“He killed his own man to protect the enemy?” Jonas Escobar asked with confusion.
He and Sam Bowers sat at a table in the Replimat sharing a meal while reviewing various security protocols for the station and the Defiant. Both men had barely touched their food while discussing rather mundane technical details. That discussion had soon drifted to one about characters in a holosuite program.
“It wasn’t quite that simple,” Bowers replied while taking a quick sip of his beverage. “They were acting on intelligence provided by an enemy turncoat who had renounced terrorism. Whether Assad’s conciliatory initiatives were genuine, we might never know, but it seemed like the right course of action. Unfortunately, Curtis Manning could never forgive some of Assad’s past atrocities, and put a desire for revenge over duty.”
Escobar smirked as he was reminded of some of his experiences during the war. “During the war, I had a clear sense of who were my friends and who were my enemies,” he remarked. “And we just risked our careers going after people within our own ranks.”
“You mean you never faced that paradox while you were in the Maquis?” Bowers curiously wondered. “I know many Starfleet veterans were not too happy with having to shoot at some of their former colleagues.”
“That seems like a distant memory,” Jonas coyly replied. “And I was never in Starfleet before the war.”
Sam winced skeptically. He then saw something along the walkway of the Promenade. Julian and Ezri slowly passed by while holding hands. “Looks like they worked it out,” he remarked.
Jonas turned his head around and saw them. He scoffed as he wondered what had changed Ezri’s mind after her speech about defining herself before being in any kind of committed relationship. Maybe Bashir’s undercover mission had changed her mind.
Bashir entered his quarters and walked towards the replicator. He glanced at his own shadow on the wall as he pushed a button on the panel to replicate a mug of tea. He took a small sip and saw that another shadow was cast on the wall in front of him. Bashir turned around and saw the one person he never expected to see again.
“Good evening, Doctor,” a blond-haired man in a black leather jumpsuit said. “I bet you didn't expect to see me again.”
“Sloan,” Bashir said with an ominous stare. “Should I be annoyed or relieved that you're still alive; that is assuming you are not another figment of my imagination?”
“Oh, no,” Sloan replied with a chuckle. "I am quite real. You probably wonder how capturing me three years ago was so easy.”
“It never crossed my mind,” Julian lied.
Sloan grinned as if having expected that sarcastic response. “But you had to assume that my colleagues could have extracted me any time they wanted. So why didn't they?”
“Because you wanted to save Odo while appearing not to have given up the cure voluntarily. But that doesn't explain how you're still alive.”
“You actually captured an isomorphic projection--a very sophisticated isomorphic projection. One that could give off human life signs, be rendered unconscious by phaser fire, and even activate the neural paralyzer on cue.”
“So again, you were three steps ahead of me. How should I respond to that?”
“Now, Julian, you would never cut off your nose to spite your face. You saved Odo. He cured the other Founders. The end of the Dominion War was far less messy.”
“And that's supposed to justify attempted genocide?”
“Doctor! So much could have wrong with supplying Omega to terrorists. But it had to be done to protect a devastating secret that could lead to a war that would leave us more at the mercy of enemies such as the Romulans, the Tholians, or the Dominion. Cole knew of your determination not to let that happen.”
“Speaking of Cole, might he still be alive as well?”
“That really isn’t your concern, Doctor,” Sloan brusquely replied. He then paced towards the door and stepped out.
Bashir sighed as he considered all the implications of recent events and the role he played in them. While he was greatly disturbed that an organization within the Federation was manipulating circumstances in the Federation’s favor, what could be done to change that? It was all in the name protecting other secrets that were just as damaging.
When he first learned of Section 31, Bashir wanted to do everything in his power to bring down this bureau that spit in the face of Federation values. The idealist in him felt Section 31 was a cancer within the Federation that needed to be destroyed. The realist in him, though, felt the damage done to the Federation if these secrets came out would be far worse. Even knowing that made him feel powerless. Despite his superiority to his peers, he was just another human.
In the Chancellor’s VIP quarters, Martok, Worf, and Kurn were gathered around a pit of fire. They were all participating in a ceremony to formally admit Kurn into the House of Martok. “Martok degh, to-Duj degh, bat-LEH degh, mat-LEH degh,” Martok proclaimed.
“Martok degh,” Martok and Worf repeated in unison.
“Kurn, vih-nob dok-tog,” Worf added.
Kurn removed his dagger from his holster and handed it to Martok. Martok then used it to draw blood from his own palm. Afterwards, he mixed it with oil in the bowl and dropped it in the fire.
“Mat-LEH gih-Hegh,” Kurn declared.
“DAH!” Martok replied.
Kurn picked up the insignia and stared at it before placing it on his left sleeve.
“Welcome to the House of Martok, Kurn,” Martok announced, “brother of Worf, and son of Mogh.”
“I am in position.”
L'Haan stood several blocks away from the president's procession communicating with a Klingon colleague. “Then proceed exactly as we discussed,” she said.
Grelik weaved his way through the crowd of people wanting to shake President Zife's hand while slowly removing a well-concealed disruptor pistol from a holster on his right hip. He then aimed it straight at the president. The onlookers who surrounded him did not even notice. But one of Zife's personal guards did see the weapon being pointed at him.
“Gun!” the Bolian guard cried out. “Gun!”
He began nudging Zife out of harm's way. But he took a single energy projectile. The other three guards were also hit, and then Zife.
“The President's been hit!” a voice called out as Grelik tried to lose himself in the crowd. Additional guards rushed to the scene to shield frightened onlookers and to attend to the United Federation of Planets’ wounded leader.
Zife was barely conscious, but alive. Of course, no one who had witnessed this shocking turn of events knew for how long.