The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

The round table in the center of the main amphitheater was gone, replaced by two long, coldly rectangular tables, one for the prosecution and the other for the defense. The two sides sharply divided by the center aisle between them and the rings of audience seats behind them that were largely empty except for the immediate row behind each opposing side. Damar and his duo of representatives and squad of sentries chose to cluster in the first seats that caught the Legate's eye as he came down the aisle; it was the side of the prosecution. A few comfortable rows behind Bashir, Kira and the Sorges behind Odo and Lange at the table, and much too uncomfortably close for Quark.

"I don't like this…" Quark muttered under his breath as the Cardassians clanged in to file six and respectively seven across in the two rows directly opposite his one. "I am really beginning to not like this…thirteen's an unlucky number. It's an unlucky number, ask anyone."

"Well, not like…" Garak swallowed back the natural nervousness anyone would feel having to potentially bear witness against a man they all believed they knew, while having all these other thoughts and knowledge of persons they hardly knew at all, and yet knew so much about.

"Go on," Quark said. "Tell me what's to like. I dare you, tell me what's to like."

"Relax," Leeta chided. "They don't know anything unless you tell them; that's what Garak means."

"No, my dear," Garak slowly shook his head, still trying desperately to read between the lines; all of them. There were so many of them by this point, with good indications of there being more. "No, that isn't what Garak means… necessarily. But a good and general rule to live by, yes. That is a good and general rule to live by."

"Family of the groom, family of the bride," Bashir made some inane remark to Kira warming the seat beside him. "Sorry, it's me. I'm nervous -- aren't you nervous?" Determined, possibly. Undisturbed by the prospect of having to bear witness against the Chief. Kira got up at one point just prior to the swearing in ceremony to sit down next to Lange about as frail and pale and nervous looking as one would expect; a brief, noticeable pause in Janice's focused anxiety with the appearance of Damar.

"It's all right," Kira's hand touched hers, Veronica Sorge leaning over to whisper the same. "The hearing is closed; it's closed."

Closed. Now that was an interesting presumption in Bashir's opinion. What looked empty in its vastness, was not empty. Fifty Federation and Bajoran Special Forces surrounded every plausible entrance and exit of the amphitheater. More importantly beside Garak, Rom, Leeta and Morn, comfortable themselves a few rows behind Worf and Dax immediately behind the Chief, Ch'Pok and Sisko, Quark sat on the side of the defense; closed was not the word. Bashir could hear the dull ch-ching of latinum exchanging hands now; a profit waiting to be made, the Chief's story far too good to let lie in waste.

"A bit cynical, are we?" Sorge commented, crossing his legs in boredom.

"Oh, yes, sorry," Bashir apologized. "Hadn't realized I'd spoken aloud."

"You haven't," Sorge grunted. "Other than that nonsense about families and brides."

"Oh, yes, well, it is rather like it, isn't it? The arrangement of it?"

"Court's court," Sorge found no comparison to a wedding beyond that.

"Yes," Bashir agreed. "Precisely what I mean; the arrangement. Two sides with some judicial dignitary or another commanding center stage…" his gaze turned forward to the vacant witness stand waiting and facing them a respectable distance from the prosecution table. The judicial bench set down in its familiar position next to it with a second witness stand waiting ready for use to the judge's right, forward of the defense. For the purpose of potential dual and simultaneous cross examination? Bashir guessed. Or simply a matter of convenience? With the witnesses from either side not having to travel too far, their respective and opposing Advocates instead having to be the ones to suffer and bear the emotional stress of penetrating each other's territory, all while maintaining and holding their own?

"It's certainly far removed," Bashir sighed. "Quite far removed from the symbolism of a round table; outright hostile."

"Thinking of being hostile?" Sorge questioned.

"Well, no," Bashir frowned. "How did you -- "

"That time you did speak aloud," Sorge nodded.

"Oh," Bashir said. "Well, yes, obviously I must have," he smiled. "Somewhat absurd to suggest telepathy -- "

"Somewhat worthless," Sorge grunted.

"On a Klingon, you mean," Bashir obligingly stood up along with the rest of them with the entrance of T’Lara and her appointed deputy; a solemn Vulcan male with starched, black hair. "Yes, that's certainly true. It's more than the mind's ability, it's whether or not one has the stomach for it; few do, I rather suspect."

"No, that's not what I mean," Sorge corrected. "What I mean is the ability to obtain knowledge doesn't change anything; not a fact."

"We'll see, won't we?" Bashir raised his right hand in oath. "My facts say the Chief is guilty, it's just me who can't believe it…Never will," he glanced across the divide to Dax. Certain she was having the same difficulty as he was with all of this even though her intensive study of barbaric culture practices proved as inclusive in being able to exonerate the Chief as his chemical analyses.

"What manner of nonsense is this?" Damar's grumble was clearly audible behind him.

"Humor us, Legate," Ch'Pok beseeched with a sly grin; the Advocate primed and dressed for the occasion with his split-breast tunic and traditional sleeveless vestment brushing the floor. "It's a Federation tradition; once swearing not to lie, one, of course, won't lie."

"It's a waste of time," Damar insisted. "If the Human isn't guilty, why are we even here?"

"Oh, well, actually," Bashir turned around to the explain one of the finer points of Federation justice, but he caught a glimpse of Sisko and thought the better of it.

"Also a Federation tradition," Odo took over defining the premise of innocent until proven guilty with a sharp nod for the waiting deputy. "Yes, we swear; have already. Let's get on with it. Presuming the defense has a few opening remarks, I shouldn't have to file a motion to hear them."

T’Lara's face said "try it". Her mouth said "Advocate?" And so it was already not her courtroom, but Odo's. Ch'Pok's. Sisko's.

"By all means," the Advocate promptly removed his vestment for better freedom of movement, took two or three of steps away from his table and faced his audience with a warm, preparative rub of his hands. "In the matter of the UFP versus Chief Engineer Miles Edward O'Brien -- "

"He got it right," Odo sat down with a grunt for Kira staunchly stationed to Lange's right.

She was silent. Ch'Pok elaborating on about the defense's intent to show to the court's satisfaction, O'Brien's innocence, and the unequivocal fact that the Chief was as much a victim as Lange herself.

"Oh, please," Kira turned her head.

"That didn't take long," Odo agreed in time with T’Lara's gavel calling for order.

"He's not a victim!" Kira jumped up. "She's a victim! Look at her! Look at her!"

"Major!" Sisko ordered as they all obediently looked at Lange with her head bent and her hands clasped, mute and staring down on the table.

"I'm sitting," Kira sat with a comforting pat of Lange. "Don't listen to them. Don't pay any attention to anything they say -- you did nothing. He did. He did."

"Or someone did," Odo agreed.

"Prove it," Kira challenged.

To the contrary, Odo was there to prove O'Brien guilty. The former was Ch'Pok's job as stated and now reiterated with the accompanying clarification: "A victim of an audacious plot to disrupt the Bajoran-Cardassian conference…As much a victim, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as Doctor Lange herself, oh, yes."

"Yes, well, there's no jury," Odo stood up in formal objection to the minutes being distorted.

"A figure of speech, so noted, Constable," T’Lara granted.

"Truth, Magistrate," Ch'Pok corrected her. "The truth. Chief O'Brien sits under judgment of his peers; a jury by any other name. So evident by Major Kira's outburst -- and wasn't that the idea?" he turned back to the audience. "The idea of Chief O'Brien's assailants? To demean the Federation representative? Embarrass, entrap, dishonor, destroy, cause a third victim? Oh, yes, a third victim, ladies and gentlemen," his voice and accompanying finger rose. "Three victims…"

"Lange and Dukat," Odo identified for Kira the apparent two other victims of the audacious scheme.

"I know who he's talking about it," she assured.

"Yes, well, implying, perhaps, inferring…" Odo rose to his feet again in preparation of reiterating the prosecution's demand for clarity.

"Surviving victims, I should say, Constable," Ch'Pok preempted him. "The unfortunate demise of the Cardassian assistant Mister Paq at the hands of the Threat Force is so noted for the record…And not without value…" he returned to enlightening the public, "as we travel back …not to Wednesday and the evening of Doctor Lange's assault, but back. To that first fateful evening at Quark's and the assault upon Mister Paq and Gul Dukat. It is here we must begin our efforts to unravel this intricate and monstrous plot together…" he smiled again, suddenly. "Examining step by step the events leading up to my client's assault…With the able assistance of reports…" he secured his data padd to wave in demonstration. "Captain Sisko and Chief Constable Odo…and the firsthand knowledge and experience of Gul Anon Dukat…The defense calls upon Gul Dukat to be its first witness to assist us in determining the facts of that evening…

"For the sanctity of the record, Magistrate, of which my illustrious Constable Odo seems to be most preoccupied…" Ch'Pok was turning around to impress his smile and reasoning upon T’Lara. His closing already being drowned out in a muttered chorus of incredulous "What?" sharp intakes of startled breath, and registered protests; Dukat's not among them, not that Odo heard; Damar's he heard.

"Out of the question! What could Dukat possibly tell you?" the Legate roared in challenge to T’Lara's deadpan: "So ordered".

"Among other things who stabbed him," Odo grunted to Kira attempting to grip the smooth surface of the table in her fists. "Among other things," he suddenly ogled Lange; he wasn't quite sure why. She was nervous, obviously. When they walked in and while they sat. Further unnerved with Ch'Pok's unemotional listing of the charges and the reasons why, and now suddenly relaxed. The tension easing in her shoulders, neck, and upper back.

"Out of the question…Out of the bloody question…" Bashir was on his feet behind Odo. "You'll not turn this into a three ring circus invoking witnesses and rehashing details that even I know are utterly irrelevant except for making good show. I simply won't allow it. The woman has been terrorized enough. Dukat couldn't possibly have anything to do with, or say anything about this."

"What about Pfrann Dukat?" Odo asked, still focused on Lange, aware of the cartilage she called bone and the muscle-bound Cardassian steel of the Gul that unless Dukat was remarkably contained he would have, not could have killed her.

"Pfrann Dukat?" Bashir stammered to a pause.

"Feasible or not?"

"Feasible?" Bashir echoed. "Well, feasible based on what -- "

"Age, height, weight, lack thereof and inherited penchant for companionship of the female gender," Odo listed impatiently. "Never mind, we'll explore it later."

Because right now apart from Damar steaming, Kira seething, Garak and Quark alternately gasping for air, and Captain Sisko harmonizing with T’Lara's demand for order, Gul Anon Dukat was generally unimpressed. Citing "No I don't have a problem with it," in reply to Ch'Pok's pleasantly encouraging "Gul Dukat?"

He ascended to the witness stand. All six feet, three hundred and fifty or so pounds of him, arms, chest and head dwarfing the podium as he settled in the chair. "I said Pfrann," Odo reminded Kira's repeated notification that Lange was alive, if not greatly improved within the last minute.

"I know what you said," she hissed over Lange's bent head. "Dukat, I believe!"

"Yes, well, Dukat I don't believe," Odo assured. Not this one, the one before him, or any other one that was likely to come after. Not to be personally, that is physically involved with Lange's attack, nor for that matter a word he said; not that he said much with any affectations really. Just that grating, choppy accent of his and continued general disinterest agreeing with Ch'Pok's recital of the-facts-as-they-were-known-to-be until the Advocate got to the part about identifying the Threat Force that had invaded Quark's; Bajorans. When Ch'Pok got to the Bajorans, Dukat's posture took on little more insolence along with his tone.

His brother bristled up in the stands. Anon saw him, felt him; Pfrann so terrified of him slipping on the Klingon's oil. The lawyer knew something. He thought he did. He wanted to; was attempting to. "Yes, Bajorans," Anon agreed roughly with the grinning, ugly face trying to be coy. "Two of them. I don't know who they were -- yellow suits; Special Forces," he spoke directly to Sisko; condemning the Federation, accusing them of incompetence. "You say no, I say yes. Bajoran Special Forces. Who cares what Shakaar and you claim; not me."

"Move to correct," the Changeling Odo rose to his feet. "That would be the Federation, Bajor and the ruling Cardassian Civilian Council who concur to accept the Threat Force not to be comprised of Bajoran Special Forces."

"I am Central Command!" Anon reminded with a harsh thump of his fist against the breast of his black and silver tunic of armor.

"The embodiment of," Odo did not dispute.

"Objection," Ch'Pok raised an amused finger in protest. "Prosecution is badgering the witness."

"Sustained," T’Lara chastised Odo. "Prosecution will confine itself."

"Where were we?" Ch'Pok smiled at Anon.

"Bajorans," he insisted. "They were all Bajorans."

"Objection," Odo rose.

"Who I saw!" Anon snapped. "I was on the steps. My brother. Janice…that one," he signaled toward Leeta. "Quark, Garak; I pushed them."

"Pushed?" Ch'Pok stopped him.

Anon's eyes rolled. "Janice, yes. That one -- " his hand signaled toward Leeta, again. "Down. Out of the way. I jumped; my brother."

"And then there were two Bajorans," Ch'Pok nodded in satisfaction.

"No," Anon's weight shifted forward with a cold sneer. "And then I instructed Pfrann to assist Sisko with suppressing the rebels; he needed it."

Ch'Pok smiled, Sisko continued not to. "And then what did you do?" the Advocate questioned. Anon looked at him, Ch'Pok smiled again. "Gul Dukat?"

"I attempted to get them out of there; out of the way. Janice. The Ferengi. Garak. That one -- " his hand waved.

"Leeta," Rom piped up with immediate apologies to T’Lara's gavel. "Um…Sorry. Just, you know, that's who she is."

"For the record," Leeta added.

"Oh, Jeez…" O'Brien hung his head.

"Relax, Chief," Sisko advised.

"Relax? I can't relax! Julian's right! Why is he even up there? What's he got to do with any of this?"

Sisko had no idea; interested, yes, he had to admit.

"It has all the makings of a circus!" O'Brien insisted. "Trust me! It has all the makings of a circus!"

"At which time you were attacked," Ch'Pok prompted Anon. "When you attempted to bring the Bajoran delegate to safety…"

"No, not I," Anon corrected. "The Ferengi and Garak -- and that one," he pointed to Leeta. "Leeta. I ordered them to remove Janice from the scene; the Vulcan was dead."

"And then you were attacked," Ch'Pok nodded.

"We were attacked," Anon emphasized.

"By two Bajorans…" Ch'Pok moved back to the table to check his notes. "One you struck, I believe? With a Federation phaser rifle?"

"Yes, one I struck -- two he did. The alien," the hand swished out in indication of the bulky, large figure sitting with the Ferengi and Garak; the tailor's and his eyes met briefly. Garak's wide with their usual intent look of startled surprise. Anon's cold with a message and warning of silence or death; it wasn't by accident Tan perched on the end seat of the row directly across from them.

"Morn," Ch'Pok offered T’Lara. "Let the record so state."

"Whoever," Anon scoffed. "I remember the knife. I remember the Infirmary."

"Reasonable," Ch'Pok agreed. "What time were you released from the Infirmary?"

"Released?" Anon thought about that before answering. "I don't know. 1500, 1600, the next day? I released myself -- "

"Yes, well, actually -- " Bashir rose.

"Objection," Odo overruled him.

"Overruled, Constable," T’Lara corrected once she finished banging the gavel down in warning to Bashir. "You will have a chance to cross examine the witness."

"I don't need a chance. Less interest. Matter of accuracy of record that's all. And the record clearly shows Doctor Bashir to be the one who released Gul Dukat."

"No, I released me," Anon insisted. "What was Bashir going to say? No?"

"So indicated as a matter of opinion, Gul Dukat," T’Lara granted. "Be advised the court understands Advocate Ch'Pok seeks an informal accounting of the events, as it is logical you are unfamiliar with Federation jurisprudence. You are instructed to confine your answers to the questions asked."

"What?" Anon said, her stiff and stilted speech lost on him.

"Advocate?" T’Lara's head tipped, looking for assistance from the Klingon.

"Talk to me," Ch'Pok complied with his smile for Anon.

Talk to him? The young Gul was studying him; there was something in the look. An undercurrent beneath the bristling energy easily interpreted as hostility. "Nervousness?" Dax chanced risking T’Lara's gavel to mention to Benjamin.

"Anger perhaps, yes, Commander. Impatience," Sisko's nod incorporated an understanding of T’Lara's glance. "No questions, Magistrate. Please continue."

"Upon your release from the Infirmary…" Ch'Pok resumed inquiring.

"I returned to my quarters."

"Is that all?"

He didn't understand the question; Ch'Pok was smiling again. "Did you go anywhere else, Gul Dukat? Other than your quarters? Quark's, for example…" he checked his notes.

"Yes," Anon waved. "To the holosuites. That was later."

"How much later?"

Anon groaned. "I don't know. Eighteen, 1900. It was with permission, if that's what you want to know. That one; Bashir. Ask him."

"No need," Ch'Pok reassured. "An informal accounting, that's all, as Magistrate T’Lara has mentioned."

"Pattern of movement," Anon understood the supposed premise of the interrogation. "You're saying we were under observation by the Threat Force since boarding Terok Nor."

"Deep Space Nine," Odo interjected without troubling to stand.

"Entirely possibly, if not obvious, wouldn't you agree?" Ch'Pok's brows dipped in their furrowed V formation.

"Possible, obvious -- irrelevant," Anon shrugged.

"Irrelevant?" Ch'Pok was intrigued. "You were attacked, Gul Dukat, the evening before."

Anon eyed him. "That was different."

"Different, as it was the evening before; Monday," Ch'Pok nodded. "To where we are now talking about Tuesday…As it might interest you to know that on Tuesday, 1545 is the actual time you secured the holosuites for the purpose of a Cardassian sauna from the proprietor of Quark's."

"Secured. Not employed. No, it doesn't interest me. I know what time I attended the sauna."

"Approximately 18, 1900," Ch'Pok agreed. "A point for the record, Gul Dukat, that's all; how long were you in attendance at the sauna?"

He had to think again before calculating a guess. "Hours? Five of them? Six? I don't know. Your time record is different than mine. Mine says breakfast, not what Sisko says to be breakfast," the hand swished out annoyed, the contorted face suddenly shifting away from Sisko to grin widely for his brother sitting attentive in the audience. "Pfrann was angry something had happened to me. Remember that? Yes, it's very true. A concern for something happening to me; it didn't."

"And very little time afforded you to adjust to the change in time increments," Ch'Pok nodded.

The Gul's grin faded quickly back into disdain. "I was in the Infirmary twenty-four counts after I arrived. I would say that was little time, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, yes," Ch'Pok assured. "Yes, most definitely…it would be early Wednesday morning by the time you returned to your quarters from the holosuites, if that's of any assistance."

"If you say so," Anon shrugged. "Zero 900 I saw Bashir in the Infirmary. That much I know because he hailed to remind me I was two hours late."

"Remind?" Ch'Pok verified.

Anon huffed. "Three times. Pfrann knows. I had instructions to rest and Bashir wants to know why I am resting -- like you," he accused. "Cardassians rest. You?" he didn't know. Klingons danced or something. Reveled in their wounds. There was also an undercurrent of sly, snide humor in the Gul's testimony as he grew more comfortable with his position on the stand.

"After which you attended an abbreviated session with the Federation and Bajoran delegates."

"No," Anon corrected, "after which Bashir said I was not Changeling and could attend the conference -- they ring a bell like that one," he indicated the standard Federation accruement of gilded brass alloy standing proud on the forward corner of the judge's bench.

"Mandatory blood screenings, Advocate," Sisko identified quietly for Ch'Pok's quizzical approach for his notes. "Gul Dukat is being facetious."

"Attempting, yes," Ch'Pok accepted.

"Aren't you interested as to why?" O'Brien hinted.

"Why?" Ch'Pok treated him with his smile. "Well, why I would think to be obvious. As a Cardassian, he's obligated."

"This is ridiculous, you know?" O'Brien scoffed as Ch'Pok moved back to center stage. "It's absolutely ridiculous."

"It's interesting," was all Sisko would say.

"Following the conference," Ch'Pok read to Anon from the data padd, "you returned with escort to your quarters."

"Yes."

"At what time were you advised by Captain Sisko of the security breech?"

"No time. We were advised of nothing. By Damar, orders for the fleet to embark to Terok Nor, that's all."

"By fleet you mean a squadron of Galor battle cruisers," Ch'Pok nodded. "Currently held in station at the Federation border."

"Why?" Anon said. "You have a fear of battle?"

Ch'Pok chuckled with a grand wave around the amphitheater. "Battle? Over something as trifling as this? I wouldn't think so."

"Trifling," Anon frowned in careful dissection of the expression. "Insignificant." He ogled Janice with the external component fixed to her forehead, winking and blinking its green light at him. Not sure if the color meant something good or bad, or nothing at all, he decided it meant nothing he couldn't fix or change. She looked like Janice looking back at him, weak and whitened to the light, sleepy color of her dress. Her energy and eyes soft, needing protection, not living dead like Borg. He turned to Sisko sitting with his engineer who tried to kill her. "It's significant. We came to talk, not fight. You made the fight; not Cardassia. The Federation isn't paranoid; it is notified. Security is inadequate; you are. You were told; now you know. The fleet is fixed to cross the border with orders; mine. You don't approve? Oh, well," he shrugged. "Give me your complaints to ignore like you ignored mine."

"Objection…" Sisko rose from his seat in anger with the blatantly false accusations designed to provoke, yes, and promote precisely that, a fight.

"So noted as a matter of opinion," T’Lara granted Anon.

"A matter of opinion, my left foot!" Sisko charged. "Conference, Advocate, now!"

"Without accusation, Gul Dukat, your words could be perceived as a threat of military confrontation." Ch'Pok cautioned with a turn on his heel for Sisko at the table.

"Threat?" Anon scoffed. "You have me confused with some other Gul Dukat."

Sisko blinked. "I wouldn't think so," he corrected coldly.

"No?" Anon jumped up, the Cardassian troupe behind Odo immediately responding, security immediately responding to them. "One hundred and sixteen civilians are dead! They went to the Ferengi to eat, not die! You don't find something wrong with that? I do! I say adjourn. You say no. Two days later you are telling me the Bajoran representative is attacked by Federation. Are you crazy? The fleet crosses. That's it! I will see to the return to Cardassian Space. I will see to the Neutral's return to her colony!"

"Hold your positions!" Sisko thundered above the sudden press of bodies attempting to force their way onto the floor against a wall of others attempting to hold them back. "I said, come to order!" he grabbed the nearest body to him; it was the Chief who Sisko promptly slammed right back down in his seat.

"It's a time bomb!" O'Brien sputtered. "You're right, it's a damn time bomb waiting to happen!"

"Has happened, Chief!" Sisko corrected. "Has happened! Constable?"

"Over here," Odo hailed from the witness podium.

"No, it's all right, it's all right, I'm all right…" Anon reassured his brother, up over the tops of the seats and at his side at the stand, someone's phaser rifle securely in hand.

"He's quick," Dax paused to nod at Worf.

"Yes," Worf sighed, "he is quick."

Lithe, slender, vicious, and thirsty for action; blood thirsty. "Some other time perhaps," Odo's arm cracked forward to snatch the phaser rifle from Pfrann's grip. The eyes turned on him; gold and bright. "Go ahead," Odo encouraged. "Try it."

"No, don't." The smarter one of the two stopped the foolishness of the younger. "I'm fine. I said, go with Tan; sit down. That's an order."

"Waiting to be obeyed," Odo secured the Sentinel's arm, aiming Pfrann toward the waiting scowl of the Sentinel Tan with some additional advice for the Gul. "That goes for you, too. It's a court of law -- "

"Not Quark's," Anon straightened his tunic, finding Sisko's attention in the receding sea of yellow jumpsuits and Cardassian uniforms. "What are you looking at?"

Looking at? Precisely that; him. Listening intently to the Gul's anger he would have difficulty believing in even though he was hearing it himself. "You," Sisko replied. "I am looking at you."

Anon nodded coarsely. "One hundred and sixteen civilians dead with their forks still in hand; it would never happen on Cardassia. No knife in my stomach…no Federation attacking Neutrals for daring to agree with the Union above you…" his waving hand isolated Janice being consoled back down into her seat by Nerys and two gray Humans struggling to have their say above Bashir.

Sisko's cheeks pinched. "As this is a court of law, Dukat. Not a platform for propaganda."

"You say propaganda! I say conspiracy that you could crush if you wanted to!" Anon's fist struck the edge of the podium with the power to inflict a dent.

Sisko glanced, Bashir nodded satisfied from his station of soothing Janice frightened by the violent outburst of emotion. "As I said, his involvement, out of the question."

"It's all right," Anon assured Sisko. "We have justice on Cardassia, the same as you. You allow the Threat Force to abort my conference. Attack and defile the Cardassian and Bajoran delegates -- my father waits on Elba II to talk to you. You listening, Federation?" he verified with O'Brien. "The Emperor Dukat waits for you."

"Oh, I'm sweating now," O'Brien joked as Sisko slowly returned to the table. "I'm really sweating now."

"That's enough, Chief," Sisko suggested, hearing T’Lara's reminder of his original call for a conference with the Advocate. Conference? Yes, Sisko wanted a conference. With Dax, perhaps; Odo. Not Ch'Pok.

"Interesting response," Dax was available to offer the pensive stare searching her.

"Extremely interesting, Commander. I would have to say, extremely interesting. Poised for some reason, yes, definitely. All of them, not just Dukat."

Dax considered the general tension in the room. "Anger?" she offered back what he had said only a few minutes before. Sisko's narrowed stare bore down on her; she smiled. "It's not possible they are just as angry as we are over the situation and everything that has happened? It was Dukat's conference, after all. It has been canceled." She said Dukat, and she meant Dukat. Perhaps as a matter of record it continued to be Damar's conference that was all.

"I suppose it's possible, Commander, yes," Sisko agreed finally.

Dax nodded. "And simply compounded by the fact they are Cardassian."

"Who don't tread lightly, Commander, that's also very true…No," Sisko turned around in answer to T’Lara's question. "No, a conference is not necessary at this time, Magistrate."

"You may continue, Advocate," she directed.

"Thank you," Ch'Pok stepped back into the spotlight. "Only a few more questions of the witness, if the court sees fit to allow…"

Her head tipped. "The court allows."

"Allow…" Sisko awakened from his rumination quickly with a suspicious glance for the data padd Ch'Pok held in hand.

"Gul Dukat?" the Advocate tested the waters before proceeding.

"What?" Anon said belligerently. "If I ordered the Klingons deaths aboard the cruiser, you wouldn't have to ask, you'd know it."

"It would seem unlikely for the Tir to volunteer harboring some Bajoran terrorists, wouldn't it?" Ch'Pok's steps brought him swiftly forward, the padd extended, his smile entrenched.

"The Tir?" O'Brien startled.

"Every place but, Chief," Sisko acknowledged sourly the one avenue not investigated following the riot at Quark's. "Every place but."

"Yeah, but…" O'Brien said.

"It would better explain the suspect's ability to overpower Martok's bridge crew," Dax was also quickly alert. "The appearance of a Bajoran officer may have only been a holographic shield; the intruder certainly had and employed holographic ability on the Promenade."

"A holographic projection of a Bajoran activated and deactivated to deflect attention away from the Klingon bridge; the transporter's determined destination point." Worf still held doubts about a single Cardassian's ability to better five Klingons. "In the confusion it is possible I assumed the transport's point of origin to be the security office when it was the Tir. The Cardassians utilized the situation at Quark's in an attempt to implicate Gowron as the supporter of the Threat Force; I owe General Martok an apology." he concluded.

Dax smiled. "Also possible."

"Entirely possible, Mister Worf," Sisko nodded, focused on Ch'Pok and his data padd. "Entirely possible."

"Gul Dukat?" Ch'Pok tempted Anon likewise eyeing the data padd. "An educated opinion, no more. If you would take a moment to review…"

"Give it to me," Anon accepted the data log, his expression as bland as T’Lara's had been, his examination as brief before he looked up to sit back in his seat.

"Gul Dukat?" the Klingon invited as the Federation held their breath.

"No," Anon declined, an answer simple, direct, and unsatisfying for the Advocate and the audience watching them.

"No?" Ch'Pok cocked his head, puzzled. "I'm afraid I don't understand -- "

"I said no!" Anon snapped, the tension in his brother rising along with his, building again, as was the room's. Eyes starting to dart back and forth between each other; Nerys' face contorted; Sisko's head cocked slightly, watching and waiting. "What don't you understand? You asked, I'm telling you. Not opinion; fact. You understand fact? This isn't fact. It's lies. False. Untrue."

"Oh, yes, I do understand what you're attempting to convey…" Ch'Pok assured. "But, no, I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean. Surely, it stands to reason the information has been confirmed -- "

"Which is why you ask me, right?" Anon interrupted.

"As it has been verified to be authentic," Ch'Pok nodded. "By Federation and, of course, Klingon analyses -- "

"And now by Cardassian!" Anon insisted. "Who says no!"

"No, what?" Ch'Pok pressed.

Anon groaned. The Klingon smiled. The Vulcan sat on her tower shaking her head. "The witness will answer…"

"What?" Anon demanded. "Answer what? It is not what it appears to be. You understand that? It is not what it appears to be."

"Not what it appears to be…" Ch'Pok savored before he shrugged with a flourishing motion of surrender for their enraptured group of spectators. "Well, what it appears to be is you and Doctor Lange engaged in a variety of copulative acts."

"You son-of-a-bitch!" Anon was up from his seat screaming profanities above the new wave of incredulous whats spreading over the faces of O'Brien, Sisko, Kira, Bashir. Pfrann up and over the seats, back at his brother's side, someone else's phaser rifle hastily, and violently collected in the shuffle; a Cardassian's this time as the sentries surged forward to be pressed back.


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