“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.
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.
“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.