In ten years Shakaar had seen his uncle's face perhaps twice. Hearing of him infrequently, thinking of him often; every time there was a problem or trouble. In four months he had seen and heard from him more than he cared to count. Long before Captain Sisko completed the illustration of a Bajoran intruder he could not begin to describe other than by his startling shock of white hair, Shakaar knew who the intruder was.
"As I knew one or the other would get your attention," Anar was speaking sourly, coldly as he sat down. "I wouldn't," he warned when Shakaar recovered from his unpleasant surprise to reach to sever the transmission. By that time Kira was at his side and Shakaar was staring again at her staring back at him.
"You knew…" she said.
"Kira…" he started to shake his head.
"You knew!" she screamed. "Everything! You knew everything!"
Shakaar sighed. "Yes, I knew -- perhaps some things, yes," his voice rose in defense. "But whatever Adon has told you…"
"I don't care what he's told me. I want you to tell me -- she's his wife for the Prophets' sake!"
"No, she isn't his wife," Shakaar denied, disgusted and less interested in Doctor Janice Lange than he was in Gul Anon Dukat.
"She's his wife," Anar corrected, and Shakaar glared at him.
"All right she's his wife. I still cannot…" he addressed Kira, "jeopardize the many…"
"How many?" Sisko burned to ask that question, and asking and demanding an answer he was. "How many, First Minster?" He stood waiting at Anar's side.
"Over the few," Shakaar finished anyway. "Millions, Captain. Hundreds of them. All lost, you know as well as I, if we bend -- "
'To the Hawks!" Sisko had the jar of purple cream slamming it down on the console. "The Jin'Mirs, the Dak'jars! If there are others, you'll have to forgive me, but their names escape me alongside the names and numbers of the innocent."
Shakaar looked away before he looked back. "I wouldn't call Dukat an innocent."
"No more than I would call you," Sisko assured. "I believe the bargain on the table was, and is for that of a botanist."
"A botanist…" Shakaar reacted with an echo.
"A botanist," Sisko said. "And I wouldn't, if I were you, even consider saying no."
Shakaar glanced at the jar, remembering it only because of its bizarre color. "If you wish to indulge yourself in whimsies, Captain…"
"I wish to indulge myself in sense," Sisko said. "In science, for a change. If only for a moment. If only if it turns out to be someone's damn pipe dream!"
Shakaar nodded. "I can't see where I can stop you. Find something you feel warrants further investigation or study and I'll see what I can do to help you -- "
"You'll do what you can to help," Sisko corrected. "You'll do. I'll be in touch!" He severed the transmission to turn on his officers. "The Defiant, Major. If you and Mister Worf determine the ionosphere of the planet to be unstable -- "
"It has nothing to do with ionosphere," Anar interrupted. "Janice was never comfortable with the potential for contamination of the area from transporter activity."
Worf groaned. "There is a far greater risk of contamination from a runabout -- "
"Then I'll show you how to align your engines correctly!" Anar snapped. "If I agree to transport ten kilometers from my village, you'll ask me why it cannot be nine. If I agree to your runabout setting down on my world at that same ten kilometer mark, you'll have no choice but to walk."
"Provided he disengages the runabout's transporter," Bashir mentioned to Dax.
"I think he probably has that part covered."
"Yes…" Bashir said, thinking about something else actually. "I'm sure he does…What did you mean exactly when you said the performance difficulty with my peripheral sensors was likely only temporary? Well?" he said as she looked at him.
"Excuse me," she begged to borrow the jar of miracle cream away from Benjamin and offer it to him. "Rub a little on them and see what happens."
Bashir's laugh was evil. "I wouldn't tempt me."
Dax nodded. "For some reason I doubt if I'd have to."
"Quite," he indicated the jar. "I could also say…"
She was looking directly in his eyes. "But you won't."
His return smile was misleadingly legitimate. "No, I won't."
"Anytime," he handed her the tricorder to hold while he popped the seal of the jar to smear a healthy portion of its thick, sticky residual across the edge of the sensors.
Dax blinked. "What are you doing?"
"Conducting an experiment."
"An experiment?" she said.
"In getting even," he grinned. Because while she could plainly see for herself how even direct contact failed to inspire little more than that annoying little blip across the display screen, she was managing at that very moment to secure Captain Sisko's rather curious attention away from Anar.
"Julian, you're insane," Dax stared at Benjamin's curiosity beginning to slip into a look of astonishment for her.
"Perhaps," Bashir's hand clapped down on her shoulder with a shrug. "Who you are however is the person who's going to have to explain why they're smearing purple gunk all over the equipment."
"I…" Dax said to Sisko. "Well, actually, Julian…"
"Oh, right," Bashir scoffed. "Nice try. But I believe you'll find it's more like Julian told you not to do that, now, didn't I?"
"No," Dax shook her head at Sisko. "No, Julian did not tell me not to do it." Benjamin's eyes brightened as hers closed with a sigh. "No, actually, what I meant to say…"
"Actually, what she meant to say," Bashir thought he would laugh until he cried, "is apparently I should have."
"Yes…" Sisko returned to listening to Anar's biting dictation with a shake of his head.
"And that invitation, Sisko," Anar assured, "does not include your Klingon, nor permission to conduct scans or probes of my world from orbit. There's nothing there of any further interest to you. A string of abandoned Cardassian mines. A smaller, southern continent generally uninhabitable since long before the occupation…" his attention was momentarily distracted by the ribald laughter of Bashir. "Other than that, the skeletal remains of Anon's transport, per chance you haven't already guessed…"
Sisko had guessed. His hand up to stop Anar before he tired himself out as much as he was tiring him.
"And a rather interesting graveyard of Maquis ghosts and their props, the Dominion's Jem'Hadar, and, of course, Klingons," Anar completed his recital despite the raised hand. "Their bones as white and deteriorating as the scrap of their once proud cruisers."
"I do not anticipate Doctor Bashir or Commander Dax requiring more than a week to collect whatever necessary samples to complete their survey…" Sisko spoke now that the elder was through.
"What?" Bashir righted himself from his laughter.
"Time to pack your attaché," Dax agreed, if she was interpreting what Benjamin was saying correctly.
"Quite," Bashir said. "Yours apparently also."
"With Major Kira in assistance and attendance at all times," Sisko promised Anar.
"I have no objections to Kira," Anar assured, as confident in his ability to acquire her understanding and trust, as he was confident in her ability to fight. "Bajoran first, as I am; as I define Bajoran, not you."
Sisko's jaw clenched, but he kept to the subject. "What I am not predisposed to do…"
"Is order the Defiant to return to secure them rather than leave it in orbit," Anar said it for him. "But you will. Cloak or no cloak, Captain, the Klingons have only to snag the Defiant in one of your own gravitic sensor nets deployed along the Cardassian border. If that doesn't convince you, Captain," he smiled, "there's always Ch'Pok. As interested in my identity, the location of my home world, as you were. With only that same difficulty as you had of somehow incorporating Dukat and Maquis together in the same sentence."
"I disagree," Worf spoke up.
"With what?" Bashir insisted. "The Klingon vessels in the area have been ordered to stand down to allow the Tir passage to the border. Once they're across the border, the sector's fair game again."
"You are presuming Doctor Lange's home world to be in this sector," Worf argued.
"Three days at warp 8," Anar answered Sisko's silent query. "No, it isn't in this sector; hardly."
"No, it's the last damn Bajoran outpost in the bloody region," Bashir fumed. "Warp 8?"
"How did you come to be on this station?" Dax nodded.
"A better question might be, Commander," Anar countered, "how did Ch'Pok manage the same in only a matter of hours?"
"They're both actually pretty good questions," Dax confided to Kira.
"Quite," Bashir said. "One with a distinct Cardassian connection and the other with a distinct Bajoran -- "
"You don't know that!" Kira snapped.
"Lending credence to Dukat's rather outlandish claim of some sort of political ménge à trois going on between Gowron, Winn and Shakaar -- no, I don't know it," Bashir turned on Kira. "Viable, that's all. Rather the same that it's viable that's what Shakaar meant when he said he couldn't jeopardize the many for the few…Rather the same," he said to Sisko, "under those circumstances and probably several others it's likely risky enough even taking the Defiant. Ch'Pok knows we'll be escorting the Tir to the Cardassian border. What happens when it's not returned after six days? What happens," he asked, "when it's not returned after two weeks? I'll tell you what happens -- "
"They'll go looking," Dax offered.
"Quite," Bashir said firmly. "Likely long before six days. In the meantime, in six days if the Defiant has returned there's a decent chance the Klingons will presume who we also acted as escort for is this Bajoran Anar; so what? Who cares? Someone has to escort him home. It's not likely you'd allow him to find his way alone, nor leave it to Dukat. If however after two weeks and the Defiant still hasn't returned -- "
"They'll continue looking," Dax offered.
"Quite," Bashir said firmly. "With that much better chance of finding us. And if it's all right with you I'd rather not find myself cast aside in some eclectic graveyard along with the rest of the relics."
"That's a reasonably strong argument," Dax congratulated him.
"Thank you," Bashir accepted, though scarcely remembering half of what he just said. Or for that matter where he even started out other than with not wanting to spend a week with Worf anywhere, least of all on some scrap yard of a Bajoran colony.
"You are presuming there would even be cause for a Klingon attack," Worf envisioned himself a telepath apparently. Reading Bashir's mind and hence no one's fool. Not when it came to Bashir; to Klingons, apparently, yes.
"Yes, well, aside from I wasn't aware of there needing to be cause for a Klingon attack -- of course I'm presuming that!" Bashir insisted. "He annihilated Martok's bridge crew. Damned if I know, or care why for that matter -- "
"A platter of 1800 hearts and souls," Anar replied.
"Good God." True, or false, Bashir walked away, not really wanting to think about it either way.
"Bashir has a point," Kira reiterated Dax's point to Sisko eyeing Anar.
"As have I this innate aversion to public appearances," Anar reminded Sisko dryly of that other alternative. "I've had it all my life."
That, Sisko believed.
"And, of course, there's always that other possibility," Anar said.
That he was telling the truth; at least how he saw it to be.
"We'll be fine," Kira was nodding. "We've been fine before."
And no reason to begin thinking otherwise now. Sisko turned to Worf. "All points considered, Mister Worf, the Defiant is to return to the station until it is time to secure the runabout -- at a rendezvous that is be somewhere other than the colony, Major," he advised Kira. "I'll leave you'll to arrange where with Mister Worf."
"Understood," she said.
"And appreciated," Anar agreed. "Anon is anxious to get underway."
Sisko saw no signs of any communication device on the Bajoran, nor heard the faintest whisper relaying that information. "A presumption or fact?" he said coldly.
A fact. The transporter carrier wave was unexpected. Sisko's quick step forward to pull Kira clear worthless and potentially dangerous. Dax grabbed Sisko, Kira vanishing with Anar, his farewell light and amused. "We'll meet you on the Defiant…"
"He won't get far," Worf promised should the Bajoran have any ideas on his mind other than compliance.
"No," Sisko said, though certain the Bajoran had several ideas in mind at all times.
"Quite," Bashir said. "And rather a boastful claim that he won't do anything when he's done what he damn well pleases since the beginning."
"I wouldn't…" Dax's shaking head cautioned him from invoking painful reminders better left unsaid.
"Too late," Bashir grinned. "I already have."
She noticed. "Ten minutes?" she asked as they walked up the aisle, out the door, past Odo loitering in the hall, for the turbolift.
"Meet in the lab?" Bashir clarified. "Yes, I suppose ten minutes is possible… Sounds like you're not packing too much more than an attaché."
"It's a week, Julian," she reminded.
"Not a month, and hardly Bajor Prime. Still, it's really two weeks if you count the travel time -- " The door to the turbolift closed, Odo unable to overhear anything beyond that point, and it was unsatisfying.
"Constable," Sisko was behind him beside Mister Worf looking somewhat tiredly at the turbolift.
"There'll be another one along in a moment or two; there always has been," Odo grunted, more interested in who wasn't in the corridor, rather than who was, or, for that matter, in who just left. "Where's Major Kira?"
"Aboard the Tir." Sisko attempted to pass off as sure enough the turbolift arrived to take Worf out of there huffing and puffing about being aboard the Defiant, though, as far as Odo knew, he liked being aboard the Defiant. Spent half his time aboard the Defiant now that he was married to Commander Dax, rather than all of his time which he spent before he took those wedding vows. So why the huffing and puffing like his life was over? Who knew. Probably something to do with Bashir. Probably more to do with being Klingon. A race who always responded as if their lives were over, no matter what the subject.
"Yes, well, I imagine you'll tell me why Major Kira is aboard the Tir," Odo replied. "If not reassure me it's with your permission she's aboard the Tir."
"Major Kira will be aboard the Defiant shortly," Sisko agreed, turning to catch the next turbolift happening by.
"A touch vague," Odo mentioned. "But that's all right, I'm sure you'll tell me why vague also."
"Perhaps later, Constable, yes," Sisko stepped to accept the arriving lift's offer of a ride.
"When later?" Odo decided to join him, not to be pushy.
"I'm not sure," Sisko admitted. "A matter of mandatory discretion, if you will."
"I'm discrete," Odo believed. "Not quite sure what's left to be discrete about -- "
Sisko shook his head. "Gul Dukat has been aboard the Tir since departing the amphitheater."
"With his wife. You keep saying that. Rather the same as I keep saying something about the choices being limited as far as who was in that amphitheater."
"Shakaar Adon," Sisko finally acknowledged.
"That wasn't one of them," Odo was forced to agree.
"The elder, Constable. The Hawk. Anar. I imagine there's been a few others."
"Definitely not one of them. Halt program," Odo requested of the computer; it complied. He ogled Sisko.
"There's no reason why you should have known."
"Thank you, but you're wrong. When you've been around as long as I have there's no excuse."
Sisko thought about that. "As much sense as it makes on one hand -- "
"It makes little on every other. To repeat, Hawk, or the Hawk, was a Maquis leader."
"Is, Constable. Most definitely is. Under that guideline alone elitist would be a better word to describe our Mister Anar rather than invisible."
"Something to do with that word leader. Not an unknown. Can't be unknown, and therefore has to be known, if not by many, at least a few."
"Seen, Constable," Sisko's nod of understanding was building. "The word is seen. Seen by more than a few. However, under that guideline that he is also of Shakaar it's a pretty fair gamble loyalty to him, or loyalty to First Minister Shakaar either way spells loyalty and from there safe."
"Mutually beneficial to each other," Odo snorted. "That's interesting. As would it would turn a few things upside down."
"Each in their own way," Sisko said. "Yes, it is interesting. And yes, it certainly would. I met a man, Constable who some would say was a twin."
"Not what you would say."
"No," Sisko whispered. "Elitist, definitely. Proud of it. Isolationist, perhaps? Arrogant, certainly."
"I'm listening," Odo grunted. "Simply waiting to hear which Shakaar."
Sisko's look was pained. "Now is really not the time for humor, Constable."
Odo supposed it wasn't. "There's still a bright side."
"What bright side is that?" Sisko was too tired and troubled to even try and think of one.
"Dukat's son is married to the embraced daughter of Shakaar Adon of…" he let Sisko fill in the blank.
"Dyaan IX," Sisko blinked and started to laugh.
"I'll make a note of it. Never heard of it, but I'll make a note of it. Resume program."
"You do that, Constable," Sisko nodded as the turbolift reengaged. Tir. "You do that."
"I will. That still doesn't explain why Major Kira's aboard the Tir."
"Whimsies, Constable, whimsies," Sisko agreed, a spring in his step when he stepped from the lift halting adjacent to the airlock that just happened to lead to the docking ring and from there the Tir.
"Whimsies. Yes, well, the Prophets know we need more of that around here," Odo grunted as the door to the turbolift closed, rather hoping the spring in the Captain's step didn't turn out to be short-lived.
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