Worf entered the Infirmary’s main exam room, having heard that Martok had regained consciousness. He had gotten used to visiting the station’s medical ward in the last two weeks, whether he was receiving treatment for his own injuries or consulting with doctors about the health of one of his brothers.
While he was waiting for permission to visit Martok, Worf remembered he was already part of several different families. He had grown so accustomed to his many of his crewmates on Deep Space Nine and on the Enterprise-D, that they were his family. He was willing to lay down his life for any of them. His adopted parents and their biological son were the family with whom he had grown up. He was a brother of the House of Martok, and now his biological brother was once again a part of his life. The big question now was where Kurn would fit as part of his family.
Doctor Tarses and a Bajoran female nurse stepped away from the reclined biobed where Martok was seated. Tarses then allowed Worf to speak to the still recuperating chancellor. “I’ll be outside if you need me,” he told the ambassador.
“Ah, Worf,” Martok said with subdued exuberance. “The doctors assure me I will make a complete recovery. I still feel as though I’ve had a few too many servings of bloodwine. I trust you’ve dealt with the ha’DIbaH’s who made a cowardly attempt on my life without letting me see their faces.”
“Yes,” Worf humbly informed the chancellor. “Subcommander Sulvek and General Grelik are both dead. They died knowing it was I who avenged you. Crewman Doran, an informant of the Neo-Purists, took his own life after transporting the bomb to your private chamber. And, assuming he has not gone into hiding, you may be able build up a case against Councilor Ru’qel when you return to Qo’Nos.”
“Good,” Martok nonchalantly replied, as if those three deaths were just business as usual. “I knew that becoming chancellor made me a more coveted target, but I did not expect that rooting out corruption within the High Council would be this difficult.”
“Their tactics may be dishonorable, but I have to come to see that as those clinging to the old ways realize they are fewer and farther between, they grow more desperate.”
“And we must be equally vigilant. You have served the House of Martok well. I am certain many songs will be sung of your great deeds.”
“I look forward to hearing them,” Worf said without feeling much pride in his recent accomplishments. Even though he had acted on behalf of the Federation, the Empire, and the House of Martok, he knew he had made many enemies, including those who would again accuse Worf of using his position as a Federation diplomat to manipulate affairs of the Empire. That was tomorrow, though. Today, he had a more personal request to make.
He paused for a brief moment before remembering the other reason for his visit. “I have a request to make of you regarding my brother, Kurn.”
“Your brother?” Martok curiously replied. If he still had his left eye, it would be widening at this moment along with his right eye. “Did he not agree to a memory purge and a new identity after the House of Mogh had been dissolved?”
“Yes, but in providing service to our House, he has begun to regain some of his memories of his former life. You could express your gratitude by accepting him and others in the House of Noggra into the Greater Martok Clan.”
“The House of Noggra,” Martok said, trying to remember what he knew of that rather obscure family who had adopted Kurn in the guise of Rodek. “They are mostly common farmers and laborers. But so was my family before many of us rose to prominence. I will have to discuss it with the other clan elders. I am certain they will agree to such an arrangement in addition to issuing special commendations to the rest of the officers and crew aboard the Gorkon.”
“That would be greatly appreciated,” Worf said.
Certainly, Worf was pleased by the recent turn of events--both the chancellor’s recovery and reuniting with a brother who was part of a now defunct Klingon House. For now, though, the time for celebration would be when that reunion with Kurn was formalized.
Ezri Dax entered the ward room with her security escort right behind her. Admiral T’Nera was seated at the head of the table just up ahead. The security guard standing behind Ezri took slow paces towards the other end of the table and rolled the chair out from underneath the meeting table. Ezri tilted her head slightly and widened her pupils, somewhat perturbed that the guard felt she couldn’t be trusted to pull up her own chair.
She took a few slow paces and sat in the chair and inched it closer to the table herself while shooting a disarming stare at her escort. The guard took a few steps backward, and Ezri gave a thankful nod. She then looked straight at T’Nera, who was almost in a trance-like state reading a padd. Ezri just stared the admiral’s direction, giving no visible signs of worry that she and her colleagues were about to brought up on charges of espionage or mutiny.
“You may wait outside, Ensign,” T’Nera informed the guard while looking up from the padd. Once the guard obliged and stepped out into corridor, T’Nera flashed a pensive stare at Ezri.
“I understand you’ve chosen a new career path for yourself,” the Vulcan woman declared.
“Yes,” Ezri replied.
“Third in command of the one of the most strategically significant outposts in the Federation,” T’Nera continued. “Quite an impressive achievement at your age alongside the accolades of your two preceding hosts, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Absolutely,” Ezri said with forced enthusiasm.
“I understand you terminated your romantic affiliation with Doctor Bashir nearly two years ago.”
Ezri shook her head in annoyance. She briefly looked away and then turned her attention back to the admiral. “With respect, sir,” she said, “what relevance does my personal life have to your investigation?”
“None at all. I was simply curious.”
Ezri gave a gentle nod, as if accepting T’Nera’s word, but knew that a Vulcan, especially one in a high-level bureaucratic position, rarely ever expressed curiosity about the personal affairs of lower ranking officers.
“I find it most intriguing that you have set rather lofty ambitions for yourself since your joining,” T’Nera went on. “It would be a shame if you were to taint the Dax legacy by aiding in any subversive activities. Putting that aside, for the moment, do you hope to one day command a starship?”
“I see that as a strong possibility,” Ezri obligingly replied.
“What if I were to tell you that I could shorten that timetable by a year? In exchange for certain information, I could put in the good word for you at Command.”
Ezri’s eyebrow twitched in a manner similar to the Vulcan expression of curiosity. “What kind of ‘information’?” she suspiciously asked.
“Any secrets you may know about not just your colleagues on this station, but your compatriots aboard the Starship Destiny and classmates at the Academy, as well as colleagues of previous hosts currently serving in high level positions within the Federation.”
All sorts of thoughts were rushing through Ezri’s mind as she was hearing that proposition. What kinds of secrets? Did T’Nera really want to know how good Julian was in bed or what Jadzia found so appealing about a Gallamite with a transparent skull or about the women Curzon had courted well into his old age? Or were these secrets more of the professional nature? Was T’Nera hoping to glean secrets about Worf that only Jadzia knew or about how much information Elias Vaughn had accumulated throughout his eighty years of service to Starfleet Special Operations? Or perhaps the admiral was hoping for privileged information Ezri had received from patients during her time as a counselor.
“Sell out friends and colleagues?” she asked with slight confusion.
“Nothing so dramatic,” T’Nera attempted. “Just a few bits and pieces about your fellow officers that are not included in an official service record, certain things that would give you an advantage over them in your ascent up the ranks.
Ezri lowered her head, still rather baffled that a Vulcan would be making such an offer. Maybe T’Nera had her own logic, but what she was asking was still deeply disturbing. “I serve Starfleet on the principles of duty, honor, and loyalty,” she proclaimed while looking straight into T’Nera’s eyes with strong self-assuredness. “What you are asking me to do violates all three. I will not undermine colleagues, acquaintances, or even friends simply to hasten my own advancement. That may mean taking longer to get a starship command. But I will have achieved it through my own merits without knocking others down along the way.”
“It was simply a suggestion,” T’Nera plainly replied. “Now, moving on to more pertinent matters…”
Ezri quickly tuned out T’Nera’s words. She knew all too well that Vulcan’s did not lie so readily. However, this Vulcan clearly had motives other than her investigation of possible illegal activities on the station. Of course, now was not the time to raise such issues since T’Nera was the one asking the questions in this interrogation.
The Montana continued firing phasers at the cloaked Romulan shuttle until it could no longer remain invisible to either humanoid eyes or conventional Federation sensors. As the shuttle, in the shape of a bird-of-prey that was consistent with the design of most Romulan military vessels, became more and more visible, the Starfleet runabout swerved around and out of the target vessel’s weapons range.
The interior of the shuttle rocked back and forth with each phaser hit. Each jolt was able to loosen the chains keeping Sisko and Bashir chained to the wall. The two humans and their Romulan captor struggled to maintain their balance. During the quaking in the floor, Sisko lunged at Rennek, knocking the Romulan to ground.
Rennek quickly lurched upright and scooped a fighting pike off the wall. He began waving the long metallic weapon in Sisko’s direction, but the captain kept ducking out of the way. Sisko lunged towards Rennek’s left arm while Bashir restrained the Romulan’s right arm, allowing their combined strength to restrain Rennek and pin him to the wall.
Rennek flung his arms forward, sending his escaped prisoners to the deck. The blade of his pike caught Bashir in the shoulder. While he nursed his wound, Sisko swung back towards Rennek and tugged at the pike. Rennek yanked the pike back, knocking Sisko on his back. Sisko rolled over as Rennek swung the pike towards him. He quickly crawled to away from the Romulan towards the main control console. Bashir gathered and tugged at Rennek’s foot in an effort to slow him down.
As Sisko was frantically pushing buttons, Rennek freed himself from Bashir’s grasp with the heel of his boot grazing his forehead. Sisko removed a circuit access panel and unfastened an electrical cord. Rennek lunged towards him and Sisko jammed the tip of the cord into Rennek’s abdomen.
Rennek was writhing in pain as he was being electrocuted. Sisko was able to dive out of harm’s way and attend to Bashir’s injury. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” he insisted.
They both glanced in the direction of their former captor and saw Rennek’s body transform into a mass of orange goo.
“It’s a Changeling!” Sisko gasped.
As electricity coursed through his deteriorating form, the protoplasm was gradually reduced to a pile of cinder. The two men stared in awe, considering the implications of one of the Founders of the Dominion in the guise of a Romulan involved in the recent state of affairs. Certainly, they had a stake in recent events as much as the Romulans did. Their contemplative stares at the Changeling’s remains were soon interrupted, though, by a communications chime on the main console.
“Montana to Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir. Do you read?” came the voice of Lieutenant Ro.
Sisko pushed a control on the console to acknowledge the transmission. “We’re both here, Lieutenant. Our ‘Romulan’ captor was really a Changeling. We’re hoping his personal database would shed some light on what sort of incriminating secrets he was hoping to deliver to the Klingon Empire.”
Bashir was already in the process of attempting to access Rennek’s main database while Sisko was in communication with the runabout that had been stealthily pursuing them. “I’m into the main file directory,” Bashir announced.
“That was fast,” Sisko observed.
“One of the perks of being genetically enhanced,” Bashir retorted, “and why Section 31 keeps trying to recruit me.” He continued perusing through a few of the files on routine ship functions, but then stumbled across something jaw-dropping. “My God.”
“What did you find?” Sisko curiously inquired.
“You’re not going to believe this. Five years ago, President Zife had nadion pulse cannons placed on Tezwa in violation of the Khitomer Accords as part of some fallback strategy in the Dominion War.
Sisko stared at the screen in disbelief, trying to make sure his eyes were not deceiving him. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t believe it. Ordinarily, I’d question whether it’s accurate, but it’s consistent with why Zife was so adamant about launching a pre-emptive strike against a world that poses no threat after he fabricated evidence that the Tezwan were in league with Klingon radicals.”
“If this evidence had been delivered to the High Council,” Bashir added, “the fallout would be devastating. That’s what Cole meant when he stressed the importance of making sure they didn’t receive it.”
“It would serve as a rallying cry for traditionalist factions to seize power and declare war on the Federation. And that would make both powers more vulnerable to the Romulans, the Tholians, and even the Dominion. Prepare to transmit these files to the runabout’s library computer.”
“Of course,” Bashir replied, entering a sequence to transmit the entire database to the runabout. “But, sir, is our alliance with the Klingons worth a continued cover-up?”
“For now, it absolutely is,” Sisko unflinchingly proclaimed. “Hopefully, though, we can use this evidence to pressure the President to resign.”
“That may be easier said than done,” Tenmei chimed in from the runabout’s cockpit. “We’ve got a starship entering sensor range--Galaxy-class.”
“Starfleet runabout,” came a masculine voice on the ship-to-ship comm that was also easily heard by Sisko and Bashir, “power down your engines and prepare to be boarded.”
Kira Nerys entered the ward room, escorted by a security guard, to see Admiral T’Nera reading a padd.
Most likely, T’Nera was brushing up on Kira’s service record as a Starfleet captain, as a Bajoran militia officer, and as a member of the Bajoran Resistance. With that in mind, Kira worried that the admiral might try to use some of her off-book activities or her early clashes with Sisko against her, especially after T’Nera had attempted to elicit some kind of emotional response about two of her officers’ past affiliations with the Maquis. Right now, that was the least of her worries with a line of questioning about more recent events to come.
“Sit down, Captain,” T’Nera instructed.
Kira begrudgingly took a seat at the head of the table and watched as the guard sauntered out of the room.
“I was going over some of the station’s logs from the past two days,” T’Nera continued, setting the padd aside. “You and Captain Sisko had spoken directly to the President regarding his plans to invade Tezwa. Why did he contact your station?”
“We did speak to the President,” Kira reiterated. “The Defiant pursued a Klingon Bird-of-Prey traveling between Nimbus Three and Tezwa while carrying an Omega explosive. The President wished to hear our firsthand account of the recent events.”
“Yet, he already seemed adamant that the invasion still go forward. Is that correct?”
“Yes, despite my objections and Captain Sisko’s.”
T’Nera took a quick look at the padd in front of her and looked back at Kira. “From the official transcript of the communiqué, Captain Sisko made allegations that a renegade Starfleet organization calling itself ‘Section 31’ had attempted to fabricate evidence of Klingon terrorists aiding the Tezwan’s efforts to procure illegal weaponry to be used against the Federation and the Klingon Empire. What was the basis for this claim?”
“On Nimbus Three,” Kira said in recollection of what had transpired there, “Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro oversaw a sting operation where a mercenary sought to learn the location of a terrorist encampment from a former colleague. This individual was killed by a sniper, who Commander Vaughn identified as an agent of Section 31.”
“Fascinating,” T’Nera replied with an eyebrow twitch. “He has been attempting to piece together evidence of such a covert organization for decades. This incident, however, hardly constitutes proof of a conspiracy to falsely implicate a technologically inferior non-aligned world.”
“No,” Kira grudgingly agreed, “but the timing seemed very convenient, indicating someone wanted the delivery to go forward while allowing Starfleet to prevent the transaction from being completed. A member of the terrorist group that Ambassador Worf and Captain Klag managed to apprehend said that was the plan all along.”
“The President dismissed such a claim. Did he not?”
“Of course he did. But an honorable Klingon wouldn’t lie in an effort to spare his own life.” But Kira knew that was not entirely true based even on some of Worf’s actions. Such a notion was still a generally accepted rule of thumb about Klingons, just as Vulcans generally did not lie, except to save face for themselves, a relative, or a close friend. Clearly, though, this Vulcan sought to cover up certain truths.
“An assertion based on the ambassador’s overly-idealistic appraisal of Klingon culture,” T’Nera dismissively replied. “Even as the President dismissed such allegations, you, nevertheless, continued pursuing such an investigation. You don’t actually believe such an alleged conspiracy would extend all the way up to the President himself, do you?”
“After Captain Sisko’s repeated inquiries have all gone unanswered,” Kira assuredly answered. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Yes, I am well aware of your crews’ allegations that this ‘rogue organization’ attempted to exterminate the Founders of the Dominion, as well as Doctor Bashir’s encounters with one Luther Sloan. There never has been any individual by that name serving in Starfleet Intelligence, Security, Special Operations, or Internal Affairs, or one who closely fits his description. Perhaps he is merely covering his tracks while he and the other missing officers compile fabricated evidence meant to discredit Starfleet and the Federation. For all we know, the man in your morgue and the man in your brig were both compatriots of his.”
“I understand you had those men moved to facilities on the Victory,” Kira offered with a conspicuously inquisitive tone.
“If you intend to pose a question as to why, let me remind you, Captain, that I am asking the questions here.”
“While the questions you have answered, I never even asked.”
T’Nera’s eyes widened, indicating to Kira that her taunt had struck a nerve. The admiral was about to speak when a communications chime sounded.
“Ops to Admiral T’Nera,” came a masculine voice. “Urgent.”
T’Nera stood up and headed for the main entrance. Once out in the corridor, she placed an audio device in her ear to provide a measure of privacy while in the presence of the security guards. “Go ahead,” she said with a tap of her combadge.
“The Starship Venture has intercepted a Starfleet runabout and an unidentified shuttle. They’ve also apprehended the station’s missing officers, as well as Captain Sisko.”
“Once the Venture has docked,” T’Nera instructed, “escort those officers to the ward room for questioning.”
“Understood. One other thing, sir. Captain Sisko and Doctor Bashir informed Captain Meyers that they had escaped a Romulan captor, who was really a shapeshifter.”
“Do they have any evidence to that effect?”
“Yes, sir, they do.”
“Thank you,” T’Nera said, tapping her combadge to sign off. She maintained a calm demeanor as she headed back to the ward room entrance, but felt a sense of defeat, knowing that the secrets she had desperately tried to keep hidden had been revealed.
The charade was over.