The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Eleven

Anon was asleep in his private quarters along the Infirmary's isolation wing when Janice stopped in to say hello. She left him a short note on a data padd telling him she was there, how she loved him and would talk to him soon. It never occurred to her anyone might read the padd other than Anon; Bashir certainly didn't read it. Much like Dax, he saw nothing extraordinary or odd in Janice's approach or actions. Her thoughtful desire to extend a message of good will to the injured Gul was precisely that. Thoughtful. Not merely politically correct. Bashir just naturally assumed the message was written rather than spoken being as Dukat was asleep when he escorted Janice to the room. Had Bashir even the slightest interest in knowing what Janice wrote, it was lost in the juggle of reports Michelle had waiting for him. Reports that included a most outrageous, nearly incoherent request from Kira demanding his psychological support in attacking Odo's accusations of Pfrann having been solely responsible for the murder of some Bajoran terrorist during the riot at Quark's.

"Or someone's psychological support," Bashir scanned Kira's request far too quickly to really make sense out of it. "I think what she's asking for actually is a detailed analysis of why someone would rip another's heart out -- all good reasons, mind you she's expecting me to give her, not excluding a troubled childhood…Support, I believe is the key word here. She's looking for my support of her support of Pfrann Dukat's actions apparently not supported by Odo."

"Why would someone?" Michelle chuckled, not that tearing another's heart out was really a laughing matter; simply Kira's outrage.

"Your guess is as good as mine,” Bashir assured. “About the only reason that comes to my mind is they're quite clearly insane." He kept Kira's request however, stuffing it somewhere close to the bottom of the stack of padds he quite literally poured into his briefcase, somehow managing to clip the attaché close. "Ready?" he smiled at Janice done with scrawling 'get well soon' on padd for Dukat.

"He's sleeping," Janice nodded. "I didn't want to wake him."

"You're as big a coward as I am," Bashir paraphrased an old Earth saying. "Had my fingers crossed all the way that he would be asleep."

Who also didn't read the note was Michelle Faraday, certainly having little interest in anything having to do with Gul Dukat. Doctor Lange she accepted as a peer of the medical profession though Janice's credentials read archaeologist rather than healer. In her heart, and quite clearly also in her actions, Lange was a healer. Michelle did notice that as far as Bashir was concerned, Janice's heart was probably much more on his mind.

Who did read the padd was the Bajoran security officer of station descent and just recently cleared by Odo to resume his duty. A duty that found the officer stationed at Dukat's bedside -- likely out of pure spite of Dukat, not Captain Sisko. Though Bashir suspected Odo had his fingers crossed the Bajoran would turn out to be a terrorist, leaving them free of Dukat, as they were free of Mister Paq, with only Damar and Pfrann left to be concerned about.

It wasn't likely however. Far more likely Dukat would wake up and start screaming, not in terror, but simply over finding a Bajoran hovering bedside. Bashir could hear him now; he left to walk Janice to the Replimat before he did hear him.

The Bajoran security officer who picked up the data padd in curiosity did so, not because he was one of Hawk's group of terrorists, but because he was one of First Minister Shakaar's loyal subjects. An unofficial mole above and beyond the official government moles incorporated within Shakaar's Special Forces. Whatever the Bajoran expected to read written by their Neutral representative, he did not expect the words he read. Traitorous tramp was the initial thought coming to the Bajoran's mind, quickly followed by several others. He should kill the Gul while he slept. He would have killed Dukat as he slept except the door slid open to reveal a Federation security officer; Special Forces by rank, large and Capellan by race; it was duty rotation time.

"I've been here twenty minutes," the Bajoran complained.

The Federation officer didn't care. Twenty minutes there, eight hours elsewhere.

"It crossed my mind," the Bajoran stalked out, citing what the Capellan probably suspected, and that was an in-bred desire of all Bajorans to kill the son of Gul Dukat as they wished to kill his father.

The Capellan shrugged, suspecting it was an in-bred desire of many and would continue to be, likely for the next hundred years or so. He likewise did not read the data padd. Merely assumed his post of standing guard over the Cardassian who not had seen to dying in the riot at Quark's.

Outside the Infirmary, walking the Promenade, the Bajoran security officer struggled with thoughts of informing his First Minister immediately of his accidental discovery of their representative's indiscretion with the Cardassian whoremonger Dukat. An impossible train of thinking beyond the communications lock out and high level security measures in place. He didn't know the extent of the betrayal, the point of it. He didn't have any answers to questions Shakaar was certain to ask.

Was he certain to ask? First Minister Shakaar of Bajor's handsome face hardened in a cold mask of anger. If Sisko's preliminary reports were etched on paper rather than data padds he would have crumbled them into balls. As it was he flung the stack of them off his desk. "Damn you!" His curse was for Winn and her political lover Gowron. Determined to destroy him she would force them into a war with Cardassia when she knew the Federation could never protect them, and the Klingon Empire would never protect them, only in lies to gain such a strategic foothold in the Alpha quadrant; Bajor Prime.

"Damn you!" Shakaar's curse was for his radical uncle, sixty years old and still unable to see beyond the sight of his phaser rifle. He was out of his mind, Shakaar Adon, the elder. Out of his mind to demand, threaten, fight, knowing his nephew would never give into him. They needed not the nonsense of Damar, but to reaffirm their Peace Accord with the Cardassian Union, yes, Bajor did need that. As they needed the Federation still six long years after the end of the Cardassian occupation. And, oh, didn't First Minister Shakaar himself occasionally fantasize of a time when Bajor wouldn't need any of them; strong enough to stand on her own.

It was a wild fantasy; as wild as his uncle's, calling himself Anar this decade, the Hawk, some other. Shakaar never thought of Hawk, his youngest surviving uncle of a long dead family. Shakaar never did, and never would, considering Hawk a child; Anar the dangerous one. Anar, the threat. As Anar had threatened for four months. As he had followed through on his threats, knowing his nephew would never betray him because to betray Anar, Shakaar would betray himself; the family Shakaar was hardly dead. Its scattered small numbers just not so eagerly willing to be as politically correct as the people's hero Shakaar Adon of Bajor.

"As would your betrayal of me, betray you," Shakaar cursed his uncle one last time before answering his page's hail that Sisko was on the line.

"One hundred and seventy-nine," Sisko thrust his hand out to Bashir for the data padd. "Then you tell me where these men are."

"That includes the Klingon bridge crew and Cardassian diplomat Mister Paq," Bashir whispered in Sisko ear.

"Thank you, Doctor."

"I can't tell you, Captain," Shakaar answered simply. "No more than I can blindly accuse any officer -- "

"Well, I can," Sisko assured, "relieve every Special Forces officer of their duty and have them off of this station within the hour -- which they will be!"

"Unacceptable, Captain," Shakaar apologized. "I have the concerns of far too many civilians at stake to even consider the request."

"To the contrary," Sisko corrected. "The risk to those civilians clearly far outweighs the benefit."

"From terrorists, Captain. Not security personnel…Admiral, if I may…" Shakaar moved his complaining to the Federation Admiral Kawasaki waiting patiently on screen.

"Well, actually, if I may for a moment -- " Bashir spoke up. "Excuse me, Admiral, but if I correctly understand the question, you should be aware we do currently have three unidentified men in Bajoran Special Forces uniform in the morgue -- "

"And how many Federation do you have?" Shakaar interrupted.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Something else I keep trying to overlook, Admiral," Shakaar returned to her. "I'm not sure how anyone can relate a story of such obvious confusion, and then turn around and state so positively these men were Bajoran -- "

"They were Bajoran," Damar scoffed with an eye for Bashir. "What are you looking at? Are you going to accuse me? Is that what you have in all your reports?"

"No, actually," Bashir replied, "what I have in my morgue are three dead Bajorans. What I have in my reports is a detail of 179 dead and 278 injured. I don't think the word story is appropriate."

"Presumption then, Doctor," Shakaar's voice turned caustic. "Three dead suspects is a long way from the estimated number of forty."

"Fifty," O'Brien sent a data padd skidding along the table to Sisko. "Sorry, I didn't realize you didn't have the update…I've got a million of them here."

"Who may or may not have been Bajoran," Dax nodded. "Excuse me, First Minister, but I did witness three Bajoran Special Forces officers fire on the crowd. I think it's a bit more than wishful thinking for them to be the same three bodies Julian has in the morgue…"

"It would be," Odo grunted. "If you include the six apprehended by security in the upper levels of Quark's, as well as the six Mister Worf apprehended, discounting the man killed, you would still be up to twenty -- or thereabouts. You have a choice, First Minister. If you insist none of those men were Special Forces personnel then you have to accept an infiltration, all of whom were Bajoran."

"And there were two more up in the dining room area with us," O'Brien assured. "So now we're up to -- "

"Twenty-one, approximately," Odo agreed.

"Whatever," Kira said. "You don't want to believe they were Bajoran, I don't want to believe it -- it doesn't change anything!" she sputtered at Shakaar. "Redemptorist, the Circle, unless you want to start talking about the Maquis, they were Bajoran."

And there was no way the UFP, Cardassia, or Bajor, each for their own reasons, were going to touch that issue of Maquis. Odo knew that.

"What doesn't change, Kira, is the need for the Special Forces to remain on the station," Shakaar said. "Who can't have it both ways is Captain Sisko -- unfortunately, Captain," he readdressed him. "The intruders are either still at large, or they are not. I, like you, prefer to err on the side of caution that they may be. To deplete the ranks of available security is not the answer."

"Well, where are they, if they're not here?" O'Brien snorted. "Nobody has left this station -- underscore no one."

Shakaar sighed. "I wouldn't know. I am not there. Solely reliant on your reports, Chief, and everyone else's…Admiral, this is getting us nowhere. While Legate Damar might be hesitant in supporting me, I'm quite sure he is well aware aside from three unidentified Bajorans, there is a Cardassian diplomat who is dead and another in the Infirmary -- "

"And five Klingon warriors!" Martok seethed for the Admiral and Shakaar. "Who you would both like me to believe is the work of one man -- "

"Bajoran," Bashir interrupted.

"Doctor!" Shakaar's fist hit the table on his side of the communication's link. "You can no more state that with certainty than you can support the concept of what a man looks like is who that man is. Again, to issue me some account of a being able to elude capture by a hundred security personnel on his heels -- "

"That is enough!" Sisko barked. "There were no hundred men, First Minister, and what Doctor Bashir can state with certainty is that the child abducted was in fact Bajoran."

"Then, I repeat. The threat is to us, as much as it is to you, Captain," Shakaar assured. "I cannot jeopardize the civilian population of that station -- especially when by your own words you cannot definitively tell me who these people are, never mind me being able to tell you."

"A point, First Minister," Admiral Kawasaki cited her panel's response.

"A point if he's innocent," Martok snarled unconsciously in the direction of Damar.

Damar chuckled. "You look for allegiance from the wrong corner of the arena, Klingon. Who cares which of you is innocent or guilty when who clearly is innocent is the Cardassian Union." He finished with a smile for Sisko; to the dogs with the UFP and their Assembly.

"Actually," Bashir cleared his throat, "what I can tell you is the abuse committed against one of the Klingon officers after death was not by the hand of the same man -- or by a Bajoran."

"Thank you, Doctor Bashir," both of Shakaar's hands hit his desk in triumph. "Finally, Admiral, the words of an honest man, willing to take a stand."

"That's interesting," Dax murmured to Sisko. "A moment ago Julian was a bigoted liar."

"Interesting is not the word, Commander," Sisko answered coldly.

No, Dax had an idea it wasn't.

"I beg your pardon?" Bashir blinked at Shakaar. "I wasn't aware anyone's honesty was in question. I thought we were all trying to work together -- "

"We are, Doctor," Admiral Kawasaki assured. "Do you have an idea of who this other individual aboard the Klingon cruiser may have been?"

Bashir looked at her.

"Do you, Doctor?" Sisko waited along with the rest of them.

"Yes," Bashir sighed. "Simply wondering why I have the feeling that this evidence we are willing to accept -- if not waiting to hear -- or am I mistaken, First Minister, that your argument is based on a theory of planted Bajoran DNA? Due to? What? The man's athletic ability? You may be right. Doctor Sorge supports the physical analysis determination of a man whose strength is slightly greater than that of an average Bajoran. Along with skill, and knowledge of Klingon anatomy. DNA analysis supports the assailant to be a Bajoran male 58-59 years old. A relatively insignificant difference to the initial analysis of the kut'luch…which I believe…" Bashir checked his notes, "placed him at sixty."

"Wrap it up, Doctor," Sisko moved him along. "What does the analysis show as far as any second individual?"

"Someone with the strength of a Klingon," Bashir agreed. "There is no DNA evidence other than Bajoran or Klingon -- though, I wish to point out Doctors Sorge and Lange have completed only one detailed study on one Klingon cadaver-- I'm not sure what Chief O'Brien has been able to determine from the Engineering forensic data," he grinned at O'Brien. "I have about a million reports myself. I'm sure yours is in here somewhere."

"Bajoran and Klingon, that's all," O'Brien assured Shakaar. "The same as it shows the explosion was caused by a Klingon Disruptor on overload -- with communications and helm consoles destroyed prior, and Ops destroyed afterwards. So, no, the only real evidence we have that a Bajoran transported anywhere is our own eyes. We saw him."

Shakaar was calculating in his response. "Your own eyes put a hundred of him on the upper level of the Promenade minutes before, Chief -- "

"Wrong!" O'Brien corrected. "My eyes saw a phaser rifle stuffed in a kid's face! What is this?" he demanded of the lot of them. "Is it me, or is it him?"

"It's him," Kira charged. "Computer records confirm the destination lock to be the Klingon bridge."

"Your systems were sabotaged, Kira…"

"Right!" O'Brien said. "Which alludes someone more than a group of farmers had their hands in the pie."

"We're back to that again," Shakaar sighed. "Admiral -- "

"Doctor Bashir," Admiral Kawasaki requested, "is there any DNA evidence to support this suspect aboard the station was Bajoran?"

"I would think even if the Chief can't confirm transport trace particles aboard the bridge…" Bashir turned hesitantly to O'Brien.

"He can't," O'Brien waved. "He can't. Three guesses why he can't…"

"Chief!" Sisko insisted upon giving due respect even if they weren't being given any.

"He can confirm the transporter trace particles in the security office were Bajoran," O'Brien nodded to the Admiral.

She looked away, to the side, listening to either the Federation panel or the Cardassian Council. "Unfortunately, Captain Sisko," she returned to center screen, "due to the extensive sabotage to the network of the systems matrices we cannot accept any reports as conclusive unless it was conducted by independent methods -- "

"It was independent!" O'Brien screeched. "I used the systems aboard the Defiant for the determination!"

She looked away again; not for very long. "Logic must prevail as the governing factor."

"Okay!" O'Brien surrendered. "Now we know who's running the show back there, don't we?"

Sisko didn't even bother to correct him.

"It is the decision of the Federation panel, Captain, to honor First Minister Shakaar's request that Bajoran and Federation Special Forces remain as the primary security force throughout the conference, supported by the station's Starfleet and Bajoran security personnel. Again, we wish to stress we find your actions -- "

"Please," Sisko beseeched her, "do not compliment me again, Admiral."

"Exemplary," she finished anyway. "It is the hope, Captain, of the Federation panel that the arrangement of restricted public contact will be continued rather than sequestering the representatives."

"Out of the question."

"If I may first finish, Captain. The request of the Cardassian Civilian Council to include Cardassian officers in the security task force assigned to Legate Damar and his representatives is honored at nine Sentinels and a Task Leader for a total of ten officers to be chosen at Legate Damar's discretion. The Task Leader, as in the instances of Commanders Dax and Worf, will be responsible to report to Constable Odo. With the addition of these men, the panel can see no reason why sequestering should become necessary."

"For the simple reason, Admiral," Sisko nodded, "no one has proven to me that there is any reason whatsoever to believe these men -- whoever they are, whatever species they might be, are satisfied, nor will they be satisfied, short of stopping the conference if even then! You are wrong in my commendation when what I failed to think of, let alone prevent, was the deaths and injuries of almost 500 largely innocent people -- by the blatant act of a group of terrorists, not at all shy about opening fire on a bar crowded with 2,000 lives!"

She ignored him. He almost damned her to hell and walked out.

"The Federation joins First Minister Shakaar in wishing good will to you, Legate Damar and your representatives."

"Yes, yes," Damar rejected her dribbling. "The choosing of the sentries is Dukat's affair. I trust for his own benefit he'll be able to find ten that meet with his approval."

"When is Gul Dukat expected to be released from the Infirmary, Doctor?" The Admiral looked to finish up quickly.

"Tomorrow?" Bashir imagined. "The vascular repair was completely successful. I plan to dissolve the synthetic grafting protecting the artery in the morning."

"Excellent. We look forward to the conference resuming Thursday morning with a two day extension assumed. If the representatives choose to meet for an abbreviated session tomorrow afternoon, that is their option…To briefly address Chancellor Gowron's petition for the Klingon Empire to be included in the discussion…"

"What?" Kira muttered aloud.

"This request has again been respectfully denied. The Federation concurs with the Bajoran and Cardassian governments; continuing to find these matters internal and pertinent solely to their worlds…" her focus singled out Martok. "The proposed correlation to Klingon interests in the Alpha Quadrant is not recognized to have been satisfactorily demonstrated by the unfortunate events aboard the Klingon Bridge. It is the finding of the Federation panel the incident, while concurrent to the security breech aboard the station, is separate and unrelated; not within the control or jurisdiction of Captain Sisko or the combined Federation and Bajoran Special Forces. Thanking Captain Sisko for his assistance in this matter, given this decision, the physical remains of the five Klingon officers will be remanded to General Martok immediately following this meeting. Trusting the Klingon Empire will take the necessary steps to resolve any prevailing internal matters to ensure no further disturbances, no sanctions are imposed against General Martok or his crew… our sympathies are extended to you, General. You remain, as always, a welcome visitor to DS9."

"You joke," Martok scoffed. "You see I am not laughing."

He was not the only one. Sisko was reeling. The Federation's unwillingness to inflame the Cardassians or Bajorans with talks of Maquis or conspiracy apparently did not extend to an unwillingness to inflame the Klingon Empire. Admiral Kawasaki's challenge was almost a dare, an invitation for more trouble, not less.

"One last issue on the agenda, Captain," the Admiral cited. "Sentinel Dukat's detainment by security."

Sisko had no idea what she meant. His puzzled glance down the table to Odo ended at Kira rearing in rage against the Constable.

"You issued a report to the UFP?"

"It's a matter of the security log," Odo reminded her.

"I don't care what it's a matter of! I told you to release him!"

Odo turned to Sisko. "He killed an unarmed suspect -- "

"Terrorist!" Kira grabbed Odo by the throat of his tunic. "It was self-defense!"

"Major!" Sisko demanded.

"Bashir has the record!"

"I do?" Bashir blinked. "Yes, of course…You mean the security medical screenings…"

"So does Cardassia Prime have mine," Damar's jeer advised Sisko. "It seemed more to our advantage not to argue about it at the time."

"I'll just bet it didn't." Kira snatched the data padd away from Bashir. "Not the security analysis, the medical log."

"Actually, it's in both," Dax accessed the information for Sisko, handing him the padd. "Sentinel Dukat apparently killed a suspected Bajoran terrorist following security clearing the area for evacuation of the injured."

"Admiral…" Shakaar immediately responded to the charge. His tune changed now that a Bajoran officer was declared dead by the hands of some Cardassian, rather than the other way around.

"One moment, First Minister," Sisko requested impatiently, "if I may first be allowed to read…" he looked up from the padd to Worf. "Mister Worf?"

Worf sighed. "I have read both Major Kira's and Constable Odo's accounts -- "

"I am asking you," Sisko assured. "You were the senior officer in the area. Is there a reason why you just did not simply disarm Sentinel Dukat as well?"

Worf hesitated, uncertain himself as to why he had delayed.

"Tell him," Kira ordered Bashir.


"Will you just explain it to him!"

"The psychology of mob mentality?" Bashir guessed with a quick look over her written request buried in his mountain of logs. Highly doubting if she meant Worf's succumbing to the rules of the Klingons' gladiatorial tradition of prizefighting. "Or Worf's failure to intervene?"

"We do not interfere," Martok boasted. "The actions of Worf and the battle is not in question. It is the assault upon me -- without provocation," he maintained to Sisko. "Damar lies and the Federation and Bajor swear to it -- "

"Damar has nothing to say about it!" Kira barked. "He wasn't even there!"

"No, but I can comment," Damar's lecherous smile made her stomach churn, reminding her of all the people who may not understand her reasoning behind waving a sword in Dukat's defense, she was at the top of her own list.

"So can I," Shakaar insisted his way back into the discussion. "What is this about Dukat killing a Bajoran suspect?"

"The panel finds no justification to the claim," Admiral Kawasaki moved quickly to state the Federation's position.

"I'll make that determination," Shakaar corrected.

"Oh?" Kira rebutted coldly. "Five minutes ago they weren't Bajoran."

Martok laughed. "She speaks the truth. They were and are Klingon. Don't you recall? Klingon."

"That is an exaggeration, General," Worf rolled his eyes. "As inaccurate as this insistence of assault."

Martok looked at him. "Twice you challenge me?"

"Twice I speak the truth," Worf assured. "You attempted to provoke Sentinel Dukat with insults knowing how angry he was."

"He was protecting his brother!" Kira firmly adhered to her erroneous belief.

Odo grunted. "He wasn't even aware of his brother's injury."

"I wouldn't necessarily call that accurate either," Dax mentioned to Sisko. "He was certainly aware of the threat of potential injury at the time."

"He never should have been involved, Commander," Sisko's words were for her; his eyes still for Worf; his question for Bashir. "Doctor?"

"Almost afraid to say anything," Bashir acknowledged. "Risking having my own words twisted, I can't help thinking of someone else's. Culture is not an excuse. You can't cite Dukat as guilty of murder on the grounds he is Cardassian, not Klingon."

"Thank you!" Kira said.

"Don't thank me," Bashir requested. "I'm not at all comfortable with the act, we'll call it. Professionally, there is validity to the argument of Dukat's standing rank of Sentinel. His thinking at the time -- whether it be a result of mob mentality or personal concern for his brother…And yes, his age, which can be a factor -- common sense wise, at least, it should be. It's almost ludicrous to think someone would prosecute a seventeen year old sentry while failing to impose sanctions against a mature high ranking officer -- "

"Such as a General?" Martok sneered.

"Yes," Bashir nodded. "Absolutely. You may like to think you have no responsibility, but you do. For the actions of your men who attempted to color the events aboard your bridge, and apparently also in the fiasco with Dukat…I concur with Worf and Major Kira," he concluded for Sisko. "In the wake of the terrorist attack, the internment of Sentinel Dukat approaches the absurd."

"Release him," Sisko instructed Odo.

"Understood," Odo rolled his eyes.

"Thank you, Captain," Admiral Kawasaki ended the Federation's participation in the caucus, wasting no time in signing off.

Less any formal apology to the Cardassian Union, Bashir noticed. He sat at the head of the conference table, facing the blank forward viewer screen, feeling the scrutiny of several pairs of eyes. "I'm sorry," he said finally to Sisko. "You can't single Dukat out. I disagree as emphatically with that, as I do personally with his actions."

"No argument there, Doctor," Sisko looked to Shakaar still on screen from Bajor.

The First Minister was cool in his offering. "Why seek to needlessly inflame an already inflamed situation by harping on the issue of Sentinel Dukat's revenge?"

"Quite frankly, First Minister," Sisko dared to speak the truth, "look to your own motives before you dare to comment on another's."

"Are you accusing me -- " Shakaar rose from his seat to an outraged stand.

"Of the impudence of washing your hands, damn the general safety and concerns of others, oh, yes!" Sisko condemned. "Any one of those officers as much as blink wrong, and I will be on record accusing you of far more. From sanctioning, to support, to design!"

"I'll have to take my chances. To do otherwise I would be supporting the interests of a few over the many," Shakaar signed off.

"I'll second that," Odo supported the First Minister's choice to exit and the prevailing verdict of how the interests of the few did seem to be ranking far above those of the many. "In more ways than one."

"With damn few exceptions, Constable," Sisko brought Odo up quick and short. "Calling it the way you see it is not a defense -- or an excuse," he denounced Worf's apathy harshly. "The responsibility you accept is no one's but your own. To the devil with his reasoning, Sentinel Dukat could have as easily been the one who ended up in the morgue. Is that understood?"

"It is."

"Good!" Sisko turned to Damar. "Unless you want to find yourself with your own one way ticket out of here, you will exercise control over your staff, your crew -- not excluding yourself."

"Empty words, Sisko," Damar chuckled. "You know as well as I -- "

"Try me!" Sisko dared him. "That goes for you, General, as well. While on my station, in my world, you play by my rules. Willful manipulation of the facts is anarchy by any other name. It stops here and now…As does the rage." He straightened up with the best advice of all, for them all; himself no exception. Drained and exhausted by the battle behind him and the knowledge of the one he knew waited in front. "Righteous or not, ladies and gentlemen, the fact remains we succeed together as a whole. Allow them to divide us and we may as well surrender now. Call it want you want to, I shouldn't have to explain to any of you the premise behind a cat and mouse game…Is there anything General Martok needs to know, Doctor, before you release his officers to him?"

"Not that I can think of."

"Within the hour, General," Sisko anticipated. "If you would excuse us now."

Martok stood up; a familiar insult for Worf dripping off his lips. "For two years I have not heard the words of Gowron citing you for the traitor and coward that you are, perhaps I should start listening to them again."

Worf's failure to rise aggravated Martok even more; he walked out. Sisko was preoccupied and irritated with having to continue to include Damar in what he considered to be a senior staff meeting. He couldn't exclude the Legate, however. It had far too much to do with him. More than Sisko realized following Bashir's hesitant mentioning of the DNA analyses of the Klingons and the one completed autopsy that was specific in identifying Bajoran blood samples. The point that Martok was aware of the findings did not supersede the UFP's steadfast refusal to acknowledge a Bajoran controlled militant group.

"Pseudo-military, anyway," Bashir expressed his opinion beyond asking what to do as far as supplying Martok with the information collected; what should be standard protocol. However, due to that issue of existing Bajoran DNA, if Sisko followed normal procedure rather than adhering to the UFP's declared findings, he would be guilty of going over the heads of the panel; possibly even espionage.

"I'll have to think about it, Doctor," Sisko reserved making any such controversial decision for a later time -- specifically when Damar was not present.

"Oh, quite," Bashir supported. "Certainly reasonable to think…"

"Kamikaze," O'Brien shifted in his seat. "Sorry. That's just what comes to mind."

"All those years of holographic reenactments, yes." Bashir grinned in fond memory. "Certainly a fair analogy."

"Suicidal," Sisko explained to Damar.

He sneered. "Like a Klingon."

"I'll go along with that," Odo grunted. "Would be the sort of group they'd hire."

"Are we going somewhere with this?" Kira fumed.

"Not really," Odo said. "Simply attempting to affix a label."

"Maquis," Kira glued one on there for him. "It's a Bajoran Maquis outfit. Face facts."

"Reasonably a little more radical than its predecessors with strong religious overtones," Odo attempted to soften the blow for Damar.

"We're radical!" Kira reminded. Needlessly, Odo might add.

"And a deeply religious society," Bashir announced, also needlessly. "I don't think either comparison is too far-fetched."

"No, Doctor," Sisko agreed. "There are marked similarities to many military organizations. The Maquis is only one of them."

"Right down to the skills employed," O'Brien assured.

"And demonstrated for our benefit," Sisko also agreed with that. "As I said, the point of a cat and mouse game."

"Grandstanding," Odo snorted.

"A frightening thought, Constable," Sisko admitted. "We need to focus our attention on where these people are. Fading into a crowd to escape detention following an attack is one thing. They have to regroup at some point, somewhere -- "

"As Special Forces security," Odo maintained. "You can't identify them because you can identify them -- if you follow me."

Sisko did. If that was accurate and they were the Bajoran Special Forces in part or in whole, then Shakaar reigned as the probable employer, not Winn or Gowron. Out of the question. More than the psychology didn't fit. What did fit was a group separate and apart from the Special Forces, capable of infiltrating when necessary. Shakaar's refusal to acknowledge that reasonable presumption did not suggest necessarily sympathy, it did affirm in Sisko's mind the First Minister unequivocally knew who was accountable. It was feasible Shakaar knew all along of a specific threat that he chose not to reveal; instead adamant that the majority of combined security forces be Bajoran. Failing to prevent the Threat Force from acting, he remained adamant in maintaining the Special Forces. That, to Sisko, suggested full knowledge would also be found among the scattered hierarchy of the Bajoran security directly acting under Shakaar's orders. First Minister's choice of continuing to go it alone suggested Kai Winn as the power behind the Threat Force. Gowron hovered in the background of Sisko's mind, likely only because he did not trust the Klingon Chancellor from capitalizing on the situation, twisting and shifting the blame to Damar's corner. Sisko eyed the Cardassian Emperor seated alone on his side of the conference table. Ultimately it was Damar's fault for having proposed the conference -- to which neither the Federation nor Bajor had to agree. As much as Damar might be attempting to use them, they were attempting to use him and 500 people lay dead or injured in the Infirmary and makeshift morgue before the close of the first day. That by far overshadowed the promising potential of the morning and afternoon sessions of talks. Grandstanding? The power the Threat Force wielded and chose to reveal alongside Shakaar's covert efforts was conceivable only because Sisko was forced to conceive it. They were Maquis. A new and deadly version of an old enemy. Likely comprised of surviving members of the original organization who gave more than a fair demonstration of their military and cutthroat skills.

"'War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,'" Sisko quoted another one of those duly applicable lines from the renowned Human poet Lord Byron's work Don Juan, half listening to Bashir debate the issue of identity with Odo.

"What?" Bashir looked up.

"Nothing," Sisko shook his head. "You were saying something about the three unidentified Bajorans?"

"Yes. Specifically about the one man we can identify -- Captain Rhome Kirst -- "

"He's the officer Julian reviewed for duty reassignment," Dax refreshed Sisko's memory.

"No," Bashir begged a chance to finish what he was trying to say. "He's the officer I believe was murdered on the Cardassian corridor."

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