by Travis Anderson
After the prison break, aboard the Odyssey…
Tom Eckles had successfully completed the transport from the surface of Bajor. Ro stood atop the transport pads alongside Tahna, Aric Tulley, Alea, and two other Maquis from the Ronaran cell. One of those Maquis was the Bolian named Thool. Thool was Ro’s Chief Engineer for her ship, the SS Indomitable. All Eckles knew for certain was that Thool was helping him and Heidi Darcy in the Odyssey’s engine room.
“Need a hand, Tom?” Thool cheerfully asked.
“I’ve never turned down help a day in my life,” Eckles chuckled. “Let me just inform the Captain you’re all aboard.”
Eckles tapped his surplus comm badge and informed Macen that the Maquis guests were now aboard. Macen in turn spoke to his CONN officer, Tracy Ebert. “Tracy, break orbit and set a course for Valo II.”
“Won’t that be suspicious?” Ebert wondered.
Macen gave her a wry look. “Please just plot the course.”
Ebert sighed. “Okay. It’s only our funeral.”
Eckles signaled again, “Captain, Ro and Tahna are headed for the bridge.”
“And the rest?” Macen inquired.
“They’re stowing their gear in the cargo bay and then headed for the galley,” Eckles answered.
“Acknowledged,” Macen signed off. Macen turned to his weapons officer, Christine Lacey. “Chris, could you give Tulley and the rest a hand?”
Lacey smirked. “You want me to spy on them, you mean.”
Macen looked wounded. “Did I say that?”
“You didn’t have to,” Lacey replied with a healthy dose of humor lacing her voice.
The lift doors opened to reveal Ro and Tahna. Lacey slipped past them and entered the now empty turbolift. Ro eyed that happenstance with some confusion.
“Won’t you need a weapons officer?” Ro wondered.
“This isn’t Cardassian space or even the DMZ, Laren,” Macen replied. “We’ll be safe enough.”
“You never told me a human was in command of this vessel,” Tahna said to Ro with obvious disgust.
“He isn’t human,” Ro replied. It was obvious that Tahna was already on her nerves. The truth was, she’d only rescued Tahna as a favor to the architect. Svetlana Korepanova’s identity as the chief strategic planner for the Maquis was a closely guarded secret. One of which Ro was privy to.
“Captain Macen and his crew are trusted allies,” Ro informed Tahna, “and personal friends.”
Ro’s voice held an edge that warned Tahna off from making another comment. Instead he shifted gears. “I’ve seen pictures of Federation starships. This looks like a Starfleet vessel.”
“That’s because once upon a time it was,” Macen shared.
“Then you should be fighting Cardassians with it!” Tahna almost shouted.
“And why should I be doing that when I can provide information that leads to dozens of Maquis strikes every time I return from Union space?” Macen dryly asked.
“Coward!” Tahna spat. “You’re nothing but a filthy collaborator. I should kill you and purge the Maquis of your treachery.”
“You’re certainly welcome to try,” Macen suggested.
Tahna lunged forward with his left fist thrown in a punch. Macen caught the outstretched arm and twisted it behind Tahna’s back as he rolled around Tahna’s flailing body. Tahna found his arm pinned behind his back and a phaser shoved under his chin. Ironically, it was a Militia issue phaser.
“Now, should I purge the galaxy of your idiocy?” Macen asked.
“Brin, don’t,” Ro requested.
Macen shoved Tahna away. “Try to behave, Tahna. Or we’ll revisit this moment.”
Macen turned to Ro. “As things stand, I believe it is best if Tahna Los leaves the bridge. We’ll be at Valo II in a few hours. Try the galley. Tom Eckles is an excellent cook and there are always leftovers.”
Tahna shot Macen a sullen glare as Ro ushered him back to the turbolift. As the lift doors closed, Macen turned to see his Trill XO, Lisea Danan, studying him with a smirk. Macen looked upon her with a wry expression.
“I suppose you have a comment, Lees?” Macen asked.
“Need I remind you the war is over?” Danan inquired.
“The war has merely begun,” Macen commented.
“Maybe against the Cardassians,” Danan replied, “but the Bajorans are our friends. Behind humans, Bajorans are the largest racial group in the Maquis. And they have a history with the Cardassians that makes the Federation’s pale in comparison. So give the guy some slack.”
“That ‘guy’ tried to collapse the wormhole regardless of the fate of the aliens that create it and reside within it,” Macen reminded her. “Not to mention, the fact the Bajorans revere the aliens as gods.”
“Maybe he’s an atheist,” Danan quipped.
“You’re too funny,” Macen drolly remarked.
“Which is why you love me,” Danan teased.
“Well, there are other reasons,” Macen said thoughtfully.
“I’m so glad to hear it,” Danan said with satisfaction. “Now, I suppose you want me to give Chris a hand minding our guests.”
“If you would,” Macen requested.
“The things I do for you,” Danan pretended to grumble as she left the science station.
“Don’t forget the things I do for you,” Macen urged.
“Yes,” Danan’s eyes twinkled. “Some of those are rather nice.”
“Get a room,” T’Kir called out from ops.
Macen gave the unstable Vulcan an amused look. Danan disappeared as the turbolift doors shut. Macen headed for the raised dais in the rear of the bridge. Through its rear door, the briefing room that also served as Macen’s office could be reached.
“Tracy, you’re in charge. Call me if there’s a problem,” Macen instructed.
“Besides the one sitting next to me?” Ebert wondered.
“Hey! When am I going to be left in charge?” T’Kir suddenly yelped.
“Case in point,” Ebert muttered.
“T’Kir, you’ll be left in command when you can get a certified statement from a mental health professional that you aren’t insane,” Macen informed her.
“Why the double standard?” T’Kir asked. Macen suddenly knew his resident hacker had sliced into his Starfleet personnel jacket.
“There are degrees to instability,” Macen reminded her, “and I’m already captain. That means I make the rules.”
“This sucks,” T’Kir complained.
“Doesn’t it though,” Macen mused as he stepped into the briefing room.
Six hours later…
The Orinoco landed near the main settlement of Valo II. The passengers disembarked. Odo eschewed a weapon, as usual, but Kira and Nerrit were armed. Nerrit had procured a Militia issue phaser rifle from the security office’s armory back on Deep Space Nine. Nerrit had seemed surprised to find Bajoran arms aboard a Cardassian built space station, which only served to irritate Kira and Odo all the more.
Keeve Falor stood on the settlement’s outskirts; a lone sentry arrived to greet the world’s new visitors. Kira observed that Keeve seemed infinitely sad. When Bajor had been liberated, Keeve had volunteered to shepherd those settlers that wished to remain on their rugged world. Only now, his flock had truly gone astray.
“And why has Bajor suddenly sent military officers and a peace officer to Valo II after ignoring it for the past two years?” Keeve wondered aloud. Noting Odo’s appearance, “And you aren’t even Bajoran, yet you wear the Militia Constabulary’s uniform.”
“Are you Keeve Falor?” Kira inquired.
“Yes, yes I am,” Keeve admitted with a weary sigh, “and you would be a…Major. Am I correct?”
“Yes sir, Major Kira Nerys,” she answered. “This is Lt. Nerrit Wen and Constable Odo.”
Keeve wore a sad smile. “I wasn’t certain I’d get that right. It’s been sixty years since I last saw a Militia uniform and insignia.”
“We fought hard for the privilege to wear these uniforms again,” Kira stated.
“You fought in the Resistance,” Keeve realized. He eyed Odo. “And you’ve always been a lawman, in one guise or another.”
He turned to Nerrit. “And you were Starfleet.”
Nerrit bristled and Kira chuckled. “How did you know that?”
“I’m very familiar with Starfleet’s air of superiority,” Keeve recalled. “However, I met a starship captain named Picard that was an exception to that rule.”
“This one, however,” Keeve nodded towards Nerrit, “her way is the best and only way.”
At that moment, Kira decided she liked Keeve. Keeve finally asked, “Why have you come?”
“We’re to offer amnesty to the Kohn Ma in exchange for laying down arms and returning to Bajor,” Kira explained.
“It won’t happen, Major,” Keeve said mournfully. “The thirst for vengeance consumes these people. All they drink is Cardassian blood and all they consume is the flesh of their enemies”
“Well, we really need to try. At the very least, Tahna Los is coming with us,” Kira pledged.
“I doubt that,” Keeve said remorsefully. “Tahna is one of the Prophets to the settlers here.”
“The Prophets only live in the Celestial Temple,” Kira rebutted. “Not amongst the people.”
“I wish I still had your faith,” Keeve said wistfully. “You’ll find Tahna in the public house. You can’t help but find it. It is surrounded by drunken revelers celebrating Tahna’s return.”
“Thank you,” Kira said, “We won’t be long.”
The settlement was surprisingly small. It wasn’t quite the shanty town of the Occupation days but it was still threadbare. It still bore the air of a refugee center, not a colony. Of course, the colony on Valo II predating the Occupation had been marginal as well.
As the trio approached, Kira detected a rising smell wafting in the air. “What the kost is that smell?”
“Fermented cillipods,” Nerrit explained. “They’re native to Valo III. The colony there survived by exporting seed stock to other colonies and refugee camp worlds. When the grain pods are distilled, they make a rather harsh ale.”
Kira frowned as they came upon bodies littering the courtyard. Nerrit smirked. “The ale is also quitepotent.”
“Major, if I may have your tricorder,” Odo requested.
He took several scans of prostrate bodies and shook his head. “Lt. Nerrit is right. They’re all heavily intoxicated.”
“Which is better than you will be if you don’t leave,” Tahna announced as he and a half dozen comrades exited the pub.
Kira had known every member of the Kohn Ma before the Cardassians withdrew. The only one she recognized now was Tahna. “It seems you have a few new recruits.”
“They’re old hands now, Kira,” Tahna informed her. “So why are you here? To take me back?”
“You’re under arrest, Tahna,” Kira told him.
Tahna laughed and all of his cohorts joined him. Kira knew these were the professional terrorists. The others were cannon fodder but these six…these six were the soldiers of the group.
“You won’t take me alive, Nerys,” Tahna warned Kira.
Nerrit swung her rifle to her should and fired at Tahna. He slumped to the ground, dead before he hit the dirt. Nerrit aimed her rifle at Kira.
“I wouldn’t move, Major,” Nerrit warned, “and you can forget any of your shapeshifting tricks, Constable. She’ll be dead before you reach me.”
“Enough!” Keeve shouted as he strode up to their location. “Release the Major, Lieutenant, and I’ll be leaving Valo II to your mercies.”
Nerrit smirked again. “A tempting offer.”
She lowered her rifle even as the five terrorists drew their weapons. Kira was incensed. “So this was your plan all along?”
“This was my plan. It was always my plan,” Nerrit boasted. “The Kohn Ma knew, from me, that Tahna was going to sell them out. But he handed over his contact information before we arrived. So everything can proceed as it was going before even after his death.”
“So should I inform Colonel Hassup his mole is in place?” Kira sniped.
“You can tell the good Colonel I resign,” Nerrit replied. “All he knew is that I was running agents amongst the Kohn Ma and the Maquis for Bajoran Intelligence. He didn’t know anything beyond that and he didn’t care how I was acquiring the information. And it’s amazing how much information guns can buy from a group of ‘freedom fighters.’”
“You…!” Kira started moving forward and the Kohn Ma raised their weapons.
“Major, I’m formally requesting a ride to Bajor,” Keeve interjected. “Valo II is no longer my home.”
Kira studied him. Keeve was trying to keep her alive, just as he’d tried to provide for and shelter the Valo II refugees and colonists for over fifty years. She nodded her assent and she thought she spied Odo heave a sigh of relief.
“It would be our pleasure, Minister Keeve,” Kira said.
“I haven’t been a Provincial Minister for decades now, Major,” Keeve demurred.
“You’ll always be a hero to the Bajoran people,” Kira promised.
That said, they proceeded back to the runabout.
Later, aboard the Orinoco, Keeve began to ask questions about Bajor since its liberation. First he asked what form of government Bajor had now. Kira told him about the Provisional Government and suggested that he could return to his post as a Provisional Minister.
“No, thank you,” Keeve said. “I just want to help Bajor rebuild as best I can. But this new equality sounds intriguing. I always wondered how our society would function of the d’jarra were broken. It will be a strange new world for me.”
“Well, the Occupation left a lot of scars,” Kira admitted. “The Provisional Government is torn by too many agendas and too many secrets. And that might be appropriate since our people seem to be easily swayed by radical ideas.”
Kira noted Keeve’s concerned expression. “But most people just want to live in freedom and worship in peace again.”
“Sounds like the Bajor of my youth,” Keeve wryly admitted.
“I just don’t understand why someone like Nerrit, who never sat foot on Bajor until it was free, would be twisted by such anger,” Kira admitted.
“The decades on Valo II showed me the power of hate,” Keeve admitted. “Those that escaped Bajor and made it to the Valo system were oftentimes unable to settle in because of their hatred for the Cardassians. Ro Laren was one such soul. She’d been a troublemaker and an agitator from the moment of her arrival. And then she stole our last warp capable shuttle and took off for the Federation only to reappear some years later at Captain Picard’s side.”
“But I saw today that she’s with the Maquis,” Keeve said quietly. “So, I suppose the hate got the better of her in the end. I fear she has dark days ahead of her.”
“Minister Keeve,” Kira began.
He held up a hand to ward her words off. “Please, it’s just Keeve.”
“Very well, Keeve,” Kira smiled. “Tell me about Bajor before the Occupation and I’ll fill in any detail you’d like about its present.”
“That sounds like a present past time,” Keeve admitted. “Then I can reconcile my memories with the present.”
“So tell me, what was worship like before the Cardassians came?” Kira wondered. “They tried to exterminate the faith on Bajor. Yet we clung to it as our lifeline. Was it always that way?”
Keeve wore a rueful smile. “Well, back in the days when we first made contact with the Cardassians, things were different…”
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.