The Bajoran was a veritable twin to Shakaar Adon. Insignificant, subtle differences restricted to age, height, weight, and tone. Physical and otherwise. A farmer, shepherd, like Sisko was a shepherd. He had the athletic, taut body of a man half his years. His yellow jumpsuit torn, dirty, stained with his blood and the blood of Martok's bridge crew. His mouth twisted wryly at Sisko's acceptance of the earlier interference and distortion in the hologram of having to do with his security fields rather than intentional deception.
"Otherwise known as poking fun at the Federation's arrogant belief in their impenetrable fortresses," Anar confessed, his blue eyes continuing to twinkle in amusement and delight.
"The point to your visit, Mister Anar?" Sisko's question was a clipped, harsh and cold as his challenge and expression on his face. The sacrifice of Doctor Lange had been enough for one day. He was not about to offer Bajor's First Minister up to Ch'Pok's altar for the misfortune of having unavoidable ties to some politically incorrect black sheep. The Bajoran reeked of Maquis; he reeked. Had he carried a sign Sisko could not have more certain. So much for Lange's kindest, gentlest man she had ever met. He was the calculating outlaw Sisko had chased through Quark's, along the Promenade, and traced to the bridge of Martok's Bird-of-Prey. There was power and strength in the man's carriage and tension, and there was charisma. Sisko was uncertain which outraged him more; he took a step closer to Shakaar's dark side, studying it, scrutinizing it.
"Unavoidable ties..." Anar considered. Born at the dawn of the Cardassian Occupation, his fifty year career in the Resistance took him to the heights and times of the old Federation-Cardassian wars where his assistance and deeds as an Intelligence agent for the UFP earned him the fond code name...
"The Hawk," Sisko pronounced sourly. Odo was right. It was common sense the so-called Hawk would be a man of maturity; in regard to physical age anyway. Sisko didn't necessarily find this man particularly mature; certainly not entertaining as the Bajoran did appear to find himself.
"A distinction often imitated, and claimed by many as their own. My youngest brother is no exception," Anar agreed. "Where your Changeling may have counted a generous twenty-six of me over the years, I have counted a mere twenty-three. Each one greater and more fearful than the next. From Resistance fighter to Maquis leader. Invincible and invisible...which I was," he shrugged, personally finding modesty or humility a waste of everyone's time. "Still am. Adon insists upon it. I can understand, considering his sensitive position…And I will continue to understand under the condition," his blue eyes met Sisko's black ones, less their amused glint, "my most honorable nephew continues to understand me. But then it does seem somewhat unrealistic for the Hawk to have simply laid down his phaser rifle just because the Federation and Cardassians decided the Occupation was over. Especially when there was so much work left to be done. There really is very little difference between the Resistance and the Maquis, Captain, other than that honorable recognition."
"I would believe in Gul Dukat's own immortal divinity," Sisko assured, "before I would ever believe him to be sympathetic to the Maquis."
"Which Gul Dukat?" Anar grinned and Sisko reacted despite himself. Anar nodded again. "You're right, of course. For all his inherent and apparent differences, Anon is his father's heart. His argument with his father having much more to do with his Prefect's own immaturity rather than Dukat's beliefs or political ambitions. My affiliations, on the other hand, were completely irrelevant. Anon simply extended a helping hand to a group of people in desperate need. Likewise. For some reason I was never even tempted to kill him...or Pfrann," he acknowledged. "Tan, or any of them."
"Something to do with just having one of those days," Sisko prompted when Anar paused to think back over the last eight months and the year or so that had preceded them.
"First there was the Federation-Dominion war," Anar said. "It wasn't completely surprising that so many of us would be divided between maintaining our independent ways or offering our services to the fight. After all, many of my men, as you well know, are former Starfleet officers, no more or less distinguished than you. Fighting Cardassians is fighting Cardassians. The Prophets know they were certainly determined to destroy us...unfortunately," he extended ruefully, "they were as ultimately successful in their campaign, as you were in yours. The Maquis, as with the Dominion threat, are no more."
"Rumor has it," Sisko replied.
"Beware of rumors, Captain," Anar cautioned. "In seeking to prove lies, you run the risk of discovering the truth. By the Prophets, in striving to prove your Chief O'Brien innocent of Janice's assault, the child wasn't revealed to be Anon's mistress, she's his wife. Betrothed to be his mate for life. One of those strict Cardassian social ethics, and Anon really is a stickler for the rules."
"A discipline you might well consider applying to yourself, sir!" Sisko snapped. "Crying foul after the fact doesn't cut it!"
"The child was picked to the bone!" Anar insisted. "For no good reason other than Gowron couldn't resist driving a nail into Anon! What does that have to do with justice and finding the men responsible for Janice's assault?"
"Not a damn thing!" Sisko agreed, and so perhaps this Anar should add a reality check to his checklist. "Doctor Lange should have been excluded from the conference, and the person I see privy to that knowledge is you, Mister, long before Ch'Pok! Information that should have been in my office, on my desk before the doors of this room opened for the first time! Beyond that, I believe we were talking about your day!" Because, quite frankly, Sisko had had enough of his. That included this arrogant Bajoran flaunting his Maquis colors alongside his proclaimed friendship with Anon Dukat and daring the Universe to do so much as blink back. Any of them. From Federation to Klingons, Cardassians and Bajorans alike.
"Then there was this Human archaeologist…" Anar drifted off to frown, thinking back to Janice and her distress signal he quite reasonably thought belonged to one of his missing raiders. "Not a week after his Prefect regained control of Terok Nor. My fleet and I had managed to regroup what was left of us after this thoroughly disappointing encounter with the Jem'Hadar and make our way...to a temporary base in the outer Colonies," he eyed Sisko wondering who the Captain was waiting for. Hoping to wander back into the amphitheater to see what was keeping him. The Trill Dax perhaps? Either her or the Klingon Worf? Kira, Anar suspected was in the Temple, demanding an explanation from whichever Prophet would listen and take pity on her outrage over Janice's perceived betrayal. He maintained she was an intriguing woman, Major Kira, one he would like to get to know.
"Then there were the Klingons," he nodded bitterly, seeing what were now struggling fields of food, strewn with the carnage of his troops. "Not exactly civilized themselves. Whose side did you say they were on during the war? Yours? Then there was the Rigelian plague. A downed Cardassian Transport trying to make its way home...It was six months, Captain, before I had a moment's opportunity to look around. And, no, by the Prophets, I swear, I did not just wake up one morning and decide to befriend the sons of Prefect Dukat. It just sort of happened that way. Just one of those days..." he stared past Sisko to the child Ziyal standing between this world and the world of the Prophets a small, glass jar of Janice's purple goop in her hand and so he understood her meaning and message at last; life. A choice of life over death. "Do you have a botanist available to you, Captain?"
"A botanist?" Sisko turned around to frown over the blank and silent displays behind them, and Anar's smile returned, feeling his hand closing over the small jar of purple cream.
"Janice's dream," he was waiting to extend the sample, offer it to Sisko's frown when it found its way back to him. "Her faith, innocence, belief. Call her affliction what you like. Thirty-five people survived out the last 200 of us not killed by the Klingons, but rather destined to die instead from our wounds, or succumb to the plague. I was one of them. Eight out of nine Cardassians lived of those injured in their encounter with Gowron's finest, and subsequent crash landing on my world. Anon was one of them. Another had plasma burns over 60% of his body; you stood next to him. Can you tell me which one?"
"Not even where you seem to think you are leading," Sisko took the jar to examine it nevertheless. So the Federation was interested anyway. Curious.
"I'll make it simple," Anar offered. "I want a botanist to confirm Janice's dream, fulfill it, at the least, respect it. It is the least you and Adon can do."
Sisko looked at him; he nodded. "And I want Hawk and his men pursued and apprehended; prosecuted and confined. Does it really matter, Captain, whose assistance you accept? If a man is dying of thirst, does it really matter whose hand gives him that life-sustaining glass of water?"
"A question that has plagued the galaxy for centuries."
"That's not an answer."
"I don't recall," Sisko's voice rose sharply again, "being asked a question." Threats, yes, he heard them; demands.
"I had hopes of avoiding some long-winded explanation," Anar finally surrendering to sighing. "Ones I am not inclined to give…No, I am not." Not relate the long and tedious story of how Janice even came to be Shakaar's representative. Of his doubts Shakaar or his collection of Ministers would even be interested in meeting with some Neutral to discuss extending and expanding her archeological grant. Of how he was wrong and should have known. Janice had her ways of getting what she wanted, no example better or more evident of that than he. A farmer. From Resistance fighter to Maquis leader to vineyard keeper…and somewhere in between there to guardian of future's past. The child Ziyal was waiting, clearer than Anar had ever seen her before. The Federation Captain Sisko was waiting as well.
"Would you consider the exchange of a botanist, Sisko," Anar stooped in his arrogance as far and as low as he could go, "for my continued obscurity, and hence the preservation of the reputation of my nephew, sure to be destroyed…" Sisko was stepping back from him, shaking his head.
"Out of the question."
"Then what would you consider?" Anar insisted impatiently. "As inclined as I am to strike Adon down a peg or two; for he knows, Captain, yes, he does know. Has known since the beginning, what you suspect is true. Full and complete knowledge of the impending threat that he refused, not to accept, but to bend to. Shakaar Adon will never bend. Not to terrorists. Not to Cardassians. And certainly not to some Klingon Chancellor Gowron or his political lover Kai Winn or especially me. For all the months of arguing, transmissions, and, yes, threats. Desperate to have Adon release Janice from her commitment because I knew where it would lead; regardless, Captain. Regardless of who ultimately became the Bajoran representative, Hawk was not going to go away. And as much as I cared little about that, I care greatly for Janice. My focus, Janice; My reasons, motives, selfish; I tried, Captain, I did try. Your way, rather than mine. For what? Adon as firm today as he was six months ago, believing as you, I am responsible rather than Hawk, whom he dismisses as some unruly child, though now twenty-seven years old himself. To where I, Adon knows, eternally the Hawk, if not the eternal Hawk, will do anything, if only simply out of retaliation, if only out of spite, if only to spite him. As will he do anything to spite who he believes is me in return…
"Notice I stress believes, Captain," his speech was increasingly rapid, heated. "But then to where I have been accused of being blind to Adon, he is equally blind to me…with good reason, again, Captain, yes. Everything you think, suspect about me is true, was true, for fifty years until eighteen short months ago. Where I am not blind, nor have ever been, is to Adon's value, his worth, heart or his soul, or the desperate need my world has for him, if they have need of anyone…"
"No less than the absolute and complete acknowledgment and acceptance that the responsibility for this past week lies upon his shoulders, and his alone!" Sisko interjected over the dissertation what he wanted. Damn the excuses, explanations and justifying rational. "Beginning with Sunday, and ending with today!"
Anar heard him wrong. He peered at Sisko. "Adon? You want Adon to go before the UFP…"
"Before himself!" Sisko's mouth was wet with saliva clinging to his teeth like fangs. "And from there, yes, before me!"
"I'll see what I can do," Anar glanced over the display console that appeared relatively simple to operate.
"You do that!" Sisko's fingers curled around the jar of purple cream, clenching it inside his fist, his right hand aiming for his com badge. "Doctor Bashir, Commander Dax…"
Anar stopped him, a daring hand around Sisko's wrist. "I really do prefer my lack of public recognition. Call it an acute shyness."
"Indeed." Sisko continued to care little for this man and his cheek; he stared at the hand around his wrist. "What you prefer…"
"Died with me on that platform," Anar nodded. "Except I didn't die, Captain, any more than you. I count a handful, yes, I did kill by my own hand. Many more that I could have as easily and didn't; Martok's bridge crew doesn't count."
Sisko was silent. Anar eventually sighed again, releasing him with renewed impatience. "Fine. Have it your way. Call your physician to verify Janice's purple goop holds more promise than a cosmetic face cream. I suppose it really is as unrealistic of me, not only Adon, to expect me to remain completely in the shadows. I am asking for botanist. It is my world. My colony; illegitimate though we may be. Another one of Janice's dreams. Legitimacy rather than imprisonment where all the bad Maquis go; for one of my stature, certainly for life. Under those circumstances, if not many others, I trust you will at least be selective in who you choose to introduce to me?"
"Guaranteed," Sisko activated his com badge, answering Bashir's response to his hail. "Yes, Doctor, if you would return to the amphitheater…and bring your tricorder with you." He signed off.
"What about Janice?" Anar reminded coarsely. "I can assist you in securing Hawk…Or are you of the persuasion who believes if you lie down with targs you shouldn't be surprised to wake up with glob flies?"
He answered his own question and the answer was, you are a targ, Sir. One with which, as with any other, Sisko would never consider lying down, regardless of the bounty waiting in the wind. It simply wasn't worth the risk, nor the price. Anar looked away, his voice sour. "Your faith and trust in Anon's abilities surpasses even my initial own; and I knew he was coming. I had been forewarned…on the wing of a bird…" He momentarily trailed off again, staring into the sympathetic face of the child Ziyal. The Federation Captain convinced and thinking zealot, fanatic behind him. "I don't suppose it's ever occurred to you, Captain, some us just feel the Bajoran-Cardassian situation is our problem; our business. The Maquis as much a messenger of that to the Federation, as it was a message to the Cardassians; at least the Maquis I agreed to trumpet…" he was sighing yet again against the silent, unbending steel of Sisko.
"As you should know, Captain," he said, "what Anon sets aside home on Cardassia he does for Janice's sake. No further trauma to her body, her emotions, ideals, and, yes, a thorough unwillingness to jeopardize her esteemed opinion of him. Out here he will think, wonder."
Sisko knew that, remaining as cold about it as he was about everything else. "As does my willingness to acknowledge Anon Dukat's potential in no way guarantees a fan; wait here."
Anar's smile was thin in its amusement, heavy in its mocking disdain. "Do I have a choice?"
Probably. But if Sisko were him he wouldn't chance to take it. He was gone with the jar of purple cream clenched tightly in his hand. Anar's finger trailed absently across the bench console ending at the tips of the thick, blunted fingers of the Cardassian child Ziyal. He looked up; her words grateful and relieved. "Thank you for saving my father's heart and soul."
She knew her brothers well. "For themselves perhaps, child," Anar agreed, not unkindly. "Not for him."
"Dukat," Ziyal understood and it saddened her deeply. "We're all so like him in every way, and so unlike him in every other."
Anar chuckled at her continued use and musing over his words. "The mystery of genetics. What can it mean? If the Universe can explain your gentle blood by virtue of your mother's, it cannot explain Anon's or Pfrann's born of other. The possibilities are endless. The implications I prefer not to think on; in fact refuse to. Dukat is the beast he is claimed to be. Born or conditioned. His sons, his sons; themselves, not he. His daughter, as well. As is Hawk my brother, not me. A son of my father, with a soul as black as your father's, weighed and measured the same; by his successes, not his failures."
She was smiling, misunderstanding what he meant by success and failure. "Do you have any children?"
Anar paused. His head dipped. The Prophet guiding her was subtle, though adept. "One son -- that I am aware of. So I can perhaps understand an aspect of your father after all. Less honorable than even he in some eyes no doubt, if I were to tell the whole truth, for I have never been married, or ever pledged…Indeed," he sighed in nostalgia he supposed a little, that time. "The mother's face escapes me. I knew it once. Her name, perhaps. Little more, and not at all well."
She laughed. He didn't. "It's the other ten million souls I have difficulty with, child, not yours so much. Sian's mother died at Gallitep fifteen years before the liberation. If you ask me when the liberation was I would have to think. I was not there; that was the other Shakaar Adon. Sian sought me afterwards to introduce himself together with Dak'jar, Jin'Mir, so many others, I lose count. It was five years or so I believe before we met. Five more before the Hawk became Maquis and eventually Anar. Still ruthless as I had ever been, simply no longer alone."
"You didn't kill us," she touched his tear-stained cheek he wasn't even aware he was wet.
"Oh, but I did, child," he corrected. "And you killed us. If I dare to believe the Prophets choose wisely in me, I know they choose desperately, also. I am not the Shakaar Adon the galaxy knows, nor will I ever be. Merely a man who has had a revelation in spite of himself."
"When did you die?" she wondered, her question a curious one.
"I haven't," Anar frowned slightly. "Not yet."
His answer seemed to puzzle her; she attempted to shrug it off. "You can see me."
"Hear you also. Not at first, but yes, now."
"Because now you're ready…" she murmured to herself in a manner of attempting to understand.
"Ready for what, child?" Anar asked interested to know.
She was either uncertain, or unwilling to tell. "They come of their own accord, Shakaar Adon of Dyaan IX," she simply said, her voice drowning in a chorus of bells, the brightness of a light appearing to embrace her. "Future's guardians, as do its adversaries. The chain which must be broken binds not you, nor any charged to your care. Your heart is good, your hand too quick. What you cannot forgive, you must forget. Vengeance is not sweet, but fleeting instead. Think long before you pick up your sword again, remembering the one you call the beast can see and hear the child as well. Do you understand?"
"Beyond your scolding for Martok's bridge, I lie if I say I do," Anar admitted through the stinging rain of grapes pouring down until silence covered the amphitheater once more and he was alone, a single seed lying on the floor at his feet. He picked it up, engaging the console to issue a priority transmission to Shakaar. First with Sisko's identity marking, followed by one preferred by Kira Nerys, after that, he was out of ideas except for borrowing a runabout and taking a ride.
"Constable…" Sisko exited the amphitheater into the quiet of the corridor.
"Yes…" Odo wandered his way over from the windows and his view of the docking ring where Dukat's Tir sat docked and misleading quiet. "All secure. Just waiting for you."
"Yes," Sisko took a deep breath for some reason, adding to that a lingering gaze down on what appeared to be a glass object in his hand.
"Yes," Odo agreed with a glance over what he now could see was jar; small, purple in color, or its contents were. "Lost and found?"
"Not exactly," Sisko shook his head.
"No," Odo said, supposing the next reasonable question might be, "Everything all right?"
"Angry, Constable," Sisko admitted. "Extremely. Quite frankly, I cannot remember…"
"The last time you were quite as angry…yes…" Odo said with a pensive look over the Captain's shoulder toward the doors of the amphitheater; having an idea it was something Captain wanted to do and for some reason wasn't. "Some point earlier in the week, I would think."
"Join the club," Sisko nodded.
"Which one's that?" Odo grunted. "Oh, the angry one. Yes, well, I suppose it would have been boring if Ch'Pok asked his last question first."
"That's not the way it works."
"No." So Odo had heard. He took a step around the Captain toward the doors. Call it gut instinct. If he had a gut that's what it would be; accurate at that. Sisko stopped him immediately.
"I'd rather not raise any unnecessary alarm."
"Unnecessary for whom?" Odo verified. "Us, or…who is in there? Can I ask that much? Dukat comes to mind, but that's nothing new. Dukat always comes to mind. A close second behind Quark. But don't tell either of them I said that."
It was likely he wouldn't. "Dukat is elsewhere, Constable, yes."
Odo snorted. "Which Dukat?"
Sisko's retinas were wide, glassy-eyed, streaked with broken capillaries and lack of sleep. Odo nodded. "And six more behind this one, on his heels; if we're lucky."
"Major Kira…Mister Worf…" Sisko touched his com badge.
Odo nodded again. "Yes, well, I guess that explains who you'd rather not cause any undue alarm…" he ogled the doors. "Not us apparently."
"Him, Constable, yes," Sisko acknowledged that much softly. "Secure the corridor; no one in or out."
Other than Major Kira or Mister Worf. Odo had it as far as those who would be granted entrance. Still not quite sure who wouldn't be granted exit; other than him or Captain Sisko.
"And Doctor Bashir and Commander Dax," Sisko added two more names to his growing list of those who was to be allowed in. "Not to leave you out."
"Yes, well," Odo said, "now you sound like Bashir. I can't be left out. I'm not capable of feeling left out…I wonder why," he wondered as Sisko slipped away, "I'm being left out?"
For the simple reason of however inconspicuous his Changeling could make himself, it hadn't work the last time. Sisko stared at the back of the white head sitting at the desk console of the defense bench. The Bajoran stood up with his tantalizing, taunting smile. "Perhaps you'll have better luck than I."
He meant the Priority One transmission to Shakaar carrying the identity marker Sisko. "There were few better than I." The Bajoran boasted his prowess with manipulating the station's systems to suit his needs.
Two at least who came to Sisko's mind. "Third in line, perhaps," he agreed.