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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”