"Chief O'Brien's account differs by several hours, Captain," Admiral Kawasaki mentioned on screen from the UFP for the second time since the conference began; just three days.
"Leaves several hours unaccounted for, yes, Admiral," Sisko's hands uncrossed from their pyramid formation as he sat up straighter in his chair behind his desk in his office on Ops.
"As does the Federation Assembly find your decision to cancel the conference perhaps somewhat premature," the Admiral glanced down at her notes. "Legate Damar may choose to continue. As First Minister Shakaar of Bajor may choose to install a replacement for Doctor Lange; it is assumed you will serve as interim Consular Representative for the Federation in this event."
"You jest, surely," Sisko's whisper passed over his lips; she glanced up. He offered a slight nod. "You were saying, Admiral?"
"By your report, First Minister Shakaar has not yet been informed of the situation with his representative Doctor Lange."
"No," Sisko shook his head slowly. "With all due respect to First Minister Shakaar -- "
"You continue to suspect a Bajoran based Maquis faction as being responsible."
He stared at her. She stared back. "As by your report Legate Damar remains uninformed of this security breech."
"Legate Damar…" Sisko began; he stopped. "I can see no reason, Admiral, to bring any undue attention to this matter. And, yes, that includes apprising Legate Damar of any situation that has little, if anything, to do with him."
"He is not a suspect."
"No," Sisko assured. "Nor any member of the Cardassian delegation."
She nodded. "A point the Legate has made in his complaint."
"Attempt,” Sisko corrected harshly. "In his attempt to cite claims of conspiracy, Admiral, between the UFP and Bajor. You were no more born yesterday than I was."
She looked at him; which was fine with him because he looked right back at her. "The UFP has refuted any claims of Maquis resurgence to the Cardassian Civilian Council and Central Command."
"Good!" Sisko said. "Because there has never been, nor is there planning to be, any inference to Maquis, Bajoran or otherwise, in any reporting from this station."
"In this matter perhaps, Captain," she accepted. "In details of the previous security breech, the inference was clearly there. Security matters are matters concerning all; Legate Damar cannot be faulted for his inquiry."
"His grasping," Sisko corrected. "His reaching, Admiral, for any straw. Whatever else you care to call it."
"Unwarranted, Captain," she apprised him. "Unacceptable. The assault of Doctor Lange, not the Cardassian query. The Union has been advised the incident concerning Doctor Lange is an internal matter, with a Federation suspect in custody. Chief O'Brien is to be charged with all criminal counts pending against him. Your analyses are sufficient in evidence at this time for this action to be deemed appropriate. As will any delay in Chief O'Brien's arrest be deemed insubordination on your part, Captain.
"Additionally," she advised him, "within twenty-four hours Chief O'Brien is to be remanded to Star Fleet Security Marshals for extradition to the UFP to stand trial for court-martial and all criminal counts. A security patrol has been dispatched from the Cardassian border and is en route. This window of time should allow you and Doctor Bashir sufficient opportunity to complete all analyses, concluding your investigation. Doctor Bashir's request for a second forensic opinion by Doctor Tracy Sorge is honored by the UFP Assembly. Doctor Veronica Sorge emeritus is recognized as qualified to make recommendations for appropriate choice of counselor.
"As you stand notified, Captain," she informed him, "the charge of attempted murder in the first degree may be adjusted to murder in the first. Doctor Bashir's assessment of Doctor Lange's injuries, status, and prognosis is currently under evaluation by a convened board of Federation Physicians. Requests for genetic re-enhancement is not an option, and are denied. You will be notified of the panel's decision concerning Doctor Lange. As you will be notified to the trial schedule for Chief O'Brien in ample time to allow you to attend as Commanding Officer, if you so decide…" Sisko could still hear her speech echoing in his head as he walked from his office to Odo's along the Promenade.
"It is anticipated Major Kira Nerys, Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax and Chief Medical Officer Doctor Julian Bashir will be called as witnesses for the prosecution of Chief O'Brien on all military and criminal counts. The likelihood of required testimony for criminal prosecution only extends to the Cardassian civilian exile Elam Garak, as has the Ferengi Alliance been notified of the potential value of the civilian Quark agreeing to testify. Both civilians are to be immediately placed in protective custody until the determination has been made and the date of trial set. The Federation Assembly assumes the responsibility from you of advising First Minister Shakaar of the matter of his representative Doctor Lange in its entirety, reserving for First Minister his right to assign any investigator or team of investigators to assist or replace Chief Constable Odo. You will be notified as to First Minister Shakaar's decision in this, and any other matter. Including his right to remove Doctor Lange from Doctor Bashir's medical care. This is not anticipated and will be discouraged by the Federation panel of Physicians, if necessary, on behalf of Doctor Lange, who is a Human Neutral with her recognized home world being that of Federation colony Martian Colony 3, not Bajor Prime. Do you have any questions, Captain?"
"Somewhat awkward," Bashir prefaced explaining his request to the grey, scholarly face of Doctor Tracy Sorge on screen from Bajor.
"According to whom?" Sorge's personality was unchanged from the brusque man Bashir met the other day. "You, me, or Chancellor Gowron?"
"Chancellor Gowron…" Bashir said. "Oh, you mean the Klingon cadavers."
Sorge wasn't quite sure what else he would mean. "Spent half the night for a pat on the back and to be shown the door. Had a feeling someone might be calling me to come back."
"Oh," Bashir said. "Well, yes, we are -- or rather I am. Though, no, the request for a second forensic opinion is not to do with the Klingon officers. It's to do with Doctor Lange. Doctor Janice Lange," his hazel eyes stared wide into Sorge's narrowing inspection. "There's been another assault against the conference delegation, I'm sorry to say. And, yes, this time it would be Doctor Lange, as well as Chief O'Brien -- "
"We're on our way." Sorge's interruption was also its usual abrupt.
"Yes, thank you," Bashir hastened to accept before the transmission was severed. "However, I do have one other request -- "
"Make it quick."
"For a counselor," Bashir made it as quick and short as possible. "A recommendation, actually -- "
Bashir had this mental image of Sorge sticking his finger in his ear to help clear the canal. "For Doctor Lange. Perhaps I should clarify, Janice is alive -- "
"Veronica?" Bashir repeated to a softer, grey-haired figure with troubled, though pleasant blue eyes, moving into the foreground of the screen to stand at Sorge's side; he smiled. "Yes, of course. Your wife; Doctor Veronica Sorge. And that's remarkably thoughtful. However, the recommendation I had in mind would be a counselor particularly knowledgeable in the area of violative assault -- "
"Physical?" Sorge charged.
"Yes, actually," Bashir agreed with a sigh. "As perhaps I should clarify, that while Doctor Lange is alive, she is critical. Extremely critical -- "
"Veronica," Sorge assured. "We're out in the middle of a wilderness, Doctor, that's been under siege from some Empire or another for the last hundred or so years. On a planet that most never even heard of six years ago. I could name a thousand species less inhibited than we are. Not one of them any more willing to have something taken away from them that they had no intention of giving. We're on our way."
"Yes, thank you," Bashir said to himself as Sorge signed off. "Perhaps I should have also clarified it would be appreciated if the counselor could, in addition, interview the Chief. But perhaps that could wait, you're right."
"Overhead lighting," Odo could explain O'Brien's 'blue skies' possibly, as Bashir could probably explain the coloration as a refractory error; most of the room furnishings were of a muted silver tone, or gray.
"Yes, Constable," Sisko agreed. As were 'the stars' likely those evident beyond the portholes as O'Brien's head went snapping backward from the force of Kira's strike. They had nothing. Nothing to go on, no hint of a defense whatsoever and the UFP knew it. Offering the Chief up in sacrifice to stay the hungry wolves certain to demand blood. It would be a drumhead court-martial, nothing more. Life internment in the Federation prison colony for the criminally insane, Elba II. "There has to be something, Odo, something." Sisko picked up the reports to begin reading through them, one by one, again.
"Why, what's this?" Chancellor Gowron's Ch'Pok of the Klingon legal counsel accepted the intriguing looking packet from the somber-faced monk, Vedek…? Ch'Pok couldn't place the Bajoran's name at the moment. There were so many of them scurrying around; scurrying back and forth. Anticipating every snap Kai Winn might make with her fingers; every look the dominant mother of Bajor might give them.
"A gift it would seem, Advocate Ch'Pok," Winn's slow nod moved in agreement with the interested furrow of the Klingon's family crest. His heavy hands surprisingly cultured in their deft, careful unfolding of the silk swaddling protecting its treasure.
"A Federation data padd," Ch'Pok was too intrigued to bother for now inquiring into its anonymous donor. "Much too intrigued," he threw back his head with an uproarious laugh as he scrolled through the frames of information. "You see this? Have you seen this?"
"It would seem most unlikely that I have not," the Kai's head tipped again in her vain amusement.
Ch'Pok's roar waned to a hearty chuckle. "I like you. Yes, I like you. There are not too many outsiders the Empire regards with much respect, females especially. Take Il'Lakasan, Imperial Princess of the Romulan State for example; a shrew. A Romulan shrew. Her brothers fall asleep at night with pillows tied around their heads. But you…" his dark eyes glittered beneath their arched black brows, "I like you." Regal as any Klingon warrior. Her monk's crown, a helmet adorning the hooded, flowing habit of her faith. "Shakaar is a fool to reject the hand of friendship Chancellor Gowron extends to him; you understand this. As this," he gripped the padd in glory, "is all the evidence anyone needs to see that for themselves. And you give it to me. You give it to us."
"You speak well in words of flattery, Advocate," Winn rose gracefully from her seat. "Our hope is that your Chancellor speaks as well in words of wisdom and truth…I foresee an urgent transmission from the Federation shortly…"
"Eh?" She caught the Klingon by surprise slightly. His greed rising inside of him as he held onto the padd almost protectively, not wanting to share his present with anyone. "The Federation? In regard to this?"
"That?" Winn's smile flowed with her toward the door. "Oh, no, I wouldn't think so, Advocate. I wouldn't think that at all."
"So kind of you, First Minister to grant me a word." Her shield was up in full force as she entered Shakaar's domain. Her composure demure and placid. A musical intonation supporting her words. She was a piece of work, Winn. As deranged and unpredictable as their former Prefect Dukat.
"What's this?" Shakaar's shield was down. His potent charisma a cloud of dismay, his divine aura dulled by the troubles plaguing him. His words tired and ambivalent as he accepted the packet protected by its green silk cloth.
"A gift it would seem, First Minister," Winn agreed.
"Gift," Shakaar scrolled through two of however many frames before he slammed the padd down on the desk and stood up, towering over her handsome, aging face cloaking a soul as black as any Cardassian's. "You've seen this?"
"I would think yes, First Minister," Winn feigned despair behind her enjoyment. "You seem surprised."
"Surprised?" Shakaar glanced down at the padd. "That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?"
"By content, First Minister?"
"By you, woman!" he charged. "Damn you!"
Her hand cracked his cheek. He stood there. "I am still the Kai," Winn's smile worked its way to returning to her lips. "Your profanity is uncalled for."
"And what about yours?" Shakaar picked up the padd, offering it to her.
Her glance grazed the clean outlines of the black alloy case. "I am told the source behind our information is extremely reliable."
He ignored the 'our'. "I am trying to feed the mouths of hungry children. Your source will just have to get in line -- "
"A man called Hawk," Winn's head inclined.
He was quick in his reply. Too quick, or possibly not quick enough. The choice of words all wrong, and as revealing anyway. "I have never heard of him."
"It does sound Federation, doesn't it?" Winn agreed.
Once perhaps. So long ago now Shakaar scarcely remembered his uncle's nobler exploits put alongside the man the Elder had become.
"Oh, First Minister," Winn said kindly as he turned away from her to stare out over his city beyond the Ministry's gates, "for all the years you and I have known each other…"
He reacted sharply with the light, loving touch of her hand on his shoulder, turning to look from the hand to that face. "In all the years you and I have known each other, if one thing astounds me most of all, is that you would choose to marry our faith rather than Dukat." He caught her hand before it reached his face. "For fifty years we crawled under their Occupation before we finally crawled out -- and up! You, yourself little more than a slave. Your body kicked and beaten; your flesh scarred. What makes you think the Klingons will be any different?"
"It's called Resistance, First Minister," she reminded, lest he had forgotten the man he was; the savior who refused to bow his head, inspiring the wills of so many others exhausted and afraid to believe the last hour is often the hardest. "Should they attempt, the Klingons cannot ever take what we will never give."
"It's called progress!" Shakaar released her to return to his desk and the padd. "Growth!"
"Destroyed by betrayal," Winn nodded. "I do understand…"
"What?" Shakaar insisted. "What do you understand? If you understood, you would understand it has as little to do with Damar -- " he flung the padd towards her, "as it has to do with Gowron. Our lives mean more than Resistance. Our homes, Temples, schools, more than shelters of garbage and branches of trees. We were happy once; we will be happy again. With the strength of the old to guide us, and the light of the new to propel us — forward. Out of the graveyards and gutters, not back into some other."
"Then denounce the betrayal, First Minister," she replied.
"I do denounce it!" he assured. "It along with you!"
Her pulse quickened. "As you misinterpret the intention behind the gift. It is meant to inform and be destroyed, not revealed."
Destroyed? Shakaar looked at the padd she clutched to her breast, hearing a call for his attention over his communication system. "Why? How many copies do you have that you could spare that one? -- Yes, what is?" he answered the impatient hail.
An urgent priority transmission from the UFP, the page identified. Shakaar was just standing there again, at his desk, feeling the robes of Winn move to his side.
"As is the betrayal not yours, First Minister," she consoled him. "Do not absorb it."
"I don't. Nor any ramifications from it." He answered the hail. Half-listening to the Federation Admiral Kawasaki expound upon some new security breech aboard the station, the injuries sustained by Lange, and some garbled nonsense about Sisko's Chief O'Brien being arrested for the crime of attempted murder and physical violative assault.
"He is innocent, of course," Winn concurred sympathetically in Shakaar's ear.
Shakaar almost said "Who cares?" Refraining and containing himself with a stiff, prudent nod to the Admiral on screen. "This is deeply troubling news, Admiral. Trusting the UFP with the appropriate medical care of Doctor Lange, I trust also you work diligently toward a fair resolve?"
His answer pleased her; he could read it in her face. "The Federation suspect O'Brien is to be remanded to the UFP within twenty-four hours, First Minster, for arraignment of trial," she reassured him. "The question the Federation Assembly poses to you is one of the conference continuing?"
"A request for a continuance, Admiral," he petitioned. "If that is an option? For the sessions to be reconvened once the Council of Ministers have selected an appropriate replacement for Doctor Lange. This, I find to be the most prudent choice, in respect to the issues under discussion, and also giving some time for these new wounds to heal."
A stumbling block. The Federation as afraid of Damar as it had been of Dukat. And as big a fool as Winn to place so much faith in words rather than actions. "Your argument is strong, First Minister…" she began nervously.
"As…" Shakaar continued, having no intentions of allowing her to finish, "I will gladly, personally, discuss the request for postponement in its entirety with Legate Damar, who no doubt is as disturbed by this outcome as we are."
She was satisfied; delighted even, barely unable to contain her joy. "Your offer of personal discussion is greatly appreciated, First Minister. I will convey it to the Cardassian Civilian Council, together with the Federation Assembly. You will be advised of Legate Damar's reply."
She signed off. Shakaar's imagination not having to stretch itself any farther than the data padd to know what Damar's reply would be. He turned around to Winn, slipping the padd out from between her taloned paws. "By the Prophets, if the betrayal is revealed, it will be your head that hangs next to Damar's in the city square."
She smiled. "You speak in anger, First Minister, to be understood. But the betrayal is never ours, as it is always Damar's. Isn't it best for you to fully understand the soul of the man you deal with, as it is best for me to understand the equal danger of Chancellor Gowron?
"As isn't it unfortunate?" she tipped her crown in reverence to his bare head. "The child would find herself judged by the same acts of her own immorality?"
"Ironic perhaps," Shakaar purged the data base of the padd. "I wouldn't go as far as saying unfortunate, except for Chief O'Brien. No man should be tried and condemned for a rage most would find hard to contain themselves."
"Yes," Winn nodded. "We can pray the Federation comes to realize this for itself, but that is about all we can do."
"Yes," Shakaar slapped the padd back into her hands. "That is all we can do."
"I'll tell you now no Cardassian or Klingon had anything to do with this," Tracy Sorge positioned himself at the medical console in Bashir's office, peering over the initial screenings of Janice.
"Oh, yes, that's something on which just about everyone can agree…." Bashir smiled for Doctor Veronica Sorge, a small, pleasant woman, close to her husband's age, and certainly much warmer in personality. "You're welcome to use the desk console," he inserted the case history and medical analysis of Janice's assault for her.
"Thank you," Veronica Sorge settled in his chair.
"Who's the someone who can't?" Tracy was waiting when Bashir turned back to him.
"I beg your pardon? Oh. Well, actually there isn't anyone who disputes the analysis."
"Except for you."
"Well, no, neither do I," Bashir said. "It's my analysis."
"Now that I'm completely lost," Sorge agreed. "Funny, Doctor, but you don't seem the type to question yourself. What exactly do you want from me? "
Bashir smiled. "Your arrogance perhaps? I'm not questioning myself. Quite incapable of it, actually. As I'm quite close to incapable of making an error; I'm genetically enhanced. The prime suspect in Janice's assault is Chief Engineer O'Brien. The Federation representative to the conference, who just also happens to be my best friend. The analyses are as clear in condemning Miles as they are in refuting Cardassian, Klingon, or for that matter anyone's involvement other than the Chief."
"My arrogance has been earned," Sorge snorted, returning to the screenings. "Condemning is a strong word. Thought we had trials for that sort of thing?"
"Less than twenty-four hours and counting before Miles is remanded to the UFP."
"Where he'll hang," Sorge scanned briefly through the data just to have a look. "Or he should. You may not like my answer, Doctor. Prepared for that? Said a Klingon's hand didn't do this. Never said anything about the state of the mind of the man who did. Is that what you're thinking? Hoping for? Some form of induced psychosis? Your friend wouldn't be the first who found himself in such a position; doubt if he'll be the last…"
"Actually, it's the only explanation I personally have," Bashir agreed. "Can't prove it; can't even begin to…"
"And as soon as someone is able to," Sorge assured, "someone else will be right there to insure he doesn't the next time and so forth. Such is the way it goes, Doctor, in this universe, and I suspect most others."
"Yes. In the meantime there is a chemical profile that troubles me…Again, if someone were to ask, I wouldn't be able to explain, as of course, they will ask…"
"You have a transmission from Advocate Ch'Pok of the Klingon legal counsel," Dax excused her interruption of Sisko's conference with Odo.
While Sisko may not have been thinking of Martok, or any complaint the Klingon General might have to contribute to being left out in the cold over this latest security breech, Dax's notification did not surprise him. His expression initially reflecting something along the lines of "who"? It was a question immediately answered by a clear recollection of the physically sturdy, mentally strong figure of Gowron's finest who stooped to grace the station with his presence two or so years ago, only to leave the station with his head in his hands; neatly presented and packaged by Sisko.
"Gowron's finest if one were to ask Ch'Pok," Odo mentioned to Dax as the Captain muttered something about apologies not being necessary, turning for the console; his finger engaging the system with notable force.
"Your apologies," Odo further clarified for Dax. "Ch'Pok's best hope is probably a claim of a crossed signal."
"Too late now," Dax smiled with the beaming, cheery face of Ch'Pok appearing on screen.
"Ah, Captain Sisko," he exuded, adding insult to injury with the suggestion that the Captain might be as happy to see him as he was enthralled to see Sisko looking so well.
"Ch'Pok," the edge in Sisko's tone hacked off the lawyer's name with the deftness of a Klingon bat'telh. "It would be my advice any questions Chancellor Gowron may have he should address to the Federation Assembly."
"All on behalf of you, Captain," Ch'Pok suggested questions having been asked, his black brows dipped in furrowed sympathy, his hands fashioned in the wisdom of a pyramid formation. "To which the UFP was most appreciative on one hand -- and most dismayed to hear on the other," he inclined forward from his seat on what appeared to be the cloudy confines of a Klingon bridge around him. "Interesting response, don't you agree? From Allies? In this affair, as with any other? … This disturbing affair," he submitted with a discreet check of the translated pronunciation of the Chief's name, "with your Chief Engineer…Mills Brein."
"He was close," Odo grunted to Dax.
"Not bad, actually," she agreed.
"To repeat," Sisko replied.
"To assure," Ch'Pok embraced one of his home world's proverbs even if he didn't embrace the one about not trusting a man who smiles too much, "'a warrior does not let a friend face danger alone.'"
"Your turn," Odo nodded to Sisko.
To the contrary, Sisko had no intentions of continuing the conversation at all; his finger strategically placed for disconnecting the transmission. "Your support is noted, Advocate, as we are well-equipped -- "
"We shall see, won't we?" Ch'Pok agreed; Sisko's finger stalling. "I will naturally require a detailed accounting of your investigation -- not to draft Brein's defense, oh, no. Merely to familiarize myself with what Constable Odo anticipates to incorporate in his prosecution."
"O'Brien," Sisko unconsciously corrected the Chief's name. "You have one minute to explain."
"And counting," Odo seconded that.
Ch'Pok was still smiling. "A motion for a hearing, Captain, refuting the just cause of my client's arrest and extradition to the UFP."
"Pending transfer," Odo corrected.
"I wouldn't count on it, Constable," Ch'Pok corrected him. "Federation Magistrate T'Lar is en route from the Bajoran outpost Janele; to arrive by Klingon battle cruiser 2100 today -- it was the least we could do. I, myself, shall be there within the hour."
"Yes, well," Odo spoke first once the transmission was severed, "I suppose a better question would have been what client?"
"Audacity," Sisko choked. "Sheer audacity, Constable."
"Whose?" Odo asked. "Ch'Pok's? Gowron's? Or the UFP?" he nodded as Sisko's finger engaged the com system, ordering an immediate priority hail to be issued to the UFP, together with demanding an immediate answer that had better be forthcoming.