    “Like religious fundamentalists on Earth three-hundred years ago,” Sisko offered.

    Worf nodded. “They are opposed to the alliance between the Federation and the Empire,” he added. “Ever since the first Khitomer Accord was signed, they have attempted to destabilize the Empire. And the Romulans could attempt to manipulate the circumstances in their favor.”

    “And now with these subspace weapons,” Kira replied, “they could conceivably shift the balance of power.”

    Vaughn’s eyebrow twitched when he heard a slight hesitation in Kira’s voice when using the words subspace weapons. As a long-time intelligence agent, he had other means of obtaining classified information. Clearly, the damage to subspace in those two star systems was the result of the Omega molecule. Of course, Kira had to keep her crew in the dark as long as possible.

    “And if we attempt to stop these rogue Klingons,” Vaughn stated, to show that he was still focused on the discussion, “that could give the Romulans an excuse to strike.”

    “Are the Romulans in any shape to wage war?” Dax curiously asked.

    “The Romulans entered the Dominion War much later,” Sisko explained. “Plus the use of Reman soldiers as cannon fodder minimized their own casualties.”

    “Even then,” Worf grumbled, “they lacked the courage to face their enemies on the battlefield.”

    “Sloan told me that the Federation and the Romulans would be the major competitors after the war,” Bashir recalled of the Section 31 agent who tried to recruit him three years earlier. “We’re not conceding that war is inevitable, are we?”

    “As Kahless once said,” Martok replied, “’Ending a battle to save an empire is no defeat.’ We have a lead that may allow us to find out where the Ku-Vok-leth plans to strike next.”

    “That is where you come in, Captain,” Worf said to Sisko.

    Sisko squinted his eyes curiously. Finally, he thought, he would learn why Martok and Worf requested his presence.

    “A month ago, an intelligence agent tracked one of the terrorists to Torman Five,” Martok began. He attached a data chip to the side of the wall monitor behind his end of the meeting table. A black and white photograph of a crowed tavern appeared on the screen.

    “This suspected Ku-Vok-leth operative designated a person of interest,” Martok continued, “met with someone with whom most of you are familiar. Computer, magnify grid one-six gamma and enhance.”

    The image magnified to show a Klingon and a Trill male. The brown haired, pale-skinned Trill caught the attention of Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Bashir.

    “Verad Kalon,” Sisko confirmed aloud.

    “But Verad’s dead,” Ezri insisted. “Julian and I saw him take his own life to avoid capture.”

    “We theorize that he faked his death to keep the authorities off his trail,” Worf replied. “I was able to cross reference this image with Starfleet and Klingon databases. This man is, without question, Verad Kalon.”

    The name certainly brought back unpleasant memories. Eight years earlier, while a skeleton crew was running the station during a dangerous plasma storm, Verad and two Klingon mercenaries seized DS9. Verad then demanded the Dax symbiont. He then became a temporary host, almost at the expense of Jadzia’s life.

    Verad resurfaced six years later when he unleashed a virus in the hope of eradicating the Trill symbionts. Bashir and Ezri Dax foiled his plan with the help of Worf’s former crewmates on the Enterprise-E. Verad then martyred himself. Now, this photograph showed that Verad was very much alive.

    “Your job, Captain,” Worf declared, “will be to infiltrate the neo-Purists, learn their connections to the Ku-Vok-leth, and, if possible, find out the Ku-Vok-leth’s next target.”

    “That’s a bit of a long shot, Ambassador,” protested Sisko. “We can’t be certain that these two organizations have very strong ties to begin with. And wouldn’t Ezri be a better choice for this job?”

    “I represent what they hate,” Ezri replied. “I’d be shot on sight.”

    “Besides, you’ve been out of Starfleet two years,” Kira added. “That would make a desire to join a terrorist organization more plausible.”

    “I suppose,” Sisko sighed. “If this is the best course of action…”

    “We would not make this request if we had a better plan,” Martok assured.

    “When do I leave?” Sisko inquired, showing no hint of enthusiasm.

    ###

    During the briefing, Nog was in charge of Ops. He remained at his station, however, to oversee the day’s routine system diagnostics. Most of the diagnostics revealed no problems. He was slowly nodding off when a flashing readout caught his eye.

    “That can’t be right,” the petite Ferengi mumbled. The flashing words indicated a problem with one of the circuits in the reactor core’s plasma coolant system. He remembered that Crewman Doran had repaired that circuitry the day before.

    “Doran,” he called to the Trill engineer at one of the aft auxiliary stations. “You repaired the plasma coolant system?”

    “Yes,” Doran nervously replied, as if he were hiding something.

    “Did you notice this misalignment?”

    “No, sir.”

    “Then it may be a new problem. You have Ops, Tenmei.”

    Nog grabbed his engineering toolkit and headed for the port turbolift. Doran surreptitiously picked up a plasma torch, lit it to see that it worked, and tucked it underneath his uniform tunic.

    ***

    The two engineers crawled through one of the access tunnels on a lower level to get a closer look. Nog opened the hatch to the malfunctioning circuit and flipped open a tricorder. Doran anxiously looked back and forth down the crawl space to make sure no one else was working in this section. He then became jumpy when his CO closed his tricorder.

    “This looks like our malfunctioning circuit,” Nog confirmed aloud. “Hand me a coil spanner.”

    Instead of obliging, Doran reached around Nog’s head, covering the Ferengi’s mouth with a cloth from his gold under-tunic. Nog quickly lapsed into unconsciousness. Doran then threw aside his own combadge and Nog’s before hastily crawling off.


    Ki Baratan, Capital City of Romulus

    Suran stood in a dark alley. He could hear the quiet rumbling of thunder in the distance, and he tightened his hood. This was the part of being an agent of the Tal Shiar that he hated. He looked at the timepiece on a ring on his left middle finger wondering how much longer he would have to wait for the agent he arranged to meet.

    The Romulan commander stood still when he heard footsteps walking towards him. Suran shined his wrist beacon on the humanoid figure approaching. “It’s all right, Commander,” he said.

    He was an elderly human male whose hair had gone completely gray. He removed his hood to show that he was the person Suran was waiting for. “The operation is underway,” he declared.

    “Then Kur’Tok received the boronite?” Suran inquired.

    “Yes. Enough to form a single Omega molecule.”

    The human agent then removed an isolinear data chip from his left front pocket. “This contains all the relevant data,” he continued, “as well as specifications for the harmonic resonance chamber.”

    “You should deliver that technology yourself,” Suran insisted.

    “We wish to minimize activities that could be traced back to us.”

    “Of course. The ‘morally superior Federation’ does not engage in these kinds of underground operations. What is to guarantee I won’t forward this information to the Klingon High Council as well? Not even Martok would be happy to learn Starfleet agents are consorting with the Tal Shiar or sources of dissent within their Empire.”

    “I’ve programmed the chip’s data to self-destruct if you forward it to anyone other than your clients on Nimbus Three.”

    “Well, this agency of yours hasn’t survived this long by being sloppy. I will pass this along.”

    The human agent nodded, then placed his hood back on his head. Both the human and the Romulan walked away slowly in opposite directions.

    Suran stopped, once he turned a corner. He had a sense he had met this man before, though he was not certain. Suran began to think back to a strange associate of the late Senator Vreenak. But that person was a Romulan. Then again, anything was possible with Section 31.
     
  7. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Interlude: Flashback One

    Stardate 49039 (Earth year 2372): Two weeks after the First Battle of Deep Space 9

    Six years earlier, Suran was the military liaison to the Senate. Shortly after the Klingon invasion of the Cardassian Union, Vreenak hired a new chief of staff, of whom Suran was suspicious. Tirak had been suggesting using the renewed hostilities between the Federation and the Klingon Empire as an opportunity to annex territory along the border between the Klingon and Romulan Empires. Suran and his Tal Shiar cohorts, on the other hand, believed that the time was not right after the failed Romulan-Cardassian attack on the Founders’ home planet.

    As chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, Vreenak was a staunch supporter of Tal Shiar policy. However, the Tal Shiar had very limited information on Tirak. He had apparently just appeared on Romulus one day as an advisor to one of the most influential voices in the Senate.

    The senator took a sip of his beverage when his comm-link chimed. “What is it, now?” he irately asked his receptionist.

    “Senator, Tirak and Suran are waiting to see you,” a young woman replied.

    “Send them in.”

    Tirak and Suran tried to enter at the same time. Both of them bumped into the sides of the door. Tirak then slipped by. Suran rolled his eyes at the idea of having to work alongside this man. Suran had served Vreenak and other Senate veterans for nearly two decades. Tirak seemingly came from nowhere, although he was of advanced middle age like Suran.

    “What do you have gentlemen?” the Senator asked.

    Tirak placed a small briefcase on the desk and removed a padd. He used it to activate a holographic star map. It showed fleet deployments of both Romulan and Klingon forces symbolized by multiple logos of the two empires. Tirak pointed to a smaller Klingon Empire symbol at a sector on the border.

    “The Tranome Sar sector remains highly vulnerable,” Tirak explained. “For years, the Klingons have kept it heavily fortified since our last engagement with them. Now it’s reduced to a few small squadrons with a large force now in Cardassian territory.”

    “As I have reminded the Senate,” Suran countered, “any effort to annex even the outer star systems would still take a rather large fleet. Our supply lines would be spread rather thinly in the core systems.”

    “I understand your skepticism, Commander,” Vreenak replied. “I agree that now is not the time for a major strike. I would suggest a few offensives: hit-and-run strikes to rattle the Klingons.”

    The two officers exchanged silent gazes at one another. Tirak and Suran then looked to Vreenak nodding in agreement. Suran did not expect Tirak to relent so quickly after Tirak’s suggestion of being overly aggressive.

    “I’ve had a long day,” said the senator begrudgingly. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take my leave of you now.”

    “Of course, Senator,” Tirak replied.

    Tirak quickly stepped out. Suran took small steps out of the office until Tirak was out of sight. “Senator, one other thing,” he then requested of Vreenak.

    “What is it?” Vreenak impatiently demanded.

    “With all due respect, sir, the Tal Shiar has little on this new chief-of-staff of yours. As you are on the Intelligence Committee, your detractors may see hiring this man to be… should I say, questionable judgment on your part.”

    “I’m keeping a close eye on him.”

    “That may not be enough. According to recent bulletins, the Federation starship equipped with one of our cloaking devices was seen uncloaking deep in Tzenkethi space before returning to its own territory.”

    “What relevance does this incident have?”

    “Our operatives in Tzenkethi space believe a Dominion spy was on that ship.”

    Vreenak’s eyebrows twitched upward. The presence of Changeling infiltrators in the Romulan Star Empire was a definite possibility. After all, a Changeling derailed the attack on their homeworld by a combined Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order fleet.

    “Watch his every move then,” Vreenak commanded. “Any hint of treachery on his part, eliminate him.”

    “Yes, sir,” Suran eagerly replied.

    ###

    Chancellor Gowron lay back in a chair in his private chamber, passed out from all the blood-wine he drank earlier that night. Despite having halted the invasion of the Cardassian Union, the Klingon Empire had achieved a major victory. Upon his return to Qo’Nos, Gowron had declared victory to protect his precarious position.

    His snoring drowned out the sound of the doorbell. After the third ring, the chancellor blinked his eyes open. “Enter,” he called out sitting up straight.

    Martok entered the chamber, once the large metallic doors parted. Unknown at the time, Gowron’s top military advisor had been replaced by a Changeling. The general’s doppelganger had pushed for an invasion of Cardassia based on false intelligence that the Dominion had clandestinely seized power there. The real Martok had not yet lost his right eye, so his replacement had accurately simulated both eyes.

    “I hope I’m not disturbing you, Chancellor,” the general apologetically stated.

    “Of course not,” Gowron replied, straightening his ceremonial robe. “Come in.”

    “Our reconnaissance probes picked up growing Romulan activity along the border,” Martok reported, setting a padd down on the desk. “Tranome Sar is the most vulnerable.”

    Gowron took a quick glance at the padd and scoffed. “They wish us to think they will attack Tranome Sar,” he mused. “Let the Romulans do what they wish for the time being.”

    “Is that wise?” Martok inquired, gritting his teeth as best he could in order to emulate a Klingon.

    “We expended a great deal of our forces to our last major victory. We cannot be too hasty with rumors of a Romulan threat.”

    “Chancellor, with due deference, we cannot show our enemies weakness, especially the Romulans. Your declaration of victory against the Cardassians was political maneuvering, meaning you are still vulnerable. Your allies and enemies are waiting to see if you can handle the Federation and the Romulans.”

    Gowron gave a wry grin. “How very true,” he replied. “Dispatch a squadron to launch a pre-emptive strike on their side of the border. Let the Romulans know we can threaten them like they can threaten us.”

    Both men laughed. Of course, the Martok Changeling had achieved a completely separate objective. In retaliation for the aborted attack on his homeworld, he had hoped for the slaughter of as many Romulans as possible.

    ###

    A Romulan trading post was nearly devoid of activity. A few freighters entered the station’s outer docking ports. The station and the ships were civilian owned, so their passengers and crews were not expecting any military activity. With no warning, two Klingon Birds-of-Prey decloaked. The two ships began firing disruptors at the station. The trading post had minimal defenses, so the Birds-of-Prey made quick work of it. The station quickly erupted in a large fireball.
     
  8. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Four

    Nog woke up in the main exam room of the Infirmary. Doctor Bashir held the hand sensor of a medical tricorder to Nog’s head to check for possible brain damage. Ro stood in the entryway waiting on the doctor to report and get a statement from the Ferengi.

    “Looks like you’ll live,” Bashir jovially stated. “No sign of any damage resulting from oxygen deprivation.”

    “Looking to Ro, Nog asked, “Any luck finding Doran?”

    “None,” Ro answered, “He knows the internal sensors well.”

    “So he’ll be tougher to track,” Nog retorted, ascending from the reclining exam chair. “I can imagine.”

    “How are you coming with the surveillance system?”
    “We have it running okay for now in the VIP section. We’ve had to draw power from other areas of the habitat ring.”

    “Then he’s most likely in one of those sections,” said Ro with a half grin.

    ###

    The runabout Delphi streaked through space at high warp towards the Torman star system. The Delphi belonged to a new class of short-range transport vessels. Unlike the Danube-class predecessors, the Indiana Jones-class ships had better atmospheric maneuvering capabilities.

    Inside the cockpit, which was a modification of the Danube-class cockpit, Sisko and Dax barely spoke to each other for almost twelve hours. Ezri had attempted to make small talk asking about both his children and living on Bajor. He would just give quick answers to avoid any conversation.

    “We’ll reach Torman Five in two hours,” Ezri stated in another attempt to make conversation.

    “That’s nice,” Benjamin deadpanned.

    “Morn would be a less boring traveling companion right now,” Dax remarked with a frustrated sigh.

    “Morn?” Sisko asked, needing a second to remember the name of Quark’s most frequent customer.

    “Quark will tell you he’s quite the chatterbox, but I don’t recall when he said very much.”

    “Don’t take it personally, old man. I never expected to be summoned back as an undercover operative.”

    “I was just as surprised to hear that Verad is still alive. We should probably use this time to go over your cover story. Why did you leave the station when you went to confront Dukat in the Fire Caves?”

    Sisko sensed some uneasiness in Dax’s voice at the mention of Skrain Dukat, who killed Jadzia almost four years earlier. “I decided I had enough of Starfleet.”

    “Good,” Ezri replied with a nod. “And what made you want to join the Neo-Purists?”

    “I have information that could be of use to them.”

    “But what’s your vested interest in their cause?”

    “The oppression of the citizens on a member world the Federation is turning a blind eye to. And the promise I made to a friend on her deathbed.”

    That last statement again evoked unpleasant memories for both of them. Of course, the promise Sisko made upon Jadzia’s death was to undo the damage Dukat had caused when he placed a malevolent Pah-Wraith in the Bajoran Wormhole. Sisko had fulfilled that promise. Yet, in order to win over Verad, he would have to rewrite his own personal history. He would have to convince Verad that the promise to Jadzia was to help right the perceived wrongs of Trill society.

    ###

    Sisko and Dax entered a nightclub that was a major hub of black market activity on Torman Five. Bright lights flashed and pulsating music played throughout the establishment. Patrons of various alien races were either drinking or admiring the two Orion women dancing on the stage.

    Ezri wore a jacket over her uniform that had a hood over her head. She walked directly behind Benjamin in case they would immediately enter Verad’s field of vision upon entry into the building. That was not the case fortunately. The two of them slowly walked over to a corner table. Dax set a computer module that was hanging from her right shoulder on the table.

    “You know what to do,” Sisko whispered.

    Dax answered with a slow nod.

    Sisko then sauntered over to the bar, where a Bolian was scrubbing empty glasses. “I’m looking for Verad Kalon, a Trill male,” he said. “Is he here?”

    The bartender pointed to his right. Sisko looked in that general direction and immediately recognized Verad, sharing a laugh with portly Ferengi.

    “I know what you mean, Pelk,” Verad was saying as Sisko walked towards them. “You don’t have to make bad business decisions. The FCA can choke you with new taxes.”

    “I know a Ferengi who has mastered a few tricks,” Sisko retorted.

    Verad immediately recognized the deep voice behind him, especially since he carried the Dax symbiont, albeit very briefly. He was half expecting Sisko to place him under arrest. But his old nemesis was dressed in civilian clothing and had a more jovial tone.

    From afar, Dax could see Verad, as she prepared her equipment to listen in on Sisko. She had to look away to shake an uncomfortable sensation. The sensation was not quite an out-of-body experience. It was more like seeing a part of her own psyche in another person. After all, she had all of Verad’s memories up to the point where the symbiont was removed and put back into Jadzia.

    “Dax to Defiant,” she whispered, tapping an earplug in her left ear, “are you hearing me?”

    ###

    The USS Defiant took a position on the far side of a gas giant in the system. That ship’s job was to stand ready in case Sisko was in any danger during the operation. The engineering crews there were conducting modifications to the communications arrays. On the bridge, Lieutenant Sam Bowers monitored pirate ship activity at the starboard tactical station. On his right, Lieutenant, junior grade, Jonas Escobar monitored communications traffic. One of the displayed graphics spiked when Ezri hailed.

    “You’re coming in loud and clear, Lieutenant,” Escobar replied.

    “What about Sisko?”

    Static quickly filled the speakers again. After it slowly waned, it was replaced by Verad’s voice in mid-sentence. “… that you’ve completely given up Starfleet this time, Benjamin,” he was saying.

    “If you’ve seen my service record,” Sisko replied, “you’d know I haven’t been in Starfleet for nearly three years.”
    “He’s coming in clearly, too,” said Bowers.

    “Now that that’s done,” Ezri retorted, “the sooner I leave here, the better.”

    “The Chaffee will be on its way shortly,” Bowers answered.

    ###

    “You may as well have been out of Starfleet after Wolf 359,” Verad said of Sisko’s claim. “I wouldn’t want to be toiling away in some shipyard on Mars for three years.”

    “Of course, the Dominion War inflicted far more loss of life than a single Borg cube.”

    “That’s a good reason to quit the service entirely. But why would you wish to betray Starfleet?”

    “I wouldn’t call it betraying Starfleet. Sometimes, extreme measures need to be taken to get the big guys to listen. I am hoping to take up a worthy cause. I can make it worth your while.”

    Verad squinted, not certain what kind of an offer Benjamin was making. “What did you have in mind?” he skeptically asked.

    “I know where you can find Tander Narik,” Sisko answered. “I understand he’s agreed to testify against you in the abductions of the Vos and Roa symbionts.”

    “Still can’t prove that I murdered their previous hosts, eh?” Verad retorted. “Or am I being charged with murder two for their deaths?”

    “Do we have a deal or not?”

    Verad again stared at the padd Sisko handed him. “I’ll give you a one-hundred thousand credit stipend,” the Trill offered, “after my informants in the security ministry verify this and once they have the witness protection program pass codes.”

    “No, you get that after I’ve been paid in full.”

    “To assure I don’t report you to Starfleet Security. I’d do the same in your shoes, Ben.”

    “Do we have a deal then?”

    Verad replied with a scheming grin.

    ###

    Sisko would later accompany Verad to his makeshift residence. The titanium walls were the remains of a downed freighter. The enclosure was the size of a runabout cockpit. It was only one room with a few small alcoves with a bed and a shower. It wasn’t much, but Verad felt that, even if he traveled under an alias, he would still attract attention living in one of the housing units.

    While they traveled to Verad’s residence, Sisko further explained the events that led to his present situation, according to his cover story. He reiterated the effect the Dominion War had on his psyche. He then made vague references to a promise he made to Jadzia when she was on her deathbed, which was to address grave injustices in Trill society.

    “So you feel that your duty now is to address wrongs within the Federation,” Verad commented as they entered the housing area.

    “Especially wrongs the Federation and member governments have ignored,” Sisko added. “Not just the crimes of the Symbiosis Commission, but the abandonment of our colonies in the former Demilitarized Zone.”

    Verad scoffed as he threw down a green duffel bag. “You were famous for condemning the Maquis,” he countered, “especially when Cal Hudson and Michael Eddington left Starfleet.”

    “They betrayed Starfleet,” Sisko explained. “Yet they believed strongly in the Maquis and their goals. They could be admired for the same reason as the Bajorans while their planet was under Cardassian rule.”

    Verad smiled and nodded, as if having been reminded of the person he once knew, or rather Curzon and Jadzia Dax once knew. “I always thought you Starfleet types were a bunch of Herberts.”

    “Herberts?”

    “A Tiburon slang term for someone who is rigid and inflexible.”

    Sisko remembered that a Tiburon officer was part of the mission to salvage a crashed Jem’Hadar fighter on Torga Four. Ensign T’Lor was one of five crewpersons killed during that operation. And they were only a very small fraction of those who died during the war.

    “Sorry to disappoint,” Sisko sarcastically remarked.

    Someone began banging on the door. Verad moved towards the door to open it. “Hey, Verad,” a male voice called out. “You in there?”

    The door opened and a short, but portly, Trill man quickly entered. He pulled the door shut as soon as he was inside. He frantically ran towards the replicator without even noticing Sisko. His hurriedness indicated he was running from something.

    “What’s wrong, Runold?” Verad asked.

    Runold’s accent sounded like an Earth Brooklyn accent. That should not have been possible for a non-Terran, though Sisko had heard of one particular municipality on Trill where a similar accent was prevalent. “I heard the authorities are gonna be swarming this area,” Runold said, taking a gulp of cold water he replicated. “They got some tip about a bogus address.”

    “We’d better pack it up, just to be safe,” Verad stated calmly. “Make sure we get the explosives out.”

    “Mind if I help?” Sisko inquired, wondering if the two Trill forgot he was there.

    Runold saw Sisko and winced. “Who’s this guy, Verad?” he demanded. He stared at Sisko for a long moment.

    With each passing moment, Sisko worried that this Trill would eventually recognize him.

    “This is Benjamin Russell, “Verad answered nervously. “He has information on a key witness.”

    Benjamin Russell. That name was not at all familiar, but Runold still thought he had seen Sisko’s face. He just wasn’t sure where, though Sisko came up with the false surname from his 20th century alternate persona during a Prophet-induced vision.

    “Have we met before?” Runold asked Sisko with still a hint of suspicion.

    “Can’t say that we have,” Sisko candidly replied.

    “Why don’t the two of you get acquainted,” Verad chimed in. He slowly walked out to the back of the house hoping neither of them would be caught in a lie.

    “You know what,” said Runold after Verad was gone, “why don’t I just find out if any security bulletins are out on you.”

    Sisko started to speak, but was at a loss for words. He began to wonder if anyone got around to changing his biography. He just came up with his alias on the fly. Hopefully, the Defiant was still listening in.

    ###

    Sam Bowers sat in the command chair on the Defiant’s bridge. He looked up from the chair’s right side control panel when hearing Runold’s plan to look up a profile on a possibly non-existent Benjamin Russell.

    “How are you coming with Sisko’s false profile, Escobar?” he asked the smooth-headed man at communications.

    “I’m having a little trouble with the SI feed,” Escobar replied.
    “See if you can speed it up, if possible.”

    ###

    A photograph of Sisko appeared on the padd Runold was operating. Instead of a Starfleet uniform, the former officer now wore a dark leather jacket over a thin gray shirt in the picture. The name on the top of the padd’s screen read Benjamin Russell. Underneath was a list of his “crimes”: smuggling, burglary, illegal weapons sales, breaking into classified files and possession of controlled medicinal substances.

    “It checks out,” the stocky Trill proclaimed.

    Sisko just stood quietly, showing no hint of nervousness or fear of being exposed as a spy. “Satisfied?” he asked.

    “For now,” Runold replied softly. He shot a quick glance at Sisko. He still had that gut feeling. As of now, though, he didn’t believe this human was a spy.
     
  9. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Five

    Miette Donatra gently caressed the arms of her chair on the bridge of the IRW Valdore. She never understood why her ship was called that. Two centuries ago, Admiral Valdore had conceived of a remote controlled starship that could disguise itself as any other ship for the purpose of inciting conflict among the eventual founding members of the Federation. In fact, the entire Earth-Romulan War was fought with remote controlled ships. Truly courageous warriors faced their enemies on the battlefield, Donatra believed. For now, she would serve the Star Empire she loved in her own way.

    A youthful male officer walked away from a starboard auxiliary station and strode over to the center seat. “Commander,” he said sharply, “the Tiralihaan has left orbit of ch’Rihan.”

    “Thank you, Subcommander,” Donatra replied while lost in a thought. “Pilot, lay in a parallel pursuit course. Keep us on the edge of their sensor range and engage the cloak.”

    The lights dimmed as the cloaking device hummed to life. Donatra arched her head to her right to see the subcommander still standing next to her. “Something else, Murot?” she snapped suspiciously.

    “May I ask why we are shadowing your former mentor?”

    Donatra sensed more than just curiosity in Murot’s voice. Just five years ago, Murot was a lowly uhlaan in the Romulan Guard. She could never corroborate his claim that he earned a battlefield commission during the Dominion War. He could have easily assassinated his way up the ranks, yet no one could definitively prove it. Donatra appointed Murot as her second-in-command in accordance with the Terran expression, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

    “You only need to know that I am acting on direct orders from the khre’Riov himself,” Donatra lied. She could say no more, even to her executive officer. If he were working for Suran, or worse, Senator Tal’Aura, Donatra was as good as dead.

    Murot half-nodded in acknowledgement. Donatra took a momentary glance at Murot as he returned to his station, hoping he wouldn’t push his inquiries any further. Thankfully, he knew that to do so would only further confirm her suspicions.

    ###

    Prynn Tenmei stepped out onto the Promenade from the main entrance to Quark’s. She saw Doctor Bashir saunter towards the bar from the opposite direction, and she slowly turned the other way. From the tuxedo he was wearing, Prynn deduced that he had a holosuite reservation. She had hoped to avoid being asked to accompany him, but he had already spotted her.

    “Prynn,” Julian called. “Fancy seeing you here.”

    She grinned to act as though she was not trying to avoid him. “Which program is this?” she asked, feigning interest. “Julian Bashir, secret agent or Jack Bauer, sociopath?”

    “The former. Care to join me? Nog cancelled at the last minute.”

    “In what role? Someone with a degrading name like Mona Luvsit? I’ll pass.”

    Bashir chuckled. He had the program for six years, yet no one mentioned that aspect of it. While they continued exchanging laughs regarding the absurdities of the program.

    ***

    Worf descended down a nearby spiral staircase. That woman is clearly not Ezri Dax, the ambassador thought. Yet, Julian was very friendly towards Prynn. He and Ezri became romantically involved shortly before Worf left DS9 to become Federation ambassador to Qo’Nos. Both Julian and Ezri put off pursuing such a relationship for a month before then. Worf even encouraged Ezri even though she carried the memories of his deceased wife Jadzia. Worf became sort of a protective older brother to Ezri.

    Worf was not sure whether to be annoyed or elated at what he was witnessing. He was not one to listen in on the latest gossip, so he had not learned Julian and Ezri had dissolved their relationship after Ezri’s switch from counseling to the command track caused various problems. He was envisioning saying, “I told you so.” The way Julian was now dressed once again confirmed to Worf that Bashir was an overgrown child.

    The Klingon sighed, and then continued on his way. He nodded as he passed Tenmei with a look saying, “I am afraid for you.” She nodded back, and then gave a perturbed wince wondering why he gave that look after he had passed.

    ###

    Nog and a Bajoran male security officer walked stealthily through a corridor in the habitat ring. For some reason, Nog felt like he had to re-learn the names of the deputies who had served under former station security chief Odo for seven years. He couldn’t really understand why since they were the same individuals wearing Starfleet uniforms rather than Bajoran militia uniforms. The uniform fit snugly on Yndar Pol, a middle aged Bajoran man with graying dark hair, who had been one of Odo’s most trusted officers—and of course, now Ro’s—during his nine year tenure.

    Nog took small steps to a door to empty crew quarters, scanning with a tricorder. When the readout indicated no life-signs inside the cabin, he nodded to Yndar. The Bajoran petty officer placed himself at the left of the door, phaser rifle at the ready. Nog removed the panel on the door’s right to access the manual release. The lock became unlatched and Yndar slid the door open the rest of the way.

    Nog and Yndar entered the vacant room, ready to fire their rifles. As the tricorder indicated, no one was inside. Nog stood watch in the living area while Yndar made a quick survey of the bedroom and the head. After a few minutes, Yndar returned saying, “This cabin’s secure. Let’s move onto the next one.”

    The two-person team followed the same routine in the vacant quarters across the corridor. Again, no one was hiding there.

    ***

    Ro and an Andorian male officer made another searching a section of the habitat ring. Ensign th’Helek’s quadroscopic vision was certainly an asset for this operation in case someone tried to sneak into vacant quarters after the cabin had been declared secure. They followed the same routine as Nog and Yndar. After seeing no one in the living area, th’Helek would stand watch while Ro would scout the bedroom and the head. While waiting on Ro, th’Helek’s antennae stiffened. Someone was sneaking towards him.

    Th’Helek quickly turned around to see a Nausicaan lunging towards him with a knife. The Andorian was able to deflect the swing of the Nausicaan’s right arm, but in the process, his attacker was able to clip off a piece of his left antenna. Th’Helek fell backwards as the Nausicaan was lunging towards him. Th’Helek slugged the Nausicaan with the back of his fist twice to no avail. When he was on his back, the Nausicaan then threw him to the deck. The Nausicaan stood up and swung his knife towards th’Helek. Then in a split second, he fell to the deck after a blast from Ro’s phaser rifle.

    “Ro to all security teams,” she said, tapping her combadge. “We’ve apprehended a ‘person of interest.’ Keep looking for Mister Doran while we try to get something out of our Nausicaan friend.”

    ###

    Verad and Runold began filling up brown travel bags with essential items. Sisko lent a hand gathering up field rations, while keeping a close watch on the two Trills in the hope they would reveal critical information. Runold glanced at Sisko from the corner of one eye to see the newcomer gazing intently. When Runold headed for the sleeping area, he shot Sisko a suspicious glare. When he returned a few seconds later, Runold bumped his shoulder against Sisko’s to nudge him aside.

    “I almost forgot about those,” Verad said of the three cylindrical rods Runold was carrying. “We should definitely take those with us.”

    “You packed those charges too tightly,” Sisko remarked.

    Runold stuffed the explosive devices into the travel bag and then wagged his finger at Sisko. “Look, pal, I know what I’m doing,” he sneered.

    “Does he?” Sisko asked Verad. “Whatever it is you’re planning, I’m not sure you can rely on him.”

    “I’ve been working with explosives probably a lot longer than you have, pal,” Runold shot back.

    “Gentleman,” Verad interjected. “This is not the time or the place.”

    Runold scoffed trying to calm a strong urge to deck Sisko. He took a deep breath and turned to Verad. “He may be a notorious criminal, Verad,” he said, “but my gut says not to trust him. I don’t see how you can.”

    “He’s offering to help us out of a jam,” Verad plainly replied. “That’s reason enough for me.”

    “Whatever,” Runold muttered, zipping his travel bag and hanging it off his right shoulder.

    Verad put a much larger travel bag on his back and gestured towards the back entrance by the replicator. “Let’s roll,” he proclaimed.

    The three of them headed for the back entrance at the same time someone was banging on the front door. “Police, open up!” a loud masculine voice boomed through the metal wall. The three occupants of the makeshift house quickly filed out of the back entrance without stopping. Almost as soon as they were gone, two officers in blue jumpsuits pried open the front door. They would find no one inside. The police officer on the left was the first to see the back door open. He motioned his partner to follow him through the other entrance.

    ***

    Sisko, Verad, and Runold made their way to an alleyway. Verad brought up the rear to make sure other police officers were not following them. Sisko shined a flashlight to allow the group to see in front of them. Sisko would also occasionally glance up at both rooftops to check for police snipers. The police probably wouldn’t know to look for them specifically, but he could not be too careful. Though he was almost clipped by phaser fire from right behind him.

    Sisko threw himself against a brick wall while drawing a phaser. He began firing back. The two helmeted officers dove for cover as Verad and Runold also began firing their phasers at the pursuers. They continued moving while continuing to lay down cover fire. Runold unknowingly kicked down a cargo container with the word flammable written on it. As the pursuing officers continued giving chase, not noticing the wayward container, Runold fired his phaser at the container.

    A fireball erupted. The police officers were close enough that the fireball completely charred their bodies. Sisko’s eyes widened in horror seeing them meet a gruesome death. “Was that really necessary?!” he bellowed at Runold.

    Runold was just as befuddled. “We’ll just add cop killer to the list of charges,” he quipped.

    “This guy’s a joke, Verad,” Sisko hissed. “He’s too reckless. He’ll botch up your whole operation.”

    “That’s it,” Runold shot back taking a swing at Sisko, punching him in the left jaw. When he moved to take another swing, Sisko grabbed Runold’s arm with both hands and pulled.

    Runold screamed out in pain. “He dislocated my shoulder!” he cried. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

    “We have to get you to a doctor,” said Verad, feeling around the other Trill’s injured shoulder.

    “Ditch this psycho first,” Runold spat still wincing in pain. “Leave me. That freighter’s leaving any time now.”

    “I’ll be down a man,” Verad replied. “You up for coming instead, Benjamin?”

    “Sure,” Sisko replied.

    “Just be careful not to piss him off,” Runold retorted.

    Sisko and Verad continued running down the alley, leaving Runold behind. They slowed down once they turned a corner. For now, they were satisfied that no one else was following them. “So where is this freighter of ours headed?” Sisko asked.

    “Let’s just say it involves that space station you once commanded,” Verad answered.

    Sisko’s eyebrows twitched, but not so much so that Verad would sense worry. Of course, if Verad had any doubts about Sisko’s desire to help, he would not have let him in on the plan to attack Deep Space Nine. Sisko could only hope that Ezri and the Defiant’s crew were still listening in.
     
  10. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Six

    “Mister Escobar, try and get a message to the station.”

    Ezri Dax leaned forward in the Defiant bridge’s command chair upon hearing that Verad’s terrorist cell was planning an attack on Deep Space Nine. It was an instinctive reaction, even if she had lived eight other lifetimes. The Defiant’s function was merely to listen in and come to Sisko’s rescue if he was in any danger. Sisko was only one person assigned to deliver covert intelligence, but now the whole station was in danger. None of Dax’s hosts, past or present, could fathom putting so many civilian lives in jeopardy, even if Ezri risked blowing Sisko’s cover.

    “That’s going to be a little difficult,” Escobar replied, while attempting to comply with the younger officer’s orders. “The surrounding plasma storms are interfering with long range communications.”

    Ezri detected a hint of sarcasm in his voice. She rolled her eyes, biting her lower lip to keep herself from uttering one of Curzon or Jadzia’s witty retorts. She had learned from similar exchanges that such responses would only egg him on. “We have to try, Lieutenant,” she just said calmly. To the youthful blond male ensign at conn, she said, “Helm, move us out of the plasma field, but slowly.”

    From the tactical station, Sam Bowers grinned at Escobar, regarding his latest efforts to get under Ezri’s skin. Both middle-aged men were Starfleet veterans who received battlefield commissions during the Dominion War. The difference between them was that Escobar was in the Maquis prior to the war, while Bowers had been a noncom for fifteen years. Bowers had known of Escobar’s penchant for seeing how easily he could annoy superior officers, especially those of lesser age, throughout his brief Starfleet career.

    ###

    Doctor Bashir had been called to the station’s holding cell after the arrest of the Nausicaan. Lieutenant Ro reported that the Nausicaan, upon being incarcerated behind a forcefield, had lost consciousness. He was not dead since he still had a pulse. Bashir had confirmed this while running tricorder scans of the prisoner. “He looks to be in a kind of self-induced hibernation,” he said with a puzzled look. He could not deduce from his tricorder readings whether this was a natural trait in Nausicaans or the result of some artificial implants.

    “Can you bring him out of it?” Ro asked from outside the cell.

    “I wouldn’t recommend it,” the doctor replied. “Any kind of stimulants could cause severe brain damage. Then he wouldn’t be able to reveal any information of interest.”

    “Thank you anyway, Doctor,” Ro said with a frustrated sigh.

    Bashir then stepped through the forcefield with the help of a sensor that was tuned to his combadge.

    As the doctor was leaving, Th’Helek stepped into the cellblock to hand Ro a padd. She read several lines of data on the display, and her eyes widened. Her expression of surprise soon became a devious grin.

    ***

    Outside the security office on the Promenade, Ro explained her department’s latest breakthrough to Kira. “Surveillance logs indicate a sixteen minute blackout in Cargo Bay Twelve,” she said. “According to Nog, it’s in no way related to the sensor glitches in the sections of the habitat ring adjacent to the VIP quarters. After looking over the cargo manifests, we found merchandise being delivered to Quark.”

    Kira scoffed. That Quark was involved in illegal business practices throughout his time on the station was no surprise. More recently, though, Quark’s establishment became the Ferengi embassy, so that he could continue his business in the Federation’s moneyless economy. “Has he been arrested yet?” Kira asked eagerly.

    “He’s in the security office,” Ro replied with a smile. “We’re waiting to see how much he’ll reveal.”

    Kira and Ro entered the office where Quark sat in a guest chair chatting with a male Bajoran deputy. “Ah, it’s about time you got here, Captain,” the Ferengi said upon seeing Kira. “I hope you told the lieutenant here that I was dealing in legitimate merchandise.”

    “Save it,” Kira snapped, leaning against the front of the desk. “The sensor blackout happened at the same time an Yridian trader came to the bar after it was closed.”

    “I meet with many business partners after hours,” Quark innocently insisted. “Everyone knows that. Besides, I have diplomatic immunity.”

    “Which is revocable if you are suspected of compromising station security,” Kira added.

    “If I was arrested every time I ‘compromised station security”, I’d have spent most of the last fourteen years in jail, or worse…”

    Those last words caught both Kira’s and Ro’s attention. The station had been under Cardassian control for the first five years Quark resided there. The Cardassians were a race that valued order and security above anything else. And they had lower tolerance for illegal business practices than the Federation. “He’s got us there,” Ro remarked to Kira.

    Quark grinned triumphantly and headed for the door. “I guess I’ll be going now,” he proclaimed.

    “Hold on,” Ro said firmly.

    Quark stopped in his tracks, realizing this release had strings attached.

    “We’d consider not pressing charges,” Ro continued, “if you give some information that might help in an investigation.”

    “I’m listening.”

    Before either Bajoran could speak, the comm chimed. “Ops to Captain Kira,” said a feminine voice over the speakers.

    “Go ahead,” Kira replied.

    “Message from: Lieutenant Dax on the Defiant.”

    “I’ll take it in my office.”

    ###

    Verad and his group who had stowed away on a Kobheerian freighter bound for Deep Space Nine in the primary cargo hold. In addition to Verad and Sisko, a younger blond male Trill and a male Orion were tying together and fidgeting with sets of three metallic rods. The group set up a hideout using stacked together cargo containers; almost like a makeshift fort a child would assemble using empty boxes.

    Sisko gave each rod he had he used to assemble an explosive a thorough visual inspection. He did not see any mechanical circuit boards that made up the interior of a typical explosive device. When he observed that Runold was packing them too tightly, they were missing one very important ingredient: some kind of explosive substance to pack into the rods. “I’ve noticed you have the casings,” he observed aloud, “but not the actual explosives.”

    “We have the ultritium waiting for us at the station,” Verad explained. “An Yridian trader smuggled them aboard with an insider getting it past station security.”

    “Isn’t ultritium virtually undetectable by conventional sensors and transporter filters?” Sisko replied. He knew that not to be the case with recent improvements in sensor technology. He was feigning ignorance of that fact, mostly for the benefit of Verad’s other henchmen.

    “You’d have been able to say that ten years ago. Sensor technology is improving everyday.”

    And methods of circumventing sensors with them. Sisko knew immediately who the “insider” to which Verad referring was. Quark had once crashed key security sensors in order arrange a meeting with a Klingon smuggler. As it turned out, the smuggler in question was working for Verad, and that group was able to take hostages without alerting the crew in Ops. Sisko began to envision turning Quark over to Starfleet authorities for allowing yet another one of Verad’s schemes to be carried out. But that could wait. At least Quark was acting out of selfish desire to make a huge profit rather than out of malice, and Sisko’s family was not in any danger.

    The other Trill and the Orion slowly crept away in order to stand watch at the cargo hold entrance. Verad waited until they were out of earshot before turning to address Sisko. “So what was this promise you made to Jadzia while she was on her death bed?” he asked.

    Luckily, Sisko had already rehearsed his answer on the trip to Torman Five. “I said I would help right wrongs of Trill society,” Sisko replied, while continuing to assemble explosive charges. “During a visit to Trill, we learned that Dax had a host between Torias and Curzon for six months. And the Symbiosis Commission was prepared to sacrifice Jadzia to cover it up.”

    “Only one in ten Trill are eligible to be joined,” Verad said, recalling the Commission’s claim. “The Neo-Purists believed it was more, but that was just dismissed as conspiracy theory.”

    And hopefully that would continue, Sisko mused silently. When Sisko learned that the mentally unstable Joran Belar had been a host to the Dax symbiont, Doctor Renhol at the Symbiosis Commission warned him of the disastrous ramifications of revealing a secret this damning to the general populace. “Practiced by the government of a Federation member planet,” Sisko added. While such a thought was genuinely disturbing to him, he could do nothing more than file a protest with the Federation Council. Everything from that point was just political maneuvering.

    ###

    Captain Kira stepped into her office from a side door that allowed her to avoid having to go through Ops. She could never get used to thinking of this office as her office. Benjamin Sisko made it his own for nearly seven years, while she was only station CO for just two and a half years.

    A Starfleet insignia was on the desk monitor’s screen. Below were instructions to enter an authorization code. Kira did just that, and Ezri then appeared on the screen. “Ah, Captain,” the youthful Trill said. “Good. I’m calling to warn that Kalon’s terrorist cell is planning an attack on DS9. I know that Sisko’s mission is to learn the Neo-Purist’s connection to the Ku-Vok-leth. I still felt that I had to speak up.“

    Ezri spoke confidently, but Kira could still detect some uneasiness in her voice. “You were right to contact me,” Kira replied. “How long before they get here?”

    “They’re en route on a Kobheerian freighter, which is a lot slower than the Defiant. Our ETA is six hours. Benjamin’s gone dark since then.”

    “All right,” Kira sighed, dreading the decision she had to make. “I’ll see you when you get back. Kira out.”

    Six hours. Six hours to decide how to proceed with an evacuation of the station. However, a complete evacuation would alert the Neo-Purists that someone in their organization tipped off the station. “Kira to Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro,” Kira said, tapping her combadge. “Report to my office right away.”
     
  11. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Seven

    Crewman Doran and his Yridian partner were in the process of loading the ultritium explosives onto Cargo Bay Twelve’s transporter pad. The process was an arduous one since neither one of them had great physical strength to carry the heavy containers onto the pad. Ordinarily, Doran would use an anti-gravity harness, but the cargo bay had been sealed off by order of security. Finding an alternative route inside with forcefields closing off additional access points and his authorization codes having been rescinded was hard enough. Doran didn’t dare attract attention by using any electro-magnetic devices.

    The Yridian, meanwhile, grumbled in annoyance as he was sliding a cargo container up the ramp to the transporter pad. “I don’t understand why you need my help with this,” he huffed. “I was just paid to bring the explosives aboard.”

    “All ships are being detained while security is looking for me,” Doran replied. “You could at least make yourself useful.”

    The Yridian scoffed while slowly walking back towards the cargo containers they were having transported to the reactor core. He was planning on being on his next freight run rather than moving containers in a cargo bay declared off-limits.

    ###

    “He just told me he needed someone to circumvent the security sensors,”

    Quark recalled his dealings with the Yridian trader as part of his deal with station security in order to avoid criminal charges. “It was because of the increased difficulty of his smuggling operations with Bajor under Federation jurisdiction.”

    “And that’s all he said to you?’ Ro asked skeptically from behind the desk. “Smugglers usually need to cover their tracks by falsifying their cargo manifests.”

    “Then I guess security isn’t thoroughly doing its job,” the Ferengi quipped.

    “Quark,” Ro snapped. He was clearly being less than truthful about something despite his plea agreement, since Quark was not usually this insolent with his interrogators. He had to have been smuggling in weapons or explosives as well.”

    “He didn’t tell me,” Quark insisted. “You know how these deals go. We try to ask as few questions as possible.”

    Ro sighed, not wanting to be reminded of her time in the Maquis. True, she believed in their cause, but the part of the job she was not always proud of was the theft and smuggling. And now she was here in Deep Space Nine’s security office grilling a Ferengi bartender about a smuggling operation. “You’re sure about that?” she asked. “I need you to be completely truthful if this deal is going to work. What were you getting in return?”

    Before Quark could answer, the comm chimed. “Kira to Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro. Report to my office right away.”

    Ro tapped her combadge in acknowledgment. “On my way,” she replied. She ascended from her chair and motioned the Andorian officer also present to take her seat. “Ensign th’Helek will finish taking your statement,” she told Quark before exiting the office.

    ***

    Lieutenant Ro entered Ops through the starboard entryway by the pit and saw Commander Vaughn stepping off the nearby turbolift. She had hoped maybe the first officer knew something about this urgent summons. Maybe it was related to the transmission Kira received from the Defiant. Hopefully, it wasn’t anything too serious. “Any idea what this is about?” she asked.

    “No idea,” Vaughn replied with a shake of his head.

    Once they were inside the office, Kira got straight to the point before the doors finished closing. “We have a problem,” the captain stated. “Captain Sisko’s undercover mission revealed a plan to attack this station.”

    “I’ll have security teams begin evacuations,” Ro plainly answered.

    “There in lies the problem,” Kira said raising a hand. “If we do evacuate, then the Neo-Purists will likely realize someone on the inside tipped us off.”

    Ro winced in confusion, then shot Vaughn a glance to see he did not appear as surprised. “You’re not actually suggesting doing nothing and allowing the attack to go forward?” she asked.

    “In these kinds of undercover missions,” Vaughn replied, “Agents are faced with these kinds of decisions. They’re never easy…”

    “Thank you, Commander,” Kira cut in. Once again addressing Ro, Kira continued. “At the very least get the chancellor, the ambassador, and the bulk of the civilian population out of harm’s way. But try not to make it look like an actual evacuation.”

    “That’ll be difficult but doable,” Ro answered somberly. “How long before the attack happens?”

    “From what Dax tells me,” Kira replied, “Sisko’s group is on a freighter much slower than the Defiant’s maximum cruising speed. I’d say eight or nine hours.”

    “Commander,” Kira continued, addressing Vaughn. “Surely, Starfleet special ops use some sort of automated transponders to send out false life readings.”

    “I might be able to pull some strings with a few former colleagues,” Vaughn answered. “Of course, I’m not exactly on the best of footing with some of those guys after I left.”

    “Do whatever you can,” Kira retorted. She noticed Ro in the corner of her eye, suggesting the lieutenant wanted a word with her in private. “You’re dismissed, Commander,” she said plainly, eager to hear what her friend had to say.

    “Permission to speak freely, sir,” Ro said, after Vaughn exited and doors closed behind him.

    “Go ahead.”

    “How can you even have any doubts about how to deal with this pending crisis?” Ro snapped, leaning forward to look Kira in the face.

    Normally this was no way for an officer to address her captain. Kira tolerated it, knowing this level of assertiveness was a common trait among Bajorans. Ro’s willingness to speak her mind was something her Starfleet colleagues both admired and disparaged. Kira made a point of not responding to Ro’s confrontational approach knowing that she herself had gotten off on the wrong foot with Sisko nine years ago.

    “Sit down, Lieutenant,” Kira said calmly.

    Ro obliged, knowing Kira was about to recall a story about the Bajoran Resistance.

    “Late in the Occupation,” Kira continued, “my resistance cell intercepted coded transmissions regarding plans to wipe out a heavily populated city in order to weed out suspected underground operatives.

    “If we had warned the population about the attack, the Cardassians would have known we had broken their code.”

    “So the attack went forward even knowing what you knew,” Ro stated, anticipating the upshot of this story.

    “It’s not something I was particularly proud of. I tried to tell myself we had a tremendous tactical advantage over the Cardassians in the long term.”

    “Those in the Resistance knew they would have to lay down their lives for the cause of freedom. Starfleet officers are prepared for the same thing. But we have hundreds of civilians on this station, Captain.”

    “You’re point is well taken. But I am not going to ask so many people to voluntarily put their lives in danger, so that Captain Sisko can maintain his cover in order to learn of a connection between two terrorist groups that’s tenuous at best. I promised myself that when the Occupation ended that I was finished making those kinds of decisions.”

    “I won’t tell any Starfleet admirals if you don’t,” Ro innocently remarked.

    Kira returned that statement with a wink.

    Ro was already on her way out of the office the comm chimed. “Security to Lieutenant Ro,” th’Helek called. “There’s another sensor blackout in Cargo Bay Twelve.”

    “Meet me there,” Ro replied.

    Kira leaned forward to listen in on the call. Once Ro headed out, Kira followed.

    ***

    Th’Helek and Yndar joined Ro and Kira at the cargo bay entrance. The four them entered the hold, phasers in hand, to find the whole place completely empty. The two security deputies panned out in opposite directions to check for anyone hiding in any access hatches. Kira and Ro slowly walked towards the transporter platform.

    Ro entered a command on the control console to access the transport logs. Sure enough, the logs had been erased. Ro was actually sort of pleased that the log had been erased. Otherwise, Doran and any possible co-conspirators had been sloppy. That or it was another misdirection tactic as when the Nausicaan ambushed th’Helek.

    “Nothing here,” Ro commented aloud.

    “And they were smart to beam away the entire contents of the hold,” Kira added. “They leave behind less potential evidence of having been here.”

    “Looks all clear,” th’Helek called to Ro.

    “We have to piece together something,” Kira said with a sigh of frustration, as she tapped her combadge. “Kira to Lieutenants Nog and Tenmei. Report to Cargo Bay Twelve.”

    ***

    Within five minutes, Nog and Tenmei arrived as ordered. Tenmei and security deputies scanned every square millimeter of the bay for evidence of people having previously been there. Nog was tasked with trying to reassemble the deleted log. It was a long shot, but old Cardassian files were often retrievable, which often led to deadly consequences. And the Cardassians had a reputation for being thorough; especially to assure that absolutely no residual evidence remained of deleted computer records.

    “Whoever erased the log did a thorough job,” said Nog. “They programmed a cascade algorithm to erase anything that could help reassemble the file.”

    Tenmei then walked over to deliver her report. “From her straight face, Kira wasn’t sure Prynn had good news. From our scans,” the lieutenant reported, “we found traces of dolamide, polyferranide, tri-nitrogen chloride, tetracyanate 622, ultritium…“

    “Ultritium,” Ro repeated. “That’s an explosive.”

    “And I have a good idea where it might be going,” Kira added. She gave Ro a glance, indicating both of them had a good idea where the Neo-Purists planned to strike.

    ###

    With the Kobheerian freighter two hours away from the station, Verad presented a schematic of Deep Space 9 to the rest of the group. The screen on the large padd focused on the fusion reactors in the station’s central core. Sisko, the other Trill, and the Orion stood at attention as Verad began to explain the plan. The Orion eyed Sisko suspiciously during the entire journey, and was continuing to do so during this briefing.

    “We’re going to plant the explosives at these points,” Verad stated, indicating three red circles on the screen.

    “That won’t inflict any considerable damage to the station,” Sisko replied with a hint of uneasiness in his voice. The idea of any of his former colleagues being injured or killed was certainly a disturbing idea. But he had to go along with this plan in order to make his interest in the Neo-Purists appear genuine.

    Verad, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have the stomach for his sort of operation, Sisko contemplated to himself. The Klingon mercenaries by his side when he hijacked the station comprised most of the muscle. And not even being briefly joined to three different symbionts gave him the mental toughness of a terrorist leader. Sure, Verad created a virus deadly to Trill symbionts. Yet he still lacked the courage to kill other humanoids.

    “If you were closer to the main reactor,” Sisko started to say.

    The Orion grunted in displeasure, sensing a lack of sincerity in Sisko’s words.

    “We just plan to knock out key circuits,” Verad interrupted, “in order to impede normal station operation.”

    Sisko tried to stifle a sigh of relief, but the two others could hear him slowly inhale through his nose. His slow and measured inhaling did not suggest anger or disappointment, but shortness of breath, meaning he was nervous about something.

    “This used to be your station after all,” Verad added with a hint of sarcasm. “Now, Lek, you and I will…”

    “Pair me with the human,” the Orion insisted. “I cannot trust someone who was once the Starfleet commander of our target.”

    “You seemed unusually quick to take him into your confidence,” the second Trill added. “How do you know he is not a Starfleet spy?”

    “I can’t say for sure that he isn’t, Abbit,” Verad answered. “But Benjamin has shown a willingness to help, first by impeding a Starfleet investigation.”

    “Even so,” Lek began, “I want to make sure this human doesn’t try anything.”

    “Abbit, you and I will take section 23,” said Verad. “Lek, you and Benjamin will take 28. And our insider has 39. Let’s go.”

    The two Trill’s headed for the cargo hold’s exit, but Lek grabbed Sisko by the arm. “At the first sign of treachery,” the burly Orion growled, “you die.”

    Lek gave a conspiratorial smile while pointing a phaser pistol at Sisko’s chest, almost suggesting he would kill him either way.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
  12. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Eight

    “I don’t understand why you now want access to classified Special Ops technology.”

    Elias Vaughn was on a comm-line with a former colleague from Starfleet Special Operations in the security office. Ro stood off to one side keeping as quiet as possible to let the middle-aged man with a shaved head on the other end think no one else was listening. Marcus Hilliard had served alongside Vaughn as a field operative. Vaughn thought Hilliard’s completely bald head was appropriate in that line of work, but not in the various desk jobs Hilliard had been in since late in the Dominion War.

    “I understand your reservations, Marcus,” Elias calmly replied. “I can assure you, I will personally oversee the deployment of the transponders.”

    “It’s too big a risk.”

    Vaughn was dumbfounded at both at being denied this routine request and that this usually normal Special Ops task was labeled “too big a risk.” “How?” he asked.

    “If these terrorists were to realize the deception,” Hilliard said sternly, “then the whole operation will be for nothing. Or worse, if they get their hands on this technology…”

    “That’s always the risk; it’s never stopped us before.”

    “Sorry to have to turn down an old friend, but the answer is no.”

    Hilliard quickly signed off, his image replaced by the Starfleet delta.

    “He’s up to something,” Vaughn mused. “It’s not like him to be so dismissive.”

    “Maybe he’s been behind that desk too long,” Ro suggested.

    Vaughn grabbed a padd on the desk and entered a set of letters and numbers. “Here is the authorization code to access the industrial replicator file,” he said, handing Ro the padd.

    Ro’s eyes widened in confusion to resist the urge blurt out, “Are you kidding me?” She grabbed the padd at a loss for any other words. After looking over the contents of the padd, she asked, “Why did you even bother asking permission if you were going to go through with it anyway?”

    Vaughn shrugged, not exactly sure how to answer. “It seemed the polite thing to do,” he said with a grin.

    Once Vaughn exited the office, Ro fell into her chair rolling her eyes. Was this how the James Kirks or, more recently the Jean-Luc Picards and the Benjamin Siskos, of Starfleet got away with insubordination? Ask for permission, but do it anyway regardless? Her insubordination got her court-martailed and imprisoned, and she probably would have met the same fate after the end of the Dominion War. Yet these guys got slaps on the wrist. How could I have missed that? she wondered.

    ###

    Kira entered Ops from her office, just as Ezri entered through the port turbolift, Vaughn had just returned from his conference with Ro in the security office. They had between two and three hours before Verad’s group arrived to set off an explosion that would damage or even destroy the station. Since the Defiant’s return, it now served as one of the evacuation ships. The rest of the crew stayed aboard while Dax came to Ops to give a status report.

    Ezri considered the irony that they were allowing a terrorist attack on the station to go forward. She knew, or rather she and Curzon knew, that Vaughn’s former specialty involved this kind of subterfuge. But what if Verad was planning to destroy the station, and was the goal of Sisko’s operation worth sacrificing the station? She didn’t have any specifics after Sisko had gone dark. Was Kira prepared for such a possibility?

    “Any other news from Captain Sisko?” Kira asked her.

    No, Ezri deduced in answer to question she had asked herself. “None,” she replied in response to the captain’s query.

    Looking over to the science station, Kira asked Tenmei, “What has your analysis of the ultritium beamed out of the cargo bay turned up?”

    “Forensic scans indicate enough ultritium to knock out power to half the station,” Tenmei replied. “Worst case scenario, if the explosion originates in the reactor core, the whole station could explode.”

    “Any luck finding out where the ultritium may have gone?” Vaughn chimed in.

    “We’re still running sensor sweeps,” Tenmei answered with a frown.

    “How are the transponders coming?” Kira asked Vaughn.

    “Ro and Nog are working on their deployment,” said Vaughn. “They should be up and running in the next two hours. And Ro has security teams standing by in case of any new leads.”

    “Good,” Kira answered with a nod. “Everyone, stay sharp. But if the worst happens, I want you all to know, it’s been an honor serving with you.”

    Everyone else in Ops exchanged curious glances. As far as some of the more junior officers were concerned, this evacuation was just a drill. Only the most senior officers knew exactly what was going on.

    As the rest of the group dispersed, Vaughn had an additional request for his daughter. “I want you on the Defiant, too, Prynn,” he said calmly but sternly.

    “I’m not leaving you behind,” Tenmei insisted.

    “I don’t know how many times we’ve had this discussion. You still have a lot of good years left. I don’t want to have to make this an order.”

    “You don’t have to, sir,” Prynn relented. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling at this moment. Maybe it was apathy since they were not always on the best of terms. Or maybe it was regret at having shut her father out of her life ever since the assimilation and later death of her mother. Elias had felt responsible, as those were unfortunate consequences of his own missions, but Prynn was just starting to get over the resentment. She ascended from her station and followed Ezri to the port turbolift without another word.

    ###

    Using an uplink to the station’s transporter system, Verad’s group beamed into their designated areas. Sisko and Lek materialized in a dark and musty hallway. Somehow, engineers preferred parts of the station in proximity to the fusion reactors to be that way. Lek kept his weapon trained on Sisko as they walked towards a door to the fusion reactor they were targeting. “Open it,” the glowering Orion directed Sisko.

    Sisko did as directed, pushing the button on the right side to open the double doors. They stepped inside just as Lek’s wrist communicator chirped. “Go ahead,” he said tapping it.

    “We’re in position,” Verad replied on the other end. “What about you?”

    “So are we,” said Lek. “The human hasn’t tried anything yet.”
    Lek tapped his communicator to sign off, and then arched his pistol closer to Sisko’s head. “Start assembling the explosives,” he demanded, looking down at the floor at the power cells that had been transported there earlier.

    Sisko set down the travel bag on his back and slowly kneeled down on the deck. He didn’t dare try anything surreptitious with a phaser pointed at him. Why he was thinking about not forcing Kasidy to raise their daughter without him now more so than when he confronted Dukat in the Fire Caves, he could not say. In both instances, a lot depended on Sisko’s actions in a very small time span. Lek then set down his travel bag and began emptying the metal rods with his free left hand.

    Sisko shot quick glances at the Orion as he began placing packs of black powder into the metal rods. By itself, this powder was completely harmless. But at the right temperature, it and everything within a hundred meters of it would explode. Right now, he could see no opportunity to reveal his ace in the hole.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
  13. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Nine

    Sisko handed Lek the last of the explosives, which looked like metallic dynamite sticks. Lek placed the devices on a small ledge in the construction of the fusion reactor while continuing to train a phaser on Sisko. The Orion placed a clamp on the explosives that would heat up the ultritium.

    Lek had taken his eyes off Sisko during this final task. Benjamin removed a metallic cylindrical device, from his right pocket, which flashed a small red light.

    ***

    Nog’s station in Ops chirped. “Sir,” he called out to Kira. “Signal from a command transponder. Reads as Captain Sisko.”

    Kira turned to look at Nog, as did Vaughn, who was manning the science station to monitor the evacuations. “Can you locate it?” Kira asked.

    “Central core,” Nog replied as the readout was slowly appearing on his monitor. “Level thirty-four, section twenty-eight.”

    “Security to L-34, S-28 of the central core,” Vaughn commanded, tapping a comm panel.

    ***

    Sisko and Lek ran down a corridor to a safe distance from the center of the explosion. They turned a corner and leaned up against a wall, closing their eyes to shield them from the explosion. When the timer had elapsed, no such explosion happened. The two of them slowly opened their eyes, curious as why they didn’t hear an explosion.

    Lek jammed his phaser pistol against Sisko’s chest. “You did this,” he growled.

    “That’s not all,” Sisko replied, slugging Lek in the left jaw. He then grabbed the Orion’s phaser and kneed him in the wrist to loosen his grip. Sisko grabbed the phaser hoping that would deter Lek from making any other threatening moves. For a second that seemed the case, but then Lek whipped out a second pistol from a back holster. Before he could fire, Sisko fired his pistol, sending the Orion to the deck.

    Sisko reached over to the comm panel on the opposite wall. “Sisko to security,” he called. “I need teams to level thirty-four of the central core, sections twenty-eight, thirty-three, and thirty-nine. I’m headed for thirty-three.”

    ###

    Verad and Abbit were just as perturbed that they heard no explosion. The two Trills slowly walked back towards the venue where the detonation should have taken place. They stepped inside the chamber housing the fusion reactor to find clumps of black gel on the walls. They both looked at each other in confusion as to what went wrong.

    “Stay right there,” a voice called from behind.

    Sisko was in the corridor, phaser in hand. They turned around to face their possible captor.

    “I knew you were behind this,”” Abbit snarled. Then to Verad, “And you let it happen.”

    Abbit trained his weapon on Verad. Sisko was then able to get off a shot, stunning Abbit.

    “Benjamin,” said Verad with a grin. “You still saved my life. I’m flattered.”

    “Don’t read too much into it,” Sisko hissed.

    Two gray-haired Bajoran security officers arrived at the scene. The man on Sisko’s right grabbed Verad by the arm and escorted him down the corridor, while the other man helped up Abbit. Sisko, meanwhile, stared in disbelief, both relieved and confused at what had just transpired.

    ###

    The Sword of Kahless was now en route to Bajor. In the event that Deep Space Nine was compromised, Martok’s conferences with Bajoran and Federation officials were relocated to the planet.

    The chancellor sat in his chambers, sorting through padds and contemplating the irony of the situation. Deep Space Nine had been one of the most secure facilities in the sector. Now it would most likely fall to a faceless enemy. He found he could not concentrate on personnel reports and schedule council debates with these possible upcoming meetings. He was hoping to postpone them in order to address possible threats back home. He threw one padd on the desk in frustration.

    The doorbell woke him out of his trance. “Enter,” he snapped.

    Martok sighed, relieved to see Worf enter. “You wish to see me, Chancellor?” the ambassador deferently asked.

    “Ah, yes. Worf,” Martok stuttered. “Have you been able to contact the other ambassadors?”

    Worf let out a slow sigh, not sure how to deliver the bad news. “Ambassador Krim will be leaving for Earth in two days for an emergency session of the Federation Council and won’t be returning for another month. Ambassador Hawkins will not postpone these meetings either.”

    “This is what I hate the most about being chancellor: dealing with this diplomatic posturing.

    “Our borders are vulnerable, Worf. You and I should be addressing these external and internal threats, not dealing with menial tasks.”

    “Those ‘menial tasks’ are still part of our duties to the Empire.”

    That suddenly made sense to the chancellor. He was thirsting for a chance to face enemies on the battlefield. But duty had many other meanings for a politician. “Worf,” he began to say with a chuckle, “you have an interesting way of… ”

    Martok rose from his chair to listen for a pulsating noise in the ceiling. Worf slowly stepped over towards the sound, which was getting louder. The pulsating was then replaced by a high-pitched whine.

    An explosion sent shrapnel across the room. Both Klingons were knocked unconscious. Worf had only a gash on his left cheekbone, while the body of Martok was covered in cuts and bruises.
     
  14. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Interlude: Flashback Two
    Stardate 50564 (Earth year 2373)

    “You might ask, should we fear joining the Dominion? And I answer you, not in the least.”

    Skrain Dukat gave his inaugural address once a Jem’Hadar fleet reached Cardassia Prime, signaling the Cardassian Union’s new alliance with the Dominion. The Tal Shiar had intercepted the Union-wide transmission within a solar day of the actual address. Senator Vreenak and Commander Suran presented Dukat’s address to Proconsul Neral in the proconsul’s chamber.

    “Intelligence operatives outside of Cardassian space picked up this Union-wide communiqué this morning,” Suran stated, before entering a command to pause the recording. He gave a hard look at the image of Dukat, seeing a resemblance to a Romulan Imperial Army general whose name he could not remember.

    “The question now is how we respond,” Vreenak added. “In all likelihood, the Federation and the Klingon Empire will reinstate the Khitomer Accords.”

    Suran immediately knew what Tirak would suggest: use this opportunity to annex the border systems without regard how such a move would stretch military supply lines too far. Immediate direct action was rarely ever a Romulan strategy. Yet with the Dominion now ever closer to their doorstep, passive observation was not an option either.

    “And those two powers will be concentrating their forces on the Dominion,” Suran offered, recalling his people’s recent history of attempting to derail alliances between the Federation and the Klingons from the Khitomer conspiracy to the last Klingon civil war.

    “We have an opportunity like no other,” Vreenak continued. “War will come eventually. I’m not suggesting something as grandiose as an alliance.”

    “You would suggest lending assistance,” Neral replied, “as a gesture of good will.”

    Suran quietly scoffed at the very idea of any form of cooperation with the Dominion. While he was not too fond of the Federation, he was even more disdainful of the empire from the Gamma Quadrant. The Founders would likely seek retaliation against the Cardassians and the Romulans after the failed attack on the Founders’ home planet.

    “Feel free to suggest it at the next Senate session,” Neral said pensively. “Dismissed.”

    Suran and Vreenak headed for the entrance. After Vreenak walked out, Neral called to Suran. “Commander Suran, a moment in private.”

    The commander gave a wry smile in Vreenak’s direction. He slowly turned around to face the proconsul. He seemed relieved that Neral did not completely trust Vreenak. “I have to admit,” Neral began, “I’ve had my suspicions about Vreenak.”

    “As I have had suspicions of his chief-of-staff,” Suran replied. “Yet I have found nothing to use against him.”

    “His suggestion does have merit. As soon as war does break out, the first battle will be at Deep Space Nine. I want you to dispatch a fleet there for simple reconnaissance. We need to know the Dominion’s short term plans.”

    “Understood.”

    ###

    As Vreenak had expected, the Federation and the Klingon Empire did reinstate their alliance. A combined fleet of Starfleet and Klingon Defense Force vessels converged at Deep Space Nine in preparation for a Dominion attack. Dukat indicated that it would be soon when he vowed to take back the former Cardassian space station.

    “Sir, I’m picking up a tachyon buildup,” Miles O’Brien reported to Sisko. “Multiple vectors. Ships decloaking.”

    Nearly two-dozen D’Deridix-class warbirds appeared alongside the station. Several Romulan Star Empire insignias began appearing on Sisko’s readout screen.

    “Romulans,” he gasped.

    “They’re requesting permission to join the fleet.”

    “I’ll be damned. Permission granted.”

    Any trained Starfleet officer knew Romulans had some kind of ulterior motive. But no one on Deep Space Nine knew what exactly that motive was. The impending battle would not happen for another five months. The crew was led to believe an attack was imminent at this particular time in order to cause a supernova in the Bajoran sun. The USS Defiant stopped a Changeling from carrying out that plan. Though war still remained on the horizon.


    Stardate 50965

    “Senators, we have a momentous opportunity before us.”
    As the prospects grew stronger at the end of the Earth year 2373, the Romulan Imperial Senate continued debating the Empire’s role in a possible conflict between the Dominion and the restored Federation-Klingon alliance. Vreenak made his case for a non-aggression pact with the Dominion. Though he had plenty of dissenters in the Senate of whom he had to persuade.

    Senator Irrawik was the first to speak. “Senator Vreenak,” he began, “I have reviewed your projections indicating that the Empire will be in a far better position to annex Federation and Klingon territories after an extended conflict with the Dominion. Yet we have no guarantee such a war is winnable. The Federation has taken little action while the Dominion continues to fortify its foothold in the Alpha Quadrant.”

    Vreenak could immediately deduce what Irrawik was implying: that such long-term planning was only favorable if the Federation prevailed. Vreenak shot a quick glance at one of his most vocal dissenters over the last decade. “You perceive a problem in the event of a Dominion victory?” he asked while looking towards Neral.

    “Because we cannot guarantee that the Dominion will leave us alone if they should be victorious,” Irrawik replied.

    “Yet by not becoming openly involved in a war with the Federation, we demonstrate our good intentions.”

    The Senate chamber filled with raucous jeering. How could the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, of all people, make such a naïve statement? Neral pounded a stone sphere on the right arm of his throne-sized chair, quieting the crowd.

    “Then why do you not endorse a full military alliance?” Cretak forcefully demanded.

    “What Skrain Dukat is unable or unwilling to realize,” Vreenak humbly stated, “Is that the Founders could seek to avenge the aborted attack on their homeworld. By allowing soldiers free reign in our territory, they will be at a significant advantage should they decide to carry out the extermination of our race.”

    The crowd erupted in outrage again. Through the uproar, one junior Senator’s words became distinguishable. “How do we know you are not part of such a plan?” he hissed.

    ***

    Outside the Senate chamber, Tirak snuck a peek through the metal double doors. A shadow emerged over him. Tirak turned to his right to see Gelnon, the Vorta representative in the treaty negotiations. They both exchanged devious grins.

    ###

    Vreenak later met with Gelnon in an alleyway after nightfall. Normally, they would meet officially during the next session of the treaty negotiations. However, Gelnon had requested an urgent meeting off-the-record. Vreenak did not know what to make of the request, so he had two of his personal guards accompany him.

    “I’ll let you know if I need you,” Vreenak told the guards when he turned a corner and saw the Vorta.

    “Your dissenters could cause problems,” Gelnon said plainly. “I can them eliminated if you wish.”

    “No,” Vreenak shot back. “Their deaths would arouse too much suspicions.”

    “It was just a suggestion,” Gelnon replied, holding in a giggle at Vreenak’s short-tempered response. “This treaty will be your crowning achievement. You cannot let a few unruly junior senators impede your road to becoming the next praetor.”

    Just several meters away, one of the senator’s guards removed a holo-imager from his belt and began recording.
     
  15. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Part Two: Wheels Within Wheels

    Chapter Ten

    The comm in Ops chimed, and everyone was surprised to hear Sisko’s voice. “I need teams to level thirty-four of the central core,” his voice boomed over the speakers, “sections twenty-eight, thirty-three, and thirty-nine. I’m heading for thirty-nine.”

    “You heard him,” Kira barked, nodding to Vaughn. Then to Nog, “Concentrate internal scans on those sections.”
    “Right,” Nog nervously replied, “Sections twenty-eight, thirty-three, and… and…”

    “Thirty-nine,” Vaughn snapped. “Where Sisko is headed. “What about those scans of twenty-eight of thirty-three, you were already running?”

    “Sorry, sir,” Nog answered calmly. “Something should have happened by now.”

    “Maybe so, but we have no real way of knowing without…” The communications board chimed, catching Vaughn’s attention. “I’m picking up a general distress call from the Sword of Kahless.”

    Coincidence? Kira asked herself. “On screen,” she ordered.

    A garbled view of the interior of a Klingon vessel appeared with the face of Worf barely distinguishable. “This is Ambassador Worf on the IKS Sword of Kahless. An explosion has occurred in Chancellor Martok’s private chamber. I am unable to contact the bridge and the chancellor requires…

    The transmission abruptly ended, but Kira was ready to snap into action. “The Defiant is in interception range. Send them in to assist.”

    We received the distress call as well,” Ezri answered over the speakers. “We’re on it, Captain.

    ###

    Sisko entered the security office with Yndar, who was escorting Verad. Ro entered from the main cellblock after having incarcerated Lek. She instructed Yndar to lock up Verad, as well as Abbit, who was being escorted by a Bajoran female deputy. “I want them in separate cells,” Ro added, “and interrogated separately. Let them choke on who sells out whom.”

    “You sold us out,” Abbit sneered at Verad, while arching his head in Sisko’s direction, “when you let him into our operation.”

    Abbit lunged at Verad, but the escorting officer held him back. Once the prisoners and the deputies had left the office, Sisko looked to Ro.

    “What about this ‘insider’ assigned to section thirty-three?” he inquired.

    “Crewman Doran was dead when a security team got there,” Ro answered.

    Dead end. Sisko’s “colleagues” were either surprised that no explosion took place or certain that Sisko had impeded their efforts. Doran could have explained what went wrong and identified the real target. “Damn,” he mumbled.

    ###

    Doctor Simon Tarses scanned Worf with a medical tricorder while applying a dermal regenerator to scars on the Klingon’s face.

    Worf remembered Tarses from the Enterprise-D, especially after having judged Simon guilty of treason during an espionage investigation. Tarses’s only crime was falsifying his Starfleet application, hiding his Romulan ancestry. The un-retired admiral in charge of the investigation pushed it beyond catching a Klingon exchange officer colluding with the Romulans. Worf was pleased that Tarses had redeemed himself in the last decade, now becoming a fully licensed medical doctor.

    “Good as new,” Tarses remarked.

    Worf gave a slight scowl, not in the mood for the charming, but also patronizing, bedside manner of human doctors.

    “Right,” Tarses apologetically added, as he saw Bashir, dressed in surgical scrubs, enter the main exam room.

    Julian nodded to the other doctor as he was leaving before turning to Worf. “Still as sociable as ever,” he remarked. Of course, knowing full well Worf seemed rarely in the mood for jokes, he got straight to the point. “The chancellor is in bad shape. I’m very optimistic he’ll pull through, but I’ll have to monitor him closely.”

    “Thank you, Doctor,” Worf replied, ascending from the reclining examination chair. “You have done your job, now I must do mine.”

    Worf headed for the waiting area where he saw Sisko, Kira, and Vaughn enter from the Promenade. He looked back at Bashir, who was headed back to the primary intensive care unit. “And I wish you the best with Lieutenant Tenmei.”

    Bashir had a perturbed reaction. Worf did not usually get caught up in his crewmates’ love lives. And what exactly made the ambassador think he and Prynn were dating?

    “What’s the word?” Sisko inquired.

    “Doctor Bashir believes the chancellor will recover,” Worf plainly stated. “Meanwhile, I will be returning to Qo’Nos to continue my investigation.”

    “What do you hope to find out there?” Kira wondered.

    “Martok may still have enemies at the highest levels of the Empire,” Worf explained. “I will have the Federation Embassy at my disposal to conduct an impartial investigation.

    “It stands to reason someone used the Neo-Purists to cover his or her tracks,” Vaughn added.

    “Yes, someone in the High Council must have tipped off the Ku-Vok-leth since only they knew Martok’s travel itinerary,” said Worf. “And someone on the Sword of Kahless allowed those explosives into Martok’s chambers. The cowards who planned this attack are just as accountable as those who carried it out, and must be brought to justice.”

    “Best of luck to you then,” Kira replied.

    “Thank you, Captain,” Worf answered with a nod. Then to Sisko and Vaughn, “Captain. Commander.”

    ###

    After his visit to the Infirmary, Sisko stopped by the holding room adjacent to the cells where Ro was in the process of interrogating Verad. To that point, he had refused to give any names of Ku-Vok-leth operatives. “He’s not talking,” she warned Sisko.

    Sisko slammed his hands down on the table and looked Verad straight in the eyes. “You’re a hunted man now, Verad,” he stated plainly. “If you tell us what you know about the Ku-Vok-leth, Starfleet may be able to cut a deal.”

    “And if I don’t, you throw me back to the wolves?” Verad retorted.

    Sisko stood back upright while scoffing in frustration. “You know damn well how this stuff works,” he shot back. “You give us information and the JAG office reduces your sentence.”

    “Less time in a Federation rehabilitation center? Not very persuasive. And even if my cohorts want to kill me, I won’t betray the Neo-Purists and they’re cause. You know that, Benjamin. Besides, I was only paid to do this job. Their other activities are no concern of mine.”

    Sisko sighed, and then paced across the room to consider his next line of questioning. Ro gave a pensive squint as he walked back towards Verad. “Your group could have attacked DS9 on its own,” he continued, “a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. So why now? Doran had to have known you lacked the stomach to carry out the real plan. You were given a lucrative offer you couldn’t refuse while carrying out an attempt to assassinate Chancellor Martok.”

    “This was all to get Martok,” Verad replied, still trying to avoid answering any serious questions. He disingenuously added, “I hope the attempt on his life didn’t succeed.”

    “The Klingon Empire is not involved in the oppression of Trill society. What would the Neo-Purists gain from assassinating the Klingon chancellor?”

    Verad raised an eyebrow. That certainly got his attention. “Like I said, I don’t know any of the details. But I can tell you who sold me the station’s schematics, if I can access my personal database on Torman Five.”

    ***

    An hour later, after Ro got clearance from the police force on Torman Five, Verad was given a padd linked into his personal database. Sisko and Ro looked over him as he sorted through sets of photographs. “There,” he said as he set the padd down. To Ro, he added, “Someone with whom you’re familiar.”

    Ro certainly did recognize a blond curly-haired Bajoran male pictured on the padd. He was Zeyner Antis, a doctor on Bashir’s staff two years earlier. He was disbarred when he was caught having poisoned a suspect involved in a terrorist plot on the station. He claimed to be an undercover intelligence operative, but Ro had a hard time believing such an operative would willingly go that far. “You’re certain?” she asked Verad.

    “Positive.”

    ###

    Aboard the Sword of Kahless, a Klingon officer was in communication with Kur’Tok on Nimbus Three. The officer used a communications scrambler both to prevent his transmission from being traced and to hide his face. Of course, that meant he could not see Kur’Tok on his monitor, not that he needed to since they were only communicating verbally without transmitting any computer data.

    “You will have to move up your timetable, Kur’Tok,” the officer informed his contact. “The Federation ambassador is on his way back to Qo’Nos to find our informant in the High Council.”

    “That could be a problem,” Kur’Tok answered. “We have not received the specifications for the resonance chamber that will stabilize Omega. It is very delicate work.”

    “Let me make myself clear. If Worf locates the mastermind behind the assassination attempt, you will most likely be implicated.

    “You will find a way to expedite matters, or I will turn you in to the authorities.”

    Kur’Tok started to speak, but the officer cut the transmission, replacing the distorted image on the screen with the logo of the Klingon Empire.
     
  16. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    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.”
     
  17. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    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.
     
  18. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    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.
     
  19. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    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.
     
  20. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    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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