“Mister Escobar, try and get a message to the station.”
Ezri Dax leaned forward in the Defiant bridge’s command chair upon hearing that Verad’s terrorist cell was planning an attack on Deep Space Nine. It was an instinctive reaction, even if she had lived eight other lifetimes. The Defiant’s function was merely to listen in and come to Sisko’s rescue if he was in any danger. Sisko was only one person assigned to deliver covert intelligence, but now the whole station was in danger. None of Dax’s hosts, past or present, could fathom putting so many civilian lives in jeopardy, even if Ezri risked blowing Sisko’s cover.
“That’s going to be a little difficult,” Escobar replied, while attempting to comply with the younger officer’s orders. “The surrounding plasma storms are interfering with long range communications.”
Ezri detected a hint of sarcasm in his voice. She rolled her eyes, biting her lower lip to keep herself from uttering one of Curzon or Jadzia’s witty retorts. She had learned from similar exchanges that such responses would only egg him on. “We have to try, Lieutenant,” she just said calmly. To the youthful blond male ensign at conn, she said, “Helm, move us out of the plasma field, but slowly.”
From the tactical station, Sam Bowers grinned at Escobar, regarding his latest efforts to get under Ezri’s skin. Both middle-aged men were Starfleet veterans who received battlefield commissions during the Dominion War. The difference between them was that Escobar was in the Maquis prior to the war, while Bowers had been a noncom for fifteen years. Bowers had known of Escobar’s penchant for seeing how easily he could annoy superior officers, especially those of lesser age, throughout his brief Starfleet career.
Doctor Bashir had been called to the station’s holding cell after the arrest of the Nausicaan. Lieutenant Ro reported that the Nausicaan, upon being incarcerated behind a forcefield, had lost consciousness. He was not dead since he still had a pulse. Bashir had confirmed this while running tricorder scans of the prisoner. “He looks to be in a kind of self-induced hibernation,” he said with a puzzled look. He could not deduce from his tricorder readings whether this was a natural trait in Nausicaans or the result of some artificial implants.
“Can you bring him out of it?” Ro asked from outside the cell.
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” the doctor replied. “Any kind of stimulants could cause severe brain damage. Then he wouldn’t be able to reveal any information of interest.”
“Thank you anyway, Doctor,” Ro said with a frustrated sigh.
Bashir then stepped through the forcefield with the help of a sensor that was tuned to his combadge.
As the doctor was leaving, Th’Helek stepped into the cellblock to hand Ro a padd. She read several lines of data on the display, and her eyes widened. Her expression of surprise soon became a devious grin.
Outside the security office on the Promenade, Ro explained her department’s latest breakthrough to Kira. “Surveillance logs indicate a sixteen minute blackout in Cargo Bay Twelve,” she said. “According to Nog, it’s in no way related to the sensor glitches in the sections of the habitat ring adjacent to the VIP quarters. After looking over the cargo manifests, we found merchandise being delivered to Quark.”
Kira scoffed. That Quark was involved in illegal business practices throughout his time on the station was no surprise. More recently, though, Quark’s establishment became the Ferengi embassy, so that he could continue his business in the Federation’s moneyless economy. “Has he been arrested yet?” Kira asked eagerly.
“He’s in the security office,” Ro replied with a smile. “We’re waiting to see how much he’ll reveal.”
Kira and Ro entered the office where Quark sat in a guest chair chatting with a male Bajoran deputy. “Ah, it’s about time you got here, Captain,” the Ferengi said upon seeing Kira. “I hope you told the lieutenant here that I was dealing in legitimate merchandise.”
“Save it,” Kira snapped, leaning against the front of the desk. “The sensor blackout happened at the same time an Yridian trader came to the bar after it was closed.”
“I meet with many business partners after hours,” Quark innocently insisted. “Everyone knows that. Besides, I have diplomatic immunity.”
“Which is revocable if you are suspected of compromising station security,” Kira added.
“If I was arrested every time I ‘compromised station security”, I’d have spent most of the last fourteen years in jail, or worse…”
Those last words caught both Kira’s and Ro’s attention. The station had been under Cardassian control for the first five years Quark resided there. The Cardassians were a race that valued order and security above anything else. And they had lower tolerance for illegal business practices than the Federation. “He’s got us there,” Ro remarked to Kira.
Quark grinned triumphantly and headed for the door. “I guess I’ll be going now,” he proclaimed.
“Hold on,” Ro said firmly.
Quark stopped in his tracks, realizing this release had strings attached.
“We’d consider not pressing charges,” Ro continued, “if you give some information that might help in an investigation.”
Before either Bajoran could speak, the comm chimed. “Ops to Captain Kira,” said a feminine voice over the speakers.
“Go ahead,” Kira replied.
“Message from Lieutenant Dax on the Defiant.”
“I’ll take it in my office.”
Verad and his group who had stowed away on a Kobheerian freighter bound for Deep Space Nine in the primary cargo hold. In addition to Verad and Sisko, a younger blond male Trill and a male Orion were tying together and fidgeting with sets of three metallic rods. The group set up a hideout using stacked together cargo containers; almost like a makeshift fort a child would assemble using empty boxes.
Sisko gave each rod he had he used to assemble an explosive a thorough visual inspection. He did not see any mechanical circuit boards that made up the interior of a typical explosive device. When he observed that Runold was packing them too tightly, they were missing one very important ingredient: some kind of explosive substance to pack into the rods. “I’ve noticed you have the casings,” he observed aloud, “but not the actual explosives.”
“We have the ultritium waiting for us at the station,” Verad explained. “An Yridian trader smuggled them aboard with an insider getting it past station security.”
“Isn’t ultritium virtually undetectable by conventional sensors and transporter filters?” Sisko replied. He knew that not to be the case with recent improvements in sensor technology. He was feigning ignorance of that fact, mostly for the benefit of Verad’s other henchmen.
“You’d have been able to say that ten years ago. Sensor technology is improving everyday.”
And methods of circumventing sensors with them. Sisko knew immediately who the “insider” to which Verad referring was. Quark had once crashed key security sensors in order arrange a meeting with a Klingon smuggler. As it turned out, the smuggler in question was working for Verad, and that group was able to take hostages without alerting the crew in Ops. Sisko began to envision turning Quark over to Starfleet authorities for allowing yet another one of Verad’s schemes to be carried out. But that could wait. At least Quark was acting out of selfish desire to make a huge profit rather than out of malice, and Sisko’s family was not in any danger.
The other Trill and the Orion slowly crept away in order to stand watch at the cargo hold entrance. Verad waited until they were out of earshot before turning to address Sisko. “So what was this promise you made to Jadzia while she was on her death bed?” he asked.
Luckily, Sisko had already rehearsed his answer on the trip to Torman Five. “I said I would help right wrongs of Trill society,” Sisko replied, while continuing to assemble explosive charges. “During a visit to Trill, we learned that Dax had a host between Torias and Curzon for six months. And the Symbiosis Commission was prepared to sacrifice Jadzia to cover it up.”
“Only one in ten Trill are eligible to be joined,” Verad said, recalling the Commission’s claim. “The Neo-Purists believed it was more, but that was just dismissed as conspiracy theory.”
And hopefully that would continue, Sisko mused silently. When Sisko learned that the mentally unstable Joran Belar had been a host to the Dax symbiont, Doctor Renhol at the Symbiosis Commission warned him of the disastrous ramifications of revealing a secret this damning to the general populace. “Practiced by the government of a Federation member planet,” Sisko added. While such a thought was genuinely disturbing to him, he could do nothing more than file a protest with the Federation Council. Everything from that point was just political maneuvering.
Captain Kira stepped into her office from a side door that allowed her to avoid having to go through Ops. She could never get used to thinking of this office as her office. Benjamin Sisko made it his own for nearly seven years, while she was only station CO for just two and a half years.
A Starfleet insignia was on the desk monitor’s screen. Below were instructions to enter an authorization code. Kira did just that, and Ezri then appeared on the screen. “Ah, Captain,” the youthful Trill said. “Good. I’m calling to warn that Kalon’s terrorist cell is planning an attack on DS9. I know that Sisko’s mission is to learn the Neo-Purist’s connection to the Ku-Vok-leth. I still felt that I had to speak up.”
Ezri spoke confidently, but Kira could still detect some uneasiness in her voice. “You were right to contact me,” Kira replied. “How long before they get here?”
“They’re en route on a Kobheerian freighter, which is a lot slower than the Defiant. Our ETA is six hours. Benjamin’s gone dark since then.”
“All right,” Kira sighed, dreading the decision she had to make. “I’ll see you when you get back. Kira out.”
Six hours. Six hours to decide how to proceed with an evacuation of the station. However, a complete evacuation would alert the Neo-Purists that someone in their organization tipped off the station. “Kira to Commander Vaughn and Lieutenant Ro,” Kira said, tapping her combadge. “Report to my office right away.”