Star Trek: War Aftermath Episode 2 (updated version)

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

  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Chapter Fifteen

    “Put down the phaser.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "No."

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

    "Yes, the birthright of every Klingon."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I have no family,” Worf solemnly replied.

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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


    Nimbus Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

    “We’ll hold position here and monitor what she does.”
     
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Chapter Sixteen

    IKS Sword of Kahless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Go ahead,” the general replied.

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

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


    Nimbus Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Tell him Antis is here,” Zeyner attempted.

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

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

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

    “All systems go,” Vaughn replied.

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

    “I escaped from prison a month ago.”

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Section what?”

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

    “That would explain a lot. Ro out.”

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ignoring Zeyner, Ro nodded in agreement of Vaughn’s assertion. “We should contact the station and request the Defiant’s assistance.”
     
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Seventeen
    Julian Bashir entered Quark’s quickly sauntering towards a table already occupied by Sam Bowers, Prynn Tenmei, and Nog. With a triumphant grin, he showed them an isolinear rod containing a new holosuite program the four of them had been eagerly awaiting. “Is that it I hope?” Bowers gleefully inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Before Julian could respond, the comm chimed.

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

    “I’m sorry,” Pendleton replied repentantly.

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

    “Any Trill life signs?” Dax asked.

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    His voice did not give off a hint of doubt that Section 31’s operation would succeed. In his mind, though, Sloan knew too many things could go wrong. That was also the case on a very delicate mission inside the Romulan Neutral Zone during the Dominion War.
     
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I will make the proper arrangements,” Valnor affirmed. “I will contact you again within the next twelve hours.”
     
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Including Omega?” Zeyner inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “You are dismissed, bekk,” Grelik replied.

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

    ***

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

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

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

    Qa’Pla!” Worf proclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Zeyner removed a device from his pocket as he, Ro, and Vaughn were dematerializing. That kept him from completely dematerializing while Vaughn and Ro had beamed up.
     
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Brother,” Rodek gasped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jolan tru, Commander.”

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “On a civilian freighter?” Ro asked.

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

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

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

    “Locked onto its port thruster. Firing!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With the shuttle’s hull heavily compromised, the Delphi’s sensors now could scan its interior. Vaughn’s right eyebrow twitched when he noticed a peculiar reading. “Vaughn to Defiant,” he called, opening a ship-to-ship communications channel. “It was a dummy bomb. The real one is on a ship that might have already left the system. Damn it!
     
  7. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    “It was you all along.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Done.”

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “We’re still here, aren’t we?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “He’s hailing us,” Ro said.

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

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

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

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

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

    The Klingon commander hissed and cut the transmission.

    ***

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

    Ro scanned the unconscious Vaughn with a medical tricorder while hoping to be beamed to safety. The two of them were encompassed in a Starfleet transporter beam as their vessel erupted in flames. The Defiant then went into warp, while absorbing some of the explosive shockwave.
     
  8. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Part Three: The Real Masterminds

    Chapter Twenty-One

    IKS
    Gorkon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    IRW Valdore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    IRW Tiralihaan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bralek held his mouth open in disbelief.

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

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

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

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

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


    Deep Space Nine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Ezri retorted, knowing the trip to Ops wasn’t that long. She had five minutes to spare plus another five usually devoted to the de-embarkation process. “Duty calls,” she muttered to herself taking another look at the padd she was studying.
     
  9. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Twenty-Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

    “Increased intracranial pressure,” Tarses called.

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

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

    “Pressure’s still increasing,” Tarses noted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “A number of political commentators believe Zife did not act fast enough when the Dominion was fortifying its foothold in the Alpha Quadrant and that the decision to mine the Wormhole could have come a few weeks too late.” Not that he bought into everything such pundits had to say about Federation politicians. And while he didn’t agree with every decision recent Federation Council presidents had made, he was often baffled that critics would be on their case about taking so much as a days’ vacation or prognosticating about the annual Parrises squares tournament while they were in office.

    “You don’t actually believe their brand of rhetoric, do you?” Kira asked.

    “No,” Sisko said bluntly. “But the war was a major culture shock. It has made many of the brass more paranoid.”

    “Not the Federation I know,” Kira quipped.

    “You’re absolutely right,” Sisko said with a smirk. “How long before Worf gets back to the station?”

    “His last reported ETA is just over four hours. Why?”

    “We need to find something, any shred of proof that Section 31 was the mastermind behind the events of the last few days, and the President, himself, is somehow involved.”

    “Easier said than done. If Julian’s right, Section 31 does a very good job of covering its tracks to the point of not even leaving a paper trail.”

    “Maybe so. But right now, it’s our only chance of preventing an illegal invasion.”

    “I’ll see what I can do when Worf gets here,” Kira said with a smile. “Good to have you back, sir. Even if it’s only for a while.”

    “Thank you, Captain,” Sisko said returning the smile. “I understand you’ll probably need someone to fill in as first officer while Elias is down. That is until this crisis is resolved.”

    “Know anyone qualified for that job?” Kira asked, knowing what her former CO was getting at. “That’s if you don’t mind being outranked by a former subordinate.”

    Sisko arched his head backwards to consider that possibility. He seemed adamant that he was finished with Starfleet the last two years. But then he found he missed it after being brought back into the game, as it were. On the other hand, he would never dream of asking Kira to relinquish command of the station to him after three years. “It’s not unprecedented for a captain and first officer to trade jobs,” he said with a smirk.

    “I’ll get the paperwork,” Kira teased while rising from her seat.
     
  10. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Benjamin and Kasidy Sisko stepped out of an airlock that led out to the Promenade. Kasidy took a few seconds to take in her surroundings, having once been certain she would not ever this part of the station. Ever since the house her husband had planned to build had been completed, Kasidy saw no need to make very many extended visits at Deep Space Nine. Most of her time on the station in the last two years had been in the cargo holds taking inventories of cargo being offloaded to her freighter.

    As they descended down the two steps from the airlock’s entryway, Ben took the duffel bag hanging from his wife’s right shoulder, allowing her to use both arms get a grip on their fidgeting daughter. “We’ve prepared guest quarters for your stay,” he informed her. “Unfortunately, family quarters aren’t available, so you and Rebecca will have to make do with one of the guest cabins.”

    “Not a problem,” Kasidy replied with a slight scoff. She had dealt with more cramped quarters on the Xhosa. “I never thought I’d be living on the station again.”

    “Neither did I, but for now, you’re safer here than on Bajor.”
    Kasidy rolled her eyes momentarily at hearing that one of most strategically significant outposts in the Federation, especially during the Dominion War, was safer than her home on Bajor. “Now, that’s a statement I thought I’d never hear,” she grumbled. Even after mobsters broke into her home and tried to use her, Jake, and Rebecca as hostages, the notion that Deep Space Nine was a safer venue still didn’t sound right.

    “Mommy, I wanna go home,” Rebecca whined.

    “I know, sweetie,” her mother sympathetically replied, “but it’ll be a little while.”

    Ben clasped his daughter’s hand saying, “Think of this as a little vacation. We’ll be home soon.”

    ***

    Jake and Nog were lagging behind Benjamin, Kasidy, and Rebecca. They both slowly stepped onto the Promenade, sharing memories of the fun times they had when they were adolescents. Those good old days still seemed fairly recent even if they had done a lot of growing up in the interceding nine years. Jake was now a freelance reporter for the Federation News Service, and Nog the chief of operations of Deep Space Nine. They had very little room for hanging on the second level of the Promenade doing nothing.

    “That was our spot,” Jake recalled of the second level walkway up ahead.

    “Of course, these days,” Nog retorted, “it wouldn’t reflect well on my record for us to be flicking sand peas at passing aliens.”

    “We have holosuites for that. Speaking of which, I got a new program: Games Six and Seven of the 2011 World Series.”
    Nog scoffed. “It’s a game humans stopped playing two hundred years ago,” he said dismissively.

    “I’ll remind Kas and her brother you said that,” Jake quipped.

    ###

    Worf trudged down a staircase from the second level of the Promenade.

    He quickly paced towards the Infirmary’s main entrance, oblivious to the possibility that Doctor Bashir could not spare a few seconds or that Ezri was right behind him trying to catch up. After Rodek was beginning to regain some of his memories as Kurn, the younger son of Mogh, Worf simply wanted answers--an explanation as to how this was possible after Bashir’s claim that the memory wipe was almost irreversible. Almost irreversible, not completely irreversible. Worf knew that Kurn was likely to regain memories in bits and pieces. Yet, Kurn was starting to remember even more of his former life during the trip back to Deep Space Nine.

    “Worf,” Ezri insisted, “I don’t think he can spare a few minutes right now.”

    Worf continued to ignore her as he stepped through the Infirmary’s main doorway. Bashir was standing in the foyer just outside his office, conferring with Doctor Tarses and two middle-aged Bajoran women. “Doctor Bashir,” Worf barked with very little regard for human social graces. “I need to speak to you.”

    “Now’s not a good time, Ambassador,” Bashir reluctantly replied without dismissing any of his colleagues. “But the chancellor’s condition has improved if…”

    “That is good news,” Worf interrupted, “but I wish to speak to you about Kurn.”

    That name quickly caught Bashir by surprise. He quietly dismissed Tarses and the two Bajoran women and took two slow paces closer to Worf. “Kurn?” he repeated with a quiet and professional tone. “What about him?”

    “He remembers many significant details of his life before the memory purge. You said the process was irreversible.”

    “I said it would be next to impossible to regain all of his memories,” Bashir clarified. “There’s a lot about humanoid brains we still don’t understand. It’s a miracle we can manipulate memories at all without telepathy…”

    “Doctor…!” Worf snapped, knowing of Bashir’s tendencies to ramble. “What are the chances now that he could regain more of his memories from his previous life?”

    “Memory is a very tricky thing,” Bashir explained, trying to avoid giving a concrete answer to the ambassador’s queries. “All kinds of stimuli can trigger long forgotten memories.”

    “Yes, we fought against assassins side-by-side on Nimbus Three. He does know we are brothers. Other than that, he remembers various events either as part of his own life or as someone else’s memories.”

    “Almost like a Trill host who hadn’t planned on being joined?” Ezri chimed in.

    Worf had forgotten that Ezri had been following him, attempting to dissuade him from distracting Bashir from attending to two comatose patients. Now aware of her presence once again, Worf remembered that Jadzia was by his side when he approved the memory purge as an alternative to the ritual killing of a family member. The House of Mogh had been disgraced in response to Worf’s condemnation of the late Chancellor Gowron’s unprovoked invasion of Cardassia. Unfortunately, Worf couldn’t have known then that he, himself, would be welcomed into the House of Martok a year later.

    “Perhaps,” Worf answered in response to Ezri’s inquiry.

    “I can conduct a full neural workup if I can spare a few hours,” Bashir offered. “Or I can refer Kurn to any number of medical specialists with greater expertise.”

    “That would be appreciated,” Worf gruffly replied. He then stepped out of the Infirmary without another word to leave the doctor to his more pressing work. It was the least he could do to make up for his earlier lack of decorum.

    ###

    Doctor Bashir stepped into his quarters and walked straight to the replicator. He ordered a glass of cranberry juice mixed with vodka and Bolian tonic water. It was the kind of beverage he’d normally order in Quark’s in the company of some of his closest friends. This evening, though, after working furiously to keep Vaughn alive, he preferred to spend a few hours alone in his cabin. After taking a few sips of his beverage, he could suddenly sense another presence in the room. He turned around slowly to see a familiar heavyset blond-haired man in standard Section 31 attire seated on the sofa.

    “Cole,” Bashir said with a feigned smile. “To what do I owe the pleasure after so long?”

    “Good evening, Doctor,” Cole replied plainly. “Despite the two year hiatus, I have an assignment for you.”

    "I thought I made it clear to you after the Sindorin mission that I don't work for your group anymore."

    Cole smirked at how adamant Bashir sounded. Of course, Section 31 knew him better than he knew himself, as his holosuite spy adventures would attest to. "You can resign if you choose," he replied, "but no one really retires from Section 31."

    "Is that so? Are we going argue semantics? Or are you going to tell me what this 'assignment' of mine is?"

    "All in good time, Doctor," Cole said, taking a seat on the sofa. "Contrary to all outward appearances, the Ku'Vok'leth were not the masterminds behind what nearly took place in the Tezwan system."

    "Another one of your bureau's secrets I take it. And furthermore, you wish someone like me to clean up your mess."

    "The incidents involving Darcen and Loecken were most unfortunate,” Cole said in reference to two human augments who had broken away from Section 31 to carry out more dangerous ambitions. “And it's not so much about cleaning up our mess as it is about keeping other secrets buried. You needn't concern yourself with what that secret is, but it is imperative that we prevent a Tal Shiar operative from delivering that secret to the Klingon Empire. Neither side is in much of a position to wage war, but that won't stop the traditionalists within the Empire."

    "When you put it that way..."

    Cole was about to speak when he suddenly fell to the floor convulsing.

    Bashir quickly ran to a drawer in the corner of the living area. "Bashir to Infirmary," he called out, tapping his combadge. "Medical emergency in my quarters." He removed a medical tricorder and a hypospray and began scanning Cole while injecting him with a painkiller.

    Sloan had tried to take his own life in the same manner three years before. A similar painkiller prolonged Sloan's life by roughly an hour. Bashir had no such luck with Cole as the tricorder indicated all his vital functions had failed. What was the most confusing was why Cole was triggering his suicide implant while attempting to reveal a huge secret of the agency.

    ###

    A Bajoran female nurse turned off the cortical monitor on the main biobed, while Bashir observed Cole's vital functions on a display screen. At the same time, Bashir was placing various scanning devices throughout the corpse’s head in the hope locating the device that rendered Cole brain dead and any type memory storage device. Nog scanned the body with a medical tricorder, while Girani Semna, a Bajoran woman of advanced middle age, assisted Bashir in setting up the neural interfaces.

    Bashir caught a glimpse of Kira and Sisko stepping into the exam room as he activated a monitor situated to the left of the biobed. “This gentleman paid me a visit earlier this evening,” he explained. He then gestured for Girani to watch the monitor while spoke with both captains. “What I don’t understand,” he continued with a sigh of frustration, “is why he would be triggering his suicide implant when he was about to reveal important details regarding the Ku-Vok-leth and protecting secrets on Tezwan.”

    “We may found what you are looking for,” Girani informed Bashir, which directed Julian’s attention back to his patient. “Something like a memory shunt implanted along the parietal lobe.”

    “Can you remove it?” Bashir asked with reserved optimism.

    “I don’t see how,” Nog answered as he was scanning Cole’s head with the tricorder hand sensor. “Not without damaging the memory core.”

    “No surprise there,” Bashir retorted with a shake of his head. “But use the multitronic engramatic interpreter to decode whatever you can.”

    Bashir then noticed Kira’s eyes widen. She hadn’t been on the station at the time Bashir linked his mind to Sloan’s in order to find a cure for the disease that afflicted the Founders. Bashir had informed her after the Dominion War was over of his little adventure, and she was both pleasantly surprised and eternally grateful for the lengths Julian had gone to in order to save Odo’s life.

    “You want to fill me in, Julian?” Kira asked with a disapproving stare.

    “Sloan said all of Section 31’s operations were filed away in the minds of a select group of people,” Bashir explained, “possibly by way of a bio-mechanical implant. Which means someone will come along to extract the information, similar to how the Borg remove key memory circuits from injured drones.”

    “And you’re hoping to beat them to it,” Sisko surmised.

    Bashir remembered seeing the same look on Sisko’s face when he told the captain of his plans to find a cure for the morphogenic virus. “Easier said than done, I know,” Bashir said with a repentant nod. “They’re not going to allow anyone access to everything hidden in there. Don’t worry. I don’t plan to go poking around in Cole’s mind the same way I did with Sloan.”

    That assurance still didn’t assuage Kira’s or Sisko’s worries. The silence was interrupted when Ro entered the exam room and immediately handed Kira a padd. “The surveillance sensors detected an unusual transmission originating from inside the central core,” she reported, “roughly the same time Mister Cole here dropped dead.”

    “Whoever triggered his suicide implant?” Bashir offered. “That could be our Tal Shiar operative.”

    Kira remained skeptical. “Kind of sloppy of them to leave an obvious trail to find.”

    “Unless they want to found,” Bashir added. “And they must know everything Cole was about to reveal. We have to find him or her, and soon.”

    “Let security do its job, Julian,” Kira authoritatively insisted.

    “If this person has had dealings with 31,” Bashir persisted, “he’s very good at evading conventional security sweeps.”

    “Julian, you’re getting that itch again,” Sisko ominously warned, “but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

    Bashir knew that tone all too well. “We have to stop this operative one way or another.”

    “I understand, but you’re not going in alone,” Sisko replied. “Section 31 has become your obsession ever since you learned of its existence, so you may not be entirely objective in carrying out this endeavor. You’ll need a chaperone.”

    “Anyone in mind?”

    ###

    “You can’t be serious, Ben.”

    Kasidy was in the process of unpacking her duffel bag in the living area of her temporary quarters when Benjamin broke the news of his plans to participate in Bashir’s sting operation. “Filling in for Elias is one thing,” she said firmly but quietly, making sure not to wake Rebecca, who had just been put down for a nap a few minutes earlier. “But this is more dangerous.”

    “More dangerous than what I’ve been through these past two weeks?” Ben replied with confusion.

    “It was supposed to be just one temporary assignment,” Kasidy reminded her husband. She walked away from the sofa where she placed extra stacks of clothes recently removed from the duffel bag and walked closer to him. “What brought this on?”

    “I never realized that this is still where I belong until I was back on assignment for Starfleet,” he explained. “Besides, just a few weeks ago, you were urging me to consider this new assignment.”

    “I had honestly hoped it was a very brief assignment,” Kasidy ruefully confessed.

    Ben gave a humble smirk, momentarily unsure how to respond to that. Upon his return from the Celestial Temple, he opted for an extended leave of absence to make up for lost time with his wife and to be the proper parent to his newborn daughter. They had never discussed in much detail when or if he would return to Starfleet and in what capacity. Now the time for such discussion had come, and he was unprepared.

    “So did I,” he said. “I never truly realized how much I missed making a difference in galactic affairs until I was actually carrying out that undercover assignment.”

    Kasidy sighed. Ben knew from that look that she felt he had made up his mind and that dissuading him was futile. “Is there no way I can talk you out of this?” she asked, still knowing what the answer was.

    “Not really,” Ben replied with a teasing smile.

    “Just promise me we’ll discuss where we go from here after this mission is finished.”

    “Of course.”

    Kasidy planted her lips on Ben’s. She then paced back over to the sofa to continue, leaving Ben to wonder if he would actually come back from this mission alive. Surely he would be captured if this Tal Shiar operative he and Bashir sought wanted to be found.

    ###

    “You know this isn’t a game, Julian.”

    Ezri stopped by Bashir’s quarters after he had planned on locating the Tal Shiar operative hiding on the station. He could understand Ezri having these kinds of reservations when they were a couple. They still cared for one another deeply with their friendship extending back to when the Dax symbiont was in Jadzia, and he knew that would never change. Now that they were no longer together, Ezri’s attempts at dissuasion seemed rather intrusive and presumptuous. Julian felt a niggling temptation to try to use that to his advantage. He loved to manipulate Jadzia that way when he was a young man, but now his mind was focused on the task ahead.

    “Of course I know it’s not a game,” Julian plainly replied. “If what Cole said is true, the future of our alliance with the Klingon Empire is at stake. And whatever secrets they’re protecting on Tezwa could be the key.”

    “The ‘if what Cole said is true’ part is what worries me the most,” Ezri shot back. “You basically did their dirty work for them in one of these operations.”

    Julian flashed an embarrassed grin, remembering how Section 31 had tricked him into pushing forward a plan to place one of their operatives at the highest levels of the Romulan government to assure more cordial relations with them after the Dominion War. He brushed those thoughts aside and turned his attention back to his former lover.

    “I appreciate that you still care about my well-being,” he insisted. “This is still my decision.”

    “I’m not disputing that,” Ezri replied. “It’s just that these guys know how to pull your strings. Something about them appeals to you. And don’t tell me you hope to accumulate enough evidence to expose them. Time and again, they’ve shown they are three steps ahead of you at every turn.”

    “Still psychoanalyzing people even after your change of profession,” Julian observed.

    Ezri let out a light scoffing chuckle. “I had this discussion with Benjamin a while back,” she recalled. “Who we’ve been earlier in life is still a part of us. Being joined has reminded me of that. You may be older and wiser, yet you still have your adventurous spirit.”

    “You’re right,” Julian agreed. “I took this assignment for the wealth of opportunities that were ahead even before the discovery of the wormhole. I’ve accomplished so much since then. Lately, it feels a bit mundane.”

    “There’s always Starfleet Intelligence,” Ezri offered. “Or one of the upcoming expeditions to the Gamma Quadrant. You can talk to Elias about…”

    Ezri paused mid-sentence, although Julian still knew she had stopped herself from disclosing something she wasn’t supposed to.

    “Wait, what are you talking about?” Julian asked. He knew that Vaughn was starting feel like his assignment to DS9 was becoming mundane, but hadn’t considered that the first officer was seeking a transfer. Not that it mattered since Vaughn was now lying unconscious in the Infirmary.

    “Never mind,” Ezri said with a shake of her head. “Sure I can’t change your mind?”

    “No,” Julian said firmly. “Like I said, a lot is at stake.”

    “So Section 31 says,” Ezri retorted. “At least Benjamin will by your side to make sure you don’t get in over your head. I still have to remind you to be careful.”

    “I completely understand,” Julian said with a plaintive stare.

    Ezri then stepped out of his cabin, leaving Julian to wonder if she was hoping to rekindle their romance. That would have to wait, though, until he returned from this sting operation safe and sound. It was still something to look forward to and a reason to survive his upcoming mission.
     
  11. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    USS Cerebrus; Tezwa Invasion Fleet Flagship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes, sir.”

    “No complications that could possibly delay the mission?”

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Sir?” Bashir asked with slightly feigned ignorance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

    The morgue adjacent to the Infirmary was dark.

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

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

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

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

    Jonas Escobar was lying in wait inside the cubicle. He sat up and shined a flashlight on the human Section 31 operative. The cubicle to the right of the one housing Cole then opened. Nog was inside. He walked towards the operative and removed the components of his data extraction device from the man’s belt.
     
  12. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    USS Cerebrus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Not yet. Move to intercept, helm.”

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

    “On audio,” said Ross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Hold for my order.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He didn’t. And no one else did.

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

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


    Office of the Federation Council President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Going through more official channels,” L’Haan plainly replied, “while your division continues to monitor the situation on Earth and take the necessary steps in the event that everything already has been derailed.”
     
  13. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Chapter Twenty-Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Put it on screen,” Kira commanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The transmission quickly ended, leaving Kira to mull over what sorts of “extralegal affairs” had seriously jeopardized one of Starfleet’s most decorated Dominion War tacticians. Were she not Vulcan, T’Nera’s last words before signing could have construed as a taunt that other distinguished war heroes would soon meet their downfalls should they refuse to cooperate with the upcoming investigation.
     
  14. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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


    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    “How much does she know?” Nog wondered.

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “No, sir,” Kira confidently stated.

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

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

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

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

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

    The aide nodded and headed for the main entrance.

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

    Escobar flashed an angry stare at the admiral, but Kira raised a hand. “With all due respect, sir,” she offered, “I’m given to understand Intelligence handpicked Lieutenant Ro for an undercover mission inside the Maquis.”

    “A regrettable decision on my part. But that is not the issue right now. Since I cannot get straight answers out of any of you, the four of you are confined to quarters for the duration of this investigation.”

    Kira and the three officers were then slowly escorted out of the office by their respective guards. Never before had Kira felt so defeated. And she had faced many fair shares of obstacles during the Occupation, while the station was under Dominion control, and other setbacks during that war. Now, she and her senior staff were facing the prospect of a court martial in an effort to combat corruption at the highest levels of Starfleet and the Federation.

    Their only hope now was that Sisko and Bashir could uncover any information from the Tal Shiar operative they were pursuing.

    ###

    Rennek turned up the intensity on the memory probes on Bashir’s temple. He bobbed his head and forth, unable to resist the pain that resulted from the sonic pulses piercing through his skull. He gritted his teeth, trying to muffle the expressions of physical pain as the pulses kept altering in pitch and frequency.

    Bashir considered his ability to resist the effects of Romulan memory probes a point of pride after Tal Shiar chairman Koval was unable to glean any information from him. It was one more thing that made him feel superior to the rest of humanity. Sisko made a good point, though, in saying he did not know better than everyone else. Ever since his genetic enhancements became public knowledge, Bashir did display a certain level of arrogance. These new and improved memory probes were a humbling reminder of Sisko’s words.

    He was suddenly remembering his meeting with Cole and the mission for which he had recruited Bashir.

    “And it's not so much about cleaning up our mess as it is about keeping other secrets buried. You needn't concern yourself with what that secret is, but it is imperative that we prevent a Tal Shiar operative…”

    As he was remembering this conversation with Cole, Bashir was repeating the Section 31 director’s words--“…from delivering that secret to the Klingon Empire. Neither side is in much of a position to wage war, but that won't stop the traditionalists within the Empire.”

    “So he did not disclose any details about the secrets hidden on Tezwa?” Rennek inquired.

    “No,” Bashir deadpanned.

    “What are Starfleet’s rescue plans?”

    “I don’t know. I wasn’t informed about the specifics.”

    Rennek scoffed, but Bashir was pleased with himself that he still remained very stingy about revealing that information despite knowing how increasingly painful the memory probing would be.

    Rennek then turned to Sisko and yanked at his collar. “I suppose you’re more privy to the details of any rescue,” he taunted.

    “I don’t know anything either,” Sisko flatly replied.

    “I find that hard to believe,” Rennek countered. “I had hoped you would have better sense.” He took a few steps back to his control console and entered a sequence to turn up the intensity on the memory probe. Sisko started writhing in pain.

    Rennek turned slowly turned down the intensity. And during that same moment, the deck started shaking.

    The runabout Montana swooped in on the cloaked Romulan shuttle, firing phasers. The second salvo had the deck of the shuttle rocking even harder, which sent Rennek to the falling to the floor.
     
  15. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    Worf entered the Infirmary’s main exam room, having heard that Martok had regained consciousness. He had gotten used to visiting the station’s medical ward in the last two weeks, whether he was receiving treatment for his own injuries or consulting with doctors about the health of one of his brothers.

    While he was waiting for permission to visit Martok, Worf remembered he was already part of several different families. He had grown so accustomed to his many of his crewmates on Deep Space Nine and on the Enterprise-D, that they were his family. He was willing to lay down his life for any of them. His adopted parents and their biological son were the family with whom he had grown up. He was a brother of the House of Martok, and now his biological brother was once again a part of his life. The big question now was where Kurn would fit as part of his family.

    Doctor Tarses and a Bajoran female nurse stepped away from the reclined biobed where Martok was seated. Tarses then allowed Worf to speak to the still recuperating chancellor. “I’ll be outside if you need me,” he told the ambassador.

    “Ah, Worf,” Martok said with subdued exuberance. “The doctors assure me I will make a complete recovery. I still feel as though I’ve had a few too many servings of bloodwine. I trust you’ve dealt with the ha’DIbaH’s who made a cowardly attempt on my life without letting me see their faces.”

    “Yes,” Worf humbly informed the chancellor. “Subcommander Sulvek and General Grelik are both dead. They died knowing it was I who avenged you. Crewman Doran, an informant of the Neo-Purists, took his own life after transporting the bomb to your private chamber. And, assuming he has not gone into hiding, you may be able build up a case against Councilor Ru’qel when you return to Qo’Nos.”

    “Good,” Martok nonchalantly replied, as if those three deaths were just business as usual. “I knew that becoming chancellor made me a more coveted target, but I did not expect that rooting out corruption within the High Council would be this difficult.”

    “Their tactics may be dishonorable, but I have to come to see that as those clinging to the old ways realize they are fewer and farther between, they grow more desperate.”

    “And we must be equally vigilant. You have served the House of Martok well. I am certain many songs will be sung of your great deeds.”

    “I look forward to hearing them,” Worf said without feeling much pride in his recent accomplishments. Even though he had acted on behalf of the Federation, the Empire, and the House of Martok, he knew he had made many enemies, including those who would again accuse Worf of using his position as a Federation diplomat to manipulate affairs of the Empire. That was tomorrow, though. Today, he had a more personal request to make.

    He paused for a brief moment before remembering the other reason for his visit. “I have a request to make of you regarding my brother, Kurn.”

    “Your brother?” Martok curiously replied. If he still had his left eye, it would be widening at this moment along with his right eye. “Did he not agree to a memory purge and a new identity after the House of Mogh had been dissolved?”

    “Yes, but in providing service to our House, he has begun to regain some of his memories of his former life. You could express your gratitude by accepting him and others in the House of Noggra into the Greater Martok Clan.”

    “The House of Noggra,” Martok said, trying to remember what he knew of that rather obscure family who had adopted Kurn in the guise of Rodek. “They are mostly common farmers and laborers. But so was my family before many of us rose to prominence. I will have to discuss it with the other clan elders. I am certain they will agree to such an arrangement in addition to issuing special commendations to the rest of the officers and crew aboard the Gorkon.”

    “That would be greatly appreciated,” Worf said.

    Certainly, Worf was pleased by the recent turn of events--both the chancellor’s recovery and reuniting with a brother who was part of a now defunct Klingon House. For now, though, the time for celebration would be when that reunion with Kurn was formalized.

    ###

    Ezri Dax entered the ward room with her security escort right behind her. Admiral T’Nera was seated at the head of the table just up ahead. The security guard standing behind Ezri took slow paces towards the other end of the table and rolled the chair out from underneath the meeting table. Ezri tilted her head slightly and widened her pupils, somewhat perturbed that the guard felt she couldn’t be trusted to pull up her own chair.

    She took a few slow paces and sat in the chair and inched it closer to the table herself while shooting a disarming stare at her escort. The guard took a few steps backward, and Ezri gave a thankful nod. She then looked straight at T’Nera, who was almost in a trance-like state reading a padd. Ezri just stared the admiral’s direction, giving no visible signs of worry that she and her colleagues were about to brought up on charges of espionage or mutiny.

    “You may wait outside, Ensign,” T’Nera informed the guard while looking up from the padd. Once the guard obliged and stepped out into corridor, T’Nera flashed a pensive stare at Ezri.

    “I understand you’ve chosen a new career path for yourself,” the Vulcan woman declared.

    “Yes,” Ezri replied.

    “Third in command of the one of the most strategically significant outposts in the Federation,” T’Nera continued. “Quite an impressive achievement at your age alongside the accolades of your two preceding hosts, wouldn’t you agree?”

    “Absolutely,” Ezri said with forced enthusiasm.

    “I understand you terminated your romantic affiliation with Doctor Bashir nearly two years ago.”

    Ezri shook her head in annoyance. She briefly looked away and then turned her attention back to the admiral. “With respect, sir,” she said, “what relevance does my personal life have to your investigation?”

    “None at all. I was simply curious.”

    Ezri gave a gentle nod, as if accepting T’Nera’s word, but knew that a Vulcan, especially one in a high-level bureaucratic position, rarely ever expressed curiosity about the personal affairs of lower ranking officers.

    “I find it most intriguing that you have set rather lofty ambitions for yourself since your joining,” T’Nera went on. “It would be a shame if you were to taint the Dax legacy by aiding in any subversive activities. Putting that aside, for the moment, do you hope to one day command a starship?”

    “I see that as a strong possibility,” Ezri obligingly replied.

    “What if I were to tell you that I could shorten that timetable by a year? In exchange for certain information, I could put in the good word for you at Command.”

    Ezri’s eyebrow twitched in a manner similar to the Vulcan expression of curiosity. “What kind of ‘information’?” she suspiciously asked.

    “Any secrets you may know about not just your colleagues on this station, but your compatriots aboard the Starship Destiny and classmates at the Academy, as well as colleagues of previous hosts currently serving in high level positions within the Federation.”

    All sorts of thoughts were rushing through Ezri’s mind as she was hearing that proposition. What kinds of secrets? Did T’Nera really want to know how good Julian was in bed or what Jadzia found so appealing about a Gallamite with a transparent skull or about the women Curzon had courted well into his old age? Or were these secrets more of the professional nature? Was T’Nera hoping to glean secrets about Worf that only Jadzia knew or about how much information Elias Vaughn had accumulated throughout his eighty years of service to Starfleet Special Operations? Or perhaps the admiral was hoping for privileged information Ezri had received from patients during her time as a counselor.

    “Sell out friends and colleagues?” she asked with slight confusion.

    “Nothing so dramatic,” T’Nera attempted. “Just a few bits and pieces about your fellow officers that are not included in an official service record, certain things that would give you an advantage over them in your ascent up the ranks.

    Ezri lowered her head, still rather baffled that a Vulcan would be making such an offer. Maybe T’Nera had her own logic, but what she was asking was still deeply disturbing. “I serve Starfleet on the principles of duty, honor, and loyalty,” she proclaimed while looking straight into T’Nera’s eyes with strong self-assuredness. “What you are asking me to do violates all three. I will not undermine colleagues, acquaintances, or even friends simply to hasten my own advancement. That may mean taking longer to get a starship command. But I will have achieved it through my own merits without knocking others down along the way.”

    “It was simply a suggestion,” T’Nera plainly replied. “Now, moving on to more pertinent matters…”

    Ezri quickly tuned out T’Nera’s words. She knew all too well that Vulcan’s did not lie so readily. However, this Vulcan clearly had motives other than her investigation of possible illegal activities on the station. Of course, now was not the time to raise such issues since T’Nera was the one asking the questions in this interrogation.

    ###

    The Montana continued firing phasers at the cloaked Romulan shuttle until it could no longer remain invisible to either humanoid eyes or conventional Federation sensors. As the shuttle, in the shape of a bird-of-prey that was consistent with the design of most Romulan military vessels, became more and more visible, the Starfleet runabout swerved around and out of the target vessel’s weapons range.

    The interior of the shuttle rocked back and forth with each phaser hit. Each jolt was able to loosen the chains keeping Sisko and Bashir chained to the wall. The two humans and their Romulan captor struggled to maintain their balance. During the quaking in the floor, Sisko lunged at Rennek, knocking the Romulan to ground.

    Rennek quickly lurched upright and scooped a fighting pike off the wall. He began waving the long metallic weapon in Sisko’s direction, but the captain kept ducking out of the way. Sisko lunged towards Rennek’s left arm while Bashir restrained the Romulan’s right arm, allowing their combined strength to restrain Rennek and pin him to the wall.

    Rennek flung his arms forward, sending his escaped prisoners to the deck. The blade of his pike caught Bashir in the shoulder. While he nursed his wound, Sisko swung back towards Rennek and tugged at the pike. Rennek yanked the pike back, knocking Sisko on his back. Sisko rolled over as Rennek swung the pike towards him. He quickly crawled to away from the Romulan towards the main control console. Bashir gathered and tugged at Rennek’s foot in an effort to slow him down.

    As Sisko was frantically pushing buttons, Rennek freed himself from Bashir’s grasp with the heel of his boot grazing his forehead. Sisko removed a circuit access panel and unfastened an electrical cord. Rennek lunged towards him and Sisko jammed the tip of the cord into Rennek’s abdomen.

    Rennek was writhing in pain as he was being electrocuted. Sisko was able to dive out of harm’s way and attend to Bashir’s injury. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” he insisted.

    They both glanced in the direction of their former captor and saw Rennek’s body transform into a mass of orange goo.

    “It’s a Changeling!” Sisko gasped.

    As electricity coursed through his deteriorating form, the protoplasm was gradually reduced to a pile of cinder. The two men stared in awe, considering the implications of one of the Founders of the Dominion in the guise of a Romulan involved in the recent state of affairs. Certainly, they had a stake in recent events as much as the Romulans did. Their contemplative stares at the Changeling’s remains were soon interrupted, though, by a communications chime on the main console.

    Montana to Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir. Do you read?” came the voice of Lieutenant Ro.

    Sisko pushed a control on the console to acknowledge the transmission. “We’re both here, Lieutenant. Our ‘Romulan’ captor was really a Changeling. We’re hoping his personal database would shed some light on what sort of incriminating secrets he was hoping to deliver to the Klingon Empire.”

    Bashir was already in the process of attempting to access Rennek’s main database while Sisko was in communication with the runabout that had been stealthily pursuing them. “I’m into the main file directory,” Bashir announced.

    “That was fast,” Sisko observed.

    “One of the perks of being genetically enhanced,” Bashir retorted, “and why Section 31 keeps trying to recruit me.” He continued perusing through a few of the files on routine ship functions, but then stumbled across something jaw-dropping. “My God.”

    “What did you find?” Sisko curiously inquired.

    “You’re not going to believe this. Five years ago, President Zife had nadion pulse cannons placed on Tezwa in violation of the Khitomer Accords as part of some fallback strategy in the Dominion War.

    Sisko stared at the screen in disbelief, trying to make sure his eyes were not deceiving him. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t believe it. Ordinarily, I’d question whether it’s accurate, but it’s consistent with why Zife was so adamant about launching a pre-emptive strike against a world that poses no threat after he fabricated evidence that the Tezwan were in league with Klingon radicals.”

    “If this evidence had been delivered to the High Council,” Bashir added, “the fallout would be devastating. That’s what Cole meant when he stressed the importance of making sure they didn’t receive it.”

    “It would serve as a rallying cry for traditionalist factions to seize power and declare war on the Federation. And that would make both powers more vulnerable to the Romulans, the Tholians, and even the Dominion. Prepare to transmit these files to the runabout’s library computer.”

    “Of course,” Bashir replied, entering a sequence to transmit the entire database to the runabout. “But, sir, is our alliance with the Klingons worth a continued cover-up?”

    “For now, it absolutely is,” Sisko unflinchingly proclaimed. “Hopefully, though, we can use this evidence to pressure the President to resign.”

    “That may be easier said than done,” Tenmei chimed in from the runabout’s cockpit. “We’ve got a starship entering sensor range--Galaxy-class.”

    “Starfleet runabout,” came a masculine voice on the ship-to-ship comm that was also easily heard by Sisko and Bashir, “power down your engines and prepare to be boarded.”

    ###

    Kira Nerys entered the ward room, escorted by a security guard, to see Admiral T’Nera reading a padd.

    Most likely, T’Nera was brushing up on Kira’s service record as a Starfleet captain, as a Bajoran militia officer, and as a member of the Bajoran Resistance. With that in mind, Kira worried that the admiral might try to use some of her off-book activities or her early clashes with Sisko against her, especially after T’Nera had attempted to elicit some kind of emotional response about two of her officers’ past affiliations with the Maquis. Right now, that was the least of her worries with a line of questioning about more recent events to come.

    “Sit down, Captain,” T’Nera instructed.

    Kira begrudgingly took a seat at the head of the table and watched as the guard sauntered out of the room.

    “I was going over some of the station’s logs from the past two days,” T’Nera continued, setting the padd aside. “You and Captain Sisko had spoken directly to the President regarding his plans to invade Tezwa. Why did he contact your station?”

    “We did speak to the President,” Kira reiterated. “The Defiant pursued a Klingon Bird-of-Prey traveling between Nimbus Three and Tezwa while carrying an Omega explosive. The President wished to hear our firsthand account of the recent events.”

    “Yet, he already seemed adamant that the invasion still go forward. Is that correct?”

    “Yes, despite my objections and Captain Sisko’s.”

    T’Nera took a quick look at the padd in front of her and looked back at Kira. “From the official transcript of the communiqué, Captain Sisko made allegations that a renegade Starfleet organization calling itself ‘Section 31’ had attempted to fabricate evidence of Klingon terrorists aiding the Tezwan’s efforts to procure illegal weaponry to be used against the Federation and the Klingon Empire. What was the basis for this claim?”

    “On Nimbus Three,” Kira said in recollection of what had transpired there, “Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro oversaw a sting operation where a mercenary sought to learn the location of a terrorist encampment from a former colleague. This individual was killed by a sniper, who Commander Vaughn identified as an agent of Section 31.”

    “Fascinating,” T’Nera replied with an eyebrow twitch. “He has been attempting to piece together evidence of such a covert organization for decades. This incident, however, hardly constitutes proof of a conspiracy to falsely implicate a technologically inferior non-aligned world.”

    “No,” Kira grudgingly agreed, “but the timing seemed very convenient, indicating someone wanted the delivery to go forward while allowing Starfleet to prevent the transaction from being completed. A member of the terrorist group that Ambassador Worf and Captain Klag managed to apprehend said that was the plan all along.”

    “The President dismissed such a claim. Did he not?”

    “Of course he did. But an honorable Klingon wouldn’t lie in an effort to spare his own life.” But Kira knew that was not entirely true based even on some of Worf’s actions. Such a notion was still a generally accepted rule of thumb about Klingons, just as Vulcans generally did not lie, except to save face for themselves, a relative, or a close friend. Clearly, though, this Vulcan sought to cover up certain truths.

    “An assertion based on the ambassador’s overly-idealistic appraisal of Klingon culture,” T’Nera dismissively replied. “Even as the President dismissed such allegations, you, nevertheless, continued pursuing such an investigation. You don’t actually believe such an alleged conspiracy would extend all the way up to the President himself, do you?”

    “After Captain Sisko’s repeated inquiries have all gone unanswered,” Kira assuredly answered. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

    “Yes, I am well aware of your crews’ allegations that this ‘rogue organization’ attempted to exterminate the Founders of the Dominion, as well as Doctor Bashir’s encounters with one Luther Sloan. There never has been any individual by that name serving in Starfleet Intelligence, Security, Special Operations, or Internal Affairs, or one who closely fits his description. Perhaps he is merely covering his tracks while he and the other missing officers compile fabricated evidence meant to discredit Starfleet and the Federation. For all we know, the man in your morgue and the man in your brig were both compatriots of his.”

    “I understand you had those men moved to facilities on the Victory,” Kira offered with a conspicuously inquisitive tone.

    “If you intend to pose a question as to why, let me remind you, Captain, that I am asking the questions here.”

    “While the questions you have answered, I never even asked.”

    T’Nera’s eyes widened, indicating to Kira that her taunt had struck a nerve. The admiral was about to speak when a communications chime sounded.

    “Ops to Admiral T’Nera,” came a masculine voice. “Urgent.”

    T’Nera stood up and headed for the main entrance. Once out in the corridor, she placed an audio device in her ear to provide a measure of privacy while in the presence of the security guards. “Go ahead,” she said with a tap of her combadge.

    “The Starship Venture has intercepted a Starfleet runabout and an unidentified shuttle. They’ve also apprehended the station’s missing officers, as well as Captain Sisko.”

    “Once the Venture has docked,” T’Nera instructed, “escort those officers to the ward room for questioning.”

    “Understood. One other thing, sir. Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir informed Captain Meyers that they had escaped a Romulan captor, who was really a shapeshifter.”

    “Do they have any evidence to that effect?”

    “Yes, sir, they do.”

    “Thank you,” T’Nera said, tapping her combadge to sign off. She maintained a calm demeanor as she headed back to the ward room entrance, but felt a sense of defeat, knowing that the secrets she had desperately tried to keep hidden had been revealed.

    The charade was over.
     
  16. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Twenty-Nine

    Kira entered her office and found Admiral T’Nera still seated behind the desk. She took slow paces towards the desk while still silently annoyed that the admiral was still there even after Kira and her senior staff had been released from confinement. She had to resist the urge to grab T’Nera by the collar and drag her out of the office. Doing so would lead to the same consequences as if she were brought up on charges of compromising Federation security. Hopefully, T’Nera and her staff would soon be gone and this whole ordeal would be over.

    “I was just completing my final report on my investigation,” T’Nera explained after turning off the desk monitor. “You’ll be pleased to know that you and your crew have been cleared of any wrongdoing. The President will soon be giving an address indicating that recent events were the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

    “That’s it?” Kira scoffed. “No apology to us or to the Tezwan government?”

    “If an apology would be emotionally satisfying to those parties who were wronged,” T’Nera said with her usual dispassionate tone, but with what Kira thought was a slight hint of sarcasm, “I’m certain Starfleet Command and the President would offer it.”

    “That’s good to know,” Kira said with an insincere smile. “I have one additional request, sir.”

    “I’m listening,” T’Nera said eagerly with an eyebrow twitch.

    “Get the hell out of my chair.”

    T’Nera rolled the chair away from the desk while grasping a padd. “I am certainly willing to oblige now that my business here is concluded,” she flatly proclaimed. She stood up, circled around the desk and stepped out of the office without another word.

    Once the doors slid shut, Kira rolled her eyes and propped her arms on the desk. She stared at the empty chair and flashed a satisfied grin now that she had taken back her office.

    ###

    An airlock door rolled open.

    Kasidy Yates Sisko held her daughter’s hand while eagerly awaiting the arrival of her husband. She stared at the entryway, quietly watching as personnel from the Venture filed through.

    She had experienced this moment many times before and it never got easier after all of his dangerous missions during the Dominion War. Benjamin had survived all those missions, so Kasidy almost felt that he was invincible. But then he disappeared in the Fire Caves on Bajor less than a week after the war ended, and her fears about the Prophets’ warning that marrying would bring them sorrow had been realized. Those same fears occupied her thoughts even more over the last two weeks. True, he came back from this undercover operation safe and sound, but Kasidy couldn’t smile until she saw Ben face to face.

    Four officers walked through before the man she had awaited appeared.

    “Daddy!” cried Rebecca.

    “Ben,” Kasidy gasped. She took a few quick steps towards her husband, and they clasped each other’s hands. They then exchanged a quick kiss.

    Afterwards, Kasidy lifted Rebecca off the ground and handed the girl off to Ben. Rebecca hugged her father, who held her tightly. He kissed the little girl on the forehead and gently set her back down on the ground.

    “How many times have we done this?” Kasidy remarked.

    “Too many times,” Benjamin retorted. “This time might not be the last time, but we’ll talk about it more when we get home.”

    “I sure hope so.”

    ***

    Ezri Dax weaved through a crowd of Starfleet officers and civilians on the Promenade, but with her mind on one person. She had just been released from house arrest shortly before Admiral T’Nera and her staff had departed the station, meaning she could not reach the airlock at one of the upper pylons where the Venture was docked. She was, of course, hoping to intercept Julian as he emerged from one of the airlocks connecting the Promenade with the habitat and docking rings.

    Ezri was envisioning running into his arms and wanting him not to ever let go. Her recent conversations with Sisko, Worf, and Kira were playing back in her mind as she waited in anticipation near airlock across the way from Quark’s. She also thought about what she told Jonas after she turned down his dinner date invitation. She was on a journey of self-exploration, trying to distinguish herself from Dax’s other hosts, but at the same time worried that she could not equal the achievements of Curzon or Jadzia. She hadn’t put much thought into the fact she was throwing herself into lofty career ambitions the last two years until the last two weeks. Ezri had contemplated the possibility of one day commanding a starship off and on, but without very much consideration until T’Nera suggested it, alongside an offer to sell out friends and colleagues.

    While her Starfleet career was important, other aspects her of life were just as important. Perhaps she was overcompensating by pushing Julian out of her life, and at any moment, she would be able to correct that mistake.

    Bashir stepped through the doorway of an open airlock that was several paces from the Infirmary. He seemingly had his sights set on that location until Ezri spotted him and jogged towards him. “Julian,” she called to him.

    “Ezri,” Julian said, looking slightly befuddled.

    Without putting much thought into such action, she draped her arms around his shoulders and held tightly. After a very long moment, she loosened her grip and, while still clasping his shoulders, she planted a kiss on his lips. She was not the least bit concerned about embarrassing herself even knowing that she--or rather Jadzia--was an eyewitness to Kira and Odo sharing their first kiss very near this same spot.

    They both gently separated from each other, oblivious to passing onlookers, with Ezri not certain whether Julian was flattered or confused. “I’ve been doing it all wrong,” she explained. “I’ve set challenging goals for myself in recent years. But what good is that life I don’t share it with you?”

    “We can surely discuss this later,” Bashir eagerly responded. “I really should get to the Infirmary. I’m told Commander Vaughn has just regained consciousness.”

    “I guess I’d better let you handle that,” Ezri said with an embarrassed grin. “We can discuss over dinner or at Vic’s.”
    “Of course. My quarters, 1900 hours.”

    “It’s a date then.”

    They both walked off in opposite directions, but then Ezri turned around and silently stared at Julian as he stepped into the Infirmary.

    ***

    Prynn Tenmei stepped into Infirmary’s waiting area and momentarily forgot which way to go next. She then continued straight ahead towards the primary intensive care unit. Upon arrival there, she saw Nurse Bandee scanning Elias Vaughn with a medical tricorder. He was sitting upright, having regained consciousness.

    Prynn flashed a wide smile in her father’s direction and ran towards him while fighting back tears. Bandee stepped aside to allow father and daughter to have a few moments together. Elias and Prynn held each other in a warm embrace that lasted for almost a minute. Prynn wanted to savor this moment as long as possible. After an incident like this, she was again reminded that Elias was her only parent after her mother’s death. All the past arguments they had seemed trivial.

    “I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” Prynn said, letting a few tears escape her eyes.

    “Nobody’s getting rid of me that easily,” Elias quipped.

    ###

    “On behalf of the entire United Federation of Planets, I deeply regret this unfortunate misunderstanding and wish to extend sincere apologies to Prime Minister Kinchawn and the people of Tezwa.”

    President Min Zife delivered an official address from the Palais de la Concorde that was transmitted throughout the Federation. Some of Deep Space Nine’s senior officers, along with Captain Sisko, were gathered in the ward room to view the address on a time-delayed transmission. Commander Vaughn was also present and in uniform.

    “I assume full responsibility for my administration and for the Starfleet Joint Chiefs for having been misled,” Zife continued. “A group of rogue Starfleet officers in collusion with Ferengi corporate leaders attempted to fabricate evidence that the Tezwan were in possession of destructive weaponry as a pretext for invasion to assure adequate dilithium supplies from a politically unstable world. Rest assured these renegade officers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Federation law. It is my hope that with no loss of life suffered in the aborted invasion, we can all move past this unfortunate incident.”

    “In related news,” News Service reporter Marina Gomez reported after the presidential address, “noted Dominion War tactician, Vice-Admiral William Ross called off the invasion of Tezwa after his fleet’s entry into the system to demonstrate to his officers that the Tezwan pose no military threat to the Federation. He then confessed to having provided assistance to these renegades in the past and was being blackmailed into leading the invasion fleet. He has resigned from Starfleet and given the names of some of those co-conspirators in exchange for clemency.

    “With FNS News Minute, I’m Marina Gomez.”

    Ro scoffed after the transmission ended. “Well, that speech was utter targ manure,” she said while rolling her eyes.

    “And it looks like Ross is another one to take the fall.” Kira remarked.

    “How unfortunate that another great tactician should meet his downfall in such a manner,” Sisko added. He noticed Bashir at the other side of the table taking a quick glance in his direction and thought Bashir might comment about Ross’s involvement in one of Section 31’s machinations. Sisko glanced back at Bashir, seemingly convincing him not to mention the chain of events that to the ascent of a 31 informant to the Continuing Committee of the Romulan government.

    “What about the Changeling?” Dax wondered.

    “What about him?” Sisko asked, not sure what her question was.

    “If one of the Founders was posing as a Tal Shiar informant,” Dax added, “that would mean the Dominion had a stake in this as well, and is up to their old tricks.”

    “Officially, they’ve closed their borders,” Kira reminded Dax and the rest of the group.

    “And unofficially?” Bashir asked with his eyebrows perked up.

    “The Dominion is just another power that employs covert operatives to undermine their enemies,” said Vaughn. “That’s how it works unfortunately.”

    “And that’s why Zife hopes to sweep this whole affair under the rug as quickly and as thoroughly as possible,” added Sisko.

    “We may have prevented a war now,” Kira mused, “but sooner or later, someone else might use these events to their advantage. And we might not be able to stop them.”

    Each of the officers in the briefing exchanged pensive stares amongst one another, all of them wondering how the recent events would lead to more dire consequences in the long term, as well as how high-ranking officials in the Federation government and Starfleet would try to further reduce the fallout.
     
  17. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Location:
    Tethered to a large plant
    Epilogue

    “He killed his own man to protect the enemy?” Jonas Escobar asked with confusion.

    He and Sam Bowers sat at a table in the Replimat sharing a meal while reviewing various security protocols for the station and the Defiant. Both men had barely touched their food while discussing rather mundane technical details. That discussion had soon drifted to one about characters in a holosuite program.

    “It wasn’t quite that simple,” Bowers replied while taking a quick sip of his beverage. “They were acting on intelligence provided by an enemy turncoat who had renounced terrorism. Whether Assad’s conciliatory initiatives were genuine, we might never know, but it seemed like the right course of action. Unfortunately, Curtis Manning could never forgive some of Assad’s past atrocities, and put a desire for revenge over duty.”

    Escobar smirked as he was reminded of some of his experiences during the war. “During the war, I had a clear sense of who were my friends and who were my enemies,” he remarked. “And we just risked our careers going after people within our own ranks.”

    “You mean you never faced that paradox while you were in the Maquis?” Bowers curiously wondered. “I know many Starfleet veterans were not too happy with having to shoot at some of their former colleagues.”

    “That seems like a distant memory,” Jonas coyly replied. “And I was never in Starfleet before the war.”

    Sam winced skeptically. He then saw something along the walkway of the Promenade. Julian and Ezri slowly passed by while holding hands. “Looks like they worked it out,” he remarked.

    Jonas turned his head around and saw them. He scoffed as he wondered what had changed Ezri’s mind after her speech about defining herself before being in any kind of committed relationship. Maybe Bashir’s undercover mission had changed her mind.

    ***

    Bashir entered his quarters and walked towards the replicator. He glanced at his own shadow on the wall as he pushed a button on the panel to replicate a mug of tea. He took a small sip and saw that another shadow was cast on the wall in front of him. Bashir turned around and saw the one person he never expected to see again.

    “Good evening, Doctor,” a blond-haired man in a black leather jumpsuit said. “I bet you didn't expect to see me again.”

    “Sloan,” Bashir said with an ominous stare. “Should I be annoyed or relieved that you're still alive; that is assuming you are not another figment of my imagination?”

    “Oh, no,” Sloan replied with a chuckle. "I am quite real. You probably wonder how capturing me three years ago was so easy.”

    “It never crossed my mind,” Julian lied.

    Sloan grinned as if having expected that sarcastic response. “But you had to assume that my colleagues could have extracted me any time they wanted. So why didn't they?”

    “Because you wanted to save Odo while appearing not to have given up the cure voluntarily. But that doesn't explain how you're still alive.”

    “You actually captured an isomorphic projection—a very sophisticated isomorphic projection. One that could give off human life signs, be rendered unconscious by phaser fire, and even activate the neural paralyzer on cue.”

    “So again, you were three steps ahead of me. How should I respond to that?”

    “Now, Julian, you would never cut off your nose to spite your face. You saved Odo. He cured the other Founders. The end of the Dominion War was far less messy.”

    “And that's supposed to justify attempted genocide?”

    “Doctor! So much could have wrong with supplying Omega to terrorists. But it had to be done to protect a devastating secret that could lead to a war that would leave us more at the mercy of enemies such as the Romulans, the Tholians, or the Dominion. Cole knew of your determination not to let that happen.”

    “Speaking of Cole, might he still be alive as well?”

    “That really isn’t your concern, Doctor,” Sloan brusquely replied. He then paced towards the door and stepped out.

    Bashir sighed as he considered all the implications of recent events and the role he played in them. While he was greatly disturbed that an organization within the Federation was manipulating circumstances in the Federation’s favor, what could be done to change that? It was all in the name protecting other secrets that were just as damaging.

    When he first learned of Section 31, Bashir wanted to do everything in his power to bring down this bureau that spit in the face of Federation values. The idealist in him felt Section 31 was a cancer within the Federation that needed to be destroyed. The realist in him, though, felt the damage done to the Federation if these secrets came out would be far worse. Even knowing that made him feel powerless. Despite his superiority to his peers, he was just another human.

    ###

    In the Chancellor’s VIP quarters, Martok, Worf, and Kurn were gathered around a pit of fire. They were all participating in a ceremony to formally admit Kurn into the House of Martok. “Martok degh, to-Duj degh, bat-LEH degh, mat-LEH degh,” Martok proclaimed.

    “Martok degh,” Martok and Worf repeated in unison.

    “Kurn, vih-nob dok-tog,” Worf added.

    Kurn removed his dagger from his holster and handed it to Martok. Martok then used it to draw blood from his own palm. Afterwards, he mixed it with oil in the bowl and dropped it in the fire.

    Mat-LEH gih-Hegh,” Kurn declared.

    DAH!” Martok replied.

    Kurn picked up the insignia and stared at it before placing it on his left sleeve.

    “Welcome to the House of Martok, Kurn,” Martok announced, “brother of Worf, and son of Mogh.”

    ###

    “I am in position.”

    L'Haan stood several blocks away from the president's procession communicating with a Klingon colleague. “Then proceed exactly as we discussed,” she said.

    ***

    Grelik weaved his way through the crowd of people wanting to shake President Zife's hand while slowly removing a well-concealed disruptor pistol from a holster on his right hip. He then aimed it straight at the president. The onlookers who surrounded him did not even notice. But one of Zife's personal guards did see the weapon being pointed at him.

    “Gun!” the Bolian guard cried out. “Gun!”

    He began nudging Zife out of harm's way. But he took a single energy projectile. The other three guards were also hit, and then Zife.

    “The President's been hit!” a voice called out as Grelik tried to lose himself in the crowd. Additional guards rushed to the scene to shield frightened onlookers and to attend to the United Federation of Planets’ wounded leader.

    Zife was barely conscious, but alive. Of course, no one who had witnessed this shocking turn of events knew for how long.
     

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