Recently published over at Ad Astra: CRYSTAL-CLEAR TRUTH The Tal Shiar complex in the Romulan capital city was a great, brooding pile of obsidian rising high above every building in the city other than the Praetor’s Palace. The general public looked on its intimidating mass as the heart of the Romulan secret police. They had no idea how wrong they were. Evek walked into the bakery a block down from Tal Shiar headquarters. Ignoring the cases full of wares and the attendant behind the counter, he strode directly into the back room and past the great mixers and kneaders. None of the people making bread looked twice at him. Entering a small pantry lined with wood shelves on which sat baking supplies, he placed his palm on a stained piece of the back wall. From nowhere and everywhere a voice said, “Name?” “Evek. Tanis Evek.” There was a pause and then the voice returned. “Identity confirmed-proceed.” “Shaken, not stirred,” he said under his breath and then mentally shook himself. “I’ve been too close to the Humans for too long,” he thought. Reaching up to a nearby shelf, he turned a can of processed animal fat ninety degrees and the back wall of the pantry slid aside. Through the space revealed he could see a modern, well-lit, sterile corridor. It angled downwards into the bowels of the planet. He began walking forward towards a large chamber a few hundred meters down. Upon reaching it, he saw two things. One was a series of tunnels branching off from the chamber on the opposite wall. The other was Sub-Adjunct Marda. The younger man practically quivered with anticipation as he awaited Evek’s arrival. Evek sighed to himself. “ Evek! I have the reports you requested!” Marda thrust a padd at Evek. “I also have the physical evidence from the archives in your office!” He was practically hopping up and down with suppressed excitement. Evek nodded curtly and smoothly took the padd as he walked by. Marda nearly tripped over his own feet trying to move with him. “It wasn’t easy getting all of the physical items, sir. They were scattered over a number of files throughout the main warehouse. I tried to do the best I could b-but I hope you will understand if I missed something.” Marda swallowed nervously. Evek smiled inwardly before stopping in place to confront Marda. Marda stumbled while trying to come to a stop. “Are you saying you failed to do the task I set you in a proper and thorough fashion?” The young man swallowed nervously and said, “Sir, you asked for all physical evidence pertaining to Deep Space Nine and Captain Benjamin Sisko. We have conducted numerous investigations relating to a multitude of points of interest in that area of the Federation. I did the best I could. Sir.” There was the faintest hint of steel in the boy’s voice. Evek privately admired him for it. More experienced men had quailed when confronted by Evek in the past. “I’m sure you did all you were able to, Marda.” He continued walking with Marda tailing him silently. Arriving at the plain, unmarked door to his office he opened it only to stop in the threshold, stunned. Every level surface of the office was piled high with meter-long plastic evidence boxes. Evek stood there with his mouth open. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been surprised. “You did say, ‘Every scrap of physical evidence.’, sir. Among other things, the complete remains of the Federation runabout Einstein are in here.” Marda sounded almost proud as he said this. Evek turned to look at him. “You put a runabout in my office?” he asked incredulously. Marda blushed green. “Well, it wasn’t intact,” he mumbled. Evek sighed and stepped in. “I want you to remove everything that doesn’t directly pertain to Benjamin Sisko. I’ll go through that stuff first. I’m going to figure out what happened to him. Starfleet captains don’t just disappear.” Marda looked at him with a puzzled expression on his face. “Did you want me to return the rest of these boxes to the archives?” Evek started flipping through the contents of a nearby box. “No, put them somewhere nearby in case I need to access them quickly,” he said absently. “Where did you have in mind?” Marda asked him. Evek looked up at him with an evil grin on his face. “Why don’t you put them in your office, Sub-Adjunct?” he suggested. The young man’s face took in the stacks of crates and slowly collapsed, crestfallen. ********* Evek had been pouring over the Sisko files for hours. “There’s nothing here,” he thought. “Why would he have just vanished?” he asked himself for the hundredth time. “Could it have been something to do with these so-called Prophets? That’s the only outré factor in the man’s history! It must have something to do with them!” He paced his office, a padd in one hand and a partly melted crystal in the other. “Even the assassination of Senator Vreenak was a relatively straight-forward thing. Weyoun killed him after Sisko gave him evidence of the Dominion’s treachery towards our people. Nothing stands out to explain his disappearance except those twice-damned Prophets!” In his weariness he stepped too close to the door and when Marda burst in in his usual, excitable fashion the door smacked the data crystal out of his hand. It flew to the floor and broke into a dozen or more pieces. Evek froze in place and turned his head like a bird of prey to glare at Marda. All of the color drained from Marda’s face as he looked down at the crystal fragments. “Do you know what you have done?” thundered Evek. “That was a piece of our history! We have fought the Earthers and their Federation for centuries! That was the first piece of evidence that the future might bring something other than hostility between our peoples!” Marda began to visibly tremble. Evek calmed himself before the boy had a heart attack or worse. “Clean this mess up and put it in an envelope or something. And get out of my sight!” he ordered. Marda hurried to comply and then excused himself with a minimum of fuss. Evek barely noticed, engrossed in another report. Over the next few days Evek contacted every agent the Tal Shiar had in the Bajoran Sector, trying to gain enough insight into the Prophets to develop a theory about Sisko’s disappearance. He’d been over and over the accumulated evidence but had yet to find anything he could sink his teeth into. That, combined with a lack of sleep, was making him testy. When Marda came into his office he snapped at him. “What?” Marda swallowed but spoke up. “Sir, I may have some minor good news. I fixed the crystal.” Evek’s sleep-deprived brain left him thinking through a wall of fuzz. “What crystal?” Evek couldn’t concentrate on anything beyond his current investigation. “The record Senator Vreenak retrieved from Sisko. I fixed it.” “How in the name of Those Who Traveled did you do that?” Evek actually perked up a little for the first time in days. “Well, sir, I took the fragments of the data crystal and re-grew them. I suspended the pieces from a monofilament into a super-saturated solution. They acted as a ‘seed crystal’, if you will, and nucleation proceeded with the application of a heat source.” He looked momentarily thoughtful. “I opted to go with assisted nucleation in order to coerce a hexagonal bravais crystal lattice. Otherwise, the end results would have been a series of smaller crystals bearing no resemblance to the original. I think it came out fairly well.” He held up what looked like a Cardassian data crystal. Evek came out from behind his desk and took the crystal from Marda. “It looks good. Good enough for the History Museum, anyway. It’s just too bad that the recording was lost.” Marda cleared his throat nervously. “Um, that may not be true. When a crystal is re-grown from a seed crystal, as this one was, it often ‘remembers’ its original structure. There is a good chance at least some of the data is intact.” Cocking an eyebrow Marda’s way, Evek slipped the crystal into the reader built into his desk. There was an odd noise from the device and then a miniature hologram appeared on the display pad. Tiny Cardassian and Vorta figures danced their treacherous dance. Suddenly, an orange light flicked on next to the data decoder. Marda looked at it in surprise as Evek’s eyes grew wide. “What does that mean?” Marda asked. Evek stared at the orange light in horror. “It means the recording, the crystal, it’s a fake!” “We have to tell the High Command!” Marda exclaimed. “Those lying bastards! How many of our people died fighting the Dominion? They deserve to be punished for their deceit!” Evek gathered his thoughts a moment before speaking. “This crystal symbolized the chance of future peace between our peoples. And now that you have restored it, it will again. We cannot afford war with the Federation. There would be no winners in such a case.” Marda was furious. “They must be punished!” For the first time Evek heard the strength latent in his soul. He shook his head sorrowfully. “No, they will not be punished.” He pulled the restored crystal from the reader and tapped it against the edge of his desk as Marda looked on in horror. With a tiny “ching” the crystal fractured, not enough to break it in two but as both men knew, enough to damage the information contained therein. “What have you done?” Marda exclaimed. He leaned over Evek’s desk in an almost threatening manner. Evek’s hand unobtrusively slipped under the desk and thumbed a particular control. Marda hadn’t been the first dangerous person to stand in front of his desk. A blinding flash of light later and only one person remained in the room. “I’m saving the future,” Evek replied.