by Travis Anderson
Commander Benjamin Sisko met the eyes of every officer before his resonant bass voice spoke. “We’re here to discuss the Maquis.”
The Starfleet officers present suddenly looked pained. However, the Bajoran Militia’s representatives’ interests had been decidedly piqued. Sisko knew that he would have to address their concerns shortly or there could be trouble.
Deep Space Nine’s senior staff gathered in their rather cramped briefing room inside the station’s core module. It was dark and dreary for a reason. The station’s designers never intended for it to be used. Oh, its ostensible use was envisioned, but everyone knew that the station’s master would never stoop to utilizing it.
DS9 was a Bajoran space station and administered by Starfleet, but it had been built by the Bajorans’ former oppressors, the Cardassians. The Cardassian Prefect of Bajor was also overlord of the station built as Terok Nor. Gul Dukat was a vain man who would not condescend to meeting his officers on equal terms. Instead, he met them in his throne-like office situated off of station Ops.
Skrain Dukat saw himself as a visionary benefactor to the Bajoran people. He professed to love the Bajoran people. After all, he had certainly bedded enough of their women, up to and including fathering a child with one. Mother and child had been whisked away in order to protect them from the prejudices of both their peoples.
So while Dukat professed his good will, he trampled on the rights, well-being, and spirituality of the people he so generously “loved”. The people hated him for his tyranny and his hypocrisy. The Bajoran Resistance fought his minions at every turn. They raised the Cardassian body count and the Cardassians’ reply initiated a series of ever-intensifying reprisals.
But a cavalcade of interstellar events brought about the Cardassian withdrawal of Bajor. For one thing, the Cardassians were sickened by the bloody quagmire they’d embroiled themselves into. Second, the United Federation of Planets at long last applied diplomatic pressure in their treaty, ending the second Federation-Cardassian War. Bajor had been liberated and its Provisional Government had asked the Federation to oversee and assist in Bajor’s restoration.
While Starfleet did occupy the station, it was largely a symbolic gesture on many fronts. Starfleet didn’t have enough assets in the Bajoran Sector to defend Bajor’s home system, much less the surrounding sector. The discovery of the Bajoran Wormhole opened a floodgate of explorers and opportunists passed by and through the station. While Sisko wasn’t about to weigh in whether or not the aliens who had created and resided in the wormhole were gods, Bajor’s faith had been rekindled. Because of the wormhole’s access to the unexplored Gamma Quadrant, business spilled over to the Bajorans and new markets were established to bring new wealth to the planet after its decades-long pillage by the Cardassians.
Another of the new treaty’s results had been the creation of a Demilitarized Zone between the Federation and the Cardassian Union. Modeled somewhat after the Neutral Zone with the Romulans, it forbade either side from moving starships or military assets into the zone. However, police forces were allowed to travel in and out of the DMZ and Sisko’s plan was predicated upon this clause.
“As you read in your private dossiers, Lieutenants Dax and Bashir, along with Chief O’Brien, are accompanying me to the DMZ in the Rio Grande,” Sisko reiterated the orders as written, “Major Kira, you will command the station in my absence. Constable Odo, there may be reprisals for what we’re about to do. Keep an eye out for rabble rousers and saboteurs.”
Odo grunted but, as usual, kept most of his feelings to himself. His derisive grunt pretty much summed his opinion though. Kira Nerys, however, was not so circumspect.
“Why assign you to this effort?” Kira asked derisively. Realizing how she sounded, she backpedalled a littlebit, “No offense, Commander. I’m sure your record against the Tzenkethi speaks for itself, but these are Cardassians.”
“No, Major, these are Federation citizens,” Sisko rumbled.
“Whose territory you handed away and now you’ve labeled them as terrorists,” Kira plunged ahead, “And that’s my point. Until recently, I was labeled a terrorist. You could use my expertise.”
“It’s precisely that expertise that worries Starfleet Command,” Sisko said. Her eyes bulged and she struggled to restrain an apoplectic outburst. “No offense.”
“Of course not,” she bitterly mumbled.
“The point is that the Bajoran Resistance has purchased credibility by reincorporating the Bajoran Militia and filling its ranks. You’ve proven you’re invested in the political process. The Maquis have not. The Resistance carved out a free world and stood united to defend it from further aggression. Again, the Maquis have not,” Sisko asserted.
“Have they been given that option?” Kira wondered.
“Excuse me?” Sisko retorted.
“Have they been given the option to free their worlds and unite under one banner?” Kira clarified the question.
“The DMZ was created to preserve a rather fragile peace. That peace will be preserved at all costs,” Sisko asserted.
“Even at the cost of the colonists themselves?” Kira shot the barb across his bow.
“I don’t see your point,” Sisko admitted.
Kira wore a thin smile, “Come now, Commander. Starfleet’s position shouldn’t be so hard to pin down. Are you willing to sacrifice the colonists’ lives to preserve the peace? Because it will come down to that. These people are committed in a way you might not be able to imagine. And in this kind of struggle, the most committed wins…every time. Now, you have to ask yourself, are you willing to sacrifice their lives, the life of your friend Calvin Hudson, on the altar of peace?”
Sisko had to think long and hard about that. He’d already faced that decision once and chosen poorly. Starfleet was looking for him to do better this time out.
“Yes,” he said at last, with utter conviction.
“And then you wonder why I love Starfleet so much?” Kira scoffed.
Her words stung but Sisko chose to ignore them. He had a mission. His crew had a mission.
Dax manned the Rio Grande’s CONN station. Sisko took OPS and O’Brien tinkered with the engineering console. Bashir looked decidedly out of place sitting at the science station with nothing to do. After twenty minutes of silence had worn on, Sisko opened the floor to questions.
Bashir was the first to pipe up. “Are we really going to be working alongside the Cardassians?”
Sisko could understand Bashir’s wariness. The Federation and Cardassia had fought a fifteen-year-long undeclared war before briefly committing all of their forces to the real thing. A little closer to “home”, the Cardassians’ record with the Bajorans was one of atrocities and slave labor. The border conflict had spawned one Starfleet ghost story after another of colonies being massacred.
Sisko had to admit that the Cardassians’ attacks on civilian population had done little to warm their enemies’ hearts. That’s why the peace accord was so vital. It immediately spared billions of threatened lives. It even spared the Maquis colonists from further harm, but the fools refused to see it.
And Sisko did consider them fools. The Maquis labeled themselves after the French Resistance from Earth’s Second World War. Those Maquis were saved by the Allies’ invasion of France and the liberation of their people. If the modern Maquis were hoping for a similar intervention, they were sorely mistaken. Official policy, from the President’s Office, the Federation Council, and the Starfleet C-in-C was that the Maquis were to be arrested and brought to trial — Hopefully before the Cardassians got ahold of them, but if not, it was their own loss.
“Yes, we are cooperating with Gul Evek and designated units of the Cardassian Militia,” Sisko gave the clinical answer.
The truth was he had to practically beg for Evek’s participation. Personally, he would have made do without it, but Starfleet didn’t want to be seen taking unilateral action. Evek was committing three Galor-class cruisers to patrol routes near the DMZ to catch any Maquis desperate enough to try and flee into Union territory. Cardassian Outposts 47 and 61 would also closely observe the target world.
Three Federation starships were also conducting additional patrols near the DMZ. One was attached to Starbase 310. Another towards the “middle” of the Zone assigned to Starbase 211. The primary focus would occur under the watch of Starbase 129 and the Argus Array.
Their target was a Maquis command base on Umoth. That was where Calvin Hudson now resided. Capturing the Maquis commander himself would throw the Maquis Council into disarray. The individualized cell structure of the Maquis would minimize how many people Starfleet could subsequently capture but it would ruin all their current and future operations. The Maquis would have their knees cut out from underneath them.
Hudson’s military experience and expertise were vital to the planning of various missions, although there were a handful of other qualified former Starfleet officers to take his place. Starfleet Intelligence listed three major contenders. One was Svetlana Koraponova, a former Lt. Commander in Starfleet Operation. It was rumored that she was actually the principle planner behind most Maquis missions. She was code named the “Architect” in order to provide her with security during movement from one colony to the other.
Sveta, as she was known by her intimate friends, had recruited a Lt. Commander by the name of Chakotay. Chakotay’s last assignment was as an instructor at Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training facility. He and Koraponova had been friends since their time at the Academy together. With the slaughter of his fellow Dorvan V settlers, his recruitment had been an easy pitch.
Ro Laren was a recent addition this list. Ro had a history in the Bajoran Resistance. The Chief had surprised Sisko by his admission he’d served with Ro. The Lieutenant was a maverick. It was amazing she’d ever been allowed into Advanced Tactical Training, much less passed. Sisko knew that she bore watching as a potential rising star in the Maquis hierarchy.
Sisko reviewed all these facts, and more, with his officers. As he did so, he gauged their commitment to the mission. O’Brien was uncomfortable working with the Cardassians. His personal history with them during the Border Wars made him a natural skeptic.
Dax seemed fairly content, but there were lingering doubts in her eyes. All the ancient knowledge that resided within them now bore a murky film of doubt. But she was also galvanized to do her duty. Jadzia, the present Dax host, was an up-and-coming officer with ambitions of her own. She’d do her part in this mission. Sisko had no worries about that.
Bashir was the wild card. He was a highly idealistic individual and this mission didn’t sit well with his ideals. Oh, he was fine with capturing Hudson and any other Maquis they could. He just had qualms about the Cardassians. He worried that they might take preemptive action and therefore negate the goals of their assignment. Sisko couldn’t blame him on that score.
Boots slowly crept through the cobbled streets of Alores, the capital city on Umoth. These weren’t just any style of boots but Cardassian military issued boots. Of course, they were surplus wares, or so the official fiction went. These boots had been directly distributed to the Cardassian paramilitaries just as the training they had received had come from the Union’s Militia.
Of course, these particular paramilitaries hadn’t required much training. Their leader, Mik Feron, had been a garresh in the Militia. The various ranks of garresh were approximate with the Starfleet grades of petty officer through master chief. His subordinates had all been gorrs. And the grades of gorr related to Starfleet’s crewmen designations. These men were all veterans of the Cardassian military that had been recruited to live on the colony of Solosos after the DMZ had been created.
Solosos sat on the border between the Zone’s limits and the Cardassian Union’s proper borders. Its population had exploded after the treaty’s signing as Cardassians swarmed onto the lush and fertile planet. Rumors and refugee tales of the Cardassians forcing people off of their land and using any force necessary to accomplish it reminded the surrounding colonists of the Dorvan “incident”. It was a Maquis recruiter’s dream come true.
However, Solosos was on the other “end” of the DMZ while Umoth sat near its “center”. It was hard to apply proper terms to a winding ribbon. But most understood the general appellations that had been loosely applied. Simply put, these men were far from home.
Feron and his comrades had been selected for their direct combat service against the Federation. Solosos possessed a mixed composition constabulary, but these men weren’t a part of anything so official. They had been brought to the colony for the simple task of evicting, or eliminating, every Federation colonist.
The Cardassians had already been blatantly caught violating the treaty in a similar manner, so Gul Evek wasn’t as indiscreet about his methods on this second attempt. Evek had organized second party deliveries before, which had been flushed out by Gul Dukat, and these resumed, but even the recruitment and hiring of such parties was now handled by intermediaries. “Concerned” citizens hired the intermediaries. The military was never directly tied into the operation so Central Command retained plausible deniability at all times just in case Gul Dukat wandered off the reservation again or drug some other fool like Corat Damar into doing his dirty work.
Feron’s men weren’t in military uniform per se but they were in an ersatz uniform of sorts. They wore grey tunics and black pants. Each wore a long coat, essentially a long-sleeved hooded cloak that draped down nearly to the ground. These coats hid the weaponry they carried. Unwilling to trust weapons from an unknown source, they carried Cardassian disruptors, pistols, and rifles.
The group fanned out as they neared their target. They’d been transported down by a freighter in orbit. The freighter was owned by a Xepolite trader. The non-aligned Xepolites frequently carried goods or personnel for the Cardassians. This particular captain saw an advantage in gaining the graces of the Cardassian paramilitaries. They would require his services again as they spread out from Solosos. They could also refer his services to other like-minded groups across the DMZ.
Feron and his men had arrived several blocks away from the Maquis stronghold. Feron snorted derisively at that thought. The Maquis were holed up in a housing bloc. It was a living space with a central courtyard shared by all the residents. Food was served at this courtyard and the Maquis and the others would be gathering soon for their evening meal.
Calvin Hudson had endangered women and children by placing his command there. That suited Feron just fine. Women and children died just as easily as the men. He knew Illya Galan would just as soon kill every inhabitant before leaving witnesses behind.
Galan was the sole female member of Feron’s party. She was reported to have been one of the Obsidian Order’s pet killers until she became a little too enthusiastic about her work. The Order preferred surgical strikes and Galan preferred a broadsword to a scalpel. She killed indiscriminately and even her teammates watched her closely. Galan was never at anyone’s back.
Their rifleman was perched atop the building across the street from the Maquis. He reported that two sentries were guarding the main entrance, rather obviously and sloppily at that. Feron ordered their execution. The sniper took them down and called in the “all clear.”
Feron and his people rushed into the Maquis compound. Galan was in the lead and she blasted her way through the bodies as they milled about, waiting for their helping of the communal meal. Only four of Feron’s twelve person unit were entering the compound. One was atop the roof next door and the remaining seven were circling the building. As the exterior guards were called to abandon their posts at the secondary entrances, the Cardassians would flank them and killed them from behind and join their own comrades at attacking the interior.
Galan carved a path to the courtyard. People were fleeing now, the sounds and scents of death having filled their ears and nostrils. Hudson was directing the evacuation. Feron recognized him from his dossier on the “great man.”
Galan took aim at him and Feron swatted her aim down, spoiling her shot. She whirled on him while their other two comrades risked going ahead and laying down cover fire. Feron got into Galan’s face.
“No, you psychopathic idiot! Evek wants that one alive!” Feron shouted at her, “Sate your bloodlust on the others but leave him to us.”
Galan’s eyes were wild but she nodded, “Very well. But the rest are mine!”
“Finally, we agree on something,” Feron subsided.
Galan whirled and launched herself into her work. Feron stood aside as she blasted her way through the scattering crowd. People were trampling each other as the herd fled. Feron thought of them as little more than animals as he gunned them down.
Galan and Feron’s efforts were rewarded as some of the Maquis were desperately flushed as they tried to intervene in the slaughter. They were mercilessly cut down. Fortunes changed as Hudson took aim at Galan.
She hesitated for a fraction of a second and Hudson killed her. Feron couldn’t say he was sorry to see her go. He in turn shot Hudson in the leg. Two more of his Maquis sacrificed themselves as a third helped Hudson hobble toward safety, only their succor was short-lived as Feron’s flankers cut them off.
“Throw down your weapons and you won’t be harmed,” Feron ordered.
Hudson and his allies scattered across the courtyard hesitated. Feron clucked his tongue, “Remember, our weapons have no pathetic ‘stun’ setting. If we do not have your weapons with which to incapacitate you then we shall merely execute you all.”
Hudson was tempted to shoot himself but he clung to the hope that Koraponova or one of the others could affect his rescue. He dropped his phaser and glared at Feron, “I don’t know what you hope to gain here, but was it worth the lives of children?”
“Children who would grow up to become Maquis?” Feron sneered, “I’ve done my people a service here today. In the future, there will be fewer Maquis bombs and assassinations. If killing a few indiscriminate lower lifeforms accomplishes that, then I call it a job well done.”
Feron saw Hudson’s eyes dart towards his discarded phaser. “Ah, ah, there’s no changing your mind now. You’re coming with us know. You all are.” Feron smiled, “We’ll be in the countryside. You’ll enjoy yourself.”
“Not if I have to be there with you,” Hudson vowed.
Feron plucked the phaser from the ground and shot Hudson. “No need to be surly.”
Feron knelt by Hudson’s unconscious form as the other paramilitaries stunned the Maquis with their own weapons. He affixed an isolinear tag to his prisoner. The others followed suit. Feron recalled his sniper. When he arrived, Feron contacted the Xepolite captain.
“We’ve tagged everyone. Prepare for transport,” Feron ordered.
“We’ll have to use the cargo transporter for so many,” the Xepolite, Dren, announced.
“Fine,” Feron grated, “As long as the holding cells are prepared.”
“All according to your specifications,” Dren assured him. “The three cells look like cargo containers but they’re rigged with interior force fields to supplement the cages.”
“Excellent,” Feron agreed. “Now transport us!”
Flustered, Dren relayed the order to his transporter chief. Cardassians were always so demanding. At least they paid well. It made up for their arrogance and rudeness.
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.