by Travis Anderson
While Hathaway used Dax’s data rod to run down the identification of the as-of-yet unnamed corpse, they were all hoping that she was registered in the Starfleet Intelligence database. Sisko was confident that she was. Bernstein had to ask why.
Sisko’s mood grew a little less grave. “As you know, Cardassian women are generally relegated to scientific pursuits and support roles. A notable few have risen through the ranks in the Militia…or other services.” He let the implication hang as he continued. “But women in a military style unit are enough of a rarity to register as a blip on the radar.”
“Uh…Commander?” Hathaway suddenly called out. “We may have a problem.”
Sisko moved over to the terminal granted to Starfleet by the constabulary. “What is it, Lieutenant?”
Sisko noted Dax’s look of frustration and he repeated the question. His science officer answered, “We’ve hit a roadblock from Starfleet Intelligence. The information we want requires a level seven clearance.”
Sisko was impressed. He had a level seven clearance — a fact that Dax was privy to. But he had only acquired that level of clearance upon accepting command of Deep Space Nine. As a regional commander, he required it. He also knew that theoretically there were only ten levels in total, but he had heard rumors of the “ultraviolet” levels within Starfleet Command itself.
“Excuse me, Lt. Hathaway,” Sisko said as he took her place at the station. Level seven required the standard voiceprint but it also needed a retina scan. He gave the computer what it required and a file came up on the screen.
A hazy image of the Cardassian in life appeared. It was a scene of utter carnage and she seemed to be in the midst of it. Details of the incident were included as well as her name.
“Illya Galan,” Sisko mused. “Why does that name sound familiar?”
Dax was skimming the file. “It says that Galan was a suspected operative for the Obsidian Order. That has never been confirmed, just as her ouster was never verified.”
“They threw her out?” Sisko was surprised. “I thought the Obsidian Order lived by the motto, ‘once in, never out.’”
“You’re thinking of the Maquis,” Bernstein chuckled.
“Or the IRA,” Hathaway blurted. Seeing every eye turned towards her, she grew embarrassed. “You know? The Irish Republican Army from twentieth century Earth.”
“I vaguely remember them from my course work when I studied for this job,” Bernstein suddenly recalled. “The Maquis share a lot with them.”
“Didn’t they eventually buy into the political peace process?” Hathaway asked. “Something about a power sharing arrangement in their territory?”
“At least most of them did,” Bernstein corrected. “Splinter factions kept the sectarian violence alive for decades afterwards. Fortunately, they only had a few followers, not much funding, and didn’t rack up a heavy body count.”
Sisko glared at her and she planted her fists on her hips. “What? I’m trying to look at the upside here. If the Maquis really are similar then the similarities may hold out as time goes by.”
“The Maquis aren’t interested in peace. They’re only out for revenge,” Sisko declared.
Bernstein’s eyes went flinty. “Some, maybe. But the majority want their homes to stay their homes and not be forced out of them.”
“If they truly wanted that, then they would trust in the system,” Sisko argued.
“Why?” Bernstein demanded to know. “The system screwed them.”
“Are you a sympathizer?” Sisko suddenly asked.
“Excuse me?” Bernstein was affronted.
“You heard me, Chief Constable.” Sisko emphasized her title in a derogatory way.
“Maybe,” Bernstein allowed, “Or maybe I’m just tired of covering up murders committed by the Cardassiansettlers in our city.”
“What are you saying?” Sisko’s anger was totally derailed.
“Oh, they’re not really murders. They’re accidents,” Bernstein sneered. “But the Cardassians are really good at accidents and they happen every day. Hell, they’re practically an hourly event now.”
“Have you told the Federation’s DMZ representative?” Sisko wondered.
“What do you think?” Bernstein asked sarcastically.
“How did they respond?” Sisko wanted to know.
“They sent you,” Bernstein spat. She collected herself and said, “Gul Evek said the problem is that the Maquis exist. As long as they’re free, the Cardassian settlers will kill at the slightest provocation in ‘self defense.’ So, the Federation representative contacts Starfleet and you magically show up. Don’t you find it a little coincidental that Cal Hudson was abducted before you arrived?”
“Yes,” Sisko admitted.
“And don’t you find it the slightest bit odd that occurs on the same day you shared Hudson’s location with Gul Evek?” Bernstein had to wonder.
“Yes,” Sisko said again.
“Then just don’t sit there!” Bernstein urged, “Do something about it!”
“I intend to question Gul Evek about his part in these events,” Sisko announced.
Bernstein threw her hands up in the air and stormed out the room. As she left she shouted back, “Fat lot of good that’s going to do!”
Sisko turned to look at Dax. She was giving him a sympathetic smile but there were doubts in her eyes. Sisko could empathize because he shared those doubts. He suddenly realized Hathaway was still standing behind him, playing like a hole in space. He turned to her.
“Do you have something to add?” He inquired a little more sharply than intended.
“No sir!” she said crisply. She hesitated a moment, then plunged ahead. “Actually, I do. Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“If I didn’t want your opinion, I wouldn’t have asked for it.” Sisko tried to be encouraging.
“I think the Commander is being taken for a fool, sir,” Hathaway suddenly threw out. She waited for an eruption but instead Sisko smiled.
“And why is that, Lieutenant?” He asked.
“I’ve seen what the Cardassians do first hand. There’s never been a case of ‘self defense.’ All the forensic pointed to the Cardies being the aggressors if not downright killers, sir,” she shared.
“I see.” He pondered this. “You are aware that Starfleet no longer tolerates the term Cardies, are you not?”
“A slip of the lip,” she riposted. “It will happen again.”
Sisko appreciated the young woman’s sudden audaciousness. She was a relatively junior officer, yet she was also senior on a posting with little to no support behind it and she was a witness to events that would make the most experienced men or women go mad from frustration. He’d “enjoyed” similar circumstance during the conflict with the Tzenkethi. Fortunately for him, his circumstances had only lasted a few weeks. Hathaway was here until her duty rotation was up.
“Tell me, Lieutenant, how long have you been stationed here?” Sisko gently inquired.
“Since the Zone was established.” Hathaway confirmed his suspicions. “I guess that would make it nearly twenty-four months.”
Sisko inwardly winced. A standard rotation was eighteen months. Not only had Hathaway been given a dismal assignment, they’d buried her in it.
“I know what you’re thinking, Commander.” Hathaway wore a rueful expression. “I was kind of thinking that Command had forgotten about me as well. The plain truth is that they can’t find anybody to replace me. Dezuron is in the same boat.” Her expression turned a little more aggravated. “It’s not fair what they’re doing to Ilk though. He had a transfer lined up to serve aboard your station. Those orders were rescinded because we’re serving in such a heap of natural fertilizer that no one will take our place. I can cope, but Ilk’s just out of the Academy and has enthusiasm to burn.”
Sisko wondered what had happened to Hathaway’s enthusiasm, although he was sure he already knew the answer. Too many scenes like the one at the housing quad had eroded her idealism.
“I’m going to get answers. I promise,” he assured Hathaway.
She gave him a dubious look. “Good luck with that then.”
Dax ushered Hathaway to the other side of the room where O’Brien had silently witnessed these events. Dax noted that O’Brien had a rather dour mien.
“Problem, Chief?” She asked.
“The Commander’s wasting his time. Gul Evek is gonna deny everything and blame it on us,” O’Brien stated.
Dax felt the same way, but she had to play it out the way Starfleet wanted. “Maybe, Chief. But we have to try. No one wants another war.”
O’Brien grimaced. “And Evek is enough of a prig he’d start one just for the helluva it.”
Dax smiled. She may not have put it quite so bluntly, but O’Brien had captured the gist of it. Chuckling, she agreed with him. “Exactly.”
Sisko’s conversation didn’t even begin well. Evek demanded to know why Starfleet had allowed a Cardassian citizen to be killed. “Weren’t you supposed to be there?”
Sisko grated. He found Evek to be officious at the best of times, and this wasn’t one of those. “My officers and I arrived precisely on schedule. However, elements within the Cardassian settlers moved before we arrived and attacked the residents of that housing bloc.”
“That’s not what I heard. I was told that the poor woman was duped into joining the Federation settlers that resided there and they killed her in cold blood,” Evek blustered.
“And how do you account for the deaths of the residents?” Sisko wanted to know.
“She defended herself,” Evek said as though it were incontrovertible fact.
“She killed nearly fifty people before they managed to overwhelm her and kill her?” Sisko was incredulous.
“On Cardassia, we teach our women how to defend themselves,” Evek huffed.
“They’re obviously trained very well, especially when they are agents of the Obsidian Order,” Sisko baited Evek to see how he’d respond.
“I wouldn’t know. The Central Command and the Obsidian Order each run their separate affairs and departments,” Evek countered.
“So, you’re not denying that this Illya Galan was an Obsidian Order agent?” Sisko tightened his grip on the conversation.
“Why would I deny it?” Evek acted as though he were affronted. “I have no idea if this woman really is who you claim she is or if she was an agent of the Obsidian Order.”
“So you’re saying that she was a former agent of the Order?” Sisko asked.
“Of course she is a former agent! She’s dead. Everything about her life is in the past tense. And her blood is on your hands!” Evek grated.
“Gul Evek, is the Central Command running weapons into the Demilitarized Zone and training paramilitaries in how to use them?” Finally, Sisko got to the question he’d been dying to ask.
“No more than Starfleet is supplying the Maquis,” Evek snapped. Evek saw that he had achieved a verbal superiority of sorts. “I’ve rendered what assistance that I could, Commander. But your inaction cost the life of one of our citizens. We will have justice. One way or another.”
“Wait! What do you…?” Sisko abruptly stopped as Evek cut the transmission.
The others across the room began talking softly amongst themselves. Sisko could tell his expression had completely given him away and that things had proceeded as they’d expected. Not wanting to give up, Sisko reached out to his last potential ally among the Central Command.
It took several moments for Gul Dukat to respond, but when he did he looked most pleased. “Why Commander, I haven’t been expecting a message from you. How are things on Terok Nor?”
Sisko didn’t respond. He couldn’t imagine Dukat being so out of the loop that he wasn’t aware of Sisko’s present location. But then again, Dukat had been caught out in the cold regarding the Central Command’s arming the Cardassian settlers in the DMZ in the first place.
Dukat suddenly had a crafty look in his eye. “But you’re not aboard Terok Nor. Rather, you are in the Demilitarized Zone and things have not gone your way.”
“There have been murders, Dukat, including the death of a Cardassian woman,” Sisko shared.
Dukat nodded gravely, yet Sisko has the feeling he was being toyed with. “Indeed. Poor Illya Galan. She will not be missed.”
“Wait!” Sisko almost yelped, “You know who Illya Galan is?”
“Of course,” Dukat said silkily. “Galan was a suspected member of the Obsidian Order. Of course, it is only a theory. If it is true then Galan was an assassin, quite an accomplished one from all reports, but she enjoyed her work a little too much. The Obsidian Order prefers skullduggery to bloodbaths. Massacres tend to get noticed.”
You should know, Sisko thought. He also noted that Dukat wasn’t condemning Galan’s actions on moral grounds, but rather practicality when it came to covert operations.
“So how did Galan end up in the DMZ?” Sisko inquired.
Dukat spread his hands in an expansive gesture. “Perhaps she wanted a new life? Who knows? What matters is she’s dead and the Cardassian people will want an answer for that death.”
“Dukat, she was part of an operation to kidnap Cal Hudson,” Sisko divulged.
“Hudson? The Maquis leader?” Dukat sounded surprised but Sisko could see in his eyes that this was old news to him. “Weren’t you on your way to arrest him?”
Sisko nodded and Dukat kept the game in play. “And someone beat you to him?” He shook his head sorrowfully. “Really, Commander, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Dukat, I need to find Hudson,” Sisko insisted.
Anger appeared in Dukat’s eyes. “You had your chance with him, Commander. You gave it, and him, up in a moment of sentimentality. I warned you then that you were being a fool. This is the price you must pay for that foolishness.”
Dukat looked at him without remorse. “I suggest you let things take their natural course.”
“But the Cardassian paramilitaries will hand Hudson over to Evek,” Sisko tried again.
“No, they won’t. The Central Command has no affiliation with the paramilitaries. You saw to that,” Dukat countered. “These are private citizens who have taken the law into their own hands. I suggest that if you want a solution to the problem, you convince your government to allow my government to move in and deal with the perpetrators.”
“You’re suggesting we allow military units into the Zone?” Sisko wasn’t certain he’d heard him correctly.
“Temporarily, of course,” Dukat assured him.
Sisko’s temper started to flare. “No deal.”
Dukat spread his hands again. “Then there’s nothing that I can do. Good day, Commander. Call me if you change your mind.”
The screen shifted to a UFP symbol. Sisko called Hathaway over. “What are Starfleet’s assets in the DMZ?”
“You’d know that better than I would,” she admitted.
Sisko asked who Hathaway’s superior officer was and she referred him to Starbase 211. Captain Haewoo took the call in short order. He seemed rather interested in Sisko.
“I’ve heard of you and your command,” Haewoo admitted. “Aren’t you a tad junior to command a deep space station?”
“I leave those decisions to Starfleet Command,” Sisko riposted.
Haewoo smirked. “Good answer. Especially when it concerns the DMZ. Now, how can I help you?”
“I need a list of your undercover Starfleet assets in the local area,” Sisko explained.
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Haewoo replied. “Those officer’s lives are at stake.”
“But I need intelligence on a developing situation,” Sisko divulged.
“You mean Calvin Hudson’s capture?” Haewoo asked. Seeing Sisko’s surprise, he chuckled, “Everyoneknows of your mission, Commander. It’s the biggest open secret in the DMZ.”
“I still need to acquire that intelligence,” Sisko insisted.
Haewoo sighed, “I’ll tell you what, there is a new player on Ronara Prime. Contact him and see what you can find out.”
“Is he Starfleet?” Sisko didn’t like the sound of this already.
“Word is he was. He runs a scoutship now. Both he and his first officer were Starfleet. The rumor is they’ve gone into business for themselves.”
“What’s their business?” Sisko hated to ask.
“Information,” Haewoo revealed, “which you need and they might have.”
“A mercenary?” Sisko didn’t relish that thought.
Haewoo weighed his answer. “More of an information broker.”
“Does this ‘broker’ have a name?” Sisko grated at being reduced to this level.
“Brin Macen,” Haewoo supplied. “And watch out, he’s an El-Aurian.”
Sisko inwardly groaned. Sisko had only encountered one El-Aurian, and was a con artist who made life on the station difficult for a time. He was now in jail and the situation had been stabilized, much to Quark’s relief. Having a rival bar and casino owner aboard DS9 had cut into his profits.
“So noted,” Sisko replied. “Where should I look?”
“Ronara Prime only has one spaceport. A favorite tavern for the assorted crews that gather there is the Old Biddy. Go there,” Haewoo suggested.
“How will I find this ‘Macen’?” Sisko wondered.
“Trust me, Commander. He’ll find you. Open secret and all that,” Haewoo chuckled again and signed off.
Sisko rose from the station. “It seems we’re going to Ronara Prime.”
“We’ll need to collect Julian,” Dax reminded him.
A flood of voices could be heard as several constables returned from their patrols. Two figures stood out as they approached. One was Bashir. The doctor looked tired and frustrated. His crewmates assumed it was because he’d lost too many patients for his taste.
Beside him was a young woman roughly Hathaway’s age. She saw Hathaway and positively glowed. She moved into Hathaway’s body space.
“Hey sexy. Miss me?” she asked.
Hathaway stroked the other woman’s cheek where a smear of blood was crusted on. The woman smiled. “Don’t worry, it’s not mine.”
Sisko had just enough time to register that the stranger was a medic when the two women kissed. Hathaway turned to Sisko. “Commander, this my wife, Desiree Johnson.”
“A pleasure,” Sisko said with a smile. Hathaway introduced Dax and O’Brien to Johnson as well.
Johnson gave Sisko a warm smile. “Any chance you could swing a transfer for my darling wife? I’d love to dust this mud ball off my feet.”
Sisko’s smile became beaming. He could remember his wife, Jennifer, following him from posting to posting over the years. Eventually Jake had been born and the entire family traveled to new assignments. Of course, Jennifer had died in Sisko’s line of duty. He could only hope the same wouldn’t happen to Johnson.
“I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do except put another good word in,” Sisko ruefully admitted.
Johnson pouted as she turned to Hathaway, “We’re gonna be stuck here forever.”
Hathaway caressed Johnson’s cheek and gently kissed her again. “We’ll get out, sweetie. Trust me.”
“What have I missed?” Bashir suddenly interjected. The couple grinned wryly at having their moment interrupted. Dax smiled at the awkwardness that was totally in Bashir’s character. O’Brien merely rolled his eyes at his youthful friend’s indiscretion.
Sisko was amused but he was properly somber considering his reply. “You’re just in time, Doctor. We’re leaving.”
“Oh, are we retuning to the station?” Bashir asked hopefully.
Sisko let him down easy. “No, we’re headed for the nearest inhabited world. We have a meeting to keep.”
“Really?” Bashir sounded surprised. “With whom?”
“I have no idea,” Sisko balefully admitted.
Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of Ex-Astris-Scientia.org for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.