Part One: Laying the First Stone
Federation Starbase Deep Space Nine, Bajoran Sector
Commander Elias Vaughn stood at the main console of the operations center overseeing routine daily activities. All day long, he had been getting updates from all departments on the security arrangements in preparation for the arrivals of Chancellor Martok and Ambassador Worf. Visiting heads of state and major diplomats usually required special arrangements. Vaughn knew that from his more than eighty years in Starfleet. But now he was actually missing something as mundane as departing freighters’ cargo manifests.
Vaughn was hoping Lieutenant Ro Laren was stepping off the portside turbolift to tell him that Quark was attempting to smuggle in contraband. “Commander,” the Bajoran chief of security called, “we’re still having some trouble with the surveillance monitors in level four, section seven of the habitat ring.”
“I’ll get someone on it, Lieutenant,” Nog offered from the primary engineering station.
“I thought we had new motion sensors put in last month,” said Ezri Dax, who was at a side panel of the main console.
“We did place an order last month,” Prynn Tenmei explained from the science station. It was an odd sight to everyone in Ops since her specialties were engineering and ship piloting. Of course, no permanent science officer had been found after recent personnel changes.
“But the sector quartermaster decided that the Free Haven colony was a higher priority,” Ro finished.
“Lieutenants Ro and Nog,” Vaughn replied, “do what you can.”
Ro headed back to the turbolift. Vaughn sighed and rolled his eyes. He looked to his daughter Prynn and muttered, “If I’m still doing this a year from now, shoot me.”
Tenmei briefly entertained that thought. Their relationship had been less than cordial in the last decade after a series of events that culminated in the death of Prynn’s mother.
Vaughn, on the other hand, had become increasingly bored with the more menial duties of a first officer. On the cusp of retiring two years earlier, Vaughn felt reborn after an Orb experience. His assignment to Deep Space 9 at that time included commanding the Defiant on a long exploratory mission to the Gamma Quadrant. That post-captaincy was short-lived when Bajor was admitted into Federation, giving Kira Nerys a permanent Starfleet commission. Those missions were now divided between Vaughn and the newly minted Captain Kira. His requests for a transfer to one of the new explorer ships had not yet come through. For now, all he could do was muddle through the boredom.
One thing Benjamin Sisko did not miss about Jake’s early childhood was having to chase him down to make sure he did not wander somewhere dangerous. He was now twenty years older and having to keep his two-year old daughter Rebecca out of harm’s way.
Little Rebecca ran towards the stove where two pots filled with boiling liquid were perched. She was reaching towards the edge of the stove with her little hands when Ben whisked her off the floor.
“No, no, no,” Ben murmured gently. “What have I told you about staying out of the kitchen when Daddy’s cooking?”
The elder Sisko carried his daughter into the living room. “Jake,” he called to his son in the study. “If you’re still having writer’s block, you mind keeping an eye on your sister?”
Jake threw the padd he was staring at blankly onto the desk and walked over to his father. Benjamin handed Rebecca off to Jake. “I hope I’m not getting too old for this,” he mused.
“You still have a few good years left,” Jake retorted.
That his firstborn was now an adult certainly reminded Benjamin of how old he was getting. Looking at Jake was like looking at a younger mirror image of himself, now that his son also had a shaved head and a goatee.
The chirp of the desk monitor caught Benjamin’s attention. He walked into the study to see “Message for Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine” blinking in read letters on the screen. For nearly two years, he had been on an indefinite leave of absence to devote time to his new family. Now his former colleagues were summoning him back, and he was not sure how to react.
Sisko then pushed a button deleting the incoming message. “Who was that, Dad?” Jake asked from the living room.
“No one important,” Benjamin lied.
Nimbus III: The Tri-Border Region
Once designated the Planet of Galactic Peace, Nimbus Three quickly descended into anarchy. The basic premise behind the colony was sound when it was founded over a century ago, but humans, Klingons, and Romulans residing on the same planet proved to be a disaster waiting to happen. And even after the colony was disbanded, the planet still remained a center for various interstellar smuggling operations.
One such smuggling operation was about to take place at a loading dock where a freight shuttle was landing. Kur’Tok, a Klingon civilian engineer, stormed towards the shuttle’s side entrance where a Romulan soldier stepped off. “What took you so long?” the hulking Klingon demanded.
“You’d best watch your tone, Klingon,” replied Lurnak, who was a full head shorter than Kur’Tok. “I couldn’t just hand the cargo off to anyone. And my superiors are starting to become suspicious.”
“That does not concern me, pe’taq,” Kur’Tok hissed with a murderous rage in his eyes.
“It should. My delays are your delays. Nevertheless, I have the boronite in the cargo hold.”
“If you are lying…”
“I know better than to cross a veruul such as you. You’d do both of us a favor by learning patience, especially when dealing with the Omega molecule. Just one unstable Omega molecule can destroy subspace across an entire solar system.”
Kur’Tok growled, looking the Romulan in both eyes before storming into the shuttle.
Inside the shuttle’s cockpit, Lurnak’s co-pilot Murot was anxiously awaiting a response to a hailing message he sent. He was constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure Lurnak did not walk in during his communiqué.
Murot became startled when Commander Donatra appeared. “Yes, Murot?” she asked with her charming smile.
“The cargo is being off-loaded as we speak, Commander,” Murot whispered.
“Excellent,” the youthful Donatra responded. “I have another assignment for you once you return to the Valdore.”
Murot looked over his shoulder again to see that no one was watching. “I’m listening,” he said.
“I need you to continue keeping a close eye on Commander Suran,” Donatra instructed, referring to her one time mentor. Since the end of the Dominion War, Donatra began to see Suran as an overly ambitious soldier whose aspirations could have destructive ramifications across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.