Commander Donatra stared at the shipboard status reports on the monitor in her private chamber off the bridge. It was all she could do to pass the time while waiting on Suran’s next move.
The Valdore had tracked the Tiralihaan to the Baber Nebula. Perhaps he was meeting with one of his contacts in a Tal Shiar operation. Donatra had known of Suran’s affiliation with the Tal Shiar since her first training days at the Imperial War College. Because she had never been recruited into the intelligence agency, she kept this knowledge quiet and accepted that any actions Suran had taken as a member of the Tal Shiar were taken in the best interests of the Star Empire. That was until after the Dominion War and the suspicious death of Praetor Neral when Suran started rumors that the Federation manufactured evidence of a planned Dominion attack on Romulus and arranged the late Senator Vreenak’s death to prevent him from revealing that the evidence was fraudulent. More often than not, such stories were just propaganda to spur the military. Furthermore, Donatra was among the first to learn that Vreenak’s shuttle was destroyed during its return trip from the Dominion outpost on Soukara.
Donatra saw in the Romulan people a race that had lost its way. Ambition was a trait encouraged in all Romulan citizens, but that soon came to mean assassinating ones way up the political and military hierarchies. Assassination was an accepted last resort when a leader was deemed ineffective. Such a tactic had been overused in the last three centuries by soldiers and politicians putting their own ambitions ahead the honor of the people. The current praetor Hiren might have achieved his position this way given that the sitting praetor wouldn’t just be pecked to death by poisonous birds. Donatra could not prove that Hiren was responsible, so she had hoped to undermine him by digging up dirt on Suran.
The comm chimed, catching Donatra by surprise. The usually mundane reports had nearly lulled her to sleep. She gazed eagerly at the message from an informant aboard the Tiralihaan. The printout message indicated that Suran transmitted specifications for a harmonic resonance chamber to Nimbus Three. Such a device was often used to stabilize a volatile substance such as trilithium or the Omega molecule. Whatever Suran was up to would be a recipe for danger, especially on a planet that was a hotbed for terrorists and smugglers.
“Bridge,” she said, tapping the comm-panel. “Set a course for Nimbus Three.”
Kira entered the cellblock behind the security office just as Zeyner was escorted into a cell. Escobar accompanied her, holding a padd containing the official profile on the latest prisoner. Once the security deputies activated the forcefield, Kira nodded to them and to Escobar to step outside for a few minutes to have a word in private with Zeyner.
“Like the new uniform,” he remarked, “though I could never get used to the comm-badge on the wrong side. Seems like a demotion though.”
Kira smirked, trying not to get swept up in Zeyner’s usual charming manner that had Ro fooled for years. He was right, though, that as both a major and a colonel in the Bajoran Militia, Kira did outrank captains in that same military organization. But because Starfleet used traditional naval ranks, Starfleet captains did still outrank her. “Tell me,” she plainly began, “does the name Turan Getz ring a bell?”
His eyes widened at the mention of a name he had not heard in nearly a decade. He paused for a moment to consider his answer. His hesitation was enough indication to Kira that any answer he did give would be a lie. “Of course not,” he attempted.
“You don’t remember the name of the leader of your resistance cell,” Kira retorted. “Even though he was a fellow collaborator?”
“I didn’t start sleeping with him after the Occupation ended.”
Kira rolled her eyes but chose dignify that jab at her brief romance with former First Minister and former Resistance leader Shakaar Edon with any verbal response.
“So were all the former members of that resistance group collaborators?” he continued. “Guilty by association is hardly sufficient proof.”
“After you were caught trying to impede our investigation two years ago,” Kira blithely replied, “I checked with the Intelligence Ministry. They had no record of a Zeyner Antis or anyone remotely fitting your description.”
“The names of agents are not available to just anyone. You know that, Nerys.”
“No, but the names of Dukat’s network of Bajoran sympathizers became available after a list of eight names was confiscated from the Vaatrik widow, including Turan Getz.”
Zeyner gave a wry grin when he heard the name Vaatrik. Realizing he was letting his guard down, he turned away from Kira’s gaze. “There’s another name I haven’t heard in ten years,” he quipped, referring to the man who served as intermediary between Dukat and his spies within the Bajoran Resistance. Zeyner did not want Kira to see his expression of pride that no Bajoran during the Occupation suspected him of selling attack plans to various Cardassian military units and that his former leader was courageously willing to give himself up if any other cell suspected a member of the Turan Resistance of selling them out to their Cardassian oppressors. “I understand not even Odo was able to prove that you killed him.”
“He was on the side of justice,” Kira replied fondly of the station’s former chief of security, whose first assignment as constable under the Cardassian regime was to investigate the murder of Vaatrik. In fact, Odo never identified the killer until nearly a year after the Occupation ended. “He knew how harsh the Cardassian system of justice was, and he didn’t want to implicate anyone without solid proof.”
“Or it was love at first sight,” Zeyner taunted, in reference to Kira’s relationship with Odo prior to his departure to rejoin the Founders of the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant. “Dukat might have suspected Kira Meru’s daughter the second you entered the picture. Or was her name by that time Tora Naprem?”
Nerys’s blood boiled the instant she heard the name of the now deceased Tora Ziyal’s mother. Ziyal was the illegitimate daughter of Dukat with another Bajoran mistress, born the same year that Meru died. Nerys wanted to go in the cell and deck Zeyner for suggesting that one of Dukat’s half-Bajoran children was her half-sister. Not that she ever held Ziyal’s paternity against her, but the thought just planted in her mind was utterly disturbing. Such an act, however, would not be appropriate for the station CO, especially after not wanting to take a chance that Ro would lose her temper. She took a deep breath and stormed out of the room.
Escobar was waiting in the office with Ro when Kira entered. She told Jonas and the two Bajoran guards they could go back in and proceed with the interrogation, doing her best to keep her own emotions in check. “He’s a practiced liar, so no type of autonomic response analysis would be that accurate,” she said to Ro. “I thought I’d get under his skin to get a baseline comparison.”
“Sounds like he got under your skin more than you got under his,” Laren replied with a hint of sympathy.
“Don’t worry about me,” Nerys somberly answered. “Just make sure everything goes smoothly.”
Back in the cellblock, Escobar took a seat at the center table and opened a file on the padd. Zeyner stared in his direction trying to remember if he had seen him before, perhaps when he was in the Maquis. But it was a very long time ago, and his colleagues in the Maquis were just people he spied on. The cause rarely mattered. “Weren’t you once in the Maquis?” he asked feigning interest in his interrogator.
“I’m going to be asking the questions around here,” Escobar answered plainly, without even glancing at the prisoner. “Who is your primary contact in the Ku-Vok-leth?”
“Why isn’t Laren conducting the interrogation? I know she’s still the station’s head of security.”
“Your contact?” Escobar persisted, trying not to show annoyance.
“She’s probably watching on the surveillance monitors,” Zeyner continued, looking up at the ceiling where a camera might be. “You like having that kind of power, don’t you?”
Ro viewed the interrogation on a monitor in the office, letting out a disgusted scoff. He continued to taunt her, questioning whether she was fit to be a security officer when he had pulled the wool over her eyes for so long. Trying to contain all of her cumulative anger at Zeyner, Ro got up and stormed into the cellblock.
Escobar barely had any time to react to seeing his superior make a beeline towards Zeyner’s cell. Kira was close behind, but not making much of an effort to coax Ro back into the office. Ro quickly lowered the forcefield and grabbed her ex-lover by the collar to force him upright. She then tugged his hair and slammed his head against the cell’s bench. “We’re not fooling around,” she snarled. “Give us a name.”
“You always liked it rough,” Zeyner teased. “He’s on Nimbus Three. That’s all I’ll say right now.”
Ro flung him on the deck and pulled her phaser. She slowly raised the setting to maximum stun, so that he could see that, even on stun, a point-blank shot to the chest could still kill him. “It’s a big planet last I checked,” she retorted. “We need a name.”
“Holster your weapon, Lieutenant,” Kira called out, grabbing the handle of her own phaser. “That’s an order.”
“That’s the Ro Laren I remember,” said Zeyner, barely containing a giggle. “He’ll kill himself before giving himself up to Starfleet. He believes in his cause that much. You want any information out of him, you’ll have to let me speak with him.”
“No way in hell that’s happening. How do we know you won’t use this opportunity to escape?”
“The pardon is only valid if I provide accurate information.”
“He’s got us there,” Kira offered.
After a momentary staredown between Ro and Zeyner, Ro holstered her weapon, then stepped out of the cell and reactivated the forcefield. Kira shot Ro a slack-jawed glare as they both slowly stepped out of the cellblock. Escobar gave shocked stares at everyone else in the room as he whisked his padd off the table.
Elias Vaughn entered the Infirmary to see Doctor Bashir in the middle of a conversation with Prynn. He stopped in his tracks and slowly backed up towards the door to avoid the appearance of a parent too involved in his adult child’s personal life. He had seen his daughter spending a lot of time with Julian during off-hours whether it was playing darts at Quark’s or sharing drinks in the Replimat. Neither Julian nor Prynn said definitively. All Elias really had to go on was Worf’s suggestion that they were dating. And Worf was never the type to gossip or listen to gossip. On the other hand, his daughter did not strike him as a “one of the guys”-type girl. And Julian’s wide array of historical holosuite reenactments was something the good doctor shared with male colleagues.
“I would strongly advise that you adhere to this stretching routine,” Bashir was saying to Tenmei while handing her a padd.
“No problem, Doctor,” Prynn replied, making a point to address him by his title when she saw her father from one corner of her eye.
“And,” Julian continued as they both sauntered towards the exit out onto the Promenade, “if you’re still sore in the morning, stop by before you go on duty.”
Prynn simply returned Julian’s wide smile with a quick nod. She gave Elias an embarrassed glance as if he had caught them behaving inappropriately. Vaughn knew that Bashir was friendly with all his patients, but even more so towards his female patients. His biggest failing was probably that he got too emotionally involved with women who had unique medical needs, be it Melora Pazlar, a native of a low-gravity planet, or Sarina Douglas, who, until three years ago, had severe deficiencies interacting with the world around her as a side effect of her genetic modifications.
“Commander,” Julian gasped, sounding equally embarrassed. “What can I do for you?”
“I’ll be chaperoning Lieutenant Ro and Zeyner on their trip to Nimbus Three,” Vaughn plainly responded. “That planet’s not up to specs health-wise….”
“And you want to be properly vaccinated,” Bashir finished, cringing at the mention of one of his former staff. Though his genetic enhancements gave him the ability to read body language and facial cues in ways other humans could not, he never for one second suspected Zeyner Antis was involved in less than reputable activities. “I can take care of that. But I should warn you the vaccine for Rigalian mud fleas can have really difficult side effects.”
As Julian headed for the computer terminal in the main entryway, he noticed Elias had not budged. “Something else, sir?” he asked nervously.
“It concerns my daughter.”
“What about Prynn?”
“Are you interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with her?”
“No,” Bashir replied, wondering where Vaughn got something so ridiculous.
“It’s just that I overheard Ambassador Worf suggest it the other day,” Vaughn innocently explained.
“Worf,” Julian repeated, recalling that particular awkward encounter with the ambassador prior to his departure from the station. “When Ezri and I were together, Worf sort of took on the role of a disapproving older brother. While he was more than happy to step aside, he still felt we were not right for each other.”
Elias momentarily looked away to hide his embarrassment over this latest error in judgment. “But there’s nothing between you and Prynn?”
“Of course not.”
“I only ask because when parent and child serve together, the parent can’t help but be curious about these things.”
“I understand. You should be commended for trying to make up for lost time with your daughter.” Bashir then gave Vaughn a friendly pat on the shoulder as he continued towards the computer terminal. “I’ll get to work on the vaccines.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Vaughn answered, heading for the exit.
Once the doors had opened, then closed again, Julian rolled his eyes wishing he had the last couple minutes of his life back.
Benjamin Sisko was ready to return to his family life on Bajor. The trip from Deep Space Nine was uneventful, as was the trip from the spaceport back to his house in Rekantha Province. Of course, what was morning and early afternoon on the station’s clock was evening at his residence on Bajor. He was expecting Kasidy to be putting little Rebecca to bed and Jake to be getting stuck on his latest manuscript. That’s why he was surprised to see the whole house was dark. “Hello,” he called out.
Sisko quickly surveyed the living room, the study, and the kitchen. No one. He slowly trudged up the stairs. He was beginning to worry because he couldn’t even hear his daughter fussing. Maybe she had already fallen asleep, and so had Kasidy even if it wasn’t that late at night. Ben slowly tiptoed towards Rebecca’s bedroom when he heard Rebecca cry out in his and Kasidy’s room. He quickly sauntered over to the room. As he opened the door, he quickly felt the tip of a phaser pistol on his chest. “Hello, Mister Russell,” a familiar voice said. “Or should I call you Captain Benjamin Sisko?”
Runold, the pudgy Trill who doubted Sisko during his undercover mission, was holding the weapon. From the bump on his dark gray jumpsuit, Runold wore a brace on the shoulder Sisko dislocated. Three Nausicaans were also present pointing phaser rifles at the rest of the Sisko family, one of whom walked over to Ben and patted him down, possibly to make sure he had no listening devices on him.
Kasidy held Rebecca tightly trying to protect her daughter from the intimidating alien thugs. “Ben,” she gasped. “Who are these people? What’s going on?”
“This is Runold,” Benjamin ruefully replied. “We met during my undercover mission.”
“And you kept picking fights with me,” Runold added, “so you could have a more active role in screwing us over.”
“Let them go,” Benjamin implored. “You’re quarrel is with me not with them.”
“Ben, what are you doing?” Kasidy asked with a look of regret at having persuaded her husband to go on this one-time mission. Now, not even the Prophets, who were not limited by linear time, could help them out of this predicament.
“I’m not after you,” Runold sneered, still angry with himself for letting himself be fooled by the famous Benjamin Sisko. “I want Verad. He went along with your little masquerade. And by doing that, he screwed over the Orion Syndicate as much as he did the Neo-Purists.”
“I can take you to Verad,” Sisko calmly replied. “Just let them go.”
“And lose my guarantee that I don’t fall into another one of your cleverly laid traps?” Runold retorted.
“Let these two go,” Jake suggested, referring to Kasidy and Rebecca. “I’ll be your hostage.”
“No, Jake,” Kasidy implored.
“Absolutely not,” Benjamin added.
“I’m not going to let these thugs,” Jake began as the Nausicaan who was guarding him pointed his rifle at his head, “harm a defenseless two-year old. Let Kasidy and Rebecca go, and I’ll stay with them.”
“You don’t have to do this, Jake,” Benjamin implored.
“Oh, really?” Runold asked. “You do what I ask or maybe I will harm a defenseless two-year old.” The Trill slowly pulled his phaser away from Benjamin and pointed it at Rebecca.
Rebecca let out a screeching wail as Kasidy began cradling the little girl’s head. “You wouldn’t dare,” the protective mother sneered.
“Watch me,” Runold shot back.
“All right,” Benjamin said firmly. His son had been in similar danger over the years from the massacre on Ajilon Prime to the Dominion’s occupation of Deep Space Nine during the first four months of the Dominion War when Jake foolishly decided to stay behind to report on the war. And had Quark and Ziyal not broken him out of the station’s holding cells, Jake would have faced execution for his involvement in trying to derail the enemy’s efforts to bring in reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant. After Starfleet regained control of the station, Ben had hoped Jake would never again put himself in that kind of danger again. Now Jake was willing put himself in that kind of danger in order to protect his stepmother and half-sister.
Runold pointed his phaser back at Benjamin while also nodding at the Nausicaans to lower their weapons and leave the room. Sisko hoped he knew how most of these hostage negotiations worked, and that Benjamin would not cooperate until he knew his wife and daughter were safe. One of the Nausicaans stayed behind to escort Jake out of the room.
“Let’s go,” Runold commanded of the men.
“Ben,” Kasidy said. Her eyes were brimming with tears, fearing for her husband as when he left to confront Dukat in the Fire Caves. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“So do I,” Ben somberly replied.
“Hate to cut this tearful goodbye short,” Runold patiently, “but let’s go.”
Benjamin and Jake left with their captors, leaving Kasidy to continue to console her scared child.