The True Way by Enterprise1981
Summary: The Cardassian Union is now in a struggle for political dominance. The Federation has been sending relief missions to Cardassia. A political extremist group that fought hard to rid the Cardassian Union of the Dominion feels that the Federation's intentions are less than benign. Commander Elias Vaughn and the crew of the USS Defiant must diffuse a tense hostage situation.

Back on Deep Space 9, Colonel Kira Nerys and company have their own terrorist situation to deal with. An important conference is being held and someone is planning to assassinate one of the delegates. The plan involves someone from Kira's past...
Categories: Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Expanded Universes Characters: Bashir, Julian, Dax, Ezri, Ensemble Cast - DS9, Ensemble Cast - DS9: War Aftermath, Garak, Elim, Kira Nerys, Vaughn, Elias
Genre: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: War Aftermath
Chapters: 19 Completed: Yes Word count: 28176 Read: 52047 Published: 03 Sep 2009 Updated: 05 Sep 2009
Story Notes:
This story was one of my first forays into fan-fiction writing, so it is more concentrated on reaching a resolution.

I will get to work on a major revision after the second novel-length story of this series is completed.

1. Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981

2. Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981

3. Interlude: Flashback One by Enterprise1981

4. Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981

5. Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981

6. Interlude: Flashback 2 by Enterprise1981

7. Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981

8. Chapter 6 by Enterprise1981

9. Chapter 7 by Enterprise1981

10. Chapter 8 by Enterprise1981

11. Interlude: Flashback 3 by Enterprise1981

12. Chapter 9 by Enterprise1981

13. Chapter 10 by Enterprise1981

14. Chapter 11 by Enterprise1981

15. Interlude: Flashback 4 by Enterprise1981

16. Chapter 12 by Enterprise1981

17. Chapter 13 by Enterprise1981

18. Chapter 14 by Enterprise1981

19. Chapter 15 by Enterprise1981

Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981

Chapter One

I.

Cardassia Prime: Capital World of the Cardassian Union

The Cardassian Union, once a great Alpha Quadrant power, was now in a state of uncertainty in the aftermath of the Dominion War. Its capital world, Cardassia Prime, lay in ruins as retaliation for a popular uprising against Dominion rule. Nearly a billion civilians lost their lives in the genocidal attack. The future of this once powerful empire was in question.

Cardassia City was the site of a diplomatic conference to discuss the future of the Cardassian Union. Humans, Vulcans, Andorians, Klingons, Romulans, and Bajorans were among the various Alpha Quadrant races in attendance meeting with representatives of Cardassia’s new democratic provisional government and various members of the Cardassian diplomatic corps. Within the crowd, a large dark-skinned humanoid stood amongst a slow-moving line of people. He visually surveyed the large auditorium-sized meeting area. The right side of his face was fitted with what appeared to be a metal brace with a thin rubber tube jutting out towards his lips. Various dignitaries pointed at him suspiciously, noting no change in his facial expressions as he acknowledged orders from whomever he was communicating with.

The crowd of people in front of the suspicious humanoid began to disperse, and he began to pace towards an innocuous wall panel. He effortlessly yanked off the panel revealing a large carrying case inside the wall. He removed the case and set it down on the floor. Two Cardassian security guards dressed in civilian attire to avoid looking conspicuous approached the mysterious humanoid. The guards removed rectangular badges bearing a red Cardassian Union logo from their equipment belts. One guard then verbally identified himself and his colleague. “Central Guard, sir,” he said. “Several people here have reported suspicious activity. We’re going to need you to come with us.”

The unidentified alien opened a velcro pocket on one side of his trousers and pulled out a long gun-like weapon. He fired two energy projectiles into the guard’s chest, turned to the right, and fired two more into the other guard’s chest. A large group of onlookers gasped in horror. The alien fired his weapon towards the ceiling to fend off the crowd. He then opened the case to reveal an explosive device and pushed a large button at the top of it. A fireball enveloped the entire meeting area. In place of the shiny brown walls and humanoids of various races were walls covered in ash and partially incinerated charred corpses.

II.

Federation Starbase Deep Space Nine

Sparks came gushing out of a pulsating plasma conduit. The petite Ferengi engineer attempting to repair the conduit quickly jumped out of harm’s way and hissed in disgust. The conduit then went dark. “What happened?” a voice called out.

“Must be another plasma coil overload,” Lieutenant Nog answered slamming his laser torch down on the floor.

Deep Space Nine’s chief of operations, Lieutenant Aiman al-Rashid jogged towards the open wall panel. He trained a scanning instrument on a segment of the conduit. He whistled in amazement when the instrument let out a high-pitched whine. “Well, there’s your problem. This whole conduit is fried. It’s a wonder it held out this long. We’ll have to replace it.”

“That could be a problem, sir,” Nog responded. “Dismantling the conduit would completely shut down the primary security grid for this section. We don’t have that luxury with the conference tomorrow.”

“And what alternative would you recommend, Lieutenant?”

“Well, sir, we could assign extra security to this location and bypass through the adjacent power distribution manifold. The security grid would not be as effective, but it would be more useful to us than if we dismantled these conduits.”

He gave a quick back and forth visual survey of the conduit layout. Someone was hoping to gather information by examining the plasma coils through Rashid’s eyes. Rashid’s contact quickly uploaded the data received and sent back instructions. As far as the Starfleet engineer was concerned, nothing unusual took place. Little did he know that acknowledging his Ferengi assistant’s suggestions were programmed instructions.

Rashid nodded his head approvingly. “That would be a fine short term solution. We’d still have to refit this whole network eventually. Get started on it immediately.”

“I’m on it, sir,” Nog answered enthusiastically. He then sauntered off towards to begin necessary medications to adjacent power distribution systems.

“O’Brien sure taught you well, Nog,” Rashid said, referring to his predecessor Chief Miles O’Brien, who served as a mentor to Nog prior to his departure to teach at Starfleet Academy.”

Nog stopped to acknowledge the complement he had received from his superior. “He was a good teacher, sir. Making the Cardassian power core compatible with the Starfleet issue technology can be quite a challenge.”

III.

Lieutenant Ro Laren stood in the station’s security office updating the criminal bulletin screen. Ro had replaced Odo as the station’s top law enforcer after the latter rejoined his fellow Changelings following the Dominion War. She was diverted from her attention on that aspect of station security when the doors to the office slid open. Colonel Kira Nerys stepped inside with an inquisitive, but concerned look. “You wanted to see me?”

Ro looked away from the bulletin screen displaying the latest criminal profiles in response to the station commander’s arrival. “Yes, sir,” she said walking towards the desk to grab a PADD. “Rashid is finding those repairs to the surveillance system a lot harder than expected. He’s asking for extra deputies in these sections.”

Ro handed Kira the PADD. Kira looked over the display on the screen. “Looks like a lot of us could use some leave time after this conference,” she quipped. “Are these personnel transfers going to be absolutely necessary?”

Ro sighed, sensing Kira’s annoyance. “Unfortunately, neither the Diplomatic Corps nor the Bajoran Council is willing to delay this conference so much as a day. Rashid is even willing transfer some of his crew to security. I’m already working out the duty roster.”

Kira grinned recalling stories from the recently departed Chief O’Brien and Lieutenant Commander Worf about Ro’s constant clashes with superior officers while those three served on the Starship Enterprise together. As far as working security, Ro did not possess Odo’s strict sense of discipline and devotion to protocols, but she was just as capable and efficient as the departed constable. “Security seems to be a perfect fit for you.”

“What can I say? Having that kind of seniority means having plenty of autonomy.”

“Just don’t let it go to your head, Lieutenant.”

Both Bajoran women smirked at each other before Kira left the office and Ro began entering commands into her desk’s computer console.  

IV.

Solarin was deep into analyzing a PADD displaying Deep Space Nine’s schematics. A middle-aged Bajoran man, he looked like one of the guerilla fighters from Cardassia’s occupation of his home planet even though the occupation was over: long, unkempt hair and a partially shaved beard. His concentration almost resembled a hypnotic trance, which he was pulled out of it by the chime of the doorbell. He slammed down the PADD and took a few deep breaths. The doorbell chimed two more times. He pulled a phaser pistol out of a drawer underneath his desk and aimed at the door to the station’s guest quarters. “Enter,” he shouted before letting out an exacerbated sigh.

The door slid open, and Ronnick, another middle-aged Bajoran man wearing standard engineering coveralls, entered, not realizing that the quarters’ occupant was pointing a weapon at him. Upon seeing this was the case, he reflexively held his hands up. “Is that any way to greet your brother, Solarin?” he asked in a half-joking tone.

Solarin grinned in response to his sibling’s quip, while lowering his pistol. “With all these security arrangements for the upcoming conference, we can never be too careful.”         

“That’s exactly what I came here for,” Ronnick replied. “Extra security officers have been assigned to areas where we sabotaged the surveillance sensors.”

Solarin stood up slowly while stroking his curly red ponytail. “Then the situation calls for us to modify our plan.”

Ronnick was not as convinced as his brother was. “The extra security will make carrying out that plan difficult. They’ve been ordered to report any suspicious activity.”

Solarin looked over at Ronnick and walked over to him. “We’ve been planning this for months,” he hissed. “Nothing has gotten in our way. We cannot back out now. We only need to make a few changes. Do I have your support?”

“Of course, brother. I serve the Prophets.”    

“As do we all. The Prophets will not let us down.”             

Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Two

I.

The U.S.S. Lambda Paz was the lead ship in a fleet of Federation warships escorting relief aid convoys to Cardassia. These were normally routine relief missions. Never knowing, though, when the more violent political extremists would strike, Starfleet Command wanted to err on the side of caution. The Lambda Paz was one of the first of the Luna-class destroyers thought to be decommissioned after the war, but instead they were assigned to these types of peacekeeping missions.

Captain Limis Vircona, a Bajoran national, had a distinguished war record as one of the former Maquis rebels granted a Starfleet commission at the outbreak of the war. She was given command of the Lambda Paz during the Dominion War for her courageous leadership along the front lines.

“Helm, how much longer to the Cardassian system?” Limis asked while glancing away from a PADD she was reading while in the center seat on the bridge.

Second Lieutenant Sara Carson reported from her piloting station near the front viewscreen. “One hour, thirty six minutes, Captain.”

First officer Ronnie Kozar seated at the captain’s left suddenly had a look of concern on his face. He had been assigned the position after his years commanding the Starfleet frigate Horatio Nelson, first during the border conflicts with the Cardassians, and then after the Klingon Empire invaded the Cardassian Union. He knew when a captain was feeling uncertain since he had once been one. “Something’s on your mind, Captain,” he said.

Limis maintained a stoic demeanor while staring at the vast expanse of space seen on the viewscreen.  “Something is not quite right,” she mused. “No welcoming committee, no random and unprovoked attacks from the usual hostiles. The region hasn’t been this quiet even after the war ended.”

Captain’s intuition, members of the bridge crew thought. Limis quietly considered the situation before looking over at the tactical station on her right. “Anything on tactical, Mister Morrison?”

“No ships on short or long-range sensors, sir, “Lieutenant Commander Mandel Morrison responded.

An alarm sounded from the control readout he had begun to divert his gaze from. “Hold on; there’s a perimeter alert: seven ships traveling at warp six point two on an intercept course at bearing 2-3-6, Mark 4-0.”

“Time to intercept?” Commander Kozar asked Lieutenant Carson.

“Eight minutes, thirty-six seconds,” Carson responded.

“That could be the welcoming committee,” Limis suggested. “But have weapons and shields ready just in case, Morrison. And take us to yellow alert.”

Morrison acknowledged the order with a nod. Various crewmembers began vacating the bridge in response to the alert. Other crewmembers stepped off the port and starboard turbolifts to assume vacant secondary stations throughout the bridge.

Kozar sauntered towards the Mission Operations station situated behind the primary Ops console on the port side. Seven blips indicating the approaching ships were displayed on a readout screen. An identification of those ships appeared below the representative blips: CARDASSIAN, HIDEKI CLASS

Hideki Class, “Kozar reported. “They’re a transport convoy—the equivalent of Starfleet runabouts.”

Some of the bridge crew was relieved. Short-range survey and transport ships wouldn’t dare challenge a supply convoy protected by Luna-class destroyers. But something did not sit well with higher-ranking officers, especially Morrison. “No Galor-class escort vessels to match our armaments?” he inquired.

Kozar looked over to Ensign Willis Huckaby manning the Ops console standing next to him. “No, sir,” the young ensign timidly replied.

Limis contemplated the situation. Starfleet vessels would not attack a lesser-armed group of ships without provocation. But the instability in the region demanded that these convoys have warships as escorts for the same reason ships such as the Lambda Paz were protecting Federation convoys. “Raise shields,” she commanded. “Red alert.”

Kozar was puzzled. Despite Morrison’s suspicions, even he found the decision hasty. “Is a red alert necessary at this time, sir?” he asked.

Kozar walked over to the centers seats to confront the captain. “They haven’t entered weapons range,” he snapped, while hovering over Limis. “Even if their intent was hostile, they wouldn’t be any match for even one of our destroyers.”

This was not the first time the first officer had shown this level of irritation with his captain on the bridge. To quickly put out the flames, Limis stood up and looked her second-in-command straight in the eye. “In the Maquis, we survived by knowing guerilla tactics when we saw them,” she proclaimed.

“These ships of theirs would not go it alone if they had no chance against us. They have something up their sleeves. We have to be prepared for it.”

“Fair enough,” Kozar responded. “But as first officer, I would have preferred being allowed to offer my suggestions before such action had been taken. Raising shields could be, in itself, construed as hostile.”

“Agreed. We can ask the convoy to send us their clearance code while we gradually increase our speed. Satisfied?”

Kozar could detect sarcasm in the tone of Limis’s voice when he asked if he was satisfied. But he soon calmed himself to avoid continuing to make a scene. He then turned to the viewscreen to order the course change. “Lieutenant Carson, increase our speed to warp six point five, but slowly.”

Carson and others on the bridge crew had turned away from their stations to see how this latest disagreement between captain and first officer would play out. Carson returned her attention to the helm to carry out Kozar’s order. “Aye, sir.”

Morrison’s tactical display showed Starfleet insignias indicating the Starfleet destroyers moving faster. An arrangement of smaller triangular blips represented the supply ships, which the Starfleet ships surrounded. Those ships matched the course change. The moving blips representing the Cardassian ships started moving faster.

Morrison walked over to the mission operations station behind his tactical station and then reported. “No response from the convoy. And they have increased speed to warp seven.”

“Tactical display on-screen,” Limis requested. “Keep hailing them, Huckaby.”

“No response,” Huckaby reported in response to the captain’s last line of orders.

“They’re closing,” Morrison reported. “Now at warp eight.”

Clearly, these vessels’ intent was not friendly. The next course of action was up to Limis. “Protecting that convoy is our top priority,” she told her first officer. “Agreed?”

“Agreed, Captain,” Kozar calmly responded.

Limis looked over at Ensign Huckaby. “Contact Europa. We’re breaking formation to go after those ships.”

The two Luna-class destroyers, the Lambda Paz and the Europa, approached the seven Cardassian scout ships at high warp. When the two sets of vessels came face to face, they all dropped out of warp. Most of the bridge crew was calm, as they were not expecting a fight. But Limis was still suspicious.

The tension level went down even more when the tactical station chimed. “We’re being hailed,” Morrison reported.

“Now they want to talk?” Limis responded. “Open a channel.”

As soon as Morrison opened the channel, the lights went out. Consoles were flickering on and off. Crewmembers scrambled to remedy the situation. “What the hell?!” Limis exclaimed as she and Kozar rose from their seats.

“By opening the channel, we must have picked up a virus that crashed our comm system,” Huckaby explained. ”It immediately jumped to all adjoining systems.”

“Weapons and shield are gone, “Morrison reported. “We’ll need at least another minute for them to reset.”

“Get down to phaser control to fire the phasers manually!” Limis shouted over all the commotion on the bridge. “And see if they can expedite matters.”

“Warp and impulse engines are off-line,” Carson added. “I’m switching to manual override, so we at least have thrusters.”

“Once that’s done, back us off,” the captain responded.

Before the order could be carried out, the bridge rocked. The Cardassian scout vessels fired a volley of torpedoes at the two defenseless Starfleet ships. But these small ships’ arsenals were not equipped with conventional photon torpedoes. Rather, the torpedoes were plasma-based weapons that Jem’Hadar ships were equipped with.

By this time, any good news was considered positive. “Phaser control reports that phasers can be fired manually,” Kozar, who was now manning tactical in Morrison’s absence, “but targeting scanners are still down.”

“Tell them to keep firing until they hit something,” Limis ordered.

Such an approach was a shot in the dark, but the only possible option at the moment. Both the Lambda Paz and the Europa fired quick phaser bursts in half-second intervals. The smaller, more maneuverable scout ships were able to evade any phaser fire. The enemy ships continued to evade any phaser fire. The enemy ships continued to fire volleys of plasma torpedoes.

The more hits the Lambda Paz took, the more in shambles the decks of the ship were. Metal girders and electronic wire fell from the ceiling. A fire erupted in front of the schematic display on the aft of the bridge. Two crewmen trained fire extinguishers on the blaze, putting out the fire. “We just lost the fire suppression system,” Huckaby coincidentally reported when the bridge rocked once more.

Kozar had even more bad news. “Hull breaches on decks four, nine, and twelve. Primary and secondary life support has failed.”

With the hull of the ship falling apart and the inside losing atmosphere, the move was obvious. “Abandon ship,” Limis announced. “All hands to the shuttles and escape pods.”

One by one, escaped pods were jettisoned from the collapsing ships. The Cardassians fired two more volleys of torpedoes destroying one of the two Starfleet ships. Two pods were engulfed in the fireball. Another escape pod was destroyed by enemy fire.   

II.

Aboard one of the Cardassian scout vessels, the captain gave an order to cease-fire. His control panel readout indicated the other six ships had carried out the order. The tactical officer on his ship, however, continued firing indiscriminately. The captain jumped from his command chair and shoved the subordinate crewman away from his station. “I said cease fire!” he growled.

The weapons officer appeared dumfounded. He thought their plan was to defeat the Starfleet vessels and prevent their crews from returning home safely. His captain said nothing of leaving escape pods intact. “Sorry, sir,” he said only half apologetically. “Your orders were …”

The captain cut him off before his weapons officer could continue. “Remember your place, gunner. You are expected to follow my explicit orders, not to interpret the meaning of those orders outside their precise wording.”

The weapons officer offered no further defiance. Like an obedient Cardassian citizen, he deferred to his captain’s judgment. Yet, he could still be curious about what his superior officer’s wishes were. “My apologies for attempting to circumvent your orders. What exactly are your plans, if you do not mind my asking?”

The captain faced away from his subordinate and walked slowly towards the center seat. “If we were to destroy the escape pods, then the Federation would send more ships after their missing colleagues.” The captain then turned back around to face the two officers occupying the bridge’s forward consoles.

“We must make it clear to Federation and Starfleet that we have no desire to become their next subject race. For that we need bargaining chips. They value the lives of all their citizens on an equal basis. Saving the lives of hostages will be more important to them. Knowing the enemy and its weaknesses is the key. All of us, on the other hand, are expendable in the interests of our cause… of the True Way.”

Speaking those words made the captain of the rogue Cardassian ship remember a meeting with Starfleet representatives four years earlier. As adjutant to Legate Skrain Dukat, then chief military adviser to the Detapa Council, he met with members of Starfleet Tactical’s strategic division following the Klingon Empire’s aborted conquest of Cardassia. While Dukat was open to suggestions on defeating an occupying army, Gul Revok found the idea of mimicking Bajoran guerilla tactics detestable, if not insulting.

Interlude: Flashback One by Enterprise1981
Stardate 49035 (Earth year 2372): Two weeks after the First Battle of Deep Space 9

“Legate Dukat, a pleasure to meet you.”

Two human male Starfleet officers stepped into the office of Legate Dukat. The officer who greeted Dukat introduced himself as Marshall Robison, deputy director of Starfleet Tactical’s strategic division. Starfleet sent these officers following the Klingon incursion into Cardassian territory. Following a fierce battle at Deep Space 9, the Klingons halted their advance towards Cardassia Prime, but refused to relinquish the colony worlds they had already annexed.”

Robison shook hands with the tall Cardassian in accordance with human greeting rituals. He looked Dukat straight in the eye to hide his feelings of apprehension in shaking hands with the notorious butcher of Bajor.

The other Starfleet officer, Robison’s adjutant Lieutenant Harim Musaref, also stood on Dukat’s eye level while shaking with the Cardassian government’s strategic adviser.

Right behind them stood a middle-aged man closely resembling a human with the exception of ridges along both temples. He appeared somewhat intimidated having to arch his chin upward to look Dukat straight in the eye.

“I believe you already know Ilon Tandro from Klaestron Four,” Robison declared.

Dukat nodded approvingly. “Yes, I understand the nationalist faction on your planet has started another uprising.”

What they fail to understand is that our world’s economy depends on trade with both the Federation and the Cardassian Union,” Tandro replied. “We hope to demonstrate our good will by helping your people weather this latest crisis, Legate Dukat.”

Gul Revok stood quietly next to the desk in Dukat’s office eagerly waiting to be introduced. I set up this meeting, so surely I am just important as Dukat, he thought.

“I am sure you three know Gul Revok, my chief of staff,” Dukat stated to complete the formal introductions. “Let us sit down, shall we?”

The Starfleet officers and Tandro sat down on the large seating fixture housed right next to the office entryway. It did not feel as soft as what humans were used to, but it was acceptable. Dukat sat in a chair facing almost perpendicular to where his guests were seated. Revok took a seat on the smaller version of the guests’ seating fixture straight across from them.

“We’ve certainly had our share of problems here on Cardassia without the Klingons adding to them,” Dukat began.

“Which is why we are here,” Robison continued. “Had the Klingons completely withdrawn their forces from Cardassian space, this meeting would not be necessary. However, because the Klingons are holding on to territory they annexed prior to the attack on Deep Space 9, special strategic measures are required.”

Musaref rose from his seat and slowly walked towards a display screen all present could see from where they were sitting. He pushed a button next to the screen revealing a diagram on the screen. Several Klingon Empire emblems were on the diagram to represent star systems belonging to the Klingons. Smaller Cardassian Union emblems filled out the star map to represent Cardassian fleet deployments outside those star systems. “This is how your fleets are currently,” Musaref explained to Dukat and Revok.

Dukat nodded an affirmation of the statement.

“We are suggesting dividing these fleets into smaller units,” Musaref continued. “This way, your ships can be devoted to engaging in small scale hit-and-run attacks.”

“Pardon me, Lieutenant Musaref,” Revok interrupted. “What good would smaller units do? We would stand a better chance with larger fleets for a concentrated attack against the enemy.”

“By following that plan, however,” Robison responded, “the Klingons can eliminate a large number of your ships in such a confrontation. Smaller units can throw the enemy off-guard and slow its advance into Cardassian territory. Your forces will be better off in the long-term against an occupying force.”

Dukat contemplated what was said for a moment, realizing he had dealt with such a strategy. “The Bajorans used such tactics against us during our occupation of their world,” he offered. “The idea is to extend fighting with the goal of exhausting a superior opponent.”

Revok quickly rose from his seat, immediately knowing where this discussion was going. “You are suggesting we mimic Bajoran battle tactics?” he asked in horror. “Losing Bajor is not something our people are proud of, Dukat. You, of all people, are well aware of that fact.”

“Of course, I am,” Dukat emphatically stated. “One cannot help but appreciate the Bajoran’s ability to hold out against a superior enemy force, nevertheless. That appreciation allows us to learn from our defeats. Is your pride more important than the future of our empire?”

“He makes a good point, Gul Revok,” Tandro offered. “During my people’s civil war, the military leaders were baffled that the rebels could hold their own despite a considerable disadvantage in weapons and manpower. Our leaders are better prepared for similar uprisings, including the one taking place right now.”

Revok was momentarily persuaded. But he still felt that Dukat’s empathy for an enemy was somewhat uncharacteristic. “What has happened to you, Dukat? You’re just as soft as the corrupt politicians you advise.”

Dukat slowly rose from his seat giving Revok a stern look. “That will be all, Revok.”

Dukat then looked over at his guest. “Perhaps we should adjourn for now.”

Without a response, Robison, Musaref, and Tandro stood up and walked out of the room.

II.

Stardate 49301 (Earth year 2372):

“A Cardassian separatist group calling themselves the ‘True Way’ has claimed responsibility for sabotaging the runabout.”

Security Chief Odo provided this news to station colleagues inside a very dark station Operations center. He had been conferring with his Starfleet counterpart, Lieutenant Commander Michael Eddington, regarding a rather bizarre crisis. Their crewmates, returning from a diplomatic conference, had been beamed off the runabout Orinoco just before a warp core breach became critical. Chief O’Brien had discovered prior to the ship’s destruction that the necessary computer components for jettisoning the warp core had been removed. The runabout had been sabotaged. After the runabout’s crew was beamed off, the transporters could not rematerialize Captain Benjamin Sisko, then-Major Kira, Lieutenant Commanders Worf and Jadzia Dax, and Chief O’Brien. Eddington and Odo were forced to preserve their transporter patterns in the station’s computers. The runabout crew’s physical bodies were generated holographically in a holosuite program that was running at the time. Eddington and Odo had summoned Quark and Rom, the civilian owners of the station’s holosuites, to Ops to discuss how to retrieve their missing crew.

“Ever hear of them before?” Eddington asked.

Odo considered the question for a moment. All he had known at this time was that the True Way’s fear of outsiders was consistent with an historical happenstance on many worlds with which he had been familiar. “They’re opposed to the peace treaty,” he offered. “They blame the Federation for Cardassia’s economic and political troubles, etcetera, etcetera. Until now, they have not committed any terrorist acts to support their beliefs.”

III.

Stardate 49302 (Earth year 2372):

Gul Revok had attended the conference that Sisko and his crew were returning from. The conference was a gathering of representatives of various Alpha Quadrant powers regarding the recent situation involving the Klingon Empire. Revok had looked forward to presenting Dukat’s requests for more direct Federation involvement and an exchange of technologies. Because the Federation had established an uneasy truce with the Cardassians only five years prior, top decision-makers at Starfleet Command and the Federation Council, however, were still reluctant to share certain military technology with the Cardassian Union.

Arrangements for a more official alliance with the Federation had been Revok’s hope in a new spirit of cooperation and friendship. Relations between the Federation and the Klingons had not always been cordial in the last two centuries. The Khitomer Accords of 2293 paved the way to smoother relations between the two powers, but the Klingons’ invasion had impeded this more peaceful relationship.

Revok, not to mention of lot of Cardassians, was disdainful of Klingons even before this invasion, seeing them as primitive nomadic warriors. This invasion served to inflame anti-Klingon sentiment among the Cardassian populace. Revok and Dukat founded the True Way as a means of encouraging their countrymen to embrace their cultural distinctiveness and to reject foreign ideals. After the inter-planetary conference he had attended, Revok became just as disdainful of the Federation.

“The conference was a travesty,” Revok told Dukat, who had been reduced to the Cardassian military title of Gul and reassigned to command of the freighter Groumall. His revelation of an illegitimate half-Bajoran daughter cost him his status as military advisor to his government. 

Dukat had been in the middle of a freight run when Revok contacted him. He stood in a small alcove at the aft of the bridge. A transparent soundproof door allowed him to receive the communiqué privately and prevented others from listening in.

“The Federation representatives rejected every one of your suggestions, Dukat,” Revok continued.

Where Revok was disappointed, Dukat was not at all surprised. “I warned you, Revok,” he stated in a chastising tone. “The Federation is devoted to peace and friendship on the outside. In reality, they are more concerned with protecting its interests at the expense of any neighboring power.

Their council may have explicitly condemned the Klingon invasion, but they have no desire to antagonize their allies any further. Many of them of them still have strong memories of the border wars with our people. Such scars do not heel quickly.”

Revok had come to similar conclusions during the conference.  You were right all along, sir, he thought to himself.

Which is why I took action,” he replied.

Revok’s last words piqued Dukat’s curiosity. What sort of action had Revok taken, short of jeopardizing the fragile peace with the Federation?

“I sabotaged the vessel that ferried the Starfleet representatives,” Revok explained. “Several engineers who were well-versed in Starfleet engineering specs caused a collapse in their antimatter containment system. They also removed several key computer components needed to eject their warp core.”

During his time as military governor of Bajor, Dukat had dealt with similar acts of sabotage. But, for a Cardassian to try to something like this? He was almost speechless, “What?” was all he could get out.

“The Federation may not have directly aided the Klingon invasion,” Revok continued. “Their current actions or inaction makes them just as guilty. They are as much to blame as the barbarians who have invaded our territory.”

Dukat regained his composure and gave Revok a stern look. “Just remember one thing,” he said, angrily beaming at his former subordinate. “Cardassians do not become terrorists! Such cowardly acts will only weaken our credibility. And despite the Federation’s hypocrisy, we depend on it in this great time of crisis. Jeopardizing our truce is dangerous.”

“As far as the Federation is concerned, the True Way is a fanatical extremist group that does not act rationally.”

Dukat exhaled slowly. He was a little less angry at what Revok had just told him. “Fine, but no more attacks of this nature.”

“Understood.”

With that, their discussion ended. The image of Revok on the wall-mounted monitor was then replaced by the symbol of the Cardassian Union.

Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981
Author's Notes:
As part of my major revision, I will be re-editing the scene where the two guards are killed. In the meantime, keep in mind that Trek redshirts aren't always the brightest-- perhaps the reason they are redshirts.

Chapter Three

I.

“I see something moving,” said a voice with a British accent.

A large armored vehicle could be seen through a set of digital binoculars. Upon magnification of the image, the vehicle could be identified as an Earth motor vehicle, what was referred in 21st Century dialect as a sport utility vehicle. “I see it, too,” said another faraway onlooker, also with a British accent, looking through a set of binoculars. “It’s stopping in front of the main house of the Drazen estate.”

The vehicle did stop in front of the main entrance of a mansion-sized building. Emerging from the passenger side of the vehicle was a heavyset human male of advanced middle age. The onlookers dressed in all black knew from behind a bush on a steep hill overlooking the perimeter of the main house they had their man: Victor Drazen, one of the cruelest warlords of Earth’s 21st Century, Both onlookers were wearing black turtleneck shirts and black sweatpants in order to blend in with their surroundings.

“That’s Drazen, all right,” said the team leader. He then pushed a button on the communication device on his shoulder. “This is Bauer. Hammer One. Repeat Hammer One.”

“Roger that,” a voice on the speaker replied. “Hammer One ready to initiate. ETA: six minutes.”

The two men watching the Drazen estate from afar could identify the arrival of a military airship by a loud rumbling in the sky. Soon to accompany the rumbling was a high-pitched squeal that became higher in pitch, suggesting a projectile falling out of the sky. A missile landed hard on the front section of the mansion. The mansion erupted in a fireball. When the explosion subsided, a large part of the mansion was covered in flames. The covert mission to eliminate Drazen was a success.

The sound of gunshots began ringing through the air. Sensing his men were under attack, the man who identified himself as Bauer jumped to his feet. “Let’s get out of here,” he ordered his colleague. “We need to radio the chopper to pick us up sooner.”

Bauer and his colleague hurried down the hill and out into the open valley. They were slowed when they heard high-pitched chime. “Ops to Doctor Bashir, “a voice with a small hint of a Scottish accent boomed.

“Freeze program!” Bauer shouted. He was actually Doctor Julian Bashir of Starbase Deep Space Nine. His colleague was Raul Fitzpatrick, the station’s chief of Starfleet security. They were running a holosuite re-enactment of a famous Earth battle. The gunshots could no longer be heard once the program was frozen. The dust and debris from the explosion that was flying about appeared to be frozen in time. “Go ahead.”

“I hope you’re not too worn out running from holograms, Doctor, a few Starfleet destroyers are on the way,” replied the voice on the other end, Commander Elias Vaughn in the station’s Operations center. “They have wounded.”

“I’ll be in the Infirmary in five minutes. Doctor Gharani should be on duty.” Bashir took a quick look at his surroundings and then looked at Fitzpatrick. “You can continue without me.”

“What would be the point?” Fitzpatrick asked rhetorically. “Jack Bauer was the only person to survive this scenario.”

Bashir suddenly realized his character was the only person of a team of six to survive this covert operation. “Quite right,” he quipped. “Computer, end program and save from this time index.”

Bashir sauntered away as the surrounding area dissolved and was replaced by the walls of an empty holosuite chamber. Fitzpatrick followed close behind saying, “I get to be Bauer next time.”

Bashir gave just gave a thumbs-up to avoid slowing himself down. The program they had just run was one of a number of holosuite reenactments that his friend and former colleague Miles O’Brien had introduced him to. Fitzpatrick had the same interest in Earth history, Julian discovered when the former transferred from the USS Veracruz. The two became fast friends, and Raul soon became Julian’s new holosuite partner after O’Brien left to take position with the Starfleet Academy faculty.

II.

Upon exiting the holosuite, Bashir headed the main entrance on the second level of Quark's Bar and Casino. Lieutenant Ezri Dax happened to pass by the bar on the station's Promenade. Based on Bashir's clothing, Ezri concluded that he had been reenacting a major battle in Earth's history. Ezri, as well as the Dax symbiont’s previous Trill host Jadzia, knew very well about Bashir’s adventures in the holosuite with Chief O’Brien before the latter’s departure. In recent months, either the new chief of operations Aiman al-Rashid, Fitzpatrick, or both accompanied him. “What was it this time,” she said. “Desert Storm?”

Though Ezri had accumulated much of Jadzia’s knowledge and memories when the sluglike creature known as Dax had been transferred from the now deceased Jadzia Idaris to Ezri Tigan, she was not as familiar as her predecessor host with Earth history. “Operation Nightfall,” Bashir responded. “A group of United States operatives are sent to take out a genocidal 21st Century warlord in a place called Kosovo.”

“The mission is a failure I take it,” Ezri replied.

Bashir grinned at that remark. He had gained an appreciation for the valiant struggles of the losers in famous conflicts. He was not the least bit enthusiastic, however, when O’Brien introduced him to a holosuite reenactment of the Battle of the Alamo where they would play the role of the defeated rebel forces. The fact that the rebels’ defeat was still instrumental in its eventual victory over the neighboring nation-state of Mexico still did not curb his frustrations at not being able to win.

After O’Brien transferred off, Bashir had suggested Ezri accompany him to a holosuite reenactment of the Battle of Thermopylae. Again, while the heroes of this simulation lost this battle, it was instrumental in an eventual victory of Greece over the invading Persian Empire. The war between the Dominion and major Alpha Quadrant powers had historical parallels with these epic battles. While the Federation and its allies suffered many devastating losses, some of those defeats were just as detrimental to the enemy.

Have you ever considered talking to a counselor about these annihilation fantasies?” Ezri once jokingly asked him.

After taking Julian up on the invitations, Ezri experienced a moment of awkwardness. The two later agreed that this was something Julian should do with his male friends, not his girlfriend.

“In some manner of speaking,” Bashir answered. “The men were ambushed. Bauer was the only survivor, but as far as the general public was concerned, Drazen had been assassinated as planned.”

The two officers took a spiral staircase down to the first level of the Promenade and walked towards a turbolift. “Well, I’m needed in the Infirmary,” Bashir stated after a long pause in conversation.  “I should probably get into uniform. Dinner tonight at Vic’s, remember?”

“I haven’t forgotten”

III.

Captain Limis sat on the reclined examination chair in the station infirmary’s main exam room. Commander Kozar stood several feet away as Bashir scanned the captain with a medical tricorder. Her injuries were superficial compared to those of her colleagues placed in the primary intensive care unit adjacent to the main waiting area.

Her black and gray-shouldered uniform tunic along with a wine-red turtleneck indicating command department was draped over the back of the chair. Bashir trained his tricorder’s small hand scanner on the side of her abdomen. “You have two broken ribs,” Bashir quietly observed. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

Bashir looked over to the Bajoran female nurse setting items down on the instrument table. “Nurse,” he said, “another ten milligrams of morphinezine.”

Ridiculous, she thought. She had endured worse injuries during the war when her ship’s medical facilities were fresh out of painkillers.

Kira and Ro entered the exam room through the waiting area. Limis immediately recognized both Bajorans upon their arrival. “You must be Colonel Kira,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Captain Sisko.”

That she had. Shortly after the Dominion War began and Starfleet was forced to surrender the station, Limis had helped foil a plot by her ex-husband to lure Starfleet into a Dominion ambush. Many of the Maquis who survived after the formation of the Dominion-Cardassian alliance were willing to help the Federation defeat their common enemy. A small number of the Maquis still felt bitter towards the Federation for having signed a treaty three years prior that turned their colony worlds to the Cardassian Empire.

Limis had never met Kira before. What she knew of the colonel came from Sisko, as well as her personnel file. Kira recently become the station’s commanding officer after Sisko’s confrontation with Dukat in the Bajoran Fire Caves. “How do you like command?” Limis asked, oblivious to the nurse who placed a hypospray on the side of her neck to inject her with a painkiller.

Kira considered the question for a second, and then gave a quick answer. “A lot more responsibility.”

Limis had been well acquainted with Ro from their days in the Maquis. “I see Starfleet is taking its sweet time pardoning you, Ro,” she quipped, noticing the security chief’s Bajoran militia uniform.

“The uniforms are looser fitting, though,” Ro responded.

Kira quickly got to the matter at hand—the Lambda Paz’s destruction. “So what happened out there, Captain?” she asked.

Limis lay on her right side and rolled up a portion of her sleeveless tank to expose a bruise where her broken ribs were. Bashir trained a laser bone regenerator on the wound. “Simply put,” Limis explained, “everything went to hell as soon as those escort ships hailed us. Then they came at us with a hard burst of Jem’Hadar plasma torpedoes.”

“The Cardassians began outfitting their ships with Dominion and Breen weaponry over a year ago,” Ro explained to Kira. “But those ships were decommissioned when the current provisional government took over.”

“That hasn’t stopped radical groups from using them,” Limis answered. “Various factions held in check by Central Command are now at each other’s throats.”

“I warned that some of our tactics could have been construed as hostile,” Kozar offered. “But the captain was right… this time.”

The tone in Kozar’s voice suggested he still disagreed with Limis’s maneuvering. Kozar sauntered out with Limis close behind, although Bashir was still treating her injury.

“Captain…” Bashir began to say, but she had already left.

At that moment the intercom chimed with Vaughn’s voice piping through speakers. “Ops to Colonel Kira: incoming message from Admiral Ross, sir.”

Kira looked straight at Bashir while pointing towards the waiting area. Bashir nodded approvingly. “I’ll take it in Doctor Bashir’s office,” she responded.

IV.

Crewman, first class, Marquez was one of the engineers now temporarily transferred to security to guard one of the key sections of the habitat ring. He had never had very many opportunities to wear a phaser since the war ended. His time in the Chin’toka system gave him some combat experience, but he was becoming bored at not performing maintenance or repairs. All he and his colleague, Ensign Magnaulty, were doing was standing in front of a large door to make sure only authorized personnel went beyond it. “I’m almost hoping for something to break down,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, just standing around is real hassle,” Magnaulty sarcastically replied. He preferred doing that to fending off enemy attacks.

Someone get me out of here, Marquez thought to himself. A buzzing noise pulsated through the walls and the ceiling. He thought nothing of it, attributing the noise to the unusually quiet atmosphere. He heard it again; a buzzing noise that slowly got louder as it coursed through the plasma conduits behind the wall and above the ceiling and quickly dispersed down the corridor. “You hear that?” he asked Magnaulty.

“It’s a pulsing buzz,” Magnaulty replied. “Does that always happen here?”

“No. I’ll go check it out. One of the power taps might be misaligned.”

Marquez pulled a tricorder out of his holster and began scanning. He paced slowly down the corridor until he reached an intersecting walkway. His tricorder began beeping loudly. The scans showed that the strange noise came from a wall panel. He opened the panel to see what set off the scanner. He turned a small switch that would correct the misalignment. Electric current passed through his arm. He pulled away, but it was too late. The electrocution killed him.

Magnaulty heard the scream down the corridor. He then saw Marquez being thrown backwards. He ran towards him while removing a phaser from his holster. He looked to his left when he reached the intersecting hallway. He crouched down to feel Marquez’s pulse on the right side of his neck. Nothing.

Magnaulty tapped his combadge. “Magnaulty to Infirmary, medical emergency, habitat ring, level four, section fifteen.”

He had some familiarity with basic engineering principles, and decided to take a look at what killed the engineer. He felt around inside the open panel. The same electric current then struck him dead.

V.

Someone was watching what had transpired from a crawlspace above the corridor. The Bajoran engineer Ronnick was peering through a thin metal screen. He derived no pleasure from causing the deaths of two fellow crewmembers.

His employer joined him in the crawlspace. Ronnick was not even aware of the employer’s presence until he spoke. “I see the test was a success,” he said.

Ronnick quickly grabbed the screen and turned to avoid crashing into screen. “Not a good idea in these crawlspaces,” he said.

“I decide what ideas are good and bad,” the employer replied.

Of course, Ronnick knew not to question people he worked for too often. He still could not understand what he just carried out necessary “Was killing two innocent people necessary?” he asked.

“Unfortunate casualties of war. Besides, everything has to work perfectly if we are to discredit the Federation. We cannot afford for anything to go wrong.”

Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Four

I.

“This is a representative of the True-Way of the Cardassian Union to any Federation or Starfleet officials receiving this transmission.”

His face was mostly covered by a dark-red scarf. The speaker was clearly Cardassian based on the ridges around his eyes, the only exposed part of his face. His voice had an ominous low pitch, suggesting he was using a voice distorter to prevent authorities from discerning his identity.

“The puppet leaders of our world have allowed your Federation to ship relief supplies into our space. While the Starfleet vessels have not directly provided assistance to more radical elements in our political system, these radicals are more hopeful their subversive ideas will win out.”

“As a result, we have taken drastic measures. We are holding the crew of a Starfleet vessel. The Federation is to cease sending relief convoys immediately. Every six standard hours our demands go unanswered, at least one hostage will die.”

Admiral William Ross played this transmission for Kira. Ross then requested a teleconference with senior station personnel. As station CO, Kira normally sat at the head of oblong conference table in the station’s wardroom. Instead, she sat in the center of the table in front of the viewports to face a screen housed on the opposite wall of the conference area. Ezri, Ro, and Fitzpatrick were seated at Kira’s right. Commander Vaughn sat at the head of the table. Once the mysterious Cardassian finished making his demands, static filled the screen. The face of a Starfleet officer then appeared on the screen.

Limis, seated at the other end of the table immediately recognized the officer’s unkempt chestnut hair. Mandel Morrison, her tactical officer had been coerced into speaking.

“My name is Mandel Morrison,” he stated. “I am the senior officer of this group of hostages. Our captors have assured us we will not be harmed as long as Starfleet Command acquiesces to their demands. They warn us, however, they are willing and able to carry out their threats.”

Another Starfleet officer appeared on the screen. A gold disruptor beam of a Cardassian weapon hit the young male officer square in the torso. He incinerated almost instantaneously before everyone’s eyes.

The officers in the briefing could only watch in horror. Limis was thinking only about Morrison though he was not her only crewmember being held. They had a number of one-night stands, yet they had both agreed not to have a more committed romantic relationship given the fact their ship was on the front lines of the Dominion War almost everyday.

The others watching were all too familiar with the casual brutality of the Cardassians, especially the three Bajorans present. Ro suffered deep emotional scars from being forced to watch as Cardassians tortured her father to death. Kira knew that was only part of it. Bajorans had been used for slave labor in hellish conditions. Anyone even suspected of belonging to the underground resistance was executed to make an example of others. Bashir, seated at Limis’s right, heard of the atrocities on Setlik Three from O’Brien. But they never resorted to taking hostages. That fact made them as honorable as Klingons even to those who fought against them.

At Bashir’s right, Rashid had recalled battle against the Cardassians during the Dominion War. He could also recall that his ancestors on Earth 300 years ago had resorted to these acts of terrorism, and even concealing their faces when communicating with their enemies.

The emblem of the Cardassian Union then appeared on the screen. The face of Admiral Ross then filled the screen. He had a very calm and stoic demeanor even knowing the final image that the officers witnessed. “That message was received at Starbase 375 less than two hours ago,” Ross stated.

“I’ve heard of the True Way,” said Ro. “They came about shortly after the Klingon invasion of Cardassian space and have become more prominent since the end of the war. Last week, they bombed a diplomatic conference.”

“Authorities are still looking into that,” Ross replied. “The True Way is only one of numerous terrorist groups officially or unofficially endorsed by each of the major political factions.”

“I can remember during the Occupation,” Kira calmly replied. “Granted they offered to spare Bajoran lives if those they captured agreed to turn in their compatriots in the Underground. One redeeming quality was the Cardassian didn’t use people as bargaining chips in such a manner.”

Limis turned her gaze towards Kira. She had gotten to understand the Cardassians as a people, especially political extremists. She was one during the Occupation and as a member of the Maquis. “To the spoonheads, the ends almost always justify the means,” she offered. “Some of them may think taking hostages is the best way to attain their goals.”

“Nevertheless,” Ross cut in, “we have quite a conundrum on our hands. Those supplies are urgently needed on Cardassia. The plan is to send the Defiant under cloak.”

“That’s going to be difficult,” Vaughn offered. “The Defiant is not exactly designed for freight runs.”

He had seen the convoy manifests prior to the arrival of the Lambda Paz crew. The Defiant belonged to a class of starships originally designed to fight the Borg, following the Borg’s near conquest of Earth almost a decade earlier. The Defiant and her predecessor had been assigned supply runs into hostile territory during the Dominion War, but the ship was not designed for this type of supply run.

At the age of one hundred one, Vaughn had been involved in a number of dangerous missions. He was part of a team of special intelligence agents sent to sabotage a Romulan vessel during what became known as the Tomed Incident. The trip to Cardassia was just another mission.

“I’m working with Rashid on modifying the medical bay’s stasis fields to preserve any perishable items,” Bashir responded.

Ezri and Julian prepared for all the various contingencies. “The Cardassian provisional government has sent a list of items they absolutely need,” Ezri added. “The rest we scratch for now.”

“Good,” Vaughn answered with an approving nod. “You’ve covered everything.”

“If there’s nothing more, Commander,” Ross announced, “Godspeed to you and your crew.”

The official seal of the United Federation of Planets filled the screen. Kira then continued the meeting. “This crisis coincides with an important conference here on the station,” she announced. “Admiral Ross and his staff will be arriving tomorrow morning. Lieutenant Fitzpatrick, I’ll assign Nog to head Starfleet security in your absence. Julian, you might want to get in touch with Mister Garak.”

I’m a doctor, not a diplomat, were the words that came to Julian’s mind. Of course, the doctor had taken a strong interest in international politics and covert operations over seven years as Elim Garak’s weekly lunch partner. As far as most Starfleet and Bajoran militia personnel were concerned, Garak stayed behind after the Occupation of Bajor as a spy for the Cardassians. He had provided the crew with half-truthful and contradictory tales about his past during his time on the station. Following the end of the war, the enigmatic Cardassian returned to his home planet, although he remained in close contact with Bashir. Garak since then became chief of staff to head of state Alon Ghemor.

Before he could acknowledge the suggestion, Bashir heard his name called on the comm. Line. “You’re needed in the Infirmary,” Doctor Zeyner Antis told him. “Medical emergency.”        

“I’m on my way,” Bashir responded. He stood up and looked over at Kira.

“We’re finished here,” Kira said with an approving nod.

Vaughn, Fitzpatrick, and Ezri rolled their chairs back and were half standing when Limis spoke. “I’ll be holding a briefing on the Defiant upon its departure,” she told them.

Ezri could hear an uneasy sigh from Vaughn. The rest of the officers in the briefing heard it, too, and they all left to allow the two commanders to resolve this issue. Vaughn was not concerned with Limis’s greater rank. His experience meant that even the highest-ranking admirals rarely pulled rank on him. He learned from recent Starfleet bulletins of Limis’s reputation for recklessness. Limis stood up and walked towards the other end of the table. “I know what you are thinking, Commander,” she said. “You needn’t worry. I know the Defiant is your ship. The mission’s top priority is the rescue of the hostages. The outcome is too important to me as their captain to stay on the sidelines. Besides, our missions have given us valuable intelligence on postwar Cardassia.”

“That’s not my concern, Captain,” Vaughn began.

Limis spoke before Vaughn could continue. “My first officer says I jump into decisions too quickly, often without his input. But he should go back to Starfleet Academy to learn about respecting the chain of command.

“His experience as a veteran Starfleet officer has been helpful. We wouldn’t have survived the war, though, without getting our hands dirty. Surely, you are aware of that.”

“I certainly am,” Vaughn replied. “Any insight you can provide will be helpful. I hope you remember who the captain is.”        

Limis just nodded, turned, and left the room.

II.

A Starfleet nurse trained a laser scanner on the charred body of one of the dead crewmembers. The Bajoran deputy chief medical officer, Doctor Zeyner, was analyzing the readings taken from the other security guard from a medical monitor.

Bashir entered the Infirmary’s primary ICU with Kira close behind. “What do you have, Doctor Zeyner?” he asked before he had entered.

Zeyner looked away from the monitor and handed Bashir a medical tricorder and micro-cellular scanner. “These crewmen were patrolling the habitat ring,” Zeyner explained. “Our readings show their central nervous systems were overloaded.”

Bashir stared pensively at his tricorder. “It looks that way,” he said. “I’ll need you and Doctor Tarses supervising the autopsies while I’m away.”

“Any idea what could have caused this?” Kira asked.

“Lieutenants Rashid and Nog were upgrading the surveillance systems in that section,” Zeyner stated. “Mister Nog thinks an overload in the EPS grid may be responsible.”

“I’ll have Ro and Nog run a few diagnostics on related systems,” Kira announced.

III.

Limis was walking through a habitat ring corridor when Kozar caught up to her. “Captain, I understand you’re returning to the scene of the crime.”

“I wouldn’t put it that way,” she acerbically replied. “I’ll be on the Defiant as an advisor to the senior officers.”

“Hopefully not to seek retribution for Malinson’s death,” Kozar quipped.

Limis stopped dead in her tracks and turned around to look her first officer in the eye. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Only that your disdain for the Cardassians has often led you to take brash action even though such actions damn near undermined a few missions.”

“Prophets damnit, Kozar, assuming we get another ship, I will recommend you to be transferred and demoted to midshipman so you can familiarize yourself with Starfleet rules of conduct. Starfleet gave me command of the Lambda Paz. Not you. Get over yourself!”

Kozar had always resented not being given starship command when the Dominion War began. His experience fighting with and against the Cardassians earned him that right. He never let that resentment interfere with his duties. “That’s what you think this is about?” he asked with disgust.

“Let me tell you something,” he continued. “Humans have evolved beyond petty and selfish behavior. I never thought of you as a qualified Starfleet captain. Now that the cards are on the table, I would welcome that transfer.”

Spare me your Terran superiority complex, she thought. She wanted to deck him, but she’d look like a hypocrite after the dressing down she gave him. She silently thanked the Prophets she would no longer be putting up with this guy.

Interlude: Flashback 2 by Enterprise1981

Stardate 49545 (Earth year 2372):

While being ferried to a diplomatic conference at the Cardassian outpost on Korma aboard the Groumall, Kira wound up teaming with Dukat after a Klingon Bird-of-Prey had destroyed the outpost. Though the freighter was tactically inferior to the Bird-of-Prey, Kira had suggested a guerilla warfare tactic of integrating the outpost’s weapon arrays into the freighter’s to take on the Klingons. The Bird-of-Prey was still able to overpower the freighter, but Kira and Dukat boarded the enemy vessel, beamed its crew to the freighter, and then brought the freighter’s crew to the Bird-of-Prey.

Kira had accused Dukat of only having an interest redeeming himself to his superiors. He got in touch with the Detapa Council to inform the ruling body of his latest victory. He regained rank of Legate and position as senior military advisor. But he had bad news upon his return to the bridge. “You know something, Dukat?” Kira asked him. “These computer logs are even more valuable than I thought. They contain status reports on Klingon ships and outposts throughout Cardassian space. With information like this, Cardassia could launch a major counterattack against the Klingons.”

“They could,” Dukat replied, “but they won’t”

Kira seemed mildly amused by that statement because that didn’t sound like the Cardassians she once fought against. “Why not?” she asked with a grin.

“The Detapa Council has something else in mind,” Dukat explained. “They’ve ordered me not to engage the Klingons in any further conflicts. The Council is looking for a diplomatic solution. They’ve ordered me to return to Cardassia Prime to resume my ‘post’ as military advisor.

“What is the point of being a military advisor to a government that won’t fight? There was a time when the mere mention of my race inspired fear. Now we’re a beaten people, afraid to fight back because we don’t want to lose what little we have left.”

“Not the Cardassians I know.”

What Cardassians? They’re paralyzed. Beaten and defeated. I am the only Cardassian left. If no one else will stand against the Klingons, then I will.”

Dukat had tried unsuccessfully to convince Kira to join his one-man war against the Klingon Empire. He even appealed to her past as a resistance fighter citing her ability to organize resistance cells and expertise in guerilla warfare. Dukat began to rethink his statement to Revok that Cardassians do not resort to the actions of terrorists. Losing Bajor was a humiliation to the Cardassian people and especially Dukat. He even sought retribution against a political rival by passing off Detapa Council member Kotan Pa’Dar’s son as one of the war orphans. But part of him admired the Bajorans and their ability to defeat a superior adversary.

After dropping off Kira and his half-Bajoran daughter Tora Ziyal at Deep Space 9, he contacted Revok. The two hadn’t spoken since Revok’s sabotage of the Orinoco. That made Dukat’s communiqué somewhat of a surprise to him. Dukat had hoped to use diplomacy to his advantage in order to inspire others in a time societal change on Cardassia to join the True Way’s cause and looked to distance himself from Revok. After learning that the Detapa Council was not going to take aggressive action against the Klingons, he realized that more aggressive action was necessary on his part. After Kira turned down his offer, Dukat had no choice but to turn to Revok.

“This is a rather pleasant surprise, Dukat,” Revok said with a sheepish grin. “We last spoke after that unfortunate business two months ago.”

“A minor misunderstanding,” Dukat replied from the captain’s quarters of the Naprem, his name for his captured Klingon vessel after the late mother of his half-Bajoran daughter. “I’ve learned that despite scoring a major victory against the Klingons, our inept leaders will not strike back. We are on our own.”

“We will be defying the Council’s authority if we went off on our own private war,” Revok warned.

Dukat let out a loud laugh. Hadn’t he just described his own government as inept? “Please,” he said. “The Detapa Council is a group of political opportunists more concerned with keeping their political rivals from exposing their corruption than with the best interests of the Union. The Intelligence Bureau is not nearly as effective as the Obsidian Order. Even so, one ship is hardly a match for the entire Klingon Defense Forces”

“I see your point, Dukat,” Revok answered. “I will contact several guls to find out who would be willing to support our cause.”

“ Even those claiming to support our cause may not be genuinely interested. Do not turn your back on them.”

“But you just said how inept our government is.”

“Overconfidence was my undoing on Bajor. I do not intend to repeat that mistake.”

II.

Stardate 50503 (Earth year 2373):

Close to a year to the day that Dukat had seized the Naprem and embarked upon his one-person campaign against the Klingon Empire, numerous of military leaders joined the cause. As the Cardassian economy continued to deteriorate, and these rogue military leaders achieved inspiring victories, much of the population became increasingly disenchanted with the civilian leadership. Those who had been rallying for the rightful restoration of the Detapa Council’s political power were now calling for more effective and stronger leadership.

Dukat had been reading reports of food riots in Lakarian City while the Naprem was on course for the Karmiat Nebula. Revok had called Dukat there for an urgent meeting. But why inside a nebula, Dukat wondered. Perhaps this meeting was regarding a matter so sensitive; he could risk involving a large number of people, especially those who may be secretly acting against them.

Dukat was welcomed aboard Revok’s Hideki-class escort vessel for this all-important meeting that Revok said would determine the future of the Alpha Quadrant. That was enough to pique Dukat’s curiosity. His excitement was tempered by the presence of an old nemesis. “Gul Dukat,” Revok said with a smile. “Welcome aboard, I believe you know…”

“Korinas,” Dukat said. He had met this cantankerous and self-absorbed middle-aged woman two years earlier when she was a member of the Obsidian Order. She was the Order’s official observer when Dukat, along with Sisko, coordinated the pursuit of the original Defiant when the Maquis had hijacked it. Dukat’s dislike for the Order even after it was responsible for his father’s execution resurfaced when Korinas was determined to keep the Cardassian fleet out of the Orias System, even have a Cardassian ship destroyed to protect a fleet being built to launch a pre-emptive assault on the home planet of the Dominion’s leaders.

“We have met before,” Korinas said with her usual wry smile. “And I know you believe the Central Intelligence Bureau to be less effective than the Obsidian Order.”

Dukat did not need to ask Revok. He already let slip his remark about the Intelligence Bureau. “Nevertheless,” Korinas continued, “former members of the Obsidian Order are a valuable asset.”

“Korinas’s knack for locating individuals keeping a low profile has put us in contact with the Dominion,” Revok explained of Korinas.

“The Dominion?” Dukat asked. He didn’t know what to make of that. What business did they have with the Dominion? And why was a former member of the Obsidian Order involved? “And she is involved?” Dukat then asked of Korinas.

“Times have changed,” Korinas answered. “The Order believed the Dominion to be too big of a threat to the Cardassian Union to wait for the first wave of Jem’Hadar warships to come through the Wormhole. Over the last year, our government and the Klingon Empire have done a better job of reducing Cardassia to a third rate power.”

“That is one thing you and I have in common,” said Dukat, holding in a disgusted sigh.

“And you will find that the Cardassians have a lot in common with the Dominion,” Revok added, “more so than you may be aware of.”

Inside the conference room, a short stocky man waited for the delegation. He looked almost human except that his ears looked almost similar to cornhusks. His self-assuredness belied his small stature. “Ah, you must be Dukat,” he said. “I am Weyoun. I have looked forward to this momentous occasion.”

Dukat looked over at Revok, uncertain of what to make of this verbose little man. “And what is so momentous about this meeting?”

“Your colleague Gul Revok has told you this meeting will represent an important turning point for this quadrant,” Weyoun continued. “On behalf of the Dominion, I have a proposal for you that will usher in a new era for both our peoples.”

Dukat still was not sure what to make of the situation. “What kind of ‘new era’?” he skeptically asked.

“I understand how dissatisfied you are with what has taken place on Cardassia the last two years,” Weyoun explained. “Revok and Korinas have told me that the attack on our Founders’ homeworld was the idea of a group of misguided officers. Our two peoples have a common destiny, Dukat, and that destiny can be achieved better through cooperation.”

Suddenly Weyoun was making sense to Dukat and gave an approving nod. “You are correct on all counts,” he said. “My people have lost our way since the change in government and the Klingon invasion. Many of us have been desperately searching for something to give us hope for the future.”

“Exactly,” Weyoun replied. “Your people have risen from the ruins of an impoverished world to build a vast interstellar empire. That kind of accomplishment is worthy of respect. Once we eliminate your problems, we can come together to defeat our common enemies and fulfill both our destinies.”       

III.

Stardate 50562 (Earth year 2373):

A large armada of between fifty and one hundred Jem’Hadar warships and support vessels began pouring through the wormhole. In the event of a Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, the first battle being fought at Deep Space 9. Though outnumbered, the station had to mount some kind of defense. Captain Sisko dispatched the warship Defiant, the runabouts Rio Grande, Volga, and Yukon, and the Naprem to face the Jem’Hadar.

Upon entry into the Alpha Quadrant, the Dominion armada turned and headed for Cardassian space. The immediate assumption was that the Dominion was planning an attack on Cardassia, perhaps as retribution for the aborted attack on the Founders’ homeworld. One Founder had told Garak, “Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us.”

Dukat soon set things straight. “Your concern is touching, Major,” he said to Kira, in command of the Defiant. “but unnecessary. I’m not attacking the Dominion fleet. I’m joining it.”

“What are you talking about?” Kira demanded.

“I’m afraid I have a confession to make. Over the past few months, I have been conducting secret negotiations between the Dominion and Cardassia. As of last week, Cardassia has agreed to become part of the Dominion.”

“You can’t be serious,”

“Goodbye, Major. You and me on the same side: it never seemed quite… right. Did it?”

Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Five

I.

Morrison lay down on the marble floor of a communal prison cell. He was one of fifteen crewmembers of the late Lambda Paz captured by the True Way. He was contemplating his fate after being coerced into delivering a message for his captors. Would he ever see Vircona again? Though she refused to commit to a more serious romantic affiliation, Morrison began to care for her very deeply, more so than other colleagues.

Most of all, he could not stop asking herself one question. How, after, surviving countless encounters with the Jem’Hadar, could his ship be destroyed by lesser-armed escort vessels?

A shadow formed over Morrison. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a large intimidating Cardassian gul pointing a rifle at him. “Get up!” he ordered.

Morrison blinked his eyes pretending to drift in and out of consciousness. The gul was not fooled. He leaned down and grabbed Morrison by the collar. “Get up1,” he growled more emphatically.

Morrison stood up on his own. “Mandel Morrison,” he groaned, “Rank: lieutenant commander. Serial number… “

I’ve heard all that before,” the gul snapped. “Now, what are the Federation’s rescue plans?”

“Go to hell!”

The gul slammed his rifle right into Morrison’s already blackened left eye. “Cardassians have evolved beyond the need for religious supernatural figures,” he proclaimed with a chortle.

A civilian Cardassian woman entered the cell at the same time the Starfleet officers backed off. Korinas whispered inaudibly to Gul Enic Hadar. He and the guards followed her out of the cell. The guards backed away with their phaser rifles trained on the prisoners to prevent any sudden escape attempts.

Once the double doors closed, Korinas gave her report. “The Defiant will be leaving Deep Space Nine tomorrow morning, heading straight for Cardassia.”

“Is the Bajoran terrorist on board?” Hadar asked.

“Yes, the Lambda Paz’s captain is accompanying the Defiant’'s regular complement.”

“Excellent. Now we begin to implement the next phase of our plan.”

II.

Diagnostics on the cloaking device all check out,” Ensign Prynn Tenmei reported from the situation area of the Defiant’s bridge. “That should expedite our departure.”

Ezri stood at the helm station, inputting information from a PADD she held in her left hand.  Throughout the bridge, officers and crew were busy loading the intelligence files that could be salvaged from the Lambda Paz into the Defiant’s computers. “Is this mission interfering with your social life?” she jokingly asked.

Prynn was not at all amused. Jadzia had been known to crack jokes to lighten the mood during tense situations. She and Ezri inherited that characteristic from Curzon, although Ezri’s attempts at humor were not well received.

“The sooner this mission is over, the better,” Prynn bluntly stated striding toward the starboard communications station. “Let’s leave it at that.”

Ezri was well aware of Prynn’s strained relationship with her father, Elias Vaughn, when Vaughn first reported aboard. What she didn’t know was that Prynn held Elias responsible for her mother’s presumed death during a confrontation with the Borg.

Since she began realizing her potential as a joining of Ezri Tigan, the Dax symbiont, and all of its past hosts, Ezri was no longer a counselor in terms of her job, Ezri still could not help but psychoanalyze a gulf between parent and child. That was her life before getting the Dax symbiont.

“How are those anti-virus algorithms coming?” Ezri asked. “Prynn, your father wouldn’t have chosen you if you were not such an exceptional pilot.”

“Loading will require five more minutes,” Prynn answered. “I appreciate your attempts to counsel me, Ezri, but for now, I’d rather keep it professional.”

The discussion was interrupted when the port door slid open. Fitzpatrick walked through with Bashir close behind. “Read Jack Bauer’s own personal accounts,” Bashir was insisting. “Hamri al-Assad’s conciliatory initiatives were genuine.”

“Weapon calibrations completed,” Fitzpatrick reported to Dax, and then looked back at Bashir. “I’m not disputing Bauer’s accounts. He could have been duped as well.”

Rashid stepped onto the bridge, behind them. “If his peace offering was just part of an elaborate plan to assassinate the President of the United States, “ he offered, “would he have helped to prevent his colleagues from detonating a suitcase nuke just outside of Los Angeles?”

Those who knew Julian well, especially Ezri, knew immediately that the three were discussing a holosuite program. He was not that well versed in Earth history, but he familiarized himself with the historical context of these holosuite programs. “One of their holosuite programs, I assume?” Tenmei asked taking a seat at the helm.

“He’s been into this stuff since O’Brien introduced him to that Battle of Britain program,” Dax replied.

“I overheard an argument between those two about a Davey Crockett last year,” Tenmei whispered. “Commander Worf resolved it.”

Fitzpatrick was standing at the weapons station to the right of the helm, making a few minor checks. He then turned to Bashir and Rashid. “The bottom line is we can’t be certain. The neo-conservative cabal could have tried to assassinate Palmer, but there’s no proof.”

Vaughn stepped onto the bridge. Bashir and Rashid sat at the stations on the port side of the bridge. Dax and Fitzpatrick sat at the stations on the opposite side. “You all know the drill,” Vaughn declared. “Seal the airlock, release docking clamps, port and starboard thrusters at station keeping. Aft thrusters at one quarter.”

The implant in Rashid’s brain was again triggered. This time, his contact was seeking out information on the Defiant’s tactical weaknesses.

The Defiant pulled away from the station, turned around, and warped towards Cardassia.

III.

Admiral Ross arrived at the station aboard the U.S.S. Bellerephon at roughly the same time the Defiant had departed. Although higher-ranking admirals and civilian dignitaries would serve as principal mediators, Ross specifically requested to welcome the delegates himself.

Kira did not enjoy the cordial relationship Sisko had with Ross ever since the incident at Derna. The Romulans had placed plasma torpedoes on the Bajoran moon over a year earlier. Kira, who had been promoted to station CO during Sisko’s three-month leave of absence, set up a blockade of outdated fighters inferior to just one Romulan warbird.  It was only when Ross threatened to take action that the Romulans stood down. Ross again put Kira on notice when she gained command following Sisko’s disappearance in the Bajoran Fire Caves.

Kira and Ross had to maintain a united front when welcoming the delegates. The Breen Confederacy had refused to relinquish Cardassian territory provided the Breen as part of their alliance with the Dominion. The Cardassian provisional government argued that the treaty was nullified after the Dominion was banished from the Alpha Quadrant. The Bajorans had a vested interest in the dispute, as the Breen were nothing more than interstellar pirates prior to the war.

Both officers were at the airlock in full dress uniforms to greet the dignitaries. A Cardassian was the first to step through the airlock. “Ambassador Pirak,” Ross said. “Welcome to Deep Space 9.”

“Admiral Ross, “Pirak replied. “Pleased to finally meet you in person. I regret Castellan Ghemor himself could not come. His position is quite fragile given the tense political situation.”

“Allow me to introduce station CO Colonel Kira.”

“On behalf of the Bajoran government,” Kira said, “welcome to the station.”

The tall Cardassian who dwarfed even Ross smiled. “Thank you for the kind words, Colonel. I hope the war’s end can bring about a new spirit of friendship between our peoples.” He then turned and introduced his party.

“This is my chief of staff, Legate Turrell.” Turrell represented Cardassia in treaty negotiations with Bajor shortly after the end of the Occupation. “And other dignitaries,” Pirak continued. “Ilon Tandro of Klaestron Four, Jolar of Kobheria, and Rigus of Lissepia.”

IV.

Ronnick and Solarin watched the formal introductions from a crawlspace above the airlock. Ronnick pushed a few buttons on a data pad. A photo of a partially gray-haired Cardassian appeared on the readout screen. He pushed a button that activated a scanner. An identical photo appeared to the right of the first.

“Yes,” said Solarin. “He’s our target.”

Chapter 6 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Six

I.

“His own vice-president said Palmer was soft on terrorism in his inaugural speech upon ascending to the presidency.”

Fitzpatrick held a PADD with the information he was paraphrasing to Bashir. Both men were on their way to the mess hall during their coffee break.

Julian threw up his hands almost as if he was surrendering. While Julian often had an optimistic view of the future and chose to see benign intentions in important historical figures, Raul was often more skeptical. These different views sparked interesting, and often heated, debated between the two.

“I get it, Raul,” Julian huffed. “Wayne Palmer did not measure up to his brother. David Palmer became a martyr after his assassination, coupled with the fact that the incumbent candidate was his corrupt predecessor’s vice-president.”

Their discussion was interrupted when the inside of the officer’s mess caught them off-guard. What was normally the officer’s mess was a communal bunkroom with four bunk beds lined up in a row. “What the bloody hell is this?” Fitzpatrick demanded of the four Military Assault Command Operations officers. 

The MACO’s were identified by jumpsuits made of a thick black fabric that made them more resistant to phasers and hand-held plasma weapons. The three male officers’ uniforms had a gold stripe on their uniforms across the torso. The lone female, who had been facing away from Bashir and Fitzpatrick while speaking to one of the other MACO’s, turned around. Her uniform had a red stripe indicating here status as unit commander. “Raul Fitzpatrick,” she said with a smile. “I’d recognize that voice anywhere.”

Lisa Neeley rarely ever smiled, in fact almost never as far as Bashir was concerned when she served as the original Defiant’s chief security and weapons officer during the early months of the war. She spoke with a dispassionate tone of voice both on and off duty. “Captain Limis requested us, she explained. “Quarters would be close, so Commander Vaughn approved converting the mess hall and the shuttle-bay into bunkrooms.”

“So where the hell am I supposed to get a raktajino?” Fitzpatrick asked.

“That’s your problem. Klingon coffee isn’t on the top of this mission’s priority list.”

“The point is, darling, I would have appreciated being consulted about the addition of new security personnel.”

There was more to this than just a clash of personalities, Bashir began to sense. He interceded at that moment saying, “We probably should go somewhere else.”

Fitzpatrick did not budge as Neeley responded to his last remark. “Ross ordered your captain to take us aboard. Our primary mission is the rescue of the hostages. Despite what you may think, I care about those men and women.”

Bashir and Fitzpatrick left the mess hall turned bunkroom. Raul then explained to Julian that he and Lisa were romantically involved for three months before the war started while serving together on the Veracruz. She had seemed distant, possibly a fear of commitment from the risks of serving in Starfleet. When the relationship became more intense, the war began and Lisa did not wish to become too emotionally invested.

II.

Because the mess hall was also used for staff meetings, Limis’s briefing was convened on the bridge. All senior staff officers were seated at their stations. Vaughn occupied the center seat. Limis was operating a control console next Dax’s communications station to control the viewscreen.

“Since we are entering a volatile sector of space,” Limis began, “Admiral Ross suggested you all be familiarized with the factions we’ll be dealing with, and Captain Vaughn agrees,” She never understood that Earth military tradition of referring to a ship’s CO as captain regardless of rank, but it seemed convenient for this mission.

“The new head of state,” she continued, as the image of a middle-aged Cardassian male appeared on the viewscreen, “is Alon Ghemor, First Castellan of the provisional government.”

“Tekenny Ghemor’s nephew according to Garak in one of his communiqués,” said Bashir. “He’s the leader of the Reunion Project.”

“Correct, Doctor,” Limis replied. “’Plain and simple’ Garak knows almost everyone worth knowing. Both Ghemors played important roles in the dissident movement.

“Cardassian culture and politics preaches loyalty to the state. In theory, the military and intelligence answered to a civilian legislative body. Over time, the Detapa Council was just a puppet of the Central Command and the Obsidian Order. The decision to free Bajor was controversial in that the Council had no direct authority over the military in these matters. Tekenny Ghemor argued that the people had no obligations to follow two organizations with no legitimate political authority, and used his position in the Central Command to encourage dissent. Natima Lang represented the radical wing of the Underground.”

“This is all very interesting, “said Vaughn, “but what does this have to do with the current political situation?”

“I’m getting to that,” Limis explained. “The members of the Cardassian Underground who eluded capture when the Dominion took over formed a rebel government. The younger Ghemor’s ascension raised concern that his leadership will not fairly represent other factions.”

Limis could see a look of fascination on Bashir’s face. Julian had been intrigued and frustrated at not being able to get straight answers from Garak. Limis wondered if she should let Bashir take over the briefing.

“The other major political faction is the Directorate. They form an influential minority representing conservative elements within the military. The Directorate and the Reunion Project held a voting competition with the Reunion Project winning four of six districts. The Directorate has since tried to use the principles of democracy to its advantage.

“The xenophobic group called the True Way is the more radical branch of the Directorate.” An image of Gul Revok appeared on the viewscreen. “Revok is one of the architects of an effort to remove all outside influences. The True Way played a role in making the Cardassian Union a Dominion protectorate. We have limited intelligence on which members remain loyal to the Dominion.

“Finally, the Oralian Way has become more prominent in recent months.”

“Garak told me about them,” Bashir chimed in. “They’re a deeply spiritual group, persecuted for what are considered primitive beliefs. Garak knows of a few Oralians willing to aide in our rescue.”

“Of course,” Limis warned, “some Oralians are out for retribution. A few religious extremists suicide bombed a supply depot last week.”

“So we’re dealing with Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds," Rashid offered.

“Pardon?” Vaughn asked, not quite sure of the analogy to Earth history.

“The two sects of Islam,” Rashid explained, “and Kurdish separatists in Iraq were held at peace at gunpoint under Saddam Hussein. Once he was removed, chaos erupted among those factions making a negotiated peace difficult.”

 “Then we should probably familiarized ourselves with that aspect of Earth history,” Fitzpatrick sarcastically suggested.

“That’s not a bad idea actually,” Vaughn suggested. “ETA at Cardassia Prime, Ensign Tenmei?”

“Four hours, thirty-six minutes,” Tenmei responded.

III.

Ezri had been skimming through Federation historical database files as Vaughn suggested. How did Fitzpatrick not see the historical parallels Rashid pointed to, she wondered. Three factions with three separate agendas were kept in check by a dictatorial government. With that government gone, unresolved conflicts resumed.

She came across something peculiar while looking at information on prominent terrorist leaders in Earth’s Middle East region. She summoned Bashir, Rashid, and Fitzpatrick to her station. “You’ll never believe what I just came across when I looked up Hamri al-Assad.”

A photograph was included in the biographical profile of the long-dead Assad. The face looked all too familiar. Pictured was Bashir with a full beard.

“That’s you, Julian,” Rashid observed.
“Or rather, an ancestor,” the wide-eyed Bashir corrected. “I had no idea.”

“In orbit of Cardassia Prime,” Tenmei reported from the helm. “Castellan Ghemor has approved our request for beamdown.”

“Very well,” Vaughn acknowledged. “Inform Captain Limis and Lieutenant Neeley to join us in the transporter room. Away Team with me.”

Ezri vacated her station to assume the center seat. Fitzpatrick took one last glance at the on-screen display before exiting the bridge with Vaughn, Bashir, and Rashid.

A thought went through his mind that he quickly dismissed. He remembered the notorious superhuman Khan Noonien Singh went into suspended animation after his downfall. Could Assad have done the same? Were Julian Bashir and Hamri al-Assad the same person? Of course not. Assad had died in his attempt to assassinate one of his enemies.

Chapter 7 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Seven

I.

Colonel Kira spun the baseball on the desk in her office while listening to reports from Lieutenant Ro and Bajoran liaison officer Major Cenn Desca. It was a habit she picked up from Ben Sisko when he was station commander. The baseball became a symbol indicating that Sisko would one day return. When Starfleet surrendered the station to the Dominion, Sisko left the ball behind putting Dukat on notice. Sisko took the ball during his leave of absence after Dukat murdered Jadzia and temporarily sealed the Wormhole, cutting the Bajoran people off from their gods. No one knew what happened to Sisko when he confronted Dukat in the Fire Caves. He let his wife know he would return at some point in the future or the past, as the Prophets had no concept of linear time.

“I asked Nog to run a diagnostic on the EPS relay system in the habitat ring,” Ro said. “They all checked out.”

Kira detected frustration in Ro’s voice when emphasizing the word “all.” “That shouldn’t be possible, should it?” she asked.

“No,” Ro flatly stated. “The power consumption logs show an overload possibly resulting from a misalignment.”          

“But the diagnostics would have indicated a misalignment,” Cenn offered. “Are you suggesting we have a saboteur on board? He may be planning to assassinate one of the delegates.”

Admiral Ross stood at the right side of the desk. “Is postponing the conference possible?” Kira asked him.

“Absolutely not,” Ross answered sternly. “We’re lucky the Breen are willing to talk. They’re interstellar pirates who steal whatever they can. They don’t care that one important provision of their treaty with Dominion is now null and void.”   

Kira then turned to Ro. “All right, you and Nog go over the engineering duty rosters. And look more closely at the scene of the crime. We cannot overlook anything,” she said, and then looked to Cenn. “Major, delay the departure of all outgoing ships. Dismissed.”

Cenn and Ro left the office, but Ross stayed. “I may not have trusted Odo, neither did Admiral Rollman,” he said, “but he at least got the job done.”  

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked of the accusatory statement.

“He may not have been a team player who played by the rules, but he got results. During these investigations, the assassin could carry out his mission.”

Kira stood up to look Ross straight in the eye. “What will you have me do? Put the station on lockdown? Detain the entire engineering staff. We have no solid leads yet.”

“You know as well as I do the importance of this conference.”

“Of course I do, Admiral. But I won’t send security on a witch-hunt until we have something more concrete. With all due respect, I am station commander unless Starfleet orders otherwise.”

Without another word, Ross stormed out of the office.

II.

The Away Team from the Defiant materialized in the foyer of the new government facilities on Cardassia Prime. The room had a far less militaristic look than most Cardassian government facilities. The Starfleet officers expected to see large monitor screens with tactical displays. The floor was mounted with the emblem of the Cardassian Union. The dark-gold walls were bare with only two doors on either side.

Garak came through the door on the officers’ left. “My dear, Doctor Bashir,” he said. “How good to see you again. And you must be Commander Vaughn.”

“Commander Elias Vaughn,” Vaughn replied. He then introduced the others. “Lieutenants Rashid and Fitzpatrick. And from the late starship Lambda Paz, Captain Limis and Lieutenant Neeley.”

“The Castellan will be seeing you now,” said Garak. “Come this way.” They all headed through the door Garak emerged from. “This is a difficult situation,” he continued while they walked through the corridor. “The challenge will be to determine who Ghemor can trust. Why call him a leader when not all the people he leads will follow?”

You support him, Garak,” Bashir retorted.

“True. During my days in the Obsidian Order, I wouldn’t have. He can lead my people on a new path assuming he can keep the other factions from assassinating him.”

Garak was the first to enter Ghemor’s office, then Vaughn, then Bashir. “The Starfleet crew has arrived,” Garak announced. “I’ll leave you to them.”

Alon Ghemor stood up from this desk to greet the Starfleet team. “Welcome to Cardassia Prime,” he said. He directed them to a meeting table to his left. “Please be seated.”

Ghemor took a seat at the head of the table. Vaughn sat down on the other end. Limis, Neeley, and Fitzpatrick seated themselves to Ghemor’s right, while Bashir and Rashid sat at the other side.

“You understand the difficulties involved,” said Ghemor. “Garak must have told you that I am not much of leader despite my title.”     

“We are also in a difficult situation as well,” Vaughn replied. “The True Way has demanded the convoys cease while they have these hostages. They have sympathizers within the government and the military.”

“I am pleased to hear you are familiar with our political situation, Commander. The entire populace was untied when the Dominion began leveling our cities. Now everyone has new ideas. Damar himself called us the ‘true oppressors’ of the Alpha Quadrant. Many believe this situation a chance to achieve what we could not as members of the Dominion. Others have said the price of greatness has gotten too high. So you understand the difficulty in discreetly identifying those willing to help you.”

“One wrong move and those hostages are dead,” Limis responded.

“We must get moving quickly,” Vaughn announced to his crew “Doctor, you and Rashid coordinate the transport of the supplies.”

“I’ve worked on a way to piggyback our transporters to the Cardassian system,” said Rashid.

“Excellent,” said Vaughn. “Lieutenants Fitzpatrick and Neeley will need to work with Mister Garak on whatever intel is available.”

“Actually, sir, I would prefer to prepare my security team,“ Neeley replied.

Fitzpatrick looked at her believing Neeley wanted to avoid working with him. “Nothing personal, Raul,” she said.

“I am still her CO,” Limis offered.

“No problem,” Vaughn relented. “With your permission, Castellan, we can establish a link with your central computer, make the work go a lot faster.”

“Of course,” Ghemor said with an approving nod.

III.

Nog opened a wall panel in a corridor in the habitat ring. He and Ro were told to inspect all the EPS conduit networks modified in the section for the VIP quarters. Nog began scanning with a tricorder looking for any evidence of tampering.

An alarm sounded indicating unauthorized modifications. He waved the scanning device back and forth as the high-pitched whine got louder. The sound maintained its volume when the tricorder found a suspicious device. “A subspace crossover shunt,” he said.

“Meaning someone is trying to control the EPS power taps from a central location,” said Ro, “and the assassin could strike at any time.”

As if on cue, an energy surge formed inside the panel. An electrical arc struck the other Starfleet engineer present. Nog crouched down and felt for a pulse and the side of the engineer’s neck. “He’s dead,” he said.

Ro looked up at the ceiling and pointed her phaser.

From his quarters, Ronnick was watching the corridor Ro and Nog were inspecting on a desk monitor. When Ro fired her phaser, the image disappeared.

IV.

Limis took a sip of raktajino while sitting in the mess hall turned bunkroom. “This is insane,” she said to Neeley, who sitting next to her on a bottom bunk. “We’re sitting here waiting while that so-called government on the planet below tries to assemble a rescue party that won’t sell us out.”

“That’s part of being in Starfleet,” Neeley offered. That statement was of little consolation. “We do have information on known True Way strongholds.” Neeley handed Limis a PADD with information Dax and Tenmei compiled.

That was enough for Limis as she set the PADD down. “Assemble a team to beam down in twenty minutes,” she said.

“What? We can’t go down guns blazing. We don’t know exactly what encampment our people are being held at or if they are at any of them we know of.”

“We don’t have the luxury of time, Lisa. Someone with the True Way could soon get wind of the fact that we’re in orbit. The hostages could be executed while we’re waiting on an inept government.”

“Okay, I’ll assemble four of my best soldiers.”

V.

Four MACO’s had assembled in the transporter room with Limis and Neeley. Those two were working the control console. “There’s a high level encryption preventing unauthorized transport,” Neeley said.

Limis thought for a minute that Vaughn had anticipated such action. “That clever bastard,” she muttered.

“I know a little about breaking encryptions,” Neeley said. She entered four digits into a keypad. “Damn!” she exclaimed when the display screen went blank. “It just triggered a security alarm.”

All six of the soldiers in the transporter room were almost certain they would end up in the brig very soon. Limis remembered she could get away with a stunt like this when she was captain. That was not the case on a ship someone else, even someone of lower rank, captained.

The doors slid open, and they expected armed guards. Neeley imagined Fitzpatrick arresting her. Instead, only Rashid entered.

They were still apprehensive. “Don’t worry,” Rashid said. “If I was going to turn you in, security would be here. I don’t think we should be waiting around.”

He seemed distant to Neeley. He was often more sociable around his colleagues. They were uncertain what to make of his neutral expression.

”Feeling okay, Lieutenant?” Limis asked.

“Never better,” said Rashid with a grin.

The rescue team stepped on the transporter pad. Rashid entered a set of coordinates and energized.

Only Limis dematerialized.

She materialized inside a meeting room. Her phaser rifle was gone. She reached for the hand phaser holstered to her waste. That was gone, too.

The door in front of her opened. Two Cardassian soldiers grabbed both her arms. The one on her left pulled her combadge off her uniform.

Revok then walked in as the door closed behind him. “Welcome to Cardassia Prime, Captain,” he said. “We’ve been expecting you.”

Chapter 8 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Eight

I.

“What am I doing here?” Limis demanded of her captor. “Where are the MACO’s?”

“They were not invited,” Revok replied with a feigned smile.

Limis already recognized that this Cardassian was Gul Revok, but she just concluded he was the True Way leader who took her crew hostage. “What have you done with my crew?” she asked.

“Your crew is quite safe. Whether they stay safe depends on your willingness to do a job for us.”

“What kind of job?” Helping you commit more terrorist acts?”

“’Terrorist’? One man’s terrorist is another man’s resistance fighter. Why are you supporting the Federation after it abandoned its own people to appease your enemies?”

“I resented the Federation once, but I didn’t wish to pass up a chance to avenge my dead Maquis colleagues.”

“Of course. Loyalty to those serving under you is one mark of a good commander. What of the people you serve under?

“The Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans are here to assure the formation of a government that fairly represents all major factions. If the conservative factions made a formal request, the Federation is obligated to consider it. Correct?”

“As long as it is not a request for weapons or classified technology.”

Revok chuckled. “Do you really believe that?” he asked. “As we speak, your people are planning an armed rescue of your missing crew…”

Limis cut Revok off when hearing his last statement. “Wait. You know the Defiant is here?”

“We set up the hostage situation to lure you here,” Revok candidly replied. “And we know why it is here. Secretly the Federation wishes to gain favor with Alon Ghemor in order to assure the Cardassian Union is no longer a threat to them.”

“You’re twisting the situation to rationalize your actions,” Limis replied. “We are only interested in rescuing our colleagues, whom you have in captivity.”

“Enough!” Revok snarled. He sauntered to a monitor screen called up an image of his captives. A guard entered the cell and asked an officer to get up.

Willis Huckaby stood up. The guard fired his phaser vaporizing the Starfleet ensign. Limis had seen death on a massive scale. The war almost desensitized her to the most gruesome forms of killing. Seeing a man vaporized as a random target of cold-blooded murder still horrified her. “You bastard!” she screamed.

“Who dies next?” Revok asked. “Your boy toy perhaps?”

The guard pointed his phaser at Morrison. The seconds seemed to tick by very slowly for Limis as the guard seen on the screen put his finger on the trigger. She could not witness any more callous disregard for sentient life. “I’ll do whatever you ask,” she proclaimed.

“Stand down,” Revok commanded the guard through his wrist communicator. Turning to Limis, he said, “Now, what is the Defiant’s cloaking frequency?”

“Two hundred thirty four point three megahertz,” Limis reluctantly answered.

II.

Colonel Kira convened a meeting of the senior delegates in one of the guest quarters. Ross had emphatically stated that any delay in the conference was unacceptable. That was not his call, however. Kira could still persuade the delegates to at least postpone the conference.  They were all just as adamant. “After all,” Tandro offered, “the assassin would just push back his timetable.”

“For all we know,” the Lissepian delegate Rigus suggested, “the Breen agreed to this conference so one of us would be the target.”

The Breen delegate Mirt immediately expressed his outrage. Part of what made the Breen such an enigmatic race was the difficulty in translating their language, which sounded like a rhythmic mechanized buzzing noise to most humanoid races. Yet, somehow the Breen made an alliance with the Dominion. “That is an outrageous accusation,” Mirt buzzed through a time-delayed translation device attached to his helmet, which caused slight disorientation among the others in the room.

Kira attempted to smooth matters. “We don’t have any leads, so we should minimize any speculation for now.” No one was listening, however.

“Is it?” Jolar asked rhetorically. “Negotiation is not in the Breen vocabulary. When the Dominion offered to hand you what you couldn’t steal by force, that was a perfect opportunity for you wasn’t it?”

“The fact the Breen are represented here shows that they are willing to compromise,” Pirak suggested. But his efforts at mediation also fell on deaf ears.

“I would think you would be as skeptical, Pirak,” said Rigus. “They stole territory from the Cardassians with the help of your so-called Dominion allies.”

How do we know I am not the target of one of you?” Mirt asked emphatically pointing at the other delegates. “You say you are willing to negotiate with us, but your ignorant prejudices make you afraid of us. What is the point of this conference when none of you are willing to look past your preconceptions about my race?”

With that, the Breen stormed off. The remaining delegates exchanged befuddled looks. Who would have expected a Breen to be a voice of reason when the Breen language was one of the most difficult to comprehend?

The communications chime sounded. “Ro to Colonel Kira,” Ro called from the security office. “We’ve just arrested a Bajoran engineer who may be involved in the assassination attempt.”

Kira tapped her combadge. “On my way,” she replied. Then to the delegates, she joked, “Try not to injure each other.”

Kira headed straight for the security office where Ro was waiting. Ro stood up from behind her desk and escorted Kira into the main cellblock. “While Nog and I were inspecting the repair jobs,” Ro said, “we found that someone was using the surveillance system to monitor any attempt to remove the subspace crossover shunts in the EPS lines.

“The signal was traced to Mar Ronnick’s quarters.”

Ronnick sat in his cell looking pensive even as Kira was walking closer to the cell. “Whom are you working for?” Kira asked him.

“Chief of Operations Aiman al-Rashid and the Bajoran militia,” Ronnick answered calmly.

“No, I mean what Bajoran splinter group are you working for?”

“You can’t arrest a man for taking initiative. I merely found a problem in the EPS lines of the surveillance system the chief somehow missed.”

“The surveillance system is not supposed to send information to your quarters.”

The expression on Ronnick’s face did not alter one bit the entire interrogation. Kira sighed in frustration and walked out. “There’s one other thing, Colonel,” Ro said, following Kira back out into the office. “He has a brother named Solarin who lives on Bajor. And he is a member of the Kohn-Ma.”

“He could be on the station then,” Kira said. She once praised the Kohn-Ma for their patriotism and their tenacity during the Cardassian Occupation. Shortly after Starfleet took control of Deep Space 9, she felt Bajor needed the patriotism of the Kohn-Ma when one of her colleagues in the resistance appeared on the station, requesting asylum. Of course, her views on the Kohn-Ma changed when the splinter group planned to remove Bajor’s most important economic asset, the Wormhole.

III.

“What do you mean Captain Limis is missing?” Vaughn asked Rashid and Neeley.

He sat behind the desk in the ready room. Rashid had no memory of the unauthorized beamdown. Neeley had reported her captain’s “disappearance” and then asked Rashid to check the transport log. “The computer says she’s not on the ship,” Neeley explained.

“I checked the transport logs,” Rashid added. “She completely erased them.”

Vaughn swung his chair to the left and sighed, disgusted at Limis for having made the situation far worse. “Does she really think she can rescue those hostages on her own?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Neeley answered. “This is reckless even for her.

She then winked at Rashid as if to say, Your secret is safe with me. In her line of work, she developed the ability to tell whether a person was lying. Dilated pupils. Flushed cheeks. A hint of nervousness. But Rashid believed what he was saying, as if he genuinely could not remember the illicit beamdown.

Before the conversation continued, the intercom chimed. “Bridge to Commander Vaughn,” Dax called. “Captain, we’re picking up three Cardassian transport ships. They seem to be heading for our position.”

“How is that possible?” Vaughn asked. “We’re cloaked.”

Dax rose from the command chair and stepped over to the helm. “Prynn?”

“We’ve plotted their course at bearing 4-5-1 mark 2-7,” Tenmei explained. “Straight for us.”

“That’s hardly a coincidence, sir,” Dax added.

Within almost a minute, Vaughn and Rashid stepped onto the bridge from the port egress. Fitzpatrick stepped onto the bridge through the starboard egress having just returned from his meeting with Garak.

“So far, they have made no threatening moves,” Dax reported before assuming her station.       

“Probably trying to see whether we know they can see us,” Vaughn suggested.

“They’re flooding the region with massive tachyons and anti-protons,” Dax reported. “It’s the same trick the Jem’Hadar used during the old Defiant’s first trip into the Gamma Quadrant. Mister Rashid, see if you set the tachyon emitters to this frequency.”

Ezri texted a set of digits to Rashid’s station, and he immediately complied.

“Helm,” said Vaughn, “prepare to move us into a higher orbit, but slowly. They might detect our subspace backwash through ripples in space.”

Revok and Korinas piloted the lead Cardassian shuttle. A Starfleet insignia indicating the Defiant’s position suddenly disappeared from Korinas’s readout screen. Hadar saw it, too, from the main piloting station on her left. “They must have retuned the cloak. Begin a scan of any movement that may have taken place in the last five minutes to see how much they are trying to throw us off.”

Both pilots’ readout screens began to show blips indicating tachyons spikes. They attempted to string together a pattern n order to determine if these were random spikes or the result of a moving object.

A squiggly line formed on the screen along the blips indicating the path of the Defiant. “Match the extrapolated course,” said Korinas.

“They’re matching our course with a ninety seven point six-eight degree of accuracy,” Tenmei reported.          

“They’re playing cat and mouse to see who blinks first,” Fitzpatrick observed.

“We do,” Vaughn replied. “Drop cloak, prepare to raise shields.”

The Defiant slowly became visible and Revok quickly gave his order. “Full impulse. Fire!”

The lead shuttle launched two plasma torpedoes straight at the Starfleet ship’s dorsal. “Ablative armor plating took a hit at the dorsal before our shields went up.” Dax reported.

“Evasive pattern alpha, helm!” Vaughn shouted over the explosions. “Target one of the flanking shuttles and fire phasers!”

The Defiant’s phaser cannons came to life. The multi-targeting beams enveloped the shuttle to port. The two remaining vessels came at the Defiant with its torpedoes. “Keep pouring it on!” Revok shouted. “We need that ship out of our way!”

The ceiling above the aft monitoring stations gave way sending down shrapnel and a girder fell knocking out two officers. “Starboard shields have failed,” Fitzpatrick reported. “Aft shields at twenty percent effectiveness.”

The shuttles fired at the starboard nacelle. “The starboard nacelle is venting plasma,” Rashid reported.

“Shut it down and route power to the good one,” Vaughn commanded. “Release inertial dampers and set attitude control to minimum.”

“We could hit the planet’s atmosphere,” Rashid insisted.

“That’s the idea. We need to appear to be spiraling down,” Vaughn then motioned to Tenmei to relinquish her seat.

The ship began spiraling towards the atmosphere. Vaughn had taken the helm to maintain some control of his ship. “Rashid, eject an anti-matter pod and two escape pods five hundred meters off the starboard stern,” he said. “Fitzpatrick, ready aft quantum torpedoes.”

“Five hundred meters aft,” Rashid called out.

“Torpedoes ready,” Fitzpatrick added.

“Fire!” Vaughn shouted slamming his right hand on the control to execute a new course heading.

The Defiant jumped to warp, but to Revok, the ship exploded. His screen showed blips indicating a debris field. “That’s not enough debris for that to be the whole ship,” he quickly observed.

“I have a Starfleet warp signature on long-range sensors,” said Korinas.

“Cowards,” Revok snickered. “Let them go. If and when they return, our mission will be completed.”

Bashir and team of medics arrived on the bridge to tend to the wounded. Vaughn relinquished the helm to his daughter. “How did they know where to find us?” Rashid asked with bewilderment.

Fitzpatrick swung his seat around and said, “You might want to ask Julian.”

Bashir turned away from the crewman he was attending to when he heard his name. “’Pardon me?”

“Assuming Julian Bashir is your real name,” Fitzpatrick continued. “Khan Noonien Singh put himself in suspended animation to be revived by Kirk three centuries later. Hamri al-Assad could have done the same.”

“That’s enough, Fitz,” Vaughn stated.

“You were once accused of being a Dominion spy,” Fitzpatrick persisted, rising from his chair.

And exonerated,” Bashir replied.

Ezri stepped between the two. “One more outburst and you’re relieved of duty,” she said. She took a big risk thinking Fitzpatrick would have thrown her petite figure aside in the heat of the moment.

“Yes, of course, defend your boyfriend,” he sniped.

“Leave the bridge, mister,” Vaughn growled. He then turned and looked the rest of the bridge crew. “We may have a spy on board, now is not the time to play the blame game. Not until we have some kind of concrete evidence.”

Fitzpatrick did as he was told without another word.

Interlude: Flashback 3 by Enterprise1981

Stardate 52594 (Earth year 2375):

Dukat got his wish five months after the Cardassian Union became a protectorate of the Dominion, a war with the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The war would have ended swiftly had the Dominion reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant not mysteriously vanished. Dukat had a nervous breakdown after having victory snatched from him and following the murder of his daughter. He stayed behind on Deep Space 9 to be captured by Starfleet, and his right hand man Corat Damar took over the leadership of the Cardassian Union.

Maybe Dukat had gone mad buying into Bajoran superstitions, Damar thought. On the other hand, maybe the entities inside the Wormhole had a role in the continuation of the war. Placing a Pah-Wraith in the Wormhole turned the war back in the Dominion’s favor.

Overall, the war did not go well after Dukat had his breakdown, and the Dominion surrendered Terok Nor to the Federation. The Romulan Star Empire sided against the Dominion-Cardassian alliance. Damar became a heavy drinker when the Federation Alliance began pushing into Cardassian territory.

To make matters worse, the Dominion brought the kleptocratic Breen Confederacy into the alliance. The treaty of alliance involved turning Cardassian territory over to the Breen without the Cardassian Union’s consent. Damar became even more disillusioned when the Dominion used a Cardassian military unit as cannon fodder for the Klingon attack on Septimus Three. 

“We all serve the Founders,” the Vorta liaison Weyoun declared in response to Damar’s protest. “And we will make whatever sacrifices they deem necessary!”

That was the final straw. Damar freed the two Starfleet officers in his custody to relay a message to the Federation that it had an ally on Cardassia. He then began securing the support of top-ranking officers. He remembered an organization Dukat had founded after the Klingon invasion. Dukat intended the True Way to serve as a patriotic organization during the Cardassian people’s biggest crisis. Certain reactionary groups began joining and had other ideas; including committing terrorist acts against the Federation and Bajor. They even had a role in allying Cardassia with the Dominion.

One such top-ranking officer who had been associated with the True Way paid Damar a visit shortly after the Breen attack on Earth. “I remember when I heard the news that Cardassia had joined the Dominion,” Gul Rusot told Damar. “Like all of Cardassia, I rejoiced. We were going to rulers of the entire Alpha Quadrant. Now we’re a conquered people. Servants in our own land.”

“All that will change,” Damar declared. Looking at the PADD Rusot delivered, he asked, “Are you sure we can trust these officers?’

“And the troops under their command. Still, we will need to know the location of the Dominion weapon emplacements on Rondac Three.”

“Leave that to me. I will need you to get a message to each of these officers.”

“It is not a very long list.”

“It will get longer. With a victory or two, all of Cardassia will rise up with us.”

II.

Gul Revok of the Ninth Order commanded one of three squadrons of Cardassian Galor-class warships sent to attack Rondac Three. Revok wondered to himself what went wrong. Perhaps it all started when the Dominion reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant entered the Wormhole, but never emerged on the Alpha side. Weyoun was willing accede to Dukat’s wishes when the alliance was made. Since the Federation Alliance gained a foothold into Dominion territory, the Dominion was acting more unilaterally. The treaty of alliance with the Breen was one such act many in the Cardassian military found intolerable.

“In weapons of Rondac Three,” Glin Corak reported from the weapons station.

“Signal the rest of the fleet,” Revok commanded.

“All squadrons report ready, sir.”

“Fire!”

The attack on Rondac was the first step in liberating the Cardassian Union from an outside power. Damar had personal reasons for targeting Rondac first. The only Vorta cloning facilities in the Alpha Quadrant were on Rondac. The death of the Vorta he butted heads with from day one would mean no more Weyoun clones.

Ultimately, the attack on Rondac failed. Revok and the other squadrons were forced into retreat with the Jem’Hadar eliminating two thirds of the fleet. The attack against the Dominion was still enough to turn other military units against the Gamma Quadrant invaders.

Chapter 9 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Nine

I.

“It’s a minor setback,” Solarin assured his brother’s employer. . “We simply have to move up our timetable.”

A Cardassian was also present with the two Bajorans in a cargo bay. That Cardassian was Legate Turrell, the ambassador’s chief-of-staff. “That can be accomplished in good time,” he said. “Making Pirak’s death look like an accident will still take delicate work.”

“Get it done,” the employer snarled. “We cannot afford any more foul ups.” He then turned to Solarin. “You, make sure your brother does not compromise everything.”

Solarin considered what the employer said. How would he make absolutely certain Ronnick would remain silent? “You don’t mean… “

“If sacrificing him is necessary,” the employer interrupted, “that is the will of the Prophets.”

From a far corner, Tandro observed what was taking place from behind a stack of cargo containers. He knew of such betrayals all too well, as the posthumous son of Ardelon Tandro. The elder Tandro had betrayed his army to the rebels in the Klaestron civil war. Ilon was even willing to let the successor host to Curzon Dax take the blame for his father’s murder.

A newly established warp-capable race, the Klaestrons soon became a protectorate of the Cardassian Union. They even supported the Cardassians during the Klingon War while Klaestron was on the verge of another civil war. Tandro turned to the rebel cause when Cardassia joined the Dominion.

Tandro headed for Pirak’s quarters to warn him. “I was scheduled to meet with the legate in the ward room,” he told Pirak. “When he didn’t show, the computer said he was in Cargo Bay 14.”

“Who was with him?” Pirak asked.

“At least two Bajorans.”

“Why would a rebel Bajoran group want me dead? And for that matter, why would Turrell be helping them?”

Tandro walked out into the corridor with a Starfleet guard by his side. He was barely ten feet down the corridor when the guard reacted as if he felt a knot in his stomach. Solarin had jammed a knife into his back. After the guard keeled over, Solarin pulled out the knife and wielded it at Tandro.

Tandro had quick enough reflexes to throw a right hook at the assassin. He then grabbed Solarin by the throat with his left. “I don’t know what your grudge is against Pirak,” he sneered. “Maybe something during the Occupation. But I don’t see what you would gain by killing me as well.”

“Your recent family history means you are a danger to compromise our plans,” Solarin gagged. “That was why Turrell arranged to meet with you.” He then kneed Tandro in the abdomen weakening his grip on his throat. Solarin then picked the knife up off the floor. Before he could use it, a Bajoran phaser was pointed at his head. “Drop it or I blow your head off,” Ro hissed at him.

Solarin quickly dropped the knife.

II.

Ro and a Bajoran deputy escorted Solarin to the security office holding cells. “They were preparing to put him in the same cell as his brother. “You might be acquainted with your new cellmate,” Ro quipped.

Ronnick lay unconscious on the cell floor. Ro lowered the forcefield and crouched down to check his pulse. “He’s dead.”

“You bastards tortured him to death!” Solarin screamed. He slugged the deputy and lunged at Ro. Ro stood upright and administered the Vulcan nerve pinch. She needed to use a lot more effort since she lacked the physical strength of a Vulcan.

Doctor Zeyner reported to the cellblock on Ro’s page. He scanned the corpse with a medical tricorder in one hand and a medical sensor device in the other. “Every system in his body has just shut down,” he reported.

“Some kind of neural paralyzer?” Ro asked.

“Possibly,” said Zeyner. “I’ll need to do a full autopsy.”         

Ro turned to her deputy. “Check his brother for poisons on his person. And keep him on twenty-six hour suicide watch.”

III.

Kira had been informed of the arrest of Solarin, and that Tandro learned the specifics of the assassination attempt. She led a team of two security deputies-- one Bajoran, the other Starfleet-- through the docking ring towards Cargo Bay 14.

Logic would dictate that the conspirators would re-locate their base camp once station personnel were onto them. Of course, this lead was the best they had to go on. Kira contemplated why the Kohn-Ma would wish Pirak, an advocate of peaceful coexistence between Cardassia and Bajor, dead. Maybe such motives were similar to those of the Kohn-Ma when they attempted to destroy the Wormhole. Such actions were hardly rational. Having once been a terrorist herself, Kira knew that terrorists rarely acted rationally.

Kira and the Starfleet deputy positioned themselves on both sides of the entrance door. The Bajoran deputy wielded his phaser at the door. Kira quietly counted to three and hit the wall panel opening the double doors.

All three ran in at the same time a near split second after the doors opened. A civilian Bajoran emerged from behind the containers and phasered the two security officers flanking Kira. He lunged over the cargo containers and took Kira down.

Kira lost her grip on her phaser. Another figure picked up the phaser, while her assailant helped her upright. She recognized the second Bajoran’s short blond hair and his two-day old facial hair. He was Tahna Los, her former colleague in the resistance and more recently responsible for the near destruction of the Wormhole seven years earlier.

“Hello, Nerys,” Tahna said somewhat sarcastically. “It’s been a long time.”

Chapter 10 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Ten

I.

What would Jim Kirk do? Limis asked herself that question over and over again while repairing weapons for Revok and his troops. Kirk had been well known for thinking his way out of no-win situations. Booby-trapping the phaser rifles was a possibility, but once sabotage was suspected, the hostages would be killed. The guards were watching her every move.

Had Revok not been forcing her hand, Limis would not, in good conscience, supply these people with weapons. That went against everything the Federation and Starfleet stood for. Not that she cared. Those butchers already murdered two of her crew, and she was helping them? As long as that preserved the lives of her shipmates, Limis would. All she could do was bide her time until an opportunity to derail Revok’s plans presented itself.

What were Revok’s plans, though? He wouldn’t take hostages just to get a Starfleet officer to fix their weapons. His own troops could do that. Revok specifically wanted Limis’s help. But for what reason?

Revok and Hadar entered to check Limis’s work. She handed Revok a phaser rifle. “This is the last of them,” she said. “Now, explain to me what this is all about.”

“Since you will not be able to stop us, why not tell you,” Revok proclaimed. “We intend to assassinate Castellan Ghemor.”

Suddenly everything made sense. If a former Maquis now wearing a Starfleet uniform had a role in assassinating Ghemor, the people would be outraged. They would demand that the Federation put an end to the convoys. “And you wanted my DNA on the murder weapon,” said Limis.

“Revok, a word in private,” Hadar whispered.

“Wait for me outside,” Revok answered.

“Now, Revok!”

“Outside!”

Hadar left the armory, and Revok tapped his wrist communicator. “Bring in the prisoner.”

A guard entered with a phaser pointed at Morrison’s head. “Captain,” he gasped.

“Good to see you, too, Morrison,” Limis replied.

“What a heartwarming reunion,” Revok quipped. “Now, Captain. Contact the Defiant or he dies.”

“Don’t do it, Vircona,” Morrison implored. “They’re luring the Defiant into an ambush…. ” The guard punched him in the stomach.

II.

Commander’s Log, stardate 53482.3: The Defiant has taken refuge inside a nebula with the cloak offline. We are rushing repairs to the engines and shields, so we can mount a rescue of the missing officers.

The Defiant sickbay was overflowing with patients. Two were in critical, but stable, condition, so Bashir was able to focus on patients with superficial injuries. He had two nurses by his side while treating Ezri, so he could attend to the more critical patients at a moment’s notice.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Julian,” Ezri said, while Julian trained a dermal regenerator on a burn on her left forearm. “We’re all trying to make sense of how the True Way knew exactly where to find us. If only I hadn’t found that picture of Assad.”

“You had no way of knowing,” said Julian.

Speak of the devil; Fitzpatrick came through the sickbay entrance with another security officer’s arm around his shoulder. The other officer was half unconscious. Fitzpatrick helped him onto a biobed. “Something happened in phaser control,” Fitzpatrick shouted. “Some kind of toxic fumes.”

The injured officer began coughing and wheezing. Bashir rolled his triage cart across the sickbay. “Get me an oxygen mask, stat,” he called to one of his nurses.

A nurse placed a mask on the officer’s nose and mouth to fill his lungs with oxygen. Bashir then applied a hypo-spray to ease the burning in his lungs. “That should help him for now,” he said.

“Uh, Julian,” Fitzpatrick began to say, “Sorry about my outburst on the bridge.”

“I was just as surprised, really,” Bashir replied. “It’s perfectly all right.”

“I still feel foolish for taking it out on you and Ezri.”

Neeley happened to be speaking to a MACO on the next biobed when she overheard the discussion. “You accused Bashir of being an enemy spy because of his ancestry?” she asked. “I thought humanity overcame such prejudices.”     

“Could you just let it go, Lisa?” Fitzpatrick replied.

“You can say I was afraid of commitment,” Neeley retorted, “but you don’t know how to trust people.”

“Look, you two,” Bashir interrupted, “please keep this out of my sickbay. I’m a doctor, not a marriage counselor.”

III.

Ezri observed Prynn at the communication’s station to find any connection between Limis and known terrorists on Cardassia. Limis’s personnel profile was on the left side of the display screen. On the right side was the profile of an at-large terrorist. When Prynn found no connection, she moved to the next record. Next was the record of a Gul Enic Hadar. Prynn was about to move to the next, when Ezri saw something. “Sir,” she called to Vaughn, seated in the captain’s chair, “we may have something.”

Vaughn stood up and walked towards the communications station. “Two years ago,” Dax stated, “the Lambda Paz apprehended Enic Hadar’s brother, a civilian engineer working at a ketracel white facility. Apparently, Limis used extreme measures to learn the facility’s location.”

“I think I remember that facility,” said Vaughn. “The Defiant’s crew was sent to destroy that facility in a stolen Jem’Hadar fighter.”

“Jadzia was on that mission,” Ezri affirmed, “and on Torga Four where that ship was found.”

“Limis decompressed an airlock with him inside,” Prynn explained of the incident. “He eventually died.”

“That’s what this was all about,” Vaughn mused. “The hostage situation was a setup to lure Limis, so Hadar could exact revenge.”

The comm station chimed indicating an incoming transmission. “Incoming hail,” said Dax. “It’s from Captain Limis.”

“On screen,” Vaughn commanded.

The emblem of the Cardassian Union replaced the star field on the viewscreen. The face of Limis then filled the screen. “Starship Defiant,” she began. “Code seven emergency. I have willingly surrendered myself in return for my crew’s freedom.”

From behind Limis, Revok grabbed her and threw her to the floor, and then he cut the transmission. “What is Code Seven?” he demanded. Pointing a rifle at her, he said, “Tell me, or you and the hostages will be put to death.”

“You need us alive in case something goes wrong,” Limis replied, calling his bluff.

“No matter. The word will be the Defiant was destroyed trying to extract the Starfleet assassin.”

IV.

Revok walked out of the armory to see Hadar waiting in the corridor. “Assassinate the Castellan?” Hadar asked. “Are you mad? I thought this would be a simple prisoner exchange. Once we had the Bajoran terrorist, we’d use her to bargain with the government.”

“She is yours to do with as you please, Hadar,” Revok replied. “Your motives for supporting me have been satisfied.”

“I believe we can use the principles of democratic government to our advantage,” Hadar explained. “With our influence within the government to bring glory back to Cardassia.”

“One of Ghemor’s personal guards will carry out the assassination. Any interference on your part will be meaningless.”

Would his interference be meaningless? Hadar got Limis in his custody to use as a hostage. But he could not allow the assassination of Ghemor. Continued Federation assistance was necessary to get Cardassia’s economy back on its feet. Revok was allowing misplaced patriotic pride blind him to the long-term goals of his faction.

Hadar headed for the communal cell the Lambda Paz crew was held in and asked for Morrison to step forward. “You will need this schematic in order to escape,” Hadar said handing Morrison a PADD. “You are all free to go.”

“The captain gave herself up for our freedom,” said Morrison. “Is that what this is about?”

“Mostly. One of my colleagues is planning to assassinate First Castellan Ghemor with the help of one of the Castellan’s personal guards. I cannot allow that to happen.”

“Why should we trust you?” Lieutenant Carson asked the jailor.

“Your chances of survival are much greater out there than in here,” Hadar replied.

V.

The escaped hostages made their way to a shuttle hangar. Morrison locked the door to make sure no one walked in on them. He then followed his shipmates onto the shuttle. He entered a code provided on the PADD into the main pilot console bringing main power on.

“This has information on how to circumvent the security systems in this building,” he said, handing Carson the PADD. “I have something else to take care of.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Carson asked before Morrison walked out the door.

“I have to find the captain,” Morrison explained. “For her to be their prisoner is an unacceptable security risk. Our intelligence would be set back at least a decade. Get the rest of the crew out of here and try to get a message to the Castellan. Now that is an order, Sara.”

“Okay, everyone,” Carson announced, ignoring the stuttering in Morrison’s voice, ‘prepare to depart.” She had a sneaking suspicion Morrison’s motives were personal. He had some kind of special relationship with the captain, but she wasn’t sure of its nature.

Following instructions from the PADD, Carson hacked into the computer system to make the shuttle’s departure appear authorized. The shuttle ascended from the landing pad and sailed off into space.

Chapter 11 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Eleven

I.

“Our fleet should reach the Bajoran system within the hour.”

Revok had contacted Turrell back on Deep Space 9 regarding their role in the planned assassination. Turrell used a Cardassian-issue desk monitor in his possession hooked into the station’s subspace communications system to prevent security from monitoring the transmission. After all, now that security knew he was involved in the planned assassination, any transmissions from his quarters to Cardassia would be monitored. “How many ships?” he asked Revok.

“Four Galor-class warships. That’s all we could spare for now. I would suggest you prepare your troops immediately. The fleet will then be in a perfect position to secure Terok Nor.”

II.

Admiral Ross stepped off the starboard turbolift in the operations center. He headed straight for the commander’s office, but no one was inside. “Where’s Colonel Kira?” he asked, first looking at Nog at the main engineering station, then at Major Cenn at the command console.

“She got called away on some urgent business on Bajor,” Cenn answered. Ro walked over to a side panel on the main console to assist in upgrades to the communications system.

“I didn’t’ hear anything about that,” Ross said walking down the steps from the office towards Cenn.

“This is an internal matter that is no concern of Starfleet’s,” Cenn replied without looking up from his console.

“This is a Federation starbase under my general command. I should have a right to know when its commander is indisposed.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Cenn growled looking straight at Ross, “the Bajoran militia does not report to you in matters of state.”

“Got it,” Ro reported. She had finished connecting the communications systems to the listening device Kira was secretly carrying.

III.

“I should have known you were involved,” Kira said to Tahna. “I heard you got out of prison a few months ago.”

“Then congratulations on putting it all together,” Tahna quipped. “But how little you think of me, Kira. You see, I found the Prophets after that unfortunate incident seven years ago.”

“Clearly the Pah-Wraiths have tricked you like they tricked Kai Winn.” The spiritual leader of Bajor had a vision from what she thought were the beings residing within the Wormhole during her last visit to the station. These beings later revealed themselves to be the malevolent Pah-Wraiths, who led her to a Bajoran later revealed to be Dukat. Having become disillusioned with the Prophets, Winn turned to the Pah-Wraiths, and her efforts ultimately led to her demise.

“Oh, come now,” Tahna huffed. “I belong to a sect who interprets the religious texts differently, one that does not believe the Prophets would send us an alien emissary.”

“The Prophets themselves confirmed that Captain Sisko is their chosen one.”

“How do we know for sure? And for that matter, what good has the Federation done for Bajor?”

Kira had been skeptical, herself, of the Federation presence in the Bajoran system after the end of the Occupation. But she understood the importance of the Federation relief effort. But after standing on the precipice of Federation membership, very few Bajorans questioned Federation intentions. “Why, after all this time, would you ask that question?” she asked. “We have built ourselves back up after a half-century of Cardassian rule.”

“Since then, the Federation has dragged the entire quadrant into a war that could have doomed Bajor. And because the Federation does not execute its prisoners, the Butcher of Bajor escaped, and was able to deprive us of our gods for a short time. Now, it hopes for a peaceful solution with the Breen. Those thugs live to pillage and plunder whatever they can steal. In that regard, they’re worse than the Cardassians.”

“Would you prefer to be under Cardassian rule? Is that why Turrell is in on this?”

“Of course, not. By assassinating Pirak and laying the blame on the Breen, the Federation and the Cardassians will have a pretext for taking more aggressive action.”

The crew in Ops heard Tahna’s last words. Then Kira’s voice came through when she said, “So that is what this is about. You would kill an advocate of peace in order to justify pre-emptive action against the Breen?”

“What’s going on?” Ross asked. “Where’s that coming from?”

“Colonel Kira let herself be captured by the Kohn-Ma,” Nog replied. “We knew you wouldn’t approve of such a dangerous plan.”

“Damned right I wouldn’t,” Ross snapped. “You’re a Starfleet officer, Lieutenant, so you’ll follow my order to get her the hell out of there.”

“Sorry, sir, but they’re using a transporter scrambler,” Nog lied.

“Ask yourself one thing, Tahna,” Kira said through the listening device. “Do you really think the Cardassians will be content to leave Bajor alone once the assassination is carried out?”

Cardassians? Kira’s inquiry caught Ross’s attention. “Check the long-range sensors,” he snapped. “See if a Cardassian fleet is on its way.”

Nog stood up and walked towards the long-range sensor station near the port turbolift. The display screen showed a map of the Bajoran system. The display zoomed outward while the Ferengi scanned for Cardassian ships. Four Cardassian Union logos appeared. Numerous circular blips surrounded the logos. “Confirmed, sir,” he reported. “Four Galor-class warships with support vessels. ETA: forty-eight minutes.”

A Bajoran security deputy walked over to Ro and handed her a PADD. It contained how Ronnick had died. “I have to go,” she said. “Security matter concerning the investigation.”

“Go ahead,” Cenn replied. “And get some security up here ASAP.”

Several levels below, Turrell and twelve other Cardassians marched towards the nerve center of what was once Terok Nor. First, they would take over Ops. Then they would secure other facilities and finally, send confirmation to their reinforcements.”

IV.

A Starfleet security guard lowered the forcefield on Solarin’s cell to let Zeyner inside to provide medical treatment. Ro stormed into the cellblock and reactivated the forcefield before confronting the doctor. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Treating him for his Dalphan’s syndrome,” Zeyner answered.

“Is that what Ronnick was getting ‘treatment’ for, ‘Doctor’?”

 Solarin felt his stomach, pretending to wince in pain. “I need my meds,” he demanded. “I’m in a lot of pain here.”

“Shut up!” Ro sneered. He grabbed Zeyner by the left arm and dragged him out to the office.

“We didn’t find any poison on Solarin,” Ro continued shoving Zeyner onto a chair. “So I asked Tarses to perform a follow-up to your autopsy on Ronnick.

“He found high levels of tophrazan. In its pure form, it causes gradual death, but diluted, it desensitizes certain pain receptors. Am I correct?”       

“Tophrazan is a controlled substance,” Zeyner added. “But it has been sold on the black market. That Ferengi bartender, Quark… “

“Nice try,” Ro interrupted. “But Quark is better at covering his tracks. One canister of tophrazan was missing from the Infirmary’s stock. You’re as bad as Cardassian doctors.”

“You may think I work for the Kohn-Ma,” Zeyner said. “But I’m actually working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I was ordered to gather information on the activities of Bajoran splinter groups on the station.”

“I doubt the medical review board will take that into account when they revoke your license. You can still help us by telling the Kohn-Ma’s plan for Pirak.”

“Once their original plan was derailed, they decided on a direct approach.”

Mirt, the Breen delegate strutted down the corridor towards Pirak’s quarters. Only thing was a Breen was not wearing Mirt’s refrigeration suit. One of the Kohn-Ma was moving in for the kill.

V.

An explosion of sparks filled the front of Ops as the two doors to the right and left of the viewscreen slid open. Turrell and eight of his troops raced in expecting heavy resistance. But the place was empty. Or so they thought. Nog hid behind his station waiting to strike.

They wouldn’t have surrendered without a fight. Turrell and the others tiptoed slowly. Nog emerged from behind the tactical sensor station and stunned two of the intruders. “The remaining seven began shooting at Nog, but he ducked down.

Ross and Cenn emerged from behind the science station and phasered two more. The two sides then exchanged phaser fire back and forth, but kept missing.

Three Bajoran security deputies came out of the commander’s office. Phaser fire was being exchanged behind them inside the office, as the other four troops came in through the office’s side door. The deputies stunned two more Cardassians. The Cardassians fired, stunning two of the deputies. The third still standing dove out of harm’s way behind the engineering station.

The deputy, Nog, Ross, and Cenn all came at the three remaining Cardassians from different sides and managed to get all of them with their phasers. The intruders in the office had also been defeated. Four Bajoran deputies exited the office to haul the invaders off to security. Bajoran and Starfleet security officers entered from both turbolifts to help out.

The crew returned to their stations. “Mister Nog,” Cenn asked, “how long until our ships intercept the Cardassian fleet?”

“Four minutes, sir,” Nog answered. “Those Cardassians won’t get the warm welcome they expected.”

Interlude: Flashback 4 by Enterprise1981

Legate Damar had formed the Cardassian Liberation Front to fight the Dominion. He had secured the assistance of Guls Rusot and Seskal. Kira, given a temporary Starfleet commission, joined Damar’s ranks as an advisor in guerilla tactics.

Rusot had clashed with Kira since her arrival with Odo and Garak. He was the first to reject a proposed attack on the Cardassian outpost on Atarakt Prime. “We are not Bajorans,” Rusot insisted when Kira recalled that she was willing to attack a Cardassian facility that a Bajoran worked in. Damar was persuaded when Kira said that anyone not working with them was working against them.

Another clash took place when Rusot accused Kira of taking pleasure in the deaths of Cardassians. The petite Bajoran then beat a Cardassian twice her size senseless.

Rusot supported Dukat’s former right-hand man in his desire to rid the Cardassian Union of the Dominion. No matter how much Damar reiterated Kira’s importance, he could not tolerate listening to an inferior.

He contacted Revok, who was on Cardassia Prime organizing military units on the homeworld, after that altercation with Kira. “She may be wearing a Starfleet uniform,” Rusot grumbled, “but she’s still a Bajoran. The fact that she works with us as an equal is insulting.”

“What’s her name again?” Revok asked.

“Kira Nerys.”

“Dukat was obsessed with her. We have been the superior race since the opening of diplomatic relations with the Bajorans, yet Dukat still felt he had to win over Kira and his bastard half-breed child.

“Don’t be afraid to eliminate Kira like Damar took it upon himself to eliminate Dukat’s daughter.”

“Understood,” said Rusot. “One more thing. Damar will be leading a mission to hijack a Jem’Hadar fighter being fitted with Breen weaponry to turn over to Starfleet.”

“Outrageous!” Revok exclaimed. “Why in the hell would we want to help them?!”

“They have the same goals as us, but we cannot put our fate in Starfleet’s hands once the Dominion is defeated.”

Taking over the bridge of the Jem’Hadar fighter was a simple task. But the Breen energy-dampening weapon was still being installed. Kira decided they had to stay until the installation was complete. Rusot had enough. He pulled a phaser on Kira. Damar and Garak then pulled phasers on him.

“We can keep the Breen weapon for ourselves,” Rusot stated. “I believe in you, Damar. I know you’re the right man to restore the empire we so loyally served. The empire we loved. Together, we can lead our people to greatness again.”

Damar then shot and killed Rusot. “He was my friend,” he said, “but his Cardassia is gone and won’t be coming back.”

Or was it gone? Revok had a surprise waiting for Damar on Cardassia Prime. After a stop at Deep Space 9, Kira, Damar, Garak, and Seskal traveled to the homeworld to meet with Revok, supposedly willing to commit a large mass of troops to Damar’s cause. When Damar beamed down with Kira and Garak, the Jem’Hadar were in the process slaughtering every Cardassian in the encampment. In the distance, Revok was conferring with a Vorta.

He had betrayed the resistance. After Damar’s willingness to help Starfleet, the loss of Cardassia’s political sovereignty was a small price to pay for conquering instead of being conquered.

Sensing the people would call for his head, Revok left Cardassia until the war ended. He never saw the Jem’Hadar level almost the whole planet. As far as he was concerned, the Federation Alliance was responsible for the incineration of numerous major cities and for the more than 800 million dead. No one told him otherwise.

From that day forward, Revok vowed to rid Cardassia of the new occupying forces and kill anyone who stood in his way. His propaganda campaign that the Federation and the Klingon and Romulan Empires wanted Cardassia to pay for the casualties those three powers suffered convinced former True Way compatriots to join his cause.

Chapter 12 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Twelve

I.

Commander’s log, supplemental entry: The Defiant is on course at Warp 9 back to Cardassia. The Code 7 that Captain Limis sent out means that she is being coerced into helping her captors. We may be headed into an ambush, and I have contacted the provisional government for more information.

Garak appeared on the viewscreen of the Defiant’s bridge with Vaughn briefing him on the recent development. Vaughn had explained that Limis sent out a code that meant her captors were forcing her cooperation in a major strike they were planning. “We were hoping you or someone in the provisional government could shed some light on this,” he finished.

“You think very highly of our factionalized government,” Garak replied. “The Intelligence Bureau operates on its own, accountable to no one. They rarely listen even to former members of the Obsidian Order.”

Bashir stood next to the command chair to offer his persuasive skills when dealing with Garak. “Garak, any information you have could be helpful.”

“It’s possible, my dear doctor,” Garak said with a sigh. “This is only a rumor based on information from one of our sources. He is not entirely up to speed because of his support of the Reunion Project. Because the Bureau would welcome Ghemor’s assassination, this gentleman has very little need to know.”

“The repercussions if that ‘rumor’ is true,” Bashir offered, “would be disastrous. The Ghemor name is revered on Cardassia.”

“You make him sound like a messiah, Doctor. He is merely the embodiment of a people disillusioned with war and aggression. The Dominion War was, as you Terrans say, the final straw. Nevertheless, we will look into this.”

The image of Garak on the screen was replaced by the UFP seal. Bashir then looked over to Vaughn. “Sir, it’s possible the True Way is using Captain Limis in their assassination plans.”

Vaughn raised an eyebrow.

“Think about it,” Bashir continued, “an ex-Maquis involved in an assassination of Ghemor could turn the populace against the Federation.”

“And if we’re being lured into an ambush,” Vaughn added, “they’d appear to be acting in self defense.” Looking over to the helm, he ordered a course change. “Helm, increase speed to Warp 9.6. I don’t care what the dangers are. Change course to the far side of Cardassia Prime’s first moon.”

II.

At about the same time he was in communication with the Defiant, Garak received a priority message from the shuttle carrying the Lambda Paz crew. The rumors of an assassination attempt were true. He was on his way to warn Ghemor that one of his own personal guards was going to kill him.

Corak, the guard on his left, stopped Garak before he could walk through the door to Ghemor’s office. “You cannot go in there,” the guard stated. “He’s in a very important meeting.”

Odd that one of the guards would deny entry to Ghemor’s chief of staff. Garak nodded at Daro on his right. “What I have to tell him is more important,” he said to the guard in front of him.

“He really can’t be disturbed,” Corak responded. He pulled out his phaser, shot Daro, and then shot Garak. The guard then pushed a button on the wall panel to lock the door.

III.

The Defiant quickly dropped out of warp, as it got closer to the runaway Cardassian shuttle. Once it slowed to impulse, Vaughn signaled for Rashid to beam the Lambda Paz crewmembers aboard. Once that was done, the Defiant streaked back into warp.

The senior staff then convened at the situation area at the aft of the bridge. “This is the plan,” Vaughn announced. “We will enter orbit on the far side of the first moon of Cardassia Prime. Once there, we’ll launch two shuttles. I’ll lead Team 1 to the True Way encampment. Dax, you and the MACO’s will try to get Ghemor out of danger.”

Fitzpatrick wondered what might go wrong. The True Way knew the Defiant was in orbit despite trying to keep the mission secret. They could even see through the cloak. Someone had to be tipping the enemy off. He looked at Bashir saying, “Recommend you don’t let… him have free reign of the ship.”

Bashir let out an annoyed sigh. “We’ve been over this,” he said. “I am not Hamri al-Assad.”

“The fact that you vehemently defend the man suggests you could be him,” Fitzpatrick stated. “You were a terrorist once. You probably sympathize with these people.”

“Don’t make me throw my chief of security in the brig,” Vaughn warned.

“Fine,” Fitzpatrick relented. He then gave Bashir a stern look. “But I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

“What is this about, anyway?” Rashid whispered to Bashir. “Neeley says he has trust issues, but he doesn’t suspect me of anything.”

“Because you don’t resemble a notorious 21st Century terrorist,” Bashir suggested, “and because you’re not genetically engineered.”

“We’re in orbit, Commander,” Tenmei reported from the helm.

Vaughn sauntered over to the helm for a quick heart-to-heart with his daughter. “You’re in command, Prynn,” he said. “If you don’t hear from us in twelve hours, return to DS9.”

“You can’t be serious,” Prynn replied. “I may have given you the silent treatment since you came aboard, but I can’t ask you to do this.”

“As a Starfleet officer, you have an obligation to carry out my orders. Hopefully that is not an order you’ll have to follow.”

Prynn vacated her station. She took a momentary look at the command chair to take in the rare opportunity of command. She sat down and smiled, forgetting she may have seen her father for the last time.

IV.

Corak met with a freight deliverer in the main cargo bay. Torim showed Corak a briefcase containing the weapon Revok wanted used on Ghemor. Torim placed it on a cargo container and opened it. “It’s been specially designed to avoid triggering the security alarm,” he said.

“Good,” said Corak. He grabbed the rifle and bolted for the door.

V.

Garak and Daro woke up in a holding room. Garak walked towards the door and tried using his security code to unlock the door. “Of course not,” he mumbled when the door wouldn’t open. “He wouldn’t overlook something so obvious.”

“He could have carried out the assassination,” Daro suggested.

“No, we cannot afford to think like that,” Garak replied, trying to pry the door panel off. “I used to interrogate prisoners in a room like this. The best we can hope for is that Corak did not take that into account when locking us in here.”

Garak was easily able to remove the panel. He moved his right hand around inside of the mechanism. The lock came unlatched when he yanked a cord. The door slid open a crack. Garak put fingers through and pushed the door open. He and Daro tried to step through the door, but a forcefield stopped them.

“Here’s to Cardassian ingenuity,” Garak quipped.

VI.

Ezri and her team, also consisting of Neeley and four other MACO’s, materialized in the main lobby of the government headquarters. Ezri didn’t know what made her more apprehensive, preventing an assassination or the seven foot tall Brikar on the team. She remembered-- or more accurately, Jadzia remembered-- that Worf said one of his Starfleet Academy classmates was a Brikar. Both were notoriously stubborn individuals belonging to races of formidable warriors.

She also found Neeley just as intimidating dwarfing the petite Trill by close to a foot. The MACO leader was someone Jadzia knew very well and a complete stranger at the same time. Neely, on the other hand, wasn’t too sure about taking orders from someone who was both a child and over three centuries old.

A short portly young man occupied the receptionist desk. After taking a sip of red-leaf tea, he nonchalantly asked, “May I help you?”

“We need to see the Castellan right away,” Ezri stated.

“He’s in a really important meeting,” Arnin replied. “He can’t spare any time to meet with some science fiction fan club.”

“He may be in danger from one of his personal guards,” said Neeley.

“How do I know one of you is not one of the assassins?” Arnin asked.

“I was here before,” Neeley attempted. “I can vouch for these people.”

“You two lovely ladies can check in on him,” Arnin relented. “But the other four stay, especially the Brikar.”

Neeley looked over at the Brikar soldier. “Don’t take it personally, Mik. I once found your size intimidating.”

“Why did I volunteer for this mission to begin with?” Mik asked with a sigh.

“And you have to leave your weapons behind,” Arnin added.

Confronting the assassin would be difficult without weapons, but Dax and Neeley reluctantly surrendered their hand phasers and their rifles.

Corak returned to Ghemor’s office right in the middle of his cabinet meeting. As a personal guard, he was one of those who could walk in without knocking. Little did Ghemor know was that this guard would lead him to his demise. “Castellan,” said Corak. “I’ve received word that there is an explosive in this room.”

“All right, everyone out,” Ghemor commanded of the two subordinate castella.

The two cabinet members walked through the door and headed straight down the corridor. They were too concerned with retreating to safety to notice the two Starfleet officers.

Dax scanned with her tricorder. “I’m not detecting any explosives,” she said. “At least none that register on the tricorder.”

Ghemor, then Corak brought up the rear. Dax and Neeley crept into an adjacent room as the two Cardassians walked by. Corak appeared to be waiting until the cabinet members turned at an adjoining corridor. Corak slowly raised his rifle.

Ghemor suddenly sensed that Corak was no longer close behind. And where was Daro for that matter? “Something wrong?” he asked turning around.

Neeley lunged towards Corak shoving towards the wall. Ezri, drawing on Jadzia and Curzon’s knowledge of Klingon martial arts karate chopped Corak’s right shoulder with her left hand and kicked the rifle out of his hands.

Ezri jumped away from Corak when he began waving a knife at her. She maintained a martial arts stance, but didn’t know what to do when the huge Cardassian lunged towards her. She used her left arm to try to protect herself from the knife. Neeley grabbed Corak’s arm with both hands, pulled him away from Ezri, then delivered a right hook to his jaw.

Corak then came at both women with the knife, but a Cardassian phaser beam vaporized him. Garak had appeared at the end of the corridor.

Neeley and Dax let out a sigh of relief that Garak came to the rescue in time. Neeley applied a dermal regenerator to the knife wound on Ezri’s left forearm and whispered, “When you throw a left chop, you should put all your weight on the right leg.”

“I was right-handed before being joined,” Dax replied.

Garak, meanwhile, walked over to Ghemor. “Are you all right, Castellan?”

“I am unharmed,” Ghemor answered. “What just happened?”

“He would have killed you, sir.”

“Lucky we were here,” Neeley said, looking over at Ghemor.

“As I’ve repeatedly told Julian… ” Garak insisted.

“Cardassians don’t believe in luck,” Ezri finished. She rolled her eyes at that notion considering she and Lisa were lucky that Garak appeared when he did.

Chapter 13 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Thirteen

I.

Revok watched a visual feed of Corak’s activities through a homing device from his quarters. The two Starfleet officers attacking elicited Revok to walk closer to the wall-mounted monitor. Who were they and how did they get there? Someone had to have tipped them off.

II.

Vaughn’s team materialized in an underground tunnel below the True Way compound. Accompanying the commander were Bashir, Rashid, and three security officers including Fitzpatrick.  All were armed with phaser rifles and their left arms were fitted with emergency transporter armbands to alert the shuttle’s transporter more quickly.

Bashir and Rashid opened their tricorders to look at the compound’s schematics. “I’m reading one Bajoran and one human on the fifth level,” Bashir reported.

All six team members threw themselves against the wall when two phasers were fired in their direction. Two Cardassian civilians were firing. Vaughn and Fitzpatrick fired back, stunning both.

III.

Hadar visited Limis in his cell. The gul was accompanied by two guards. “Put your hands in front of you,” he instructed. “We’re moving you for further questioning.”

Limis did as she was told. Before Hadar could put a set of restraints on her wrists, Revok stormed into the cell, grabbed Limis by the throat, and shoved her against the back wall. “You let someone know about the assassination, didn’t you?”

“I’ve been in here the whole time,” Limis insisted.

“I freed the hostages,” Hadar said. “They sent out an alert of the assassination attempt.”

“You?” Revok growled. He let go of Limis to face Hadar. “I should have known you would try a stunt like this.”

“I support the Directorate, but I could not allow this assassination to happen,” Hadar explained.

Without a word, Revok pulled out his phaser and fired, vaporizing Hadar. He then turned around to point his phaser at Limis. “You will die here as well,” he said.

The two guards were incapacitated by phaser fire. Morrison came into the cell pointing a Cardassian phaser at Revok. “Drop it,” he said.

Revok dropped the phaser. “Now,” said Morrison,” put your hands on your head and interlace your fingers.”

Revok did as instructed. “Try and escape if you wish,” he said. “You won’t get out of this building alive.”

“I thought Hadar freed all the hostages,” Limis said, picking up Revok’s phaser before they left the cell.

“I stayed behind to break you out,” Morrison explained. He pushed three buttons on the door panel to close and lock the cell door.

Two more guards started shooting at them. Limis and Morrison fired to phasers at the guards knocking them out.

A security alarm sounded getting everyone’s attention. The two escaped captives raced down the corridor to evade the soldiers.

IV.

Vaughn’s team made its way into the compound when hearing the alarm. “I’ve lost the sensor lock,” Rashid reported. “Probably some jamming device.”

“Pan out,” Vaughn commanded. “We have a better chance of finding them if we split up.”

Bashir began to pair with Rashid, but Fitzpatrick stepped between them. “He’s with me,” he told Rashid. “I want to make sure he doesn’t try anything.”

“If you say so,” Vaughn sighed. “Rashid, you’re with me.”

For a man of over a hundred, Vaughn still could run fast. He quickly jumped out of the way of phaser fire. Three Cardassians were shooting at him. Two shots from his rifle failed to incapacitate anyone.

Rashid fired his hand phaser stunning two of them. Vaughn fired at the one still left standing.

Limis and Morrison, meanwhile, were pinned down by phaser fire from two sides. They tried to no avail firing back. The situation was hopeless. Sooner or later, someone would be hit. Being outnumbered, the odds were not in their favor. “In case we don’t get out of this, Morrison,” Limis declared. “I want you to know… “

Suddenly, the guards Limis was shooting at were no longer firing. Vaughn and Rashid took them out. That distracted the guards Morrison was shooting at long enough for him and Limis to stun all three.

Vaughn walked towards the escapees while Rashid raced off in the opposite direction. “We need to get out of here quickly,” Vaughn said, removing an extra combadge from the inside of his uniform sleeve. He turned to see Rashid gone. “Vaughn to Rashid,” he said tapping his own combadge. No answer.

“I think I saw him take off the way you came,” said Limis.

“We have a shuttle in orbit,” Vaughn said, handing Limis his spare combadge. “I want the two of you beam aboard it.” He placed his combadge back on his uniform and tapped it. “Vaughn to all team members. Rashid has gone missing.’

Limis tapped the combadge signaling the shuttle transporter to beam her and Limis aboard.

V.

Rashid did not slow down as he threw his combadge off. He arrived at the entrance to a heavily guarded room. He fired his phaser at the guards while running back and forth across the corridor.

He stunned five in all. Rashid kneeled down next to one of the unconscious guards, and then pushed a button on the guard’s wrist communicator to open the door to the reactor room.

Down the hallway, Bashir and Fitzpatrick were out looking for Rashid. “So far, so good,” Bashir sarcastically remarked. “Nothing has gone horribly wrong.”

“Yet,” Fitzpatrick corrected.

They passed the reactor room, and Bashir saw Rashid placing an explosive on the reactor. “Aiman, what the hell are you doing?” Julian asked.

He turned around pointing his phaser at both his colleagues. “You’re trying to blow up the reactor,” Fitzpatrick observed. “Why?”

“The reason is obvious,” Rashid answered. He sounded different. He was now speaking with a Middle East accent. “I intend to knock out the power in this building.”

“You work for one of the rival factions,” Bashir guessed.

“Actually, a secret branch of Starfleet you are familiar with, Julian,” Rashid corrected.

“Section 31. You’re here to make sure the True Way doesn’t win out.”

“We need a Cardassian government that is non-hostile.”

“Surely you’re aware of the consequences of the Federation provoking a civil war.”

“They’ll never know we were involved.” Rashid chained himself to the explosive. Bashir grabbed Fitzpatrick and they got out just seconds before the explosion.

Chapter 14 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Fourteen

I.

“Julian, can you hear me?”

Bashir awoke to see Ezri kneeling over him and shining a flashlight in his face after applying a hypospray. Vaughn was also standing over him.

Neeley was also present, applying a hypospray to Fitzpatrick’s neck. He woke up, looked at Neeley, and then looked at Bashir. “You saved my life, Julian,” he said.

“I suppose I did,” Julian replied.

“It was still stupid.”

“The genetic enhancements to my reflexes got us out of there alive.”

How was that for irony? Bashir’s genetic status aroused Fitzpatrick’s suspicions, but it saved his life as well.

“We stopped the assassination,” Ezri told them. “Starfleet security will be part of Ghemor’s guard for awhile.”

“Including Mik Tarnin,” Neeley added. “The receptionist will just have to get used to that.”

“The question is whether the Cardassian people will welcome alien peacekeepers,” said Vaughn, “The Federation Council hoped to avoid sending Starfleet troops as a peacekeeping force. That would encourage terrorist propaganda, but the Council may reconsider their decision.”

II.

Security officers standing watch outside Cargo Bay 14 got an all-clear signal from Ops. They forced open the double doors calling the attention of Kira and her captors. Tahna grabbed Kira by one arm and held a phaser to her head. “Back off, or she dies,” he demanded.

Kira elbowed Tahna in the stomach with her free arm. He lost his grip, and Kira then slugged him in the face. Tahna lunged towards the transporter controls. The external door opened sucking air out into space. Kira and the security guards held their breaths and grabbed something secure. Tahna and his compatriot let themselves get blown out into space. Kira was then able to gather her bearings and shut the door.

III.

Ambassador Pirak sorted through communiqués from his government when the assassin disguised as Mirt entered. He was not expecting a visit from the Breen. “This is unexpected,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

The assassin slowly raised his phaser. Pirak noticed and began to contemplate his immediate fate. Ro then stormed into the room, grabbed the assassin from behind, and shoved him to the floor.

Ro removed the helmet to reveal a Bajoran, not a Breen, inside. Two Bajoran deputies entered and lifted up the would-be assassin to haul him off to security.

Kira then walked into the room to see Pirak wanting answers. “What just happened?” he demanded.

“He is a member of the Kohn-Ma, a xenophobic Bajoran splinter group,” Kira explained. “They’ve become skeptical of the Federation presence in recent years, especially with critical negotiations with the Breen.”

“They were hoping to create a situation that would convince the Federation to take pre-emptive action against the Breen,” Ro added.

“And the Kohn-Ma would kill me to achieve their goals?” Pirak asked. “What was Turrell’s role?”

“He led a team to seize the station,” Ro replied. “He used this situation as an attempt to place it back under Cardassian control.”

“Hardly seems logical,” said Pirak. “War has cost my people too much. And a large majority of Bajor’s populace welcomes eventual Federation membership.”

“Extremists rarely act rationally,” Kira said before looking down at Tahna’s earring in her right hand. She hated what Tahna had become since the end of the Occupation. She still grieved for him, as they had been through plenty together as friends rather than as enemies.

Chapter 15 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Fifteen

I.

The Defiant’s return trip to Deep Space 9 was uneventful. Fitzpatrick made an effort to try and reconcile with Bashir, but he couldn’t get over thinking how he put an irreversible strain on their friendship. His reconciliation with Neeley had better results. He even contemplated a transfer to Neeley’s next assignment, wherever that would be. Normally, Raul, or any other officer, would not base his transfer requests on personal reasons. But he couldn’t imagine looking at Julian the same way knowing how quick to judge he had been. And after seeing what had taken place on Cardassia, he had hoped for an opportunity to join Starfleet’s peacekeeping mission.

Vaughn contacted Starfleet Command about Rashid. Because Section 31 was involved, the information he received was very limited. What little information he received, he presented at a debriefing in the station’s wardroom.

“The real Aiman al-Rashid was serving aboard the Indefatigable when it was destroyed,” Vaughn told the Defiant’s senior staff, along with Kira and Ro. “He was not found among the survivors, so he had been declared missing and presumed dead. Even old friends at Intelligence were very tight lipped.”

“It’s possible Section 31 falsified the records to show Rashid had eventually been rescued,” Fitzpatrick added.

“So who was on the station the last six months?” Kira asked.

“I did a DNA analysis of the remains,” Bashir answered. “He was actually over 350 years old. He was one of many Middle East terrorists placed in suspended animation early in the 21st Century.”

“Wouldn’t being in stasis have slowed his aging process?” Ezri asked.

“Only by slowing metabolism and vital functions,” Bashir explained. “The accumulation of telemeters allows us to determine chronological age even if the subject was in suspended animation for centuries.”

“One thing I don’t understand,” Ro said, “he rigged the transporter to send Captain Limis to a True Way compound. And he directly supervised the modification to the faulty EPS lines.”

“Part of his mission may have involved posing as a True Way mole,” Fitzpatrick offered. “The transport log showed he simultaneously beamed a homing device into the compound.”

“And perhaps Section 31 had an interest in the conference here on the station,” Kira added. “They could have been just as in the dark about what Turrell was planning.”

“The Breen ambassador?” Bashir asked.

“Dead,” Kira answered with a deadpan expression, “probably to create the appearance of a murder-suicide.”

“This would have been an opportunity to see what the Breen look like under those refrigeration suits,” Bashir mused. “That’s if the ambassador’s chief of staff had not vaporized the body.”

“Then one of the Cardassians is also in league with Section 31,” said Ro, “if who we thought was Rashid was getting periodic instructions.”

Everyone looked at one another while contemplating possible suspects. But who? Bashir then blurted, “Garak?”  Suspected of being a spy for his people while residing on the station, an affiliation with Section 31 was a strong possibility.

II.

Revok confronted an unseen colleague in an underground cave. He was again forced into hiding when troops loyal to Ghemor stormed the compound. Not only had his plan failed, but also the government had the means to take down the entire terrorist network. “Everything has failed,” Revok railed, “thanks to that Starfleet double agent. All of us are vulnerable now.”

“The whole operation was poorly managed from the start,” the colleague replied.

“You didn’t think so when we took the hostages,” Revok insisted.

“If you had taken the captain when you destroyed the Lambda Paz, then the Starfleet operative would have been in no position to carry out his mission.”

Revok did not care for his demeaning tone. Even in the darkness, the other man’s face was too pale to be that of a Cardassian. His race was notorious for bullying Cardassians during their military alliance.

“Nevertheless,” the Vorta continued, emerging into the light, “our long-term plans for the Alpha Quadrant have not been completely derailed.”

 

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