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.
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.”