Kira entered her office and found Admiral T’Nera still seated behind the desk. She took slow paces towards the desk while still silently annoyed that the admiral was still there even after Kira and her senior staff had been released from confinement. She had to resist the urge to grab T’Nera by the collar and drag her out of the office. Doing so would lead to the same consequences as if she were brought up on charges of compromising Federation security. Hopefully, T’Nera and her staff would soon be gone and this whole ordeal would be over.
“I was just completing my final report on my investigation,” T’Nera explained after turning off the desk monitor. “You’ll be pleased to know that you and your crew have been cleared of any wrongdoing. The President will soon be giving an address indicating that recent events were the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.”
“That’s it?” Kira scoffed. “No apology to us or to the Tezwan government?”
“If an apology would be emotionally satisfying to those parties who were wronged,” T’Nera said with her usual dispassionate tone, but with what Kira thought was a slight hint of sarcasm, “I’m certain Starfleet Command and the President would offer it.”
“That’s good to know,” Kira said with an insincere smile. “I have one additional request, sir.”
“I’m listening,” T’Nera said eagerly with an eyebrow twitch.
“Get the hell out of my chair.”
T’Nera rolled the chair away from the desk while grasping a padd. “I am certainly willing to oblige now that my business here is concluded,” she flatly proclaimed. She stood up, circled around the desk and stepped out of the office without another word.
Once the doors slid shut, Kira rolled her eyes and propped her arms on the desk. She stared at the empty chair and flashed a satisfied grin now that she had taken back her office.
An airlock door rolled open.
Kasidy Yates Sisko held her daughter’s hand while eagerly awaiting the arrival of her husband. She stared at the entryway, quietly watching as personnel from the Venture filed through.
She had experienced this moment many times before and it never got easier after all of his dangerous missions during the Dominion War. Benjamin had survived all those missions, so Kasidy almost felt that he was invincible. But then he disappeared in the Fire Caves on Bajor less than a week after the war ended, and her fears about the Prophets’ warning that marrying would bring them sorrow had been realized. Those same fears occupied her thoughts even more over the last two weeks. True, he came back from this undercover operation safe and sound, but Kasidy couldn’t smile until she saw Ben face to face.
Four officers walked through before the man she had awaited appeared.
“Daddy!” cried Rebecca.
“Ben,” Kasidy gasped. She took a few quick steps towards her husband, and they clasped each other’s hands. They then exchanged a quick kiss.
Afterwards, Kasidy lifted Rebecca off the ground and handed the girl off to Ben. Rebecca hugged her father, who held her tightly. He kissed the little girl on the forehead and gently set her back down on the ground.
“How many times have we done this?” Kasidy remarked.
“Too many times,” Benjamin retorted. “This time might not be the last time, but we’ll talk about it more when we get home.”
“I sure hope so.”
Ezri Dax weaved through a crowd of Starfleet officers and civilians on the Promenade, but with her mind on one person. She had just been released from house arrest shortly before Admiral T’Nera and her staff had departed the station, meaning she could not reach the airlock at one of the upper pylons where the Venture was docked. She was, of course, hoping to intercept Julian as he emerged from one of the airlocks connecting the Promenade with the habitat and docking rings.
Ezri was envisioning running into his arms and wanting him not to ever let go. Her recent conversations with Sisko, Worf, and Kira were playing back in her mind as she waited in anticipation near airlock across the way from Quark’s. She also thought about what she told Jonas after she turned down his dinner date invitation. She was on a journey of self-exploration, trying to distinguish herself from Dax’s other hosts, but at the same time worried that she could not equal the achievements of Curzon or Jadzia. She hadn’t put much thought into the fact she was throwing herself into lofty career ambitions the last two years until the last two weeks. Ezri had contemplated the possibility of one day commanding a starship off and on, but without very much consideration until T’Nera suggested it, alongside an offer to sell out friends and colleagues.
While her Starfleet career was important, other aspects her of life were just as important. Perhaps she was overcompensating by pushing Julian out of her life, and at any moment, she would be able to correct that mistake.
Bashir stepped through the doorway of an open airlock that was several paces from the Infirmary. He seemingly had his sights set on that location until Ezri spotted him and jogged towards him. “Julian,” she called to him.
“Ezri,” Julian said, looking slightly befuddled.
Without putting much thought into such action, she draped her arms around his shoulders and held tightly. After a very long moment, she loosened her grip and, while still clasping his shoulders, she planted a kiss on his lips. She was not the least bit concerned about embarrassing herself even knowing that she--or rather Jadzia--was an eyewitness to Kira and Odo sharing their first kiss very near this same spot.
They both gently separated from each other, oblivious to passing onlookers, with Ezri not certain whether Julian was flattered or confused. “I’ve been doing it all wrong,” she explained. “I’ve set challenging goals for myself in recent years. But what good is that life I don’t share it with you?”
“We can surely discuss this later,” Bashir eagerly responded. “I really should get to the Infirmary. I’m told Commander Vaughn has just regained consciousness.”
“I guess I’d better let you handle that,” Ezri said with an embarrassed grin. “We can discuss over dinner or at Vic’s.”
“Of course. My quarters, 1900 hours.”
“It’s a date then.”
They both walked off in opposite directions, but then Ezri turned around and silently stared at Julian as he stepped into the Infirmary.
Prynn Tenmei stepped into Infirmary’s waiting area and momentarily forgot which way to go next. She then continued straight ahead towards the primary intensive care unit. Upon arrival there, she saw Nurse Bandee scanning Elias Vaughn with a medical tricorder. He was sitting upright, having regained consciousness.
Prynn flashed a wide smile in her father’s direction and ran towards him while fighting back tears. Bandee stepped aside to allow father and daughter to have a few moments together. Elias and Prynn held each other in a warm embrace that lasted for almost a minute. Prynn wanted to savor this moment as long as possible. After an incident like this, she was again reminded that Elias was her only parent after her mother’s death. All the past arguments they had seemed trivial.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” Prynn said, letting a few tears escape her eyes.
“Nobody’s getting rid of me that easily,” Elias quipped.
“On behalf of the entire United Federation of Planets, I deeply regret this unfortunate misunderstanding and wish to extend sincere apologies to Prime Minister Kinchawn and the people of Tezwa.”
President Min Zife delivered an official address from the Palais de la Concorde that was transmitted throughout the Federation. Some of Deep Space Nine’s senior officers, along with Captain Sisko, were gathered in the ward room to view the address on a time-delayed transmission. Commander Vaughn was also present and in uniform.
“I assume full responsibility for my administration and for the Starfleet Joint Chiefs for having been misled,” Zife continued. “A group of rogue Starfleet officers in collusion with Ferengi corporate leaders attempted to fabricate evidence that the Tezwan were in possession of destructive weaponry as a pretext for invasion to assure adequate dilithium supplies from a politically unstable world. Rest assured these renegade officers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Federation law. It is my hope that with no loss of life suffered in the aborted invasion, we can all move past this unfortunate incident.”
“In related news,” News Service reporter Marina Gomez reported after the presidential address, “noted Dominion War tactician, Vice-Admiral William Ross called off the invasion of Tezwa after his fleet’s entry into the system to demonstrate to his officers that the Tezwan pose no military threat to the Federation. He then confessed to having provided assistance to these renegades in the past and was being blackmailed into leading the invasion fleet. He has resigned from Starfleet and given the names of some of those co-conspirators in exchange for clemency.
“With FNS News Minute, I’m Marina Gomez.”
Ro scoffed after the transmission ended. “Well, that speech was utter targ manure,” she said while rolling her eyes.
“And it looks like Ross is another one to take the fall.” Kira remarked.
“How unfortunate that another great tactician should meet his downfall in such a manner,” Sisko added. He noticed Bashir at the other side of the table taking a quick glance in his direction and thought Bashir might comment about Ross’s involvement in one of Section 31’s machinations. Sisko glanced back at Bashir, seemingly convincing him not to mention the chain of events that to the ascent of a 31 informant to the Continuing Committee of the Romulan government.
“What about the Changeling?” Dax wondered.
“What about him?” Sisko asked, not sure what her question was.
“If one of the Founders was posing as a Tal Shiar informant,” Dax added, “that would mean the Dominion had a stake in this as well, and is up to their old tricks.”
“Officially, they’ve closed their borders,” Kira reminded Dax and the rest of the group.
“And unofficially?” Bashir asked with his eyebrows perked up.
“The Dominion is just another power that employs covert operatives to undermine their enemies,” said Vaughn. “That’s how it works unfortunately.”
“And that’s why Zife hopes to sweep this whole affair under the rug as quickly and as thoroughly as possible,” added Sisko.
“We may have prevented a war now,” Kira mused, “but sooner or later, someone else might use these events to their advantage. And we might not be able to stop them.”
Each of the officers in the briefing exchanged pensive stares amongst one another, all of them wondering how the recent events would lead to more dire consequences in the long term, as well as how high-ranking officials in the Federation government and Starfleet would try to further reduce the fallout.