Nog woke up in the main exam room of the Infirmary. Doctor Bashir held the hand sensor of a medical tricorder to Nog’s head to check for possible brain damage. Ro stood in the entryway waiting on the doctor to report and get a statement from the Ferengi.
“Looks like you’ll live,” Bashir jovially stated. “No sign of any damage resulting from oxygen deprivation.”
Looking to Ro, Nog asked, “Any luck finding Doran?”
“None,” Ro answered, “He knows the internal sensors well.”
“So he’ll be tougher to track,” Nog retorted, ascending from the reclining exam chair. “I can imagine.”
“How are you coming with the surveillance system?”
“We have it running okay for now in the VIP section. We’ve had to draw power from other areas of the habitat ring.”
“Then he’s most likely in one of those sections,” said Ro with a half grin.
The runabout Delphi streaked through space at high warp towards the Torman star system. The Delphi belonged to a new class of short-range transport vessels. Unlike the Danube-class predecessors, the Indiana Jones-class ships had better atmospheric maneuvering capabilities.
Inside the cockpit, which was a modification of the Danube-class cockpit, Sisko and Dax barely spoke to each other for almost twelve hours. Ezri had attempted to make small talk asking about both his children and living on Bajor. He would just give quick answers to avoid any conversation.
“We’ll reach Torman Five in two hours,” Ezri stated in another attempt to make conversation.
“That’s nice,” Benjamin deadpanned.
“Morn would be a less boring traveling companion right now,” Dax remarked with a frustrated sigh.
“Morn?” Sisko asked, needing a second to remember the name of Quark’s most frequent customer.
“Quark will tell you he’s quite the chatterbox, but I don’t recall when he said very much.”
“Don’t take it personally, old man. I never expected to be summoned back as an undercover operative.”
“I was just as surprised to hear that Verad is still alive. We should probably use this time to go over your cover story. Why did you leave the station when you went to confront Dukat in the Fire Caves?”
Sisko sensed some uneasiness in Dax’s voice at the mention of Skrain Dukat, who killed Jadzia almost four years earlier. “I decided I had enough of Starfleet.”
“Good,” Ezri replied with a nod. “And what made you want to join the Neo-Purists?”
“I have information that could be of use to them.”
“But what’s your vested interest in their cause?”
“The oppression of the citizens on a member world the Federation is turning a blind eye to. And the promise I made to a friend on her deathbed.”
That last statement again evoked unpleasant memories for both of them. Of course, the promise Sisko made upon Jadzia’s death was to undo the damage Dukat had caused when he placed a malevolent Pah-Wraith in the Bajoran Wormhole. Sisko had fulfilled that promise. Yet, in order to win over Verad, he would have to rewrite his own personal history. He would have to convince Verad that the promise to Jadzia was to help right the perceived wrongs of Trill society.
Sisko and Dax entered a nightclub that was a major hub of black market activity on Torman Five. Bright lights flashed and pulsating music played throughout the establishment. Patrons of various alien races were either drinking or admiring the two Orion women dancing on the stage.
Ezri wore a jacket over her uniform that had a hood over her head. She walked directly behind Benjamin in case they would immediately enter Verad’s field of vision upon entry into the building. That was not the case fortunately. The two of them slowly walked over to a corner table. Dax set a computer module that was hanging from her right shoulder on the table.
“You know what to do,” Sisko whispered.
Dax answered with a slow nod.
Sisko then sauntered over to the bar, where a Bolian was scrubbing empty glasses. “I’m looking for Verad Kalon, a Trill male,” he said. “Is he here?”
The bartender pointed to his right. Sisko looked in that general direction and immediately recognized Verad, sharing a laugh with portly Ferengi.
“I know what you mean, Pelk,” Verad was saying as Sisko walked towards them. “You don’t have to make bad business decisions. The FCA can choke you with new taxes.”
“I know a Ferengi who has mastered a few tricks,” Sisko retorted.
Verad immediately recognized the deep voice behind him, especially since he carried the Dax symbiont, albeit very briefly. He was half expecting Sisko to place him under arrest. But his old nemesis was dressed in civilian clothing and had a more jovial tone.
From afar, Dax could see Verad, as she prepared her equipment to listen in on Sisko. She had to look away to shake an uncomfortable sensation. The sensation was not quite an out-of-body experience. It was more like seeing a part of her own psyche in another person. After all, she had all of Verad’s memories up to the point where the symbiont was removed and put back into Jadzia.
“Dax to Defiant,” she whispered, tapping an earplug in her left ear, “are you hearing me?”
The USS Defiant took a position on the far side of a gas giant in the system. That ship’s job was to stand ready in case Sisko was in any danger during the operation. The engineering crews there were conducting modifications to the communications arrays. On the bridge, Lieutenant Sam Bowers monitored pirate ship activity at the starboard tactical station. On his right, Lieutenant, junior grade, Jonas Escobar monitored communications traffic. One of the displayed graphics spiked when Ezri hailed.
“You’re coming in loud and clear, Lieutenant,” Escobar replied.
“What about Sisko?”
Static quickly filled the speakers again. After it slowly waned, it was replaced by Verad’s voice in mid-sentence. “…that you’ve completely given up Starfleet this time, Benjamin,” he was saying.
“If you’ve seen my service record,” Sisko replied, “you’d know I haven’t been in Starfleet for nearly three years.”
“He’s coming in clearly, too,” said Bowers.
“Now that that’s done,” Ezri retorted, “the sooner I leave here, the better.”
“The Chaffee will be on its way shortly,” Bowers answered.
“You may as well have been out of Starfleet after Wolf 359,” Verad said of Sisko’s claim. “I wouldn’t want to be toiling away in some shipyard on Mars for three years.”
“Of course, the Dominion War inflicted far more loss of life than a single Borg cube.”
“That’s a good reason to quit the service entirely. But why would you wish to betray Starfleet?”
“I wouldn’t call it betraying Starfleet. Sometimes, extreme measures need to be taken to get the big guys to listen. I am hoping to take up a worthy cause. I can make it worth your while.”
Verad squinted, not certain what kind of an offer Benjamin was making. “What did you have in mind?” he skeptically asked.
“I know where you can find Tander Narik,” Sisko answered. “I understand he’s agreed to testify against you in the abductions of the Vos and Roa symbionts.”
“Still can’t prove that I murdered their previous hosts, eh?” Verad retorted. “Or am I being charged with murder two for their deaths?”
“Do we have a deal or not?”
Verad again stared at the padd Sisko handed him. “I’ll give you a one-hundred thousand credit stipend,” the Trill offered, “after my informants in the security ministry verify this and once they have the witness protection program pass codes.”
“No, you get that after I’ve been paid in full.”
“To assure I don’t report you to Starfleet Security. I’d do the same in your shoes, Ben.”
“Do we have a deal then?”
Verad replied with a scheming grin.
Sisko would later accompany Verad to his makeshift residence. The titanium walls were the remains of a downed freighter. The enclosure was the size of a runabout cockpit. It was only one room with a few small alcoves with a bed and a shower. It wasn’t much, but Verad felt that, even if he traveled under and alias, he would still attract attention living in one of the housing units.
While they traveled to Verad’s residence, Sisko further explained the events that led to his present situation, according to his cover story. He reiterated the effect the Dominion War had on his psyche. He then made vague references to a promise he made to Jadzia when she was on her deathbed, which was to address grave injustices in Trill society.
“So you feel that your duty now is to address wrongs within the Federation,” Verad commented as they entered the housing area.
“Especially wrongs the Federation and member governments have ignored,” Sisko added. “Not just the crimes of the Symbiosis Commission, but the abandonment of our colonies in the former Demilitarized Zone.”
Verad scoffed as he threw down a green duffel bag. “You were famous for condemning the Maquis,” he countered, “especially when Cal Hudson and Michael Eddington left Starfleet.”
“They betrayed Starfleet,” Sisko explained. “Yet they believed strongly in the Maquis and their goals. They could be admired for the same reason as the Bajorans while their planet was under Cardassian rule.”
Verad smiled and nodded, as if having been reminded of the person he once knew, or rather Curzon and Jadzia Dax once knew. “I always thought you Starfleet types were a bunch of Herberts.”
“A Tiburon slang term for someone who is rigid and inflexible.”
Sisko remembered that a Tiburon officer was part of the mission to salvage a crashed Jem’Hadar fighter on Torga Four. Ensign T’Lor was one of five crewpersons killed during that operation. And they were only a very small fraction of those who died during the war.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Sisko sarcastically remarked.
Someone began banging on the door. Verad moved towards the door to open it. “Hey, Verad,” a male voice called out. “You in there?”
The door opened and a short, but portly, Trill man quickly entered. He pulled the door shut as soon as he was inside. He frantically ran towards the replicator without even noticing Sisko. His hurriedness indicated he was running from something.
“What’s wrong, Runold?” Verad asked.
Runold’s accent sounded like an Earth Brooklyn accent. That should not have been possible for a non-Terran, though Sisko had heard of one particular municipality on Trill where a similar accent was prevalent. “I heard the authorities are gonna be swarming this area,” Runold said, taking a gulp of cold water he replicated. “They got some tip about a bogus address.”
“We’d better pack it up, just to be safe,” Verad stated calmly. “Make sure we get the explosives out.”
“Mind if I help?" Sisko inquired, wondering if the two Trill forgot he was there.
Runold saw Sisko and winced. “Who’s this guy, Verad?” he demanded. He stared at Sisko for a long moment.
With each passing moment, Sisko worried that this Trill would eventually recognize him.
“This is Benjamin Russell, “Verad answered nervously. “He has information on a key witness.”
Benjamin Russell. That name was not at all familiar, but Runold still thought he had seen Sisko’s face. He just wasn’t sure where, though Sisko came up with the false surname from his 20th century alternate persona during a Prophet-induced vision.
“Have we met before?” Runold asked Sisko with still a hint of suspicion.
“Can’t say that we have,” Sisko candidly replied.
“Why don’t the two of you get acquainted,” Verad chimed in. He slowly walked out to the back of the house hoping he wouldn’t be caught in a lie.
“You know what,” said Runold after Verad was gone, “why don’t I just find out if any security bulletins are out on you.”
Sisko started to speak, but was at a loss for words. He began to wonder if anyone got around to changing his biography. He just came up with his alias on the fly. Hopefully, the Defiant was still listening in.
Sam Bowers sat in the command chair on the Defiant’s bridge. He looked up from the chair’s right side control panel when hearing Runold’s plan to look up a profile on a possibly non-existent Benjamin Russell.
“How are you coming with Sisko’s false profile, Escobar?” he asked the smooth-headed man at communications.
“I’m having a little trouble with the SI feed,” Escobar replied.
“See if you can speed it up if possible.”
A photograph of Sisko appeared on the padd Runold was operating. Instead of a Starfleet uniform, the former officer now wore a dark leather jacket over a thin gray shirt in the picture. The name on the top of the padd’s screen read Benjamin Russell. Underneath was a list of his “crimes”: smuggling, burglary, illegal weapons sales, breaking into classified files and possession of controlled medicinal substances.
“It checks out,” the stocky Trill proclaimed.
Sisko just stood quietly, showing no hint of nervousness or fear of being exposed as a spy. “Satisfied?” he asked.
“For now,” Runold replied softly. He shot a quick glance at Sisko. He still had that gut feeling. As of now, though, he didn’t believe this human was a spy.