Anatos scrabbled in the dirt and found what he sought: a scrap of hasperat roll, discarded from someone’s dinner. It wasn’t big enough to feed a palukoo, but it would have to do for him, and his sister, Ferrin, as well.
A movement in the darkened streets caught his attention, and Anatos hid in an alley. Just in time. A platoon of Cardassian soldiers hurried past. If they had seen Anatos, they probably would have killed him
Ironic, the boy thought bitterly. They’d kill one of their own.
Anatos was a Cardassian, like his twin sister. Not a half-breed either. A full-blooded Cardassian. But a Bajoran terrorist’s bomb had taken both the lives of his parents and his status in Cardassian society. Thirteen years old, he wasn’t too much younger than many of the soldiers whom he had hidden in fear from. He was big for his age, too. A thought occurred to him: If I could get a Cardassian uniform, I could get on one of the transports leaving for Cardassia Prime.
But he rejected the thought almost immediately. How could Ferrin disguise herself? There were few females in the Cardassian military. She would certainly attract attention. Women were much more common in the ranks of scientists and engineers who were assigned to the occupied world of Bajor. But unlike soldiers, women in these professions studied for years before taking on an assignment. Ferrin would obviously be far too young to pass for one of them.
Anatos cautiously moved out of the alley. The night was dark, with none of Bajor’s moons lighting the sky. At the end of the road, he could just see the soldiers assembling at the beam-out point. The Cardassian occupation of Bajor was ending, and all of Anatos’ people were being sent home. War orphans, however, were not considered "Cardassians." There would be no place on the transports for them.
Anatos never considered abandoning his sister and trying to join the soldiers himself. They had survived together for over a year, since they had been orphaned. They would face whatever awaited them together. He didn’t think the Bajorans would show much mercy towards two starving orphans who looked like The Oppressors.
"Anatos, you’re late!" Ferrin chided. "Everyone is waiting for us. Let’s go."
His sister’s voice brought Anatos back to the present. He had been staring out of the viewport again, and thinking of those terrible years. But he was a grown man now, almost 20 years old. And he and his sister had long since ceased to be frightened children on Bajor. They now lived in reasonable comfort on the old Federation starbase at Organia, and they had important work to do.
Cardassia may have abandoned them, but they would not abandon Cardassia. As Anatos followed his sister, he felt proud. Under Garak’s guidance, the Organian dissidents had been shaping themselves into a coherent force. He could hardly wait for the next opportunity to return to Cardassia, and strike another blow against the Dominion, which was destroying his homeworld under the guise of an "alliance."
The pair walked into a room that had been converted into a holodeck. A training program, created by some of the dissidents, was running: an obstacle course, with holographic enemies appearing at random intervals. As Anatos and Ferrin walked in, Garak was chewing the dissidents out about it.
"Look at this," Garak groused. "What do you think we are, Klingons? You need to train your minds. None of you have any idea what you’ll be up against on Cardassia."
"What kind training programs do you want us to use, Garak?" Ferrin asked.
Garak turned and smiled. "For a start, no more holoprograms, Ziyal…uh, I mean, Ferrin. My training techniques are rather old-fashioned, but there are things you could never learn from a simulation. And I think you’re all ready to progress beyond childish Klingon games and advance to serious training. We will reconvene this afternoon for the first lesson."
As the dissidents left the holodeck, Ferrin caught up with Garak.
"Who is Ziyal?" Ferrin asked.
"A young lady who was unfortunately, not as wise as you, my dear," Garak replied. "She trusted the better nature of people."
"Oh. Where she is now?"
Garak was no longer smiling. "Dead. Not surprising for someone with her attitude."
Garak was a tough teacher, but a good one. Anatos recalled another teacher, at the orphanage on Bajor. Anatos had been 16, restive and directionless. He had resented his Bajorans teachers. They had been patronizing, and made a great show of being "generous" to the Cardassian orphans. It was just a way of demonstrating their moral superiority to Anatos’ "immoral" people.***
But Kival Boca had been different from the rest. She taught the children about current events, and told them what was happening on their homeworld. A year before, the Obsidian Order – surely one of the most evil aspects of Cardassian society – had been eradicated. In the vacuum, a new birth of freedom had taken place on Cardassia. A democratic government had arisen. Kival’s words inspired Anatos to hope that he and his sister could return to a Cardassia that was moral, free, and would accept even outcasts like himself.
Ironic that Garak, a former Order agent, was Anatos’ new mentor. But he had lived for years with the Federation, and clearly had won their trust. Anatos supposed that Garak had simply changed for the better. He recalled Kival’s words: Anyone can change for the better. There is always hope.
The dissidents re-convened for their first session of what Garak considered "serious" training. The first thing out of Garak’s mouth made Anatos wonder if he was being too optimistic about the former Order agent.
"We’ll start with something simple, children," Garak said. "Today, you will learn the Kibow Observation Technique."
Some of the dissidents exchanged nervous glances.
"I see that some of you have heard of the Kibow," Garak said, with an amused twinkle in his eye. "I assure you, it is neither mind-reading nor black magic."
Anatos voiced the thoughts of many in the room. "But you don’t deny that it was extensively employed by the Obsidian Order," he said angrily.
"Everything I will be teaching you was used by the Order at one time or another," Garak replied. "The Order developed very useful tools. The Kibow is one of the best."
"Tell that to all the innocent people condemned to death because of the Kibow," another dissident said, hotly.
"We’ll be using this against the enemies of Cardassia," Garak said, his teeth on edge. "Members of the military who sold out our home to the Dominion. Are these ‘innocent people?’"
Garak’s students looked uncomfortable, but no one objected.
"Anatos and Molet," Garak said. "You’ll be the first test subjects."
Anatos and the other dissident stepped forward. Garak positioned them to face each other about a meter apart.
"Now everyone, watch closely," Garak said. "This is how the Kibow works. The body temperature of Cardassians is highly sensitive to emotional states. When one of our people tells a lie, or otherwise is in a stressed emotional state, there will be a barely noticeable change in the reflective properties of the neck-ridge scales. Molet, you watch for a sudden increase in the brightness of Anatos’ scales. It’s very subtle, so you’ll have to look closely. Now, Anatos, tell a lie."
Anatos was confused. "What kind of lie?"
"Any kind, it doesn’t matter," Garak replied.
"I have a great and undying respect for the Obsidian Order," Anatos said with a sarcastic smile.
A titter spread through the group of students.
"Ah, the Cardassian sense of humor," Garak said. "How I’ve missed it all these years. Well, Molet, did you see the change?"
Molet looked puzzled. "I…I think so."
"Hmm," Garak said. "Let’s try a more challenging test. Molet, make a statement – either true or false, you decide – but something Anatos couldn’t know."
"All right," Molet said. "My mother was born in the Ovalas District of Cardassia Prime."
"He’s…lying!" Anatos said.
Molet shook his head. "No, that was the truth."
"Don’t worry," Garak said. "A false positive is common, especially if the subject is already excited or stressed. Molet probably just feels self-conscious. I’ll have you all keep practicing, but don’t expect to be able to master it immediately. That would require years of training."
"Why are you teaching us the Kibow?" Anatos asked.
"Ah, a good question," Garak replied. "I have a list of possible enemies of the Dominion on Cardassia. However, it’s anybody’s guess how accurate this list is. Within a few weeks, you’ll all have learned the Kibow well enough to employ it to locate our friends on Cardassia. A portion of the list will be entrusted to each of you. When you contact each person, you will ask him whether he sincerely opposes the Dominion. He will, of course, realize your purpose and say ‘yes,’ whether he means it or not. If you accidentally contact someone who is loyal to the Dominion, your life – and the lives of everyone on your list – will be in severe danger. The Kibow will be your only protection."
"What do we do if the contact is lying?" a dissident asked.
"Kill him, of course," Garak said, frowning at the silly question. "Before he has the chance to betray you."
Anatos’ sharp mind immediately grasped the essential problem. "You said we’ll have a few weeks to train. Will we be able to learn the technique perfectly in that time?"
"Of course not," Garak replied. "Even I have never completely mastered its intricacies – and I’ve had over 20 years to practice."
Anatos folded his arms across his chest. "So what do we do if we suspect someone of lying, but aren’t sure?"
Garak sighed. Were they all going to be this dense? "You kill him, I said. If there is any possibility that the person is lying, you do not take any chances."
"And if we end up killing someone who was sincere in his opposition to the Dominion?" Anatos asked.
"Then you will create yet another Cardassian martyr in the battle to restore our home to our people," Garak said pointedly.
The dissidents, appalled at Garak’s attitude, began arguing.
"You can’t ask us to murder innocent people," one of them said. "People who believe in the same things we do!"
Garak had had quite enough. "Yes I can ask you, because we don’t have time for all of you to learn this technique flawlessly! And to begin making contacts on Cardassia without using the Kibow would be suicidal! When I came here, I told you I would shape you into an effective subversive force, but that there might be some things you would find distasteful. You said it didn’t matter, that this work was too important, and that you would do as I say. Well, now we see the truth. You don’t have the stomach for this! And in the meantime, do you know what the Dominion is doing on our homeworld? I have seen evidence that they are preparing to use drugs similar to ketracel-white against Alpha Quadrant races. Can genetic engineering be very far away? I, for one, think we need to do whatever we have to, in order to get the Dominion out of Cardassia while there still is a Cardassia left. And I’m not very particular about the means."
Ferrin stepped forward. "Neither am I! Garak is right. We’ve wasted years and gotten nowhere! His techniques may be distasteful, but what we have to accomplish is far too important to allow our squeamishness to get in the way!"
Ferrin lay sleeplessly in her bunk. The angry confrontation between Anatos and Garak still preyed on her mind. It had never occurred to her before, but she and her brother were very different types of people. Anatos was drawn to ideas, especially his ideal of a reborn, democratic Cardassia. But Ferrin was different. What was important to her was not ideas, but people. She had grown increasingly attached to Garak – understandable, since she had lost her parents at an early age. But she was also fiercely loyal to Anatos, and she hoped she would never have to choose between the two of them.
She decided to put it out of her mind. Fretting did no good, and she needed to be fresh for tomorrow, when another day of training would commence. Garak allowed no days off, and every day was a test.
Ferrin instructed the computer to raise the temperature in her room ten degrees. The temperature was already high, but she always felt cold. Ever since Bajor…
Bajor had always been too cold for Cardassians. After Ferrin and her brother were cast out onto the streets, the lack of shelter and warm clothing had made that chilly planet especially unbearable. Weakened from the cold, Ferrin had fallen sick. She had lain in a fever for several days. It might have been weeks. If her brother hadn’t been there to steal food and blankets for her, she would have died.
They had survived for a year and half on the streets. Ironically, after all of their fellow Cardassians had left Bajor, their lives had improved. They were finally discovered by the victorious Bajorans and sent to an orphanage.
At least the rooms were warm in the orphanage, Ferrin thought grimly. Our Bajoran ‘protectors’ were anything but…
She smiled to herself when she recalled their last day in the orphanage. One of those insufferable vedeks was lecturing the orphans interminably on the evil nature of Cardassians – which he ascribed to their being unbelievers, incapable of attaining the blessings of the Prophets, except through unusual degrees of humility.
The vedek brought out a vat of lardem – a bland, cold vegetable soup that Bajoran monks ate in purification rituals. He informed the children that if any of them wished to earn the blessings of the Prophets, they could prove it by eating nothing but lardem for six weeks, and sleeping without blankets on the floor of the main hall.
Ferrin knew from experience that lardem might have been nutritious enough to sustain Bajorans, but it was entirely insufficient to the needs of growing Cardassian children. And as for sleeping in the drafty hall without blankets…
Some of the children, clearly intimidated, stepped forward to volunteer. To Ferrin’s surprise, Anatos was one of them.
But he wasn’t volunteering. He jumped forward and knocked the lardem vat over, spilling much of it on the vedek’s fine robes. Then he grabbed Ferrin’s hand, and headed for the door.
A week later, they managed to stow away aboard a freighter bound for Cardassia. They didn’t know what kind of greeting they would receive on their homeworld. But they certainly didn’t expect what they had found – shiploads of refugees fleeing Cardassian space. A military coup had taken place, and the Detapa Council had been executed. Cardassia was now allied with an entity Anatos and Ferrin had never heard of – the "Dominion."
It had been only natural that the homeless twins fell in with other Cardassians – the dissidents – who were determined to one day reclaim their home.
What an interesting life my brother and I have had, Ferrin thought as she drifted off to sleep. One day, I will write an enigma tale about us: the instructive story of a life of sacrifice in service to the state, told in the usual, elegant circular mode. But my tale will have a happier ending than enigma tales usually do…
"Damn! Why does Ross always throw these assignments at me?"***
Sisko strode down the wide corridor of the Andorian Assembly Hall. A few passing Andorians swiveled their antennae his way in surprise at his outburst. Sisko reminded himself not to express his opinions out loud. Andorians were very conscious of protocol.
Admiral Ross had asked Sisko to divert the Defiant to Andoria’s capitol, for some kind of "high-level diplomatic meeting." Having no clue why he was needed for a diplomatic function, Sisko nevertheless complied. After the Defiant docked, Ross had brought Sisko into the loop.
The Romulans were back.
I’d rather deal with Cardassians, Sisko fumed. Or even the Dominion! At least when they decide to be your enemy, they stay that way! With the Romulans, it’s just an eternal game of chess. They never let you know where you stand with them.
And the most damnable thing was, the Federation needed the Romulans. So did the Dominion. True to form, the Romulans had placed themselves at the fulcrum of events. Whichever way they jumped, they’d be on the winning side. But rather than just stay on one side, and get the damned war over with one way or the other, they were amusing themselves by taunting the Federation with a resumption of their old alliance.
Sisko stopped outside the door and collected his thoughts. Calm down, Ben, he told himself. They’re just being Romulans, after all. And from their point of view, they probably think their actions are justified. Between the Vreenak case, and Dr. Bashir’s ketracel-white cure…well, the Federation hasn’t been the best ally in the quadrant. And if what Ross said about the Romulans is correct, and they’ve been using their alliance to actually undermine the Dominion… So, listen to what the Senator has to say with an open mind.
And then you can tell Letant to go to hell, Sisko added with a smile. But he knew that was unlikely to be an option.
Sisko walked through the door. Letant had specifically requested to speak with him, and he could guess why. The Romulans had actually been impressed by Sisko’s "underhandedness" in orchestrating the death of Senator Vreenak. Of course, they were entirely wrong about Sisko’s role. But Starfleet wasn’t about to disabuse the Romulans of the notion, and Sisko was under orders not to do so, either.
After a few pleasantries and glasses of Romulan ale, Letant took his seat and the real conversation began.
"Let me get right to the point, Captain," Letant said. "We would rather ally ourselves with the Federation. We’re not fools, you know. We understand that the Dominion would never agree to share power with the Romulan Empire. Unlike our Cardassian friends, we are fully aware of where any alliance with the Dominion must inevitably lead."
Sisko sat back and regarded the Romulan skeptically. This was an unusually blunt opening gambit. Either Letant’s purpose was too deep for Sisko to divine, or the Romulans were so alarmed about the possibility of a Dominion victory that they were finally prepared to be direct.
"Then why are you helping them?" Sisko asked
"Look at it from our perspective," Letant replied. "We wanted that wormhole closed four years ago! The Federation refused to cooperate."
"So you tried to close it yourselves. And destroy DS9 in the process!"
"It’s not that I wish you dead, Captain," Letant said calmly. "But you have to agree. If we had succeeded in closing the wormhole, the Dominion War would never have occurred. How many thousands of lives has the Federation lost? Or do you count it in millions now?"
Sisko shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hated it when Romulans acted reasonable. It made his scalp itch.
"It wouldn’t have been fair to the Bajorans," Sisko said. "The wormhole is central to their religion."
Letant’s manner changed to carefully modulated anger. "And that is exactly why we cannot ally ourselves with the Federation! You people act like you don’t want to win this war. You are quite happy to endanger the security of the entire quadrant – your own security as well as ours – just because a few Bajorans might be unhappy!"
"I’ve heard that Romulan scientists helped Weyoun try to re-open the wormhole," Sisko retorted.
"Hmm," Letant said, sipping his ale. "‘Try’ is the operative word."
"Are you implying your scientists deliberately sabotaged their own efforts?"
"Somebody had to stop the Dominion. Since I arrived on Andoria, I have met with Federation ambassadors, politicians, admirals – all of them eager for Romulan help, none of them willing to give me the guarantees I need to convince the Senate to sever our alliance with the Dominion."
Sisko didn’t want to ask, but knew he had to. "What kind of guarantees?"
Letant leaned forward. "That the Federation will quit blundering its way through this war and demonstrate that it has the will to win."
Sisko clenched his teeth and fought to keep his temper in check. Damned Romulan arrogance!
"A third of our fleet has been destroyed or damaged over the past two years. That isn’t proof enough for you?"
Letant smiled coldly. "Captain, I’m surprised at you. That’s the sort of thing a Klingon might say. Equating a bloody nose with success. In the Romulan view, the person who is the least bloodied – whose uses brains rather than brawn – is the more likely victor."
"I take it that the Federation has been acting too ‘Klingon’ for your tastes?" Sisko said dryly.
"That’s a very good way to put it. We know the Federation is capable of intelligent action, but you don’t seem to be using your intellect of late. For instance, this most recent incident – a Federation doctor providing the Dominion with a means to save the lives of the Jem’Hadar – is very damaging for our cause. It has made me and the others in the Senate who support greater ties with the Federation look like fools. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that, if there is one thing a Romulan hates, it’s being made to look a fool."
"Bashir is being investigated…" Sisko began.
"That’s not enough! If I know the Federation, there will be hand-wringing, speeches about ‘medical ethics,’ and this Bashir will be let off with a slap on the wrist!"
"What would you prefer we do, Senator?" Sisko said, with only a trace of sarcasm.
"If any Romulan had betrayed his people this badly, he would be dead by now. In a most unpleasant way."
"You can’t expect us to act like Romulans!"
Letant actually laughed out loud. "What an amusing idea! I know it’s beyond your abilities. But if you want the Romulan Empire to resume its alliance with the Federation, I think you’re going to have to try."
The Organian dissidents were assembled in the station’s mess hall for the midday meal. As usual, the conversation turned into a debate over the society they would create once the Dominion was evicted from their home.***
And, as usual, the principal debaters were Anatos and Garak.
"If we follow your way, and re-create the Obsidian Order, we will be responsible for reviving the worst aspect of Cardassian culture," Anatos said.
"Anatos, I never said I wanted to re-create the Obsidian Order," Garak replied patiently. "But there are many things we could learn from the Order. It was a very effective organization, and if we are judicious about which aspects of the Order to adopt…"
"How can you be ‘judicious’ about embracing evil?" Anatos almost knocked over the glass of fish juice at his elbow. "We have a chance to build a ‘New Cardassia,’ and we can’t begin with by tainting ourselves with anything from the Order."
"‘New Cardassia’?" Garak said sarcastically. "By the time we manage to ‘rescue’ our homeworld using your morally upright methods, Cardassia will be a mound of smoking rubble!"
Another dissident voiced her opinion. "Only if Cardassia fights till the last, and it’s our job to make sure they don’t do that. Cardassians hate the Dominion! It’s only Damar and some others in Central Command who are keeping the alliance going."
Anatos nodded in agreement. "We need to prove to the Federation that Cardassia can be trusted, when we reassume power…"
"And do you think the Klingons will be content with that?" Garak retorted. "After all the losses they’ve suffered? They will demand their share of the spoils of war. And the Federation isn’t going to risk a confrontation with allies who have short tempers and long memories over a little Cardassian territory. The Klingons have made themselves indispensable to the war effort. You can be very sure they will expect their reward."
"But the Federation has always supported a democratic Cardassia," Anatos said.
Garak scowled. "I have to wonder whether they will do so in the future. Look at what happened. Cardassia had a democratic government under the Detapa Council. And it would still have that government today, if the Obsidian Order hadn’t been destroyed in the attack on the Founders’ homeworld."
The room erupted in shouts. The dissidents couldn’t believe their ears. Was Garak actually arguing that the Order made the existence of the Detapa Council possible?
Garak was. "Cardassia has always needed a system of checks and balances to ensure the stability of our society," he said as soon as the others calmed down. "Part of that system was that the Order checked the power of the military, to control the ambitions of ruthless legates and guls who would happily sell out their people in return for their own advancement. With the Order gone, look what happened! A certain ambitious gul took over the reigns of power quite easily, didn’t he? And before long, Cardassia was in an unequal and disastrous alliance with the Dominion!"
"The Detapa Council – fine people, I know – were no match for Dukat!" Garak continued. "Only the Order could have prevented his takeover. It is our duty as patriotic Cardassians to restore the Order. Oh, I agree, it was excessively ruthless. But with people like ourselves at the helm, I’m sure we can create an organization that is both ethical and effective."
Garak looked at each of the dissidents; many seemed to be accepting his words. "One thing is certain," he concluded. "Cardassia has had the Obsidian Order – in one form or another – as long as anyone can remember. That’s because the Order is a necessary part of Cardassian culture. If you extract the Order from the social structure, chaos is the result."
After the day’s training was done, Garak was relaxing in his quarters. At least, as much as he ever "relaxed" nowadays. Since he took over the task of guiding the Organian dissidents, he rarely had a moment to himself.***
Tonight was no exception. An urgent message came through from Andoria. Garak answered the comlink beep, wondering what possible business an Andorian could have with him.
But the face on the viewscreen was familiar.
"Captain Sisko!" Garak said, genuinely pleased. "I should have realized it would be you."
"You’re right, Garak," Sisko said. "I should have called sooner, to congratulate you on the success of your mission on Cardassia…"
"Oh, that’s not what I meant at all," Garak said, embarrassed that Sisko thought he was fishing for complements. "The assignment really didn’t go off nearly as well as I had hoped."
"Garak, stop it," Sisko said. "Who do you think I am, Tain? Starfleet Intelligence was very impressed that you and your dissidents managed to rescue Federation personnel from within Central Command. The fact that the Chief had other plans was hardly your fault."
Garak smiled. So Starfleet Intelligence approves of me, he thought sardonically. My life is now complete. But his perfectionism kept him from accepting Sisko’s complements. Only a faultlessly executed assignment was worthy of praise, and the recent mission had unfortunately fallen well short of that mark.
"Does this mean the Federation is prepared to help us establish an insurgency within Cardassia now?" Garak asked.
"Absolutely," Sisko said. "I’ve spoken with Ross and several members of the Federation Council. Whatever you need, just ask. Starfleet Intelligence has a dozen captured Cardassian vessels under repair that will be made available to you."
"You’re most generous, Captain."
"And there’s one other thing," Sisko said. "You’ve heard about Bashir?"
Garak’s countenance fell. "The ketracel-white cure. Yes. It’s incomprehensible…what was he thinking?"
Sisko rubbed his bald head. "He was just being what he’s always been – a conscientious doctor."
"Where is he being held?" Garak said, his voice betraying his concern. "New Zealand?"
"No," Sisko said. "That would be ironic, wouldn’t it? His father has only just been released from the Federation Penal Settlement there. No, I’ve pulled a few strings to get him special treatment. He’s under detention at Starfleet Headquarters while the investigation against him proceeds. I’ve been in touch with him, and he is being given some liberty to leave the compound, with escorts of course. He says it’s only a matter of time before he ‘figures out how to shake off his babysitters.’"
"He isn’t really going to…" Garak began.
"Of course not," Sisko replied. "He wouldn’t be foolish enough to try to escape. He’d be in real hot water then. Besides, you know the doctor. He’s convinced he did the right thing, and he would never miss his chance to make his case in person to the Council. I’ve spoken to Bashir’s lawyer. She’s going to make sure he doesn’t put his foot in his mouth."
"Will the Council accept his argument?" Garak asked. "That he was compelled by his medical ethics to hand over the cure to the Dominion?"
Sisko sighed. "If this were a usual situation, Bashir wouldn’t be under investigation at all. I was the one who decided on this idiotic operation to ‘unmask’ Section 31. It was unofficial, so Bashir can’t be court-martialed for disobeying my orders. Well, technically he can. But I’m willing to take the blame myself. And I told the Council that!"
"And the Council rejected that option," Garak replied.
Sisko nodded. "I’m afraid the charges against Bashir have become political, not legal. The problem is that Starfleet had been negotiating with the Romulans. This incident has sure thrown a sonic spanner into the anti-matter stream. The negotiations are ‘on hold.’ I spoke with Senator Letant, and he made it all perfectly clear. They want us to crucify Bashir as ‘proof’ that the Federation is tough enough to win. That’s why I contacted you. We have to find another way out of this."
"So the Romulans are switching allegiances once again?"
"Starfleet Intelligence thinks that their alliance with the Dominion was always some kind of game. The Romulans were fed up with the way we and the Klingons were handling things, and decided they could end the war themselves. They deliberately sabotaged the Dominion’s attempts to get the wormhole open. The Romulans thought the Dominion would abandon the Alpha Quadrant if the wormhole seemed to be closed for good. Well, they were right up to a point. But they didn’t predict that the Founders would leave without their fleet! However, S.I. also thinks that the ketracel-white poisoning was ordered by the Founders themselves!"
"By the holy Hebitians," Garak said. "Why would they do that?"
"To ensure deadlock between the Alpha Quadrant powers. With the Jem’Hadar dead, we and the Klingons would be evenly matched with a Cardassian-Romulan alliance."
"Ah. We destroy each other by fighting among ourselves, and the Dominion picks up the pieces later."
"Something like that. So the problem is this: Right now, it looks like one of our own people sabotaged our war effort. And it certainly doesn’t help that Sloan and other Starfleet officers were helping Bashir. S.I. wants us to get proof that the ketracel-white poisoning was a Dominion plot. If the Romulans realized Bashir saved us all from a Dominion stratagem, they might change their minds about our supposed ‘incompetence.’ But they’ll want solid proof that the Dominion was behind the poisoning."
"And if we don’t get this proof?"
"Then I’m afraid Starfleet may be willing to destroy Bashir’s career to mollify the Romulans. One way or the other, the stalemate must be broken. If the Romulans join us, the war will be over. If not, we could be at each others’ throats until we’re all destroyed."
"This is so typical of Romulans. They just love putting you through little tests. You know, many years ago I was a gardener on Romulus. I recall one of my clients – a Tal Shiar agent. I tended his garden. He took great pride in his crop of viiners, a variety of Romulan fruit. Unfortunately, there are two varieties, which look identical. One strain is delicious, and the other is quite poisonous. I remember my client used to give baskets of the fruit to his friends and acquaintances. The curious thing is, some of those friends later met rather unfortunate ends."
"You mean, the viiners was the poison kind?" Sisko said.
"Oh no! My client ate the fruit himself. The gifts were his way of finding out which of his acquaintances knew he was in the Tal Shiar."
"The ones who refused to eat the fruit knew the truth about him. And later met with various ‘accidents.’"
"Tell me, Garak. You knew he was in the Tal Shiar. Did you try the viiners?"
"On the very first day I was employed, he offered me a bite of viiners. I rather liked it, and ate two."
Sisko smiled. Just as he thought – Garak was the right man for this job.
"You see, Captain, out-thinking a Romulan may be difficult," Garak concluded. "But it’s far from impossible. And speaking of poisons – does Starfleet Intelligence have any other information about who in the Dominion could have tampered with the ketracel-white?"
"Only that it must have been a Vorta who did it. Stands to reason – they’re the only ones with access to the processing plants. Another clue is that the Founders usually like to give important orders like that in person. The last known location of any Founder in the Alpha Quadrant was DS9. You should start by looking there. And there’s something else you should know. Starfleet medical autopsied the corpse of Weyoun’s clone that Odo brought back with him. They’ve discovered something very interesting that might help you. You should talk with Dr. Linnea Frost at the Gideon Orbital Station. She’ll be expecting you."
"Then I’ll leave at once."
"I suppose it’s unfair to ask you to do this. If I were you, I’d be more concerned at this point about helping my own people than taking on a very difficult task just to save one man."
"Doctor Bashir is hardly ‘just one man.’ I owe him my life on at least one occasion, and even if I didn’t, he’s my friend. He believed me in the Vreenak case, when no one else would. Besides, I have no other acquaintances willing to sit and listen to me expound on the virtues of Cardassian enigma tales. He’s a good listener; it would be a shame for someone with such a rare quality to be locked up where no one can bore him with minutiae. The doctor has nothing to worry about, believe me. I will get that evidence."
"Good. By the way, Garak. What ever happened to that Tal Shiar agent you gardened for?"
Garak shook his head. "A tragedy. Somehow, the poisonous variety of viiners appeared in his garden. One night at dinner, he just keeled over head-first into his plate of viinerine. I suppose the poisoned viiners sprouted from the edible shrub, as a natural mutation. Hard to say, though. If I ever have the opportunity, I’d like to ask Mrs. O’Brien for her professional opinion as a botanist. It’s been a pleasure talking with you again, Captain."
Garak signed off. Sisko realized that he would be as good as his word, and that if anyone could save Bashir, it was Garak.
Then why does that bother me? Sisko asked himself.
Dr. Frost plucked it out of its container with a tweezers-like instrument and held it up to the light. It was a tiny, sparkling disk, smaller than a fingernail. But it could hold several lifetimes’ worth of memories.***
"This is how they do it," Frost said in wonder. "Amazing degree of miniaturization. They pass these chips along from one clone to the next. It’s like a single person living in an infinite number of bodies. The key to immortality!"
"Not a very effective means towards that end," Garak said skeptically. "I’ve never seen a species with a shorter average lifespan than a Vorta."
Frost carefully returned the disk to its receptacle. "With these mnemonic chips, they don’t really have to worry about ‘dying.’ It means nothing to them. They probably weren’t engineered to have much of a survival instinct. I mean, why would they need it?"
"He could have used a survival instinct." Garak nodded towards the corpse on the adjacent biobed.
Death had rendered Weyoun 6 only a slightly paler shade of luminescent white. A thorough autopsy had been conducted, using an imaging microtomitor, so that the body had not been disturbed – except for a small incision at the top of the skull, where the mnemonic chip had been extracted. Frost, a handsome blonde woman in her early 50s, tucked a sheet back over the body and returned it to one of the niches that lined the walls of the laboratory-morgue.
"We’re lucky he chose to commit suicide," Frost said. "Oh, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded! According to the reports, he was quite a decent person, for a Vorta. What I mean is, this is the first opportunity we’ve had to study one of his kind. This chip answers a lot of questions."
"Perhaps it will answer my question, then," Garak said politely. "Captain Sisko sent me here for a purpose. And that would be…?"
"Oh, right! The Bashir case. Frankly, I think he was damned right in what he did. But that hardly matters, and besides, I’m a doctor. Why wouldn’t I side with him? You need solid evidence that some Vorta poisoned the white. Whoever that Vorta is, he’ll have a nice little chip in his skull, just like that one did. Best kind of evidence you could ask for – the memories of the guilty part himself."
"Ah, I see. We simply need to…obtain this chip."
"You got that right. And how you get it is your problem. I’m glad I’m not going to have any part of…"
"But the chip itself won’t be any use, unless there is a way of reading the data."
"Way ahead of you. Come over here."
The doctor showed Garak a jury-rigged piece of equipment that seemed to be made up of a medical tricorder and various components plundered from an engineering station. Wires straggled away from the strange device, and terminated in a curved, cap-like object.
"Mr. Garak, meet Dr. Frankenstein’s latest invention."
"I’m sorry, who? One of your colleagues?"
"Forget it. My humor is strictly for human consumption only. I’d hate to have to compete with one of you Cardie…Cardassians…in a contest of wits. What I mean is, I got some of the engineers to help me built this contraption. It is the galaxy’s very first Vorta-mnemonic-chip-reading machine!"
"I don’t understand…"
"Let’s take it for a test flight!" Frost plopped the "cap" on Garak’s head, and placed the chip in a holder attached to the tricorder.
"Wait, I’m not sure…"
"Don’t worry, Mr. Garak. I’ve tried this several times myself. Believe me, the nausea wears off quickly. Besides, any species that can consume kanar like Cardassians do is probably immune to nausea, so you have nothing to worry about."
"I’m afraid kanar makes me quite nauseated…" Garak began as Frost activated the device.
The laboratory dissolved in Garak’s sight and was replaced by a startling image. He was lying on his back, submerged in a viscous fluid. Far above, he could see bright lights, distorted by the liquid into shimmering waves. At first, he thought that he had been transported somewhere, but when he realized he could not move, he understood. He was simply seeing Weyoun’s memories.
Garak felt a slight twinge of nausea and a growing sense of panic. He tried to calm himself. It didn’t help matters when a small, pale arm – definitely not his own arm – floated across his field of vision. The fingers started wiggling. It was time for the new clone to wake up.
The memory was abruptly replaced by scattered bursts of light. Then, to Garak’s total amazement, he was back on DS9, on the promenade. In the distance, beyond Quark’s bar, he could even see his own tailor shop. The shutters were down and the shop was closed, although the promenade was busy.
The Dominion occupation, he thought. This must be Weyoun 5….
He wanted to see more, but again he was torn away. Now he was on a runabout, eating something spicy he had never tasted before – a small, round disk of meat, speared on a long stick. He turned, and saw Odo in the pilot’s seat.
Then the flashing lights were back. They subsided, and Dr. Frost was before him again.
"That was fascinating!" Garak said. "But I only saw fragments of memories. How can I see more?"
Frost frowned. "I’m afraid you can’t."
"You mean that’s all that was on the chip?"
"It’s his fault." Frost jerked her thumb in the direction of Weyoun 6’s niche. "When he activated his termination implant, the chip’s memory was destroyed. All that’s left are a few meaningless images."
"Of course. The Dominion would hardly want these chips to fall into enemy hands."
"Looks like it. I do know a little more. Months ago, when the Romulans were still fighting on our side, I was contacted by one of their scientists. Seems the Romulans managed to get their hands on two Vortas who were killed in battle, on a planet near Galorndon Core. They agreed to share their findings with us. According to the Romulans, the mnemonic chips are damaged whenever the Vorta dies, even if it’s not by activating the implant."
"Hmm. "That does make my assignment tricky. But wait, doctor – the Romulans said the Vortas were killed in battle on a planet?"
"Yeah, I had the same reaction. Vortas command vessels in battle, but since when do they get anywhere near the fighting when it’s on the ground? I didn’t think anything of it, until Dr. Jenik mentioned something else that I found strange. She theorized that if an undamaged chip is extracted from a Vorta who is living, but unconscious, the chip will be totally unreadable. Stuck in the ‘off’ position, as it were."
"If the mind is unconscious, the chip is not active. That sounds reasonable. Why did you find it strange?"
"Oh, it’s not that I didn’t believe Dr. Jenik. But I don’t see how she possibly could have come to that conclusion, with only dead Vortas to work with. And when I asked her, she just gave me one of those Romulan smiles and said that she wouldn’t want to say anything that might ‘constrain me from using the results of her research.’"
"I see. What the Romulans consider acceptable in the cause of science might be different from the Federation view. You know, doctor, I’ve always admired the Romulans for their dedication to advancing scientific knowledge."
"It sure impressed me. I’m just glad Gideon is a long way from Romulan space."
Ferrin waited impatiently for the computer to find the name: Gul Empet. "He must be in here somewhere. According to Garak, this is the Obsidian Order database. They would have the names of every Cardassian citizen on file."***
"I still think you should delete the whole damned thing," Anatos groused.
"Anatos, please stop saying that," his sister replied. "You know we can’t do that. This database is far too useful, and besides, Garak…"
"Would be upset if we deleted his precious database, I know."
"What I was going to say, is that Garak no doubt has more copies of this database stored elsewhere. He wouldn’t entrust information this important to just one…wait, here it is!"
The console displayed the file for Gul Nelo Empet. He was 79 years old – middle-aged by Cardassian standards. Married twice, with seventeen children. A distinguished military career.
But the Obsidian Order had learned much more interesting things about Empet. He had been a covert supporter of democracy for nearly his entire adult life. The Order considered him a dangerous element. A circumspect man, he had not publicly been involved in the Detapa Council, and therefore had not been executed with them in Dukat’s coup. But the file left no doubt that Empet was the sort of man who would be a staunch enemy of the Dominion.
They had to decide quickly whether to trust Empet. His small starship was just outside the Organian base. He was waiting for a response to his hail.
"Well, Anatos?" Ferrin asked. "Garak left us in charge. It’s up to us to decide."
Anatos stared at the file entry. "Are you sure he’s alone on that ship?"
Ferrin nodded. "One life sign. Cardassian."
"He must be telling the truth. Otherwise, why would he come here alone? I think we should trust him."
His sister sighed. "But it’s a risk. So far, no one outside our little circle – and some people in Starfleet – know where our base is. If the Dominion should find out…"
"I say we take the risk. We need someone besides Garak around here with age and experience. A man like Empet could be a real asset."
Anatos re-opened the comlink with Empet’s vessel. "On behalf of the Free Cardassians, I welcome you to Organia. You are cleared to dock. I’ll transmit the docking procedures to…"
The comlink crackled. Empet’s voice was just audible. "Please excuse the poor quality of my comlink. I’m afraid I had to leave Cardassia in something of a hurry. I didn’t have a wide selection of vessels from which to choose. But if you don’t mind, I would prefer to be beamed onto the base, rather than going through the airlock."
"We could do that," Anatos responded. "But why?"
"You have probably been debating among yourselves whether to trust this ‘Gul Empet.’ It might not have occurred to you that I have the same problem. I have heard that the Free Cardassians are a legitimate movement, but I cannot really be sure I’m not walking into a trap."
"I see your point." Anatos muted the comlin and turned to his sister. "What do you think?"
Ferrin shrugged. "What difference would it make if he walks through an airlock or is beamed over here? He’s just nervous. I would be too, in his shoes."
Anatos re-established the link. "Where do you want us to beam you to?"
Empet transmitted the coordinates. The location was harmless enough – an unused crew quarters. Within minutes, Anatos and Ferrin arrived outside the crew quarters. Ferrin tapped the door chime.
"Enter," a deep voice said.
Gul Empet was standing in the center of the room. Age had taken its toll, but he was still powerfully built and vital-looking. "So, the Federation allows you to use one of their bases?" Empet asked.
"It wasn’t in working order when we arrived," Ferrin replied. "The Federation has mainly ignored us. At least, until recently."
"Because you’ve begun to make yourselves useful to them. I hope you haven’t entangled yourself too much with the Federation. It will destroy your credibility if you’re seen as Federation pawns. Isn’t your leader that Order agent from DS9? I’ve heard he works very closely with the Federation. Too closely."
"Garak?" Anatos said. "He’s not exactly our leader. But he is teaching us…"
"How to slit honest citizens’ throats in the dark, no doubt." Empet shook his head. "This does not bode well. No one on Cardassia wants a return of the Order and their despicable ways."
"That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell Garak!" Anatos said. "I’m glad you’re here. None of us are very experienced, and we follow Garak because, well, there’s no one else to turn to!"
"Then it is, indeed, fortuitous that I arrived when I did. But I’ve had a long journey. I’d like to rest for a while. And then, perhaps you could brief me on your operations here?"
"I’ll be looking forward to it," Anatos said enthusiastically. "Have a good rest."
When the pair had left Empet’s quarters, they retraced their steps down to corridor towards the docking control room. When they were far enough from Empet’s quarters, Ferrin snapped at Anatos.
"You just can’t wait to replace Garak, can you?" she said. "Despite all that he’s done for us. The Federation trusts us now because of him! Otherwise, we’d still be a joke in their eyes. Where is your loyalty?"
"Ferrin, calm down. No one is talking about replacing Garak. But Empet has first-hand knowledge of the Dominion occupation. I’m sure Garak will be as happy as I am that he’s joined us."
"I’m not so sure about that," Ferrin said, worriedly. "Anatos, didn’t you notice?"
"His neck-scales! I thought they seemed strange. It was unmistakable. They definitely got brighter as he spoke."
"You used the Kibow on Empet?"
"Not consciously. But, well…I suppose it’s like second nature now."
"Oh, this is great. My own sister is an Order huah dog, eagerly sniffing out enemies of the state, so they can be executed as an example to all. Now all you need is the subdermal implants in your palms, so you can kill people by shaking hands with them…."
"Anatos, shut up! This is serious. He was definitely lying. He could be a spy, a Dominion operative."
"Or he could be tired from his journey. Or upset because he’s had to flee his home and leave everyone he loves behind. There are any number of explanations for his scales! We can’t let Garak turn us into huah dogs, willing to attack at the slightest imagined threat."
Ferrin looked up at the ceiling. "You’re right. What am I thinking? We can’t kill a man just on a suspicion."
"My instincts say he’s trustworthy. We’re trying to free Cardassia. We’ll never get anywhere if we can’t learn to trust our own people."
They had reached the docking control room again. As they walked in, Ferrin glanced at a monitor. Empet’s ship was moving.
"I don’t understand this!" Ferrin said, as she checked the sensors. "There’s a Cardassian life form on the ship!"
"Did Empet beam back over?"
"How could he have? He doesn’t have access to our transporters!"
Anatos looked at the docking control monitors. "Whoever it is, he knows the docking codes for this base! He’s activating the airlock. Number 15 – let’s go!"
Drawing his disruptor, Anatos raced out of the control room. Ferrin followed. At the junction leading to Airlock 15, Anatos stopped, and motioned for Ferrin to do the same. He peeked cautiously around the corner, and suddenly jumped back.
Garak came around the corner, smiling broadly. "Hello children. You are dead. All your colleagues are dead. The Dominion has destroyed this entire base."
"What are you talking about?" Anatos said, still recollecting his wits after the scare Garak gave him.
"Our friend, Gul Empet, is a spy. Oh, don’t go to check on him. He’s not really there. He was just a hologram I programmed. Those quarters he ‘beamed’ into are a holodeck that I set up before I left. The real Empet was assassinated by the Order years ago. I’m afraid I left that detail out of his file. But I can tell you that, many years ago, I had the opportunity to…talk with the man. And if he were alive today, rest assured he would be working for the Dominion."
Ferrin sighed. "It was a test, and we failed it."
"Yes, you did. I programmed Empet’s scales to glow so brightly that a blind gettle couldn’t have missed it. When you suspected he was lying, you should have killed him. This is not a game, children. Next time this happens, you and your friends will be dead for real."
"We’re convinced," Anatos said, bitterly. "In the future, we’ll be just as ruthless as you."
The three of them walked back down the corridor. Then Anatos had an uncomfortable thought.
"Garak. In the holodeck – you weren’t recording Ferrin and me, meeting with Empet, were you?"
"What an interesting idea! No, I’m afraid it didn’t occur to me to set up the holodeck to record the proceedings. Why? Should I have?"
"No, no. I was just…wondering."
Keevan paced as he waited at the airlock. It had all gone wrong – horribly wrong.***
The Founder had ordered him to poison the ketracel-white. He had obeyed. Yet the intent of that order had been corrupted. And worse, the Founders were gone, heading back to the Gamma Quadrant, never to return.
The fact that Keevan’s failure would never been seen by his gods made it no less bitter. There had to be some way to still achieve the intent, if not the letter, of the Founders’ final wish.
The Jem’Hadar were now cured of their ketracel-white addiction. Annoyingly,
they had, for the most part, remained loyal to the Dominion. The Founders’
wish – that the Cardassians and Romulans be destroyed in a Dominion collapse
– could not now be realized. At least not the way they had originally intended.
But this was only a temporary setback. Keevan had come to a startling and surprisingly satisfying realization. He was the only Vorta in the entire quadrant who understood the true will of the Founders. The rest of his kind – the dozens of Vorta advisors who were now on this station, DS9; the tens of thousands more on Bajor and other planets throughout the quadrant; and, of course, Weyoun himself – were all deluded fools. Keevan alone could fulfill the Founders’ will. He certainly wasn’t going to share any of the glory with other Vortas by telling them the truth.
Not that they would believe me, anyway, he thought sardonically.
It was incredible the degree to which Weyoun had supplanted the Founders in running the Dominion. Of course, he would have denied it utterly, and claimed that he was just acting in the Founders’ behalf.
What arrogance! But it doesn’t matter. I can handle this on my own. I’ll start with the Cardassians, and worry about the Romulans later.
It was simply a matter of convincing Weyoun to allow him to proceed with the plan….
The vessel outside the airlock was docking. To his left, Keevan noticed that a delegation of Bajorans had assembled. Judging from their robes, they were members of religious orders. A blonde woman with a brocaded hat appeared to be their leader. Keevan assumed she was the one they referred to as the "Kai." They were obviously waiting for Weyoun, just as he was.
Keevan’s attention focused back on the airlock as it opened, and four Jem’Hadar emerged, weapons drawn. They took positions at each side of the airlock, as guards. They were a perfect picture of discipline, despite the absence of tubes dispensing ketracel-white into their necks. Keevan had to fight the very sensible urge he had every time he encountered a non-addicted Jem’Hadar – to run for his life.
Another group of Jem’Hadar emerged. This made Keevan too nervous, and he looked for a way to make himself less noticeable. But the Bajorans solved the problem for him, as they clustered around the Jem’Hadar, exclaiming over the strange boxes the soldiers were carrying.
"What a great day for Bajor," Winn said. "The last three Orbs have been returned."
She walked around the jeweled boxes and identified each one from exterior markings. "The Orb of Serenity. The Orb of Justice. And, of course, the Orb of the Prophets!"
The Kai placed her hand on the last one. "All the wounds of the occupation are now healed. Bajor is whole once again!"
Weyoun emerged from the airlock, and the Kai greeted him graciously.
"On behalf of the Bajoran people, I must thank you for the return of these Orbs. The Dominion has truly shown itself to be a friend to Bajor."
"Was there ever any doubt?" Weyoun replied. "All member planets of the Dominion enjoy both the protection and the benevolence…"
Keevan wandered a little further down the corridor. He wasn’t interested in hearing any of the nonsense that Weyoun was telling the Kai and the rest of the Bajorans.
Weyoun extricated himself from the Kai and her delegation as soon as could diplomatically be achieved. Now was Keevan’s chance.
"What a touching display of generosity," Keevan said.
Weyoun glanced at the Bajoran delegation to make sure they were out of earshot and then scowled. "What an appalling bunch of superstitious fools. The actually think that ‘gods’ live inside those silly boxes. But if we’re going to successfully integrate Bajor into the Dominion, we’ll have to at least pretend to respect their beliefs."
"For now," Keevan added, unnecessarily. "Didn’t Damar object to giving up the Orbs?"
"No. I suppose it’s finally sunk in to his thick skull that his objections mean nothing to me. Well! Now that this ludicrous business has been attended to, I can turn my attention to more important matters. I’ll be talking to all the field supervisors assigned to Bajor, in the wardroom at…."
"I wanted to speak to you about that. I don’t think I’ve been given the best assignment for my skills."
"What do you mean?" Weyoun said, bristling at the challenge to his authority. "Overseeing the construction of the main cloning facility in Siprantha is a very important task."
He thinks his orders are going to be obeyed unquestioningly, as if he were a Founder, Keevan thought, in disgust. "Of course it’s important. But someone else could do that assignment just as well. Whereas I have been working on a much more important…"
"I’m well aware of your ‘project,’ Keevan," Weyoun said patronizingly. "But it’s premature."
"It’s what the Founders would want."
"Don’t presume to tell me what the Founders would want!" Weyoun snapped.
"The Cardassians are getting out of control, don’t you see? The incident with the Federation prisoners and the false Founder proves that there is corruption at the highest levels of Central Command. Severe measures are needed. Besides, it’s time they were punished for their crime against the Founders’ homeworld."
Weyoun halted in his tracks and glared at Keevan. The reminder that Weyoun had been duped by a ‘false Founder’ antagonized him just as much as Keevan thought it would.
"They will be punished when I see fit, not before," Weyoun hissed.
Oh, let him play his stupid game, Keevan told himself. Let him pretend that he’s the Founder now. Just get access to the biogenics lab. That’s all you need. "But you won’t mind if I continue the viral trials? So that everything is ready when you say we should use it."
"I…suppose that would be a good precaution."
"I need authorization to use the biogenics lab on Dorvan 5."
"That can be arranged," Weyoun said, as though the idea had been his all along. "Make sure the virus is ready within two weeks."
Weyoun walked away. Glaring at Weyoun’s back, Keevan wished the virus could be designed to work on a particular Vorta as well as Cardassians. But it couldn’t possibly be made to work on Weyoun. The virus was the delivery mechanism for genetic mutation, and Vortas’ DNA were immune to any tampering beyond their original genetic code.
One step at a time. First, deal with the Cardassians. Then the Romulans. Then…
Keevan felt rather pleased at having achieved his objective in coming to DS9. But he was curious about this strange station, built by Cardassians, controlled by the Federation for a time, and now the property of the Dominion. He decided to take a look around before catching the next transport headed for Dorvan 5.
He wandered along the promenade and stopped outside the largest, loudest, and gaudiest establishment. The sign said, "Quark’s Place." There was something vaguely familiar about the name.
His curiosity piqued, he walked into the bar. It contained the usual, tedious collection of Alpha Quadrant races, intent on satisfying various appetites that no Vorta could ever – or would ever want to – comprehend.
Glancing towards the bar, he caught a brief glimpse of a Ferengi bartender who appeared to be staring at him. It was hard to tell exactly, because the moment Keevan turned his head, the bartender had ducked under the bar.
Leaning over to the bar, Keevan tried to see what the bartender was doing. Only the Ferengi’s backside was visible, as he rooted around for something.
"Are you the bartender?" Keevan asked.
"If you are, I would like to order something. Tulaberry juice."
The Ferengi didn’t budge. "Coming right up."
"Is something wrong?"
"No, no! I just have to…uh…squeeze the tulaberries. Might take a while."
A Ferengi waiter walked to the bar, holding a tray. He didn’t notice Keevan, but instead addressed the bartender who was still busy looking for something.
"Hey Quark, I need two Saurian brandies, a Denebian double-sunset, a warp core breech and a root beer float," the waiter said. "Did you hear me, brother? What are you doing under the bar?"
"He said he’s squeezing tulaberries," Keevan interjected.
The waiter turned towards Keevan with what, for a Ferengi, passed as a nice smile. Then his smile froze. He dropped the tray and ran out of the bar.
Keevan regarded the rapidly departing waiter with slight curiosity. "You Ferengis are certainly excitable," he said to the bartender.
The bartender said nothing, and remained under the bar.
Keevan was starting to get impatient. "Exactly how long is it going to take you to make my drink?"
"Might be a while. The tulaberries are very small, and you have to squeeze them one at a time."
"Hmm. That waiter called you ‘Quark.’ The name seems familiar…but I can’t quite place it…"
Quark gave up the charade and came out from under the bar. He waved his hands around and started to babble.
"All right, I confess! I organized that, err, prisoner exchange that…didn’t work out so well. I know, I know, we should have let the Federation handle it! But you’ve got to understand, moogie’s safety was at stake! I mean, moogie – my mother. Who wouldn’t be willing to do anything to protect his…uh…that’s right, you’re a Vorta and you don’t really have a…uh…not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you!"
"Are you ever going to get me my drink?"
Quark stopped talking and poured Keevan’s drink.
Keevan took a sip of tulaberry juice. It didn’t taste like much – or, rather, he couldn’t taste it much – but he’d always been curious about tulaberries.
"Now I remember you," Keevan said. "Quark! You’re related to that inventive young Ferengi who is in Starfleet – Gog or something."
"That’s right. Your son, I believe."
"No, my nephew."
Keevan shook his head. "The familial arrangements of Alpha Quadrant races are very confusing. I confess, I’m not sure of the difference between a nephew and a son."
"Oh it’s totally different! You see, Nog’s mother was Primadora…"
Keevan rolled his eyes. "What I mean is, I don’t care."
Quark nervously busied himself wiping some glasses. He hoped Keevan wasn’t going to ask… And of course, Keevan did.
"Which one of you Ferengis shot my distinguished predecessor, by the way? It wasn’t you, was it?"
"No, no, no! It was my cousin, Gaila. He’s always been kind of…" Quark tapped his head.
"Cousin. Is that like a nephew or like a son? No, never mind."
"So!" Quark said, to get the conversation on safer ground. "Are you staying on DS9 long?"
"No. I’ll be leaving on the next transport for Cardassian space. Where there are no Ferengis."
Keevan got up and left.
As he wiped down the bar, Quark muttered. "I hate Vortas. Lousy tippers."
Quark was alone in the bar, closing up for the night. He had managed to get Rom calmed down by assuring him that Keevan would be leaving DS9 on the first transport in the morning. It had been hard enough convincing his brother to fill in at the bar when he was short-handed. He didn’t want Rom’s Vortaphobia to scare him away from work for good.
What a day, Quark thought to himself.
Quark had to admit he missed the Federation. But the last few months hadn’t been so bad. Not like the last time. No Cardassians, few Jem’Hadar. More Vortas than he would have liked, but then, they rarely came into the bar. The Bajorans were firmly in control of DS9, and he had plenty of customers. Things were good.
But it was weird that Odo was gone. One day, he had just left, with the Founders. Then Quark starting hearing those odd rumors – the Federation had somehow killed all the changelings in the Alpha Quadrant.
They wouldn’t have killed Odo, too. Would they? He didn’t think it was possible. He’s probably all right.
"But it would be nice to see a familiar face around here, for a change!" he said aloud, to the shadows.
"Ask, and the great Material Continuum shall provide," a voice answered.
Quark's ears quivered in fear. "Who is that! Show yourself!"
Garak stepped out of the dark corner, followed by two other Cardassians. "I’m surprised at you, Quark. Where’s your faith? Didn’t you think I was Grand Nagus Gint, come to reward you for your uncharitable nature by showering latinum upon you?"
"Garak! You nearly scared me out of my lobes. You’re the last person I’d expected to see here. Aren’t the Bajorans still after your head?"
"Certain Bajorans are. Fortunately, others are not – and, indeed, are quite happy to help me and my associates move around Bajoran space with impunity. The Federation still has many friends here."
"You’re welcome to stay, just as long as I’m not going to get into trouble for harboring fugitives. Are your friends wanted by the Dominion as well?"
"Where are my manners? Quark, let me introduce you to Anatos and Ferrin, two of my colleagues from the Free Cardassians."
"The dissidents are still active?" Quark asked.
"Better than active," Ferrin said. "The Dominion may have gained Bajor, but it won’t be long until they lose Cardassia."
"Glad to hear that my latinum hasn’t gone to waste," Quark replied. "Uhh, if you see the ghost of Grant Nagus Gint around here, don’t tell him about my…err…donations to the dissidents, okay?"
"Wouldn’t dream of it," Garak replied. "But we won’t impose on you long. We just need to tap into the Ops computer from here."
Quark led them behind the bar and opened a panel.
"Here, use this isolinear rod," Quark said. "I don’t know if you’ll be able to access the high-security files. There have been a lot of modifications since the Federation left."
"That won’t be necessary," Garak replied. "I just need to get a list of the Vortas who visited the station after the Federation left, and before stardate 52347.9."
The monitor on Quark’s hidden station began scrolling through several names.
"There was Weyoun, of course," Garak said. "He’s hardly a likely suspect."
Quark was intrigued. "Suspect? Of what?"
Garak ignored him. "Teevil, Elanis, Ertun, Senza…ah, this is interesting. Keevan. I do believe that particular Vorta would be capable of it."
"Capable of what?" Quark said.
Garak looked straight at Quark. "Of attempting to murder an entire species."
"Wow. And to think I was talking with him only today."
"What? Is he on this station?"
"Yes. But he mentioned he’d be leaving tomorrow morning, on a transport to Cardassian territory."
"Excellent," Garak said. "Quark, you’ve been invaluable. I sincerely hope the Material Continuum really does shower latinum upon your homely little head."
Luck was with Garak. The first officer aboard the Neeram was the nephew of someone on his list of Dominion opponents. Assuming the nephew shared the opinions of his aunt was risky. But younger Cardassian family members were expected to agree with their elders, and it was a risk Garak had been willing to take.***
The gamble paid off. The three Cardassians found themselves with free passage aboard the Neeram, unrestricted access to one of the transport’s shuttles, and a guarantee that "no one would notice" if the shuttle were to take off on its own. Evidently, the first officer had a copious supply of the captain’s favorite type of kanar. Garak would only need to give the word, and the captain would be "indisposed."
Garak and his protégés were now ensconced in a small and rather uncomfortable cabin, discussing their next move.
"Let’s just go get him!" Anatos said. "We know which cabin is his, and I’m sure we can circumvent the door’s security controls. Ferrin’s got the hypospray, and we’ve got a shuttle. What are we waiting for?"
Garak was amused by Anatos’ rash attitude. "I can just envision the three of us, nonchalantly strolling through the ship with an unconscious Vorta slung over Anatos’ shoulder. I don’t think that will attract any attention, do you?"
"I don’t see why it should," Ferrin said. "There are mainly Cardassians on this ship. I doubt that any of them like Vortas very much."
"Even if none of them like Vortas, we have to assume that some are loyal to the Dominion," Garak said. "And there are several Jem’Hadar on this vessel as well. Not the sort you want to tangle with, believe me. We have to use discretion and figure out a way to get Keevan to go to the shuttle – not take him there."
"Oh, this is where we use our minds instead of acting like Klingons, right?" Anatos said sardonically.
"Exactly," Garak replied. "Now, children, think. How can we get Keevan onto that shuttle without attracting attention?"
"We could lure him there – but with what?" Ferrin said. "I’ve read all the Starfleet reports on the Vortas, and they don’t really seem to like anything. Except serving the Founders."
"What a boring life," Anatos added.
Both of the siblings started to giggle. Garak was disconcertingly reminded that his "team" was very young.
"There’s a way to get to anyone," Garak said. "We just need to find out what it is, in Keevan’s case. Anatos, you said it would be easy to circumvent the security locks on his door."
"Yes, it shouldn’t be difficult…"
"Good. You are to wait until Keevan leaves the cabin, and then break in. Look around and bring back any useful information you find."
It only took Anatos a few minutes. He returned with a padd and an excited smile on his face.
"I found a padd in his room," Anatos said. "So I copied the files onto this one."
Garak looked at the contents of the padd. It was a list of high-ranking Cardassians – including Damar – with some unfamiliar and very long files keyed to each name.
"It’s just gibberish," Ferrin said, disappointed.
"It’s coded," Garak corrected. "Shouldn’t take me too long to decode…."
Anatos and Ferrin sat silently while Garak worked on the code. Bored, Anatos started poking through the supplies Garak had brought with them. He opened a case and pulled out a long, tapering metal instrument.
"What’s this for?" Anatos said.
"Anatos, please," Garak said peevishly. "I’m trying to concentrate. That is a cranial probe. Please return it to its case."
Anatos laughed. "What do we need a cranial probe for?"
Garak sighed. He hadn’t told either Anatos or Ferrin the whole story about their mission. But he was getting nowhere with decoding Keevan’s list, so he decided now was a good a time as any.
"When we get Keevan on the shuttle, we are going to use that, and the other implements in that case, to extract a chip from his brain," Garak said. "It’s rather complicated, but the Federation is very interested in obtaining that chip. It may prove valuable to the war effort."
Anatos replaced the probe and banged the case shut.
"I can’t believe this! You’re going to murder Keevan?"
Garak rubbed his head and sighed. Anatos the idealist, again.
"I’m afraid that’s an unavoidable side-effect of removing the chip, yes."
"We’re supposed to be starting a new, democratic government on Cardassia! We shouldn’t be doing things like this! Drilling a hole into a living person’s head…"
"Garak, what’s happened to you?" Ferrin said, in horror. "You’ve changed into someone I don’t even recognize."
"I am who I’ve always been," Garak replied. "My behavior was constrained for years on DS9, because after all, it was a Federation base. I’ve always blended in with the crowd – a very useful skill. But we’re no longer bound by Federation rules, are we?"
Anatos was not swayed. "I always thought Cardassians had a few rules to live by, besides the ones the Obsidian Order follow – do whatever it takes to complete the mission, regardless of how low you have to go to succeed."
"It’s heartening that you understand so well, Anatos," Garak retorted. "That is, indeed, what I expect from my agents. It’s a bad sign that you can’t even stomach murdering a Vorta. That will be the least of what we’ll have to do, in order to free Cardassia. And if you can’t abide it, you should consider joining Starfleet. You’re just the type."
Keevan stared at the padd. Its lockout mechanism had been overridden, but the security system revealed that someone had downloaded files from it. He wondered who on this vessel would have been spying on him. Most of the passengers were Cardassians. There were a few Vortas, and one or two Bajorans. And several Jem’Hadar, but Keevan discounted them immediately.***
Tapping into the ship’s computers, Keevan read the passenger manifest. Other than the Vortas, the passengers were innocuous. He had no reason to especially suspect the Vortas, but Keevan always was suspicious of his own people. It went without saying, that if you selected a Cardassian, a Bajoran, and a Vorta at random, the one most likely to stick a knife in your back was the Vorta. He wondered if Weyoun was laying some sort of trap for him.
He isn’t going to get me that easy, he thought. He cross-referenced the manifest with the passengers’ assigned cabins, and accessed the life-support readings. He smiled. One cabin contained three life forms, despite the fact that none of the passengers on the manifest were assigned to that space. The most likely suspects were there. Fortunately, the ever-paranoid Cardassians had tiny spy devices scattered throughout the ship – and one of the devices was pointed right at the door of that cabin.
Keevan brought up the image from that device and waited patiently. Finally, two people emerged from the cabin. Keevan watched intently. Cardassians. The young female was unfamiliar. The older male who followed seemed…if only he could recall…
Idiot Ferengis! Keevan thought angrily. Killing Keevan Three like that – who knows how many memories have been lost or damaged!
The damage to Keevan’s mnemonic chip was a constant annoyance. Between the time Keevan Three’s vessel had crashed on that Founder-forsaken planet with a shipload of Jem’Hadar in withdrawal, and his later, untimely death on Empok Nor, there had been no way to create the standard mnemonic backup chip as a safeguard against sudden catastrophe. Every so often, Keevan Four came across a damaged region from that time period. He had to concentrate to reconstruct the images.
Where did Keevan Three see that face? There weren’t any Cardassians in the Federation POW facility, were there? Maybe there were…try to recall his face…he wasn’t in the military…wasn’t wearing the uniform…he had a badge, though.
The memories suddenly flooded back.
He had a Starfleet communicator! The Jem’Hadar captured him and that Ferengi, Gog, on the planet where Keevan Three was injured.
That was proof enough. Starfleet had sent a team of Cardassian spies to obtain evidence of the viral trials.
Keevan was a little disappointed that it hadn’t turned out to be a Vorta, sent by Weyoun for some malicious purpose. Still, Federation spies…this would be interesting. He smiled as he observed Garak and Ferrin disappearing into the distance down the corridor.
It’s a long way back to Federation space. I wonder if you’ll make it. Somehow, I think you won’t.
Ferrin was asleep in the next room, so Garak and Anatos spoke quietly.***
"The long files aren’t text," Garak explained. "They’re DNA sequences. These files contain the genetic structure of every Cardassian in Central Command."
"Why does Keevan need that?" Anatos asked.
"There were some coded memos on the padd as well. One memo outlines Keevan’s belief that there is an anti-Dominion rebellion brewing at the highest levels of Cardassian society."
Anatos snorted. "Well, he’s right about that!"
Garak continued. "In another memo, he complains about the absence of ‘test subjects,’ which is apparently impeding some kind of research he’s conducting. A third memo contains a lengthy diatribe against what he considers the ‘annoying aspects’ of Cardassian society. He notes that under the Cardassian justice system, all suspects of serious crimes are executed. And that the strong familial ties among our people mean that any Cardassian who ‘goes missing’ would be instantly noticed."
"What’s all that supposed to mean?"
"Read between the lines, Anatos. The ‘test subjects’ who are difficult to obtain are Cardassians – no prisoners to experiment on; no way to abduct one of our people without drawing attention. Obviously, Keevan is working on some means of altering the genetic structure of Cardassians, probably to make them more tractable to Dominion rule. No doubt he plans to start with Central Command."
Anatos was stunned. "It’s a good thing he’s hasn’t been able to find victims to experiment on, then. Vorta bastard!"
Garak grinned at the epithet, which was singularly inappropriate when applied to a cloned being.
"Now do you think the situation is dire enough to justify getting a little blood on your hands?" Garak asked. "We need that chip, and we need to stop Keevan. We can kill two gettles with one stroke. Fortunately, Keevan has given us what we wanted. A way to get to him."
"I don’t see what you mean."
"We now know what Keevan wants," Garak replied with a mysterious smile. "Test subjects to experiment on. Cardassians who will not be ‘missed.’ And what kind of Cardassians wouldn’t be missed? Orphans. Outcasts. Federation spies."
"Wait," Anatos said, frowning. "You don’t mean that we’re the bait?"
"Come now, Anatos. You’re not afraid of a Vorta, are you?"
"Well, of course not. But how are we going to arrange this? I can’t just walk up to Keevan and say, ‘Hello, my name is Anatos, and I’m an outcast orphaned Federation spy. I volunteer to be turned into a genetic freak for the greater glory of the Dominion.’"
"I think we can be a little more subtle than that," Garak said. "You probably didn’t notice, but this transport has the usual collection of spy devices placed in the corridors. They’re the old style, very easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. One of those devices is positioned right outside this cabin. I’m sure Keevan has been monitoring the security system – Vortas are usually quite assiduous about knowing everything that’s going on around them. Keevan would recognize me on sight, and he knows of my ties with Starfleet."
"What? You mean the Vorta is on to us already?"
"Don’t worry, Anatos. Vortas have one very serious weakness. They always assume they are in control of any situation, and their overconfidence leads to mistakes. I doubt that Keevan is any exception."
Anatos shook his head. "I hope you’re right, Garak. And I hope we’re doing the right thing. I know we’re up against an unethical enemy who will do anything to win, but…I just hate the idea of luring anyone into a horrible death. Let’s hope this is the last time we’ll ever be forced to do something so awful. When Cardassia is once again a democracy, we can put all this behind us."
Garak smiled. Anatos would be reasonable in this case, but he still had not learned the fundamental lesson. Obsidian Order techniques were not things to be used and discarded as you thought convenient. Either you believed in the Order, or you did not. Clearly, Anatos did not. There was only one fate for a failed Order agent. But Anatos could still prove useful.
Anatos was very agitated and confused. Garak noted that it was just the kind of emotional state where the Kibow technique would be useless. No matter whether Anatos were lying or telling the truth, the observer would see only one thing.
Ferrin returned to the main room of the cabin. They were sleeping in shifts, and now it was Anatos’ turn to sleep.***
"Well," Garak said? "Did you ask him? Is he with us or not?"
"He said he is," Ferrin replied, uneasily.
"And was he speaking the truth?"
Ferrin said nothing.
"I knew it!" Garak exclaimed. "I was right! Your brother does not intend to help us in our mission. I suspect that he even intends to warn Keevan out of a misguided sense of morality."
Ferrin shook her head in disbelief. "I know he’s never been comfortable with…I mean, he’s always been very adamant in his opinions, very idealistic. But I can’t believe he would endanger our mission."
"You used the Kibow. And you saw he was lying. What other conclusion can we draw from that?"
"The test is unreliable. I must be wrong."
"True. You could be mistaken. But what if you aren’t? Can we take that chance?"
"I know what you’ve taught me. But Anatos is my brother!"
"No Order agent has a brother. Or a mother, a father…I’m disappointed in you, Ferrin. I had thought of all the dissidents, you had the most potential."
"If you’re going to ask me to kill Anatos, don’t! I won’t do it."
"That’s a pity. Our mission will fail, and we will most likely be executed. Cardassia will remain in the thrall of the Dominion, and once the entire population is genetically altered, there will be no Cardassia. It will probably be a mercy when the inevitable occurs – the Dominion finally makes good on its threat and eradicates our people. Or perhaps they will consider it more cruel to leave them as soulless zombies…"
"Stop it, Garak!" Ferrin sobbed. "I can’t do it. I can’t murder my own brother!"
"Then our mission is doomed," Garak said. "But we should still see it through – perhaps the spirits of the Hebitians will smile upon us, and grant us a miracle."
Keevan watched as the three Cardassians left their cabin, and followed their progress all the way to an airlock. He observed them trying various combinations to override the security controls. They couldn’t be allowed to escape with the information from Keevan’s padd, and besides, this was an opportunity Keevan couldn’t pass up. Cardassian test subjects were maddeningly hard to come by, and he wasn’t going to let three of them just get away.
Praying that the Jem’Hadar would still recognize the authority of a Vorta, Keevan recruited five of them to help. Then he headed for the airlock.
As Garak heard the muffled sounds of a group of people approaching the airlock, he told Ferrin to stop fumbling with the security controls, and to prepare to punch in the correct combination. Their trap had worked, but obviously Keevan was not coming there alone.
"Draw your weapons and fire on my command." Garak whispered.
As the Jem’Hadar approached the junction leading to the airlock, a withering barrage of disruptor fire stopped their movement.
Keevan signaled for the Jem’Hadar not to return fire. Dead test subjects would be no use to him.
"Cardassians!" Keevan yelled. "Hold your fire. I’ll come out and talk if you send someone to do the same."
"Agreed," Garak responded.
Garak approached the corridor junction. Ferrin stayed at the airlock, so that she could open it quickly, if needed.
"You have something I want," Keevan said. "The list from the padd."
"What a coincidence," Garak said, smiling. "You also have something I need."
"Perhaps we could trade?"
"Perhaps we could. But I’m not going to hand over the padd unless I’m guaranteed a way out of here afterwards. Ferrin, open the airlock door, so that we can leave before the Jem’Hadar have a chance to shoot us."
Keevan looked at the airlock, now opened at the end of the corridor. "And maybe you’ll just shoot me and leave anyway. No, one of your people has to serve as a hostage and wait at this end of the corridor with the Jem’Hadar."
"That’s a reasonable request," Garak replied. "Anatos, walk down the corridor."
Anatos stared at Garak, but didn’t move.
"You heard me," Garak repeated. Then he whispered. "Trust me! We need to get Keevan on this shuttle. I have it all planned out."
Anatos glanced towards his sister. To Garak’s relief, she nodded. Then she looked away.
Passing Anatos in the corridor, Keevan approached the airlock. He put his hand out.
"The padd, please."
Garak handed Keevan the padd. Then, with one swift movement, he reminded the Vorta that Cardassians are very strong. Keevan was hurled inside the shuttle before he knew what was happening. He scrambled to his feet. Garak and Ferrin had jumped inside and shut the airlock.
"Well!" Garak said. "You have the padd. Time to give us what we want."
If Keevan was nervous about the abrupt change in his situation, he didn’t show it. "Of course. But you never said what it was that you wanted."
"Your mnemonic chip."
Garak clarified. "The chip in your brain."
"This is ridiculous. Open the airlock."
"Why should I? I have what I want. The mnemonic chip is on this shuttle. It’s only a matter of extracting it from its ‘casing’ now."
Keevan sneered. "You don’t scare me. You have to open the airlock."
"And why do I have to do that?" Garak answered, mockingly
"Because your friend is on the other side. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Starfleet, you never abandon one of your own."
"You’re quite right. Too bad for you that Ferrin and I are not ‘Starfleet.’ Ferrin, I believe it’s time to leave."
Ferrin paused, with her hand on the shuttle’s controls. Garak gave her a stern look. She obeyed, and the shuttle lurched as it disengaged from the airlock.
That was when Keevan realized he’d made a serious miscalculation.
Ferrin piloted the small craft away from the transport. As planned, no one on the transport prevented their departure. Garak could tell that Ferrin was steeling herself to forget about Anatos, and concentrate on the task at hand. Yes, a very promising Order agent, Garak thought with satisfaction. She’s reacting much better to this test than I anticipated. To be honest, much better than I did when Tain first tested me in this way.
Ferrin put the shuttle on autopilot and stood up. She was a female Cardassian, and small for her species, but even so she had no trouble at all twisting Keevan’s arm behind his back and holding him securely, despite all his struggling.
"Give me the hypospray," Ferrin said.
Garak shook his head. "He has to be conscious when the chip is removed, or it will be unreadable."
"Fine. Then give the handcuffs."
The silver disk looked very small and fragile cradled in Sisko’s palm. A silly thought intruded. I hold the fate of the Alpha Quadrant in my hand.***
Hah, he thought. Maybe, maybe not. Let’s see what the Romulans make of this, first. "Is the evidence here?"
"Oh, definitely," Garak replied. "I checked it myself. You can, too, if you wish…"
On Sisko’s desk, in his ready room, was Dr. Frost’s "Frankenstein contraption." He regarded it warily.
"You said you lost one of your people on the mission? I’m sorry to hear that. It’s never easy losing someone under your command…"
"It certainly is not. Although…let’s just say that this may be the first time in many years I’ve had to deal with such a loss. But it’s not the first time, by any means."
Sisko nodded. "Well, if this chip convinces the Romulans, then this young man…what did you say his name was?"
"Then Anatos’ sacrifice may help free Cardassia. Not a bad way to go, I suppose."
"I must agree. His death was…meaningful. ‘A turned page leads to new wisdom,’ as the Hebitians said."
Sisko wasn’t quite sure what Garak meant. But there were more important things on his mind.
"Garak – I wouldn’t feel right about giving this chip to the Romulans without…"
"Checking it yourself? I’ll show you how the chip reader works."
Sisko was startled by the clarity of the images. It was as though the memories were his. He could access what he wanted to see simply by willing it so.
He was in Ops. It made him little angry to see the Founder there, on his turf. But mainly he felt reverence and awe. Realizing he was experiencing Keevan’s emotions, Sisko found it both grotesque and fascinating. He heard the Founder coolly order her Vorta servant to condemn countless Jem’Hadar to death.
So far, so good. Now I need to see…
He was in a bright, sterile-looking room of enormous proportions. There was a continuous humming noise. Gigantic vats stood in rows that disappeared into the distance. Now he was walking up a stairway towards one of the vats. He saw his hand – no, it was small and pale, not his hand – take out a vial from his pocket. The other hand opened a valve, and the vial’s contents were dumped into the vat.
Sisko approached the next vat. Between the two vats, he saw stacks of tubes. He recognized them – empty ketracel-white tubes.
His disgust was replaced by elation. This chip is a treasure trove! Who knows how much more valuable information it contains? But he'd seen what he needed to, and it was time to leave.
Sisko seemed to be coming out of it, but a powerful memory intruded. He was in a shuttle. He couldn’t move. Garak was there. He saw a flash of something, metallic and long. He tried to exit the memory, but overwhelming terror kept him from focusing his thoughts.
"Captain? Captain, are you all right?"
Sisko’s vision cleared. He was back in his ready room, and Garak was leaning over him. Garak…
Exploding from his chair, Sisko shoved Garak away. Then he staggered and sat down heavily, trying to collect his wits.
Garak picked himself up from the floor, astonished at Sisko’s behavior. Obviously, something had gone wrong.
"Are you feeling all right?" Garak asked solicitously. "Are you nauseated? I’m afraid it’s one of the side effects of using Dr. Frost’ device."
"I do feel like throwing up," Sisko said, with a hostile glare. "But I doubt that the device has anything to do with it."
"Oh," Garak said, seeing the problem. "How unfortunate. I’m afraid Keevan’s death was rather traumatic, and tends to intrude into the memory recall experience. I hope the Romulans don’t mind when they view the chip."
"The Romulans have seen worse. And Starfleet will be overjoyed. Congratulations, Garak. You and this little chip have saved the Federation."
Garak made some deprecating noises about his role, but Sisko cut him off, unable to shake the horror of what he had seen..
"My God, Garak! Did you at least use anaesthetic?"
Garak smiled enigmatically. "I’m a spy. Not a doctor."
Sisko shook his head. "Of course not. You did as we asked. You got the chip. You deserve our thanks…"
"You don’t need to thank me," Garak said graciously. "It was my pleasure, Captain. If you ever need anything else, don’t hesitate to ask. And I’m sorry if my methods seem a bit different from what you’re used to. But I am well aware that the Federation is a friend to Cardassia, and I never forget my friends. And neither will the New Order."
Anatos was reliving it again. The worst memory of his life.
He and Ferrin were 12 years old, playing with other children. As always, Cardassian soldiers patrolled nearby to guarantee their safety.
Golden light slanted across the playground as Bajor’s sun began to set. Anatos ran the short way to his home to get a warmer jacket. Mother was preparing the evening meal and told him to get Ferrin and come home. He barely glanced at his parents as he dashed back into the street. Why should he have? They were always there.
Anatos ran back towards the playground. He never heard the blast that knocked him face down into the street. He picked himself up; blood was running from his nose. Soldiers were running past him. He stood and turned. His house and several others had been destroyed by terrorists’ bombs.
The soldiers prevented the children from going near the flaming structures. It took two of the soldiers to keep Anatos back.
It was a painful memory, but mercifully now it was fading as Anatos’ mind, which had raced furiously all his life, gradually slowed and then came to a stop.
Keevan Five studied the readings from Anatos’ synapses. He didn’t know what kind of brain activity his probes were causing, and he didn’t really care. He simply needed a set of baseline readings. The virus he was about to introduce into the Cardassian’s bloodstream would permanently change his brain functions, among other things.
Like all Dominion facilities, the laboratory at Dorvan 5 was strictly utilitarian. But it had everything he needed to procede with the viral trials. Keevan Four had seen to that.
Poor Keevan Four, he thought. Another tragic loss. But the backup chip was sufficient to allow the line to continue, and that’s what matters. Besides, his death allowed me to obtain a Cardassian who is young and healthy, an excellent test subject for the viral trials.
All in all, an equitable trade.