The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Seven

Anar knew the child was Bajoran before he grabbed her, hearing her mother scream when for whatever reasons her daughter was possessed to break away from the protection of her mother's hand, darting past the startled legs of security to have a look over the man lying on the floor.

"She's five years old! Oh, please! She's only five years old!" the mother was taken to sobbing and screaming her child's age as if that would somehow detour a madman.

"What is your name, child?" Anar verified as he clutched the little girl to him; his hand twisting her head to the side so he could talk in her ear; her body turned to face her audience.

"Hatrem Ranit," she replied. "I thought you were hurt."

"Is that why you ran?"

She shrugged. "Are you going to hurt me? That's what my mother thinks."

"No, I'm not going to hurt you, Hatrem," Anar promised. "But we can't tell anyone that. It has to be our secret."

"Okay," she agreed.

"That was easy," Anar had to chuckle. "Hasn't your mother ever told you to be wary of strangers?"

She shrugged again. "You look like someone."

Anar winced. With a little luck the child meant someone benign like her grandfather. Anyone's grandfather. She couldn't possibly have seen his face. "Your youth plays tricks, little one. I look like no one."

"A Prophet," she said and he almost dropped her. "Can't you see the Prophets? I thought everyone could."

"Yes, I can see them," was all Anar said as far as that. "Now, Hatrem, tell me, can you see the pretty lady with the dark hair -- the one in the yellow uniform like mine?"

"Yes. Who's she talking to?"

"Her Captain," Anar smiled. "Over her communicator. You probably can't see it, but it's on her shirt."

"I see something on her shirt…"

He could see the child's eyes squint and feel her cheek move under his hand. He chuckled again, enamored of her innocence and in danger of becoming distracted. "Shhhh…" he quieted her. "It's not important, less what she's saying. It's what we want."

"What do we want?"

"Our phaser. Tell her that for us."

The child did and the Trill stopped where she was about ten or so meters away from them even though she had to know that would be the bargain on the table; the only bargain on the table.

"She's not doing anything," Hatrem said, the seconds hours to one of her age.

"Or I'll twist your head and snap your neck," Anar agreed. The child's eye looked at him out from the corner of its socket. "Just tell her that for me, please."

"Or I'll twist your head and snap your neck," Hatrem repeated verbatim. It was close enough. The Trill got the message.

"I think it's less of a question of can he," Dax reported to Benjamin over her open com as she moved to secure the phaser rifle, "than will he."

"Understood," Benjamin said. "Give him the phaser."

"So much for negotiations," Dax agreed, not quite sure what she would say to the intruder anyway other than: "Take me. With the phaser," she added for the terrorist's understanding watching her through the child's eyes.

“No, we have a better idea," Hatrem held out her arms. "We want you to give the phaser to me."

"It's like some bizarre ventriloquist dummy," O'Brien muttered in Sisko's ear.

"Just very much alive, Chief," he replied. "Very much alive -- do what he asks, Commander." he instructed Dax.

"Definitely so much for negotiations," Dax smiled at the child.

"To the con -- con," she countered, stumbling over the word contrary, "you'll be that much closer to me."

"That's very true," Dax carefully set the phaser rifle across the child's outstretched arms. She was not surprised when the Bajoran shifted the little girl to help support the rifle.

"Got it?" the child checked with her captor. That surprised Dax a little.

"Yes, I have it," Anar promised in her ear.

"Okay…now I have to push the buttons," the child explained to Dax. "This one?"

"That's the one," Anar agreed. "Now, go up a row…"

"Okay…" the child was biting her tongue, focused on her task. "This one?"

"Yes, that's the one."

"This is sick," O'Brien chafed at the bit. "This is sick…First he's got her talking for him, now he has her punching out phaser settings."

"It is unusual," Worf frowned.

"Do you think he knows her?" O'Brien insisted to Sisko. "If that were Molly she'd be crying for her mother -- or me."

Apparently something Sisko was thinking about also. "Commander…"

"Who's that?" the little girl glanced up from adjusting the beam setting.

"Captain Sisko," Dax smiled. "Don't be alarmed, he's just reading my mind." She watched the child react to the voice behind her, listening very carefully before repeating the words.

"Can you explain?"

"Yes, I can. Do you know the man who's holding you?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

Dax didn't read any reaction on the child's face as if the man were talking for her, but what exactly that meant or proved, she wasn't sure. "Anything else?" she smiled.

"Hatrem Ranit," the child nodded after listening. "My name is Hatrem Ranit. So you know who I am when you kill me, who you've killed."

"Okay!" O'Brien threw up his hands. "I'm convinced! She's innocent!"

"Chief!" Sisko reminded sharply, trying to listen to Dax.

"No one's going to kill anyone," Dax promised. "I'm here to help, not hurt. Tell me what you want me to do now."

"Why don't we take a walk?" the Bajoran spoke for himself.

"Turbolift?" Dax guessed.

"Just walk," he directed.

So they walked. Cautiously. Dax appreciated how it was difficult for the officer to keep eyes everywhere, on everything at the same time. It was made a little easier by keeping the child's hand squeezed around the trigger.

"Stay back," Hatrem had to warn security only once.

"Definitely," Dax supported that request remembering the power of the Bajoran's fist in her face and noting the strong muscles in the arms holding the child. He wasn't a heavy man, perhaps her size and height. Sweating profusely at one point from the rigors of his race, his breathing now was reasonably normal. Excellent physical condition crossed her mind, alongside his athletic ability. It was plausible he was younger than the shock of white hair suggested. She had yet to see his face. He held and carried the child high. Intentional, obvious, still hiding his face, the question remained why. An easily identifying mark or scarring perhaps, like one-eyed General Martok?

The flesh of the Bajoran's throat, arms and hands that Dax could see appeared normal, healthy and deeply suntanned. He did spend a great deal of his time outside in the warmth of a sunny climate, though she was in agreement with Benjamin. This was not a farmer -- or maybe he was. Something he did was wearing to the hands. Shifting the child to ensure his control over her hand he clutched around the trigger, the soft underside of the Bajoran's fingers and hand were callused and marked with tiny scratches. Some old, some within the last few days. Traveling. Dax nodded to herself. Whatever he did, he did not do while traveling. The point that he may have been traveling for the past few days put him far away from DS9 and Bajor Prime. A time frame that alluded if his intended target was Dukat, rather than random, this man had information days before Benjamin. Dax dismissed the implication of Federation leaks or Shakaar's involvement along with the target being Dukat. It had to be random. Or it had to be Damar. Or possibly Doctor Lange.

It was Damar. Dax decided. It wasn't random. That's why he didn't kill her, Lange, Dukat, Quark or any of them. He had a specific target. Legate Damar. It wasn't the conference. The assassination of the Cardassian Emperor would catapult the Union into chaos. Who would want that? Who would hire him? Or his men? She tried not to think about the fact that who the Bajoran terrorist also did not kill was General Martok.


"Turbolift?" O'Brien paused in his pacing.

Sisko was shaking his head watching the Bajoran back carefully away from the center of the Promenade.

"Well, he obviously wasn't just going to hand the kid over," O'Brien said. "He's got to be somewhere a little more conducive to getting out of here."

"The turbolift," Worf agreed, anticipating they would be negotiating for Jadzia's release very shortly, rather than some child. "She is far more valuable to him."

"Exactly," O'Brien nodded. "The kid he needed to give himself an edge. No one's going to risk a child. It's not going to happen."

"That's been his MO since the beginning," Odo grunted. "Hostages. In a word. Living shields as the Captain said."

So Sisko had. Now he was thinking something else. Where? A turbolift to where? There was no way out of there. Not off the station, anywhere. At some point the officer was going to have to break away again. Surrender his hostages in a renewed effort to get where?

"Not anywhere easily," Odo was agreeing. Knowing they'd take the station apart looking for him, as big as it was, they would do it.

"Well, they're somewhere," O'Brien snorted, shy of proposing some secret underground movement living and plotting in the bowels of the old ore bays.

"Yes," Odo was as watchful as the Captain just watching each step the Bajoran took taking him one step further way. "They're in the crowd. This one's going to have a hard time resuming his secret identify of no one…what?" he said to Sisko's head snapping to look at him.

"Your office, Constable," Sisko's voice was as chilling as it was soft.

"Yes, well," Odo grunted, refraining from mentioning how they wanted the intruder there anyway, "it's a thought. Reasonable. From there you can get just about everywhere."

"Including off this station," Sisko assured. "Which will be over my dead body -- Worf!" he halted him as well as the Chief. "Extreme caution, gentlemen, that rule has not changed."

"Following you," Odo likewise agreed.

"Take a flight." Sisko's took his phaser rifle from him. "Something a little less conspicuous than a condor."

"On it." Odo settled for transforming to a simple blue bird flying high overhead. Moderately risky to attracting someone's attention, it was worth the gamble most attentions were riveted on the Bajoran; they were.


"All right, not the turbolift," Dax agreed as they passed it, knowing Benjamin had to be getting very itchy. She eyed the security office, an airlock and one of the main transporter pads coming up. They were starting to run out of options unless the intruder planned on stopping for something to eat, do a little shopping, or walking in circles. An airlock would be a convenient place to wait for a demanded shuttle -- that Benjamin would be on top of before the docking clamps were released. Unconditional surrender seemed too good to be true. It had to be the transporter pad.

"Oh, look at the bird!" Hatrem pointed out what two thousand people failed to notice including her alert abductor. Dax's heart started to pound. If she couldn't convince herself there was a bird, she doubted if she could convince the Bajoran.

"Bird?" Anar immediately searched the ceiling along the archways.

"It was just there," Hatrem's little head nodded under his hand.

"I…" Dax started to say and decided it was better to try going along. She just might find she had an opening to return the fist in her face if the intruder could be distracted. "Where?"

"Over by the arch," Hatrem pointed. "Can you see it?"

No, but she was looking. Dax smiled at the nearest puzzled security officer. "We're trying to find the bird."

He was either a very smart man, or Benjamin was communicating by telepathy. The security officer looked up and around for a second or two. "Sitting up on top of the pillar."

"Where is he?" Hatrem asked.

"Sitting on one of the pillars," Dax promised. "I'm sure he'll take off again -- "

"He?" the Bajoran interjected.

"Or she," Dax shrugged.

"It can't be a he?" Hatrem said.

"No, it can be a he," Anar assured. "A she or a one. That wasn't too smart of Sisko, Commander -- almost disappointing."

Dax was tempted to claim she had no idea what he meant. She opted for honesty. "Our main concern for the moment is getting the child safely away from you."

"You're in luck," Anar risked exposure to take full possession of the phaser rifle. "Hurting the innocent is also the farthest thing from my mind -- ."

"No, don't hurt the bird!" Hatrem gasped, screaming and twisting under his arm when he aimed to fire on the pillar. "Don't hurt the bird!"

"Shush, child," Anar tried quieting her. "I'm not going to hurt the bird -- it's not a bird."

"Well, what is it?" she demanded.

Dax knew the accusing, confused look in the child's eyes trying to listen to the man whispering in her ear, having been both a mother and a father during her lifetimes.

"A Changeling," Anar promised. "I'm not going to hurt him either. I just want him to land."

She had no idea what he meant. He could have told her it was a duck with three heads. "You can't ask him?"

"Tell him to get down here," Anar instructed Dax, cold, harsh, angrily. She eyed the rifle. They were six feet from the security office. "Don't make me do this to her."

"You don't have to do anything to her," Dax replied calmly.

Anar debated a moment with a leading glance down the Promenade toward the transporter pad. "Have a better tomorrow," he bequeathed the Prophets' blessing on the little child.

Dax abruptly had Hatrem in her arms. The Bajoran was through the security doors closing as Odo came in for dive landing, transmuting from bird to gel in an effort to slip his way through before they locked; they locked. With Odo on this side and the Bajoran on the other, already through the inner doors into Odo's office to immediately engage the added benefit of force field between him and the outer lobby by the time Sisko and the others came pounding up.

"Not my day," Odo completed his transformation back to humanoid form for the entertainment of the little girl gasping behind him.

"Do that again!"

"Perhaps later," Odo grunted with a nod for security to get a bipolar torch before the Captain rammed the doors open with his fist.

"Dax!" Benjamin detoured long enough from attempting such a feat to check on the perky little package in Dax's arms.

"She's all right," Dax reassured, smiling at the child all eyes for Odo. "You are, aren't you?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"Excellent job, Commander," Sisko gave Dax a hasty congratulatory pat on the back for a job she didn't feel she had too much say in getting done.

"I was thinking of the transporter pad."

"No," Sisko knew it was the security office and the obvious reasons why. Ability to access the stations systems and Red Alert. The Bajoran was transporting nowhere. Not off the station unless he could get those shields down. "Get her to Bashir."

"Who's that?" Hatrem wondered as Benjamin whirled away from them.

"Constable Odo?" Dax asked. "Or Captain Sisko?"

"The Emissary?" the child said.

"Yes, that's him," Dax expected the wide-eyed blink but not the excited call.

"Emissary!"

Sisko groaned, hovering over the Chief at the control panels trying a little counter magic to sabotage the saboteur.

"That's okay, I've got it," O'Brien breathed heavily.

"Yes, child?" Sisko mustered his patience to answer Hatrem.

"Have a better tomorrow," she kissed his cheek with a blessing smile.

Sisko looked at Dax; Odo turned around from watching the Chief.

"Did the man tell you to say that?" Dax asked.

"Yes."

Dax felt the excited twitch of the child's foot against her hip; her continued fascination with Odo tinged with relief.

"You're not a bird."

"Yes, well, no," Odo agreed. "Why?"

"A Changeling?"

"That's one word. God's another," he grunted, hearing and observing Commander Dax's sigh. "What?"

"Confirmation of trust?" Dax offered. "He told her you were a Changeling, not a bird."

"Yes, well," Odo eyed the babe in the woods as he believed they were occasionally referred to as. "We'll let it slide, due to the age."

"Easier said than done, Constable," Sisko replied, annoyed by the rapture on the child's face inspired by the salesmanship abilities of some cutthroat terrorist.

"They seem to go hand in hand," Dax agreed.

"So they do. Bashir, Commander."

"And mommy," Dax promised Hatrem. "Let's go find mommy."


"Come on…" Anar played Odo's display like a keyboard instrument, hunting his way around Hawk's handiwork and the Red Alert close out to secure a communication link with Martok's Bird-of-Prey.

He had one. "Identify." the universal translator requested.

"Negative to that, gentlemen," Anar moved to work on the shields. "The station is at Red Alert. I am having difficulty maintaining a link, can you assist me?"

"You must identify."

"Repeat," Anar requested.

He could hear the Klingon growl behind the translator's sedate drone. "We are aware of the station's status. You must identify."

"Martok," Anar shrugged. "Chancellor of the East, the Alpha, the Gamma. The Empire is in peril. I have fallen to the blade of Dukat."

The Klingon had to think about that. "Standby."


"That's her," Hatrem pointed out the easily identifiable terror-stricken woman torn between fighting security to her death to get to her daughter and not wanting to further endanger her.

"Ranit!" her mother clutched her, thanking the Prophets, security, Dax for her child's life. "Whatever possessed you? Whatever possessed you!"

"He's a Prophet," Hatrem nodded.

"What? Who's a Prophet? That man -- " the mother looked wildly around for the maniac who had threatened to rob her of her blood.

"She's a little confused," Dax extended.

"Of course she's confused," the woman turned on her. "We know what's going on here, don't think we don't. We wouldn't even have been here except her father wanted us home now. Away from you people -- don't touch her!" she shoved Dax's hand away. "Don't any of you touch her! What do you know about the Prophets?"

"He gave me a better tomorrow," Hatrem explained.

"Yes, of course he did," her mother kissed her. "Of course he did. Don't listen to them. Don't listen to any of them."

"Hatrem still has to see Doctor Bashir," Dax bit her tongue.

"Why?" the woman insisted. "Anyone can see the child is fine."

"Just shut up and take her!" Kira intervened with a rough grab of the woman's arm to turn her over to security. "Get her out of here. Honestly!" she sputtered to Dax. "We're just starting to get things under control, the last thing we need is someone spouting off about the Prophets -- Is that the hostage?"

"Was," Dax smiled. "The daughter."

"Wrong one," Kira assured. "What's the status? Do we have them?"

"Him. And, well -- "

Benjamin answered them. Loud, and emphatically clear.


"Chief?" Sisko insisted impatiently.

"The intruder knows the systems," Worf agreed with O'Brien's frustration.

"My left foot," O'Brien yanked the lower panel open to keep on yanking out a few isolinear rods if he had to. "He's got about fourteen different shunts in place…That's more than a few hours work, that's a few days. I'm talking team effort…"

"He's got a communication channel open," Odo nodded above his head, studying the circuit panels.

That was it. Sisko didn't ask where. Intra-Station or subspace. His hand slammed the panel closed, answering O'Brien's heated "Damn it!" with a barking, "Move! Move! Move!" for all of them as he turned his phaser rifle on the doors, proving what a setting higher than ten could do to heavy alloys in less than half a minute. What didn't explode to vaporize, contented itself with simply exploding. The potential for geological side effects was restricted to a minor shaking of the floor. The rebound struck the control panels, taking out half of the isolinear rods and a decent portion of the lighting in the immediate area. It was an attack sufficient in inspiring the computer to reset her Red Alert status to standard protocol and engage her weapons systems in preparation for defense and counter measures. The responsibility of setting the computer straight as far as who was responsible Sisko left to Worf together with checking the environmental systems along the affected Promenade. The Chief was with him through what was left of the outer doors and lobby of the security office, working to disengage the inner doors and her force field that held through it all; Odo was secretly glad to know that.

"So did the communication channel," he noticed over Worf's shoulder.

"Priority subspace," Worf agreed.

"I don't suppose you can tell to whom," Odo grunted.

"From your station, yes," Worf assured.

"Yes, well," unless Odo was mistaken the Bajoran was still in command of his station. He eyed Kira pounding up with Dax.

"What happened?" that was Kira.

"We knocked, but he refused to answer -- " Odo nodded to the bipolar torch making its timely entry, possibly just in time. "Better late than never."

"I've got it," Kira relieved Worf at the control panel. "Help the Captain."

"There's still that force field…" Odo reminded, not saying the security fields were indestructible. They weren't. A disruptor could penetrate most. That's why they still had doors.

"Taking care of that now," Kira reset a circuit, generating a few complaining sparks. "Dax?"

"Field's down," Dax called back, excitement building in her voice; probably something to do with the Captain and the disruptor in his hands as she worked feverishly trying to help the Chief.

"Yes," Odo noticed how the field was disabled along with noticing the Captain taking the honors of cutting the door open away from Mister Worf. "I don't suppose any of these shunts are standard Bajoran sabotage?"

"Some of them," Kira agreed.

"I'll make a note of that."

She already had. "When's the last time this panel was checked?"

"Within the hour before the conference. Why? It's my understanding all of this is timed for control from some remote location."

"It is. Pull the duty roster. You're looking at the control location."

"Really," Odo eyed the circuits. "The Chief didn't mention that."

Kira was sure O'Brien would.

"What about Red Alert? Shields specifically," Odo asked. "At the moment, the entire station's a security holding cell."

"Not affected." Kira shook her head.

"What does that mean?"

"They’re not interested in leaving?"

All but one of them. Odo wasn't sure if that was good news or bad concerning the others.

Anar knew the child was Bajoran before he grabbed her, hearing her mother scream when for whatever reasons her daughter was possessed to break away from the protection of her mother's hand, darting past the startled legs of security to have a look over the man lying on the floor.

"She's five years old! Oh, please! She's only five years old!" the mother was taken to sobbing and screaming her child's age as if that would somehow detour a madman.

"What is your name, child?" Anar verified as he clutched the little girl to him; his hand twisting her head to the side so he could talk in her ear; her body turned to face her audience.

"Hatrem Ranit," she replied. "I thought you were hurt."

"Is that why you ran?"

She shrugged. "Are you going to hurt me? That's what my mother thinks."

"No, I'm not going to hurt you, Hatrem," Anar promised. "But we can't tell anyone that. It has to be our secret."

"Okay," she agreed.

"That was easy," Anar had to chuckle. "Hasn't your mother ever told you to be wary of strangers?"

She shrugged again. "You look like someone."

Anar winced. With a little luck the child meant someone benign like her grandfather. Anyone's grandfather. She couldn't possibly have seen his face. "Your youth plays tricks, little one. I look like no one."

"A Prophet," she said and he almost dropped her. "Can't you see the Prophets? I thought everyone could."

"Yes, I can see them," was all Anar said as far as that. "Now, Hatrem, tell me, can you see the pretty lady with the dark hair -- the one in the yellow uniform like mine?"

"Yes. Who's she talking to?"

"Her Captain," Anar smiled. "Over her communicator. You probably can't see it, but it's on her shirt."

"I see something on her shirt…"

He could see the child's eyes squint and feel her cheek move under his hand. He chuckled again, enamored of her innocence and in danger of becoming distracted. "Shhhh…" he quieted her. "It's not important, less what she's saying. It's what we want."

"What do we want?"

"Our phaser. Tell her that for us."

The child did and the Trill stopped where she was about ten or so meters away from them even though she had to know that would be the bargain on the table; the only bargain on the table.

"She's not doing anything," Hatrem said, the seconds hours to one of her age.

"Or I'll twist your head and snap your neck," Anar agreed. The child's eye looked at him out from the corner of its socket. "Just tell her that for me, please."

"Or I'll twist your head and snap your neck," Hatrem repeated verbatim. It was close enough. The Trill got the message.

"I think it's less of a question of can he," Dax reported to Benjamin over her open com as she moved to secure the phaser rifle, "than will he."

"Understood," Benjamin said. "Give him the phaser."

"So much for negotiations," Dax agreed, not quite sure what she would say to the intruder anyway other than: "Take me. With the phaser," she added for the terrorist's understanding watching her through the child's eyes.

“No, we have a better idea," Hatrem held out her arms. "We want you to give the phaser to me."

"It's like some bizarre ventriloquist dummy," O'Brien muttered in Sisko's ear.

"Just very much alive, Chief," he replied. "Very much alive -- do what he asks, Commander." he instructed Dax.

"Definitely so much for negotiations," Dax smiled at the child.

"To the con -- con," she countered, stumbling over the word contrary, "you'll be that much closer to me."

"That's very true," Dax carefully set the phaser rifle across the child's outstretched arms. She was not surprised when the Bajoran shifted the little girl to help support the rifle.

"Got it?" the child checked with her captor. That surprised Dax a little.

"Yes, I have it," Anar promised in her ear.

"Okay…now I have to push the buttons," the child explained to Dax. "This one?"

"That's the one," Anar agreed. "Now, go up a row…"

"Okay…" the child was biting her tongue, focused on her task. "This one?"

"Yes, that's the one."

"This is sick," O'Brien chafed at the bit. "This is sick…First he's got her talking for him, now he has her punching out phaser settings."

"It is unusual," Worf frowned.

"Do you think he knows her?" O'Brien insisted to Sisko. "If that were Molly she'd be crying for her mother -- or me."

Apparently something Sisko was thinking about also. "Commander…"

"Who's that?" the little girl glanced up from adjusting the beam setting.

"Captain Sisko," Dax smiled. "Don't be alarmed, he's just reading my mind." She watched the child react to the voice behind her, listening very carefully before repeating the words.

"Can you explain?"

"Yes, I can. Do you know the man who's holding you?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

Dax didn't read any reaction on the child's face as if the man were talking for her, but what exactly that meant or proved, she wasn't sure. "Anything else?" she smiled.

"Hatrem Ranit," the child nodded after listening. "My name is Hatrem Ranit. So you know who I am when you kill me, who you've killed."

"Okay!" O'Brien threw up his hands. "I'm convinced! She's innocent!"

"Chief!" Sisko reminded sharply, trying to listen to Dax.

"No one's going to kill anyone," Dax promised. "I'm here to help, not hurt. Tell me what you want me to do now."

"Why don't we take a walk?" the Bajoran spoke for himself.

"Turbolift?" Dax guessed.

"Just walk," he directed.

So they walked. Cautiously. Dax appreciated how it was difficult for the officer to keep eyes everywhere, on everything at the same time. It was made a little easier by keeping the child's hand squeezed around the trigger.

"Stay back," Hatrem had to warn security only once.

"Definitely," Dax supported that request remembering the power of the Bajoran's fist in her face and noting the strong muscles in the arms holding the child. He wasn't a heavy man, perhaps her size and height. Sweating profusely at one point from the rigors of his race, his breathing now was reasonably normal. Excellent physical condition crossed her mind, alongside his athletic ability. It was plausible he was younger than the shock of white hair suggested. She had yet to see his face. He held and carried the child high. Intentional, obvious, still hiding his face, the question remained why. An easily identifying mark or scarring perhaps, like one-eyed General Martok?

The flesh of the Bajoran's throat, arms and hands that Dax could see appeared normal, healthy and deeply suntanned. He did spend a great deal of his time outside in the warmth of a sunny climate, though she was in agreement with Benjamin. This was not a farmer -- or maybe he was. Something he did was wearing to the hands. Shifting the child to ensure his control over her hand he clutched around the trigger, the soft underside of the Bajoran's fingers and hand were callused and marked with tiny scratches. Some old, some within the last few days. Traveling. Dax nodded to herself. Whatever he did, he did not do while traveling. The point that he may have been traveling for the past few days put him far away from DS9 and Bajor Prime. A time frame that alluded if his intended target was Dukat, rather than random, this man had information days before Benjamin. Dax dismissed the implication of Federation leaks or Shakaar's involvement along with the target being Dukat. It had to be random. Or it had to be Damar. Or possibly Doctor Lange.

It was Damar. Dax decided. It wasn't random. That's why he didn't kill her, Lange, Dukat, Quark or any of them. He had a specific target. Legate Damar. It wasn't the conference. The assassination of the Cardassian Emperor would catapult the Union into chaos. Who would want that? Who would hire him? Or his men? She tried not to think about the fact that who the Bajoran terrorist also did not kill was General Martok.


"Turbolift?" O'Brien paused in his pacing.

Sisko was shaking his head watching the Bajoran back carefully away from the center of the Promenade.

"Well, he obviously wasn't just going to hand the kid over," O'Brien said. "He's got to be somewhere a little more conducive to getting out of here."

"The turbolift," Worf agreed, anticipating they would be negotiating for Jadzia's release very shortly, rather than some child. "She is far more valuable to him."

"Exactly," O'Brien nodded. "The kid he needed to give himself an edge. No one's going to risk a child. It's not going to happen."

"That's been his MO since the beginning," Odo grunted. "Hostages. In a word. Living shields as the Captain said."

So Sisko had. Now he was thinking something else. Where? A turbolift to where? There was no way out of there. Not off the station, anywhere. At some point the officer was going to have to break away again. Surrender his hostages in a renewed effort to get where?

"Not anywhere easily," Odo was agreeing. Knowing they'd take the station apart looking for him, as big as it was, they would do it.

"Well, they're somewhere," O'Brien snorted, shy of proposing some secret underground movement living and plotting in the bowels of the old ore bays.

"Yes," Odo was as watchful as the Captain just watching each step the Bajoran took taking him one step further way. "They're in the crowd. This one's going to have a hard time resuming his secret identify of no one…what?" he said to Sisko's head snapping to look at him.

"Your office, Constable," Sisko's voice was as chilling as it was soft.

"Yes, well," Odo grunted, refraining from mentioning how they wanted the intruder there anyway, "it's a thought. Reasonable. From there you can get just about everywhere."

"Including off this station," Sisko assured. "Which will be over my dead body -- Worf!" he halted him as well as the Chief. "Extreme caution, gentlemen, that rule has not changed."

"Following you," Odo likewise agreed.

"Take a flight." Sisko's took his phaser rifle from him. "Something a little less conspicuous than a condor."

"On it." Odo settled for transforming to a simple blue bird flying high overhead. Moderately risky to attracting someone's attention, it was worth the gamble most attentions were riveted on the Bajoran; they were.


"All right, not the turbolift," Dax agreed as they passed it, knowing Benjamin had to be getting very itchy. She eyed the security office, an airlock and one of the main transporter pads coming up. They were starting to run out of options unless the intruder planned on stopping for something to eat, do a little shopping, or walking in circles. An airlock would be a convenient place to wait for a demanded shuttle -- that Benjamin would be on top of before the docking clamps were released. Unconditional surrender seemed too good to be true. It had to be the transporter pad.

"Oh, look at the bird!" Hatrem pointed out what two thousand people failed to notice including her alert abductor. Dax's heart started to pound. If she couldn't convince herself there was a bird, she doubted if she could convince the Bajoran.

"Bird?" Anar immediately searched the ceiling along the archways.

"It was just there," Hatrem's little head nodded under his hand.

"I…" Dax started to say and decided it was better to try going along. She just might find she had an opening to return the fist in her face if the intruder could be distracted. "Where?"

"Over by the arch," Hatrem pointed. "Can you see it?"

No, but she was looking. Dax smiled at the nearest puzzled security officer. "We're trying to find the bird."

He was either a very smart man, or Benjamin was communicating by telepathy. The security officer looked up and around for a second or two. "Sitting up on top of the pillar."

"Where is he?" Hatrem asked.

"Sitting on one of the pillars," Dax promised. "I'm sure he'll take off again -- "

"He?" the Bajoran interjected.

"Or she," Dax shrugged.

"It can't be a he?" Hatrem said.

"No, it can be a he," Anar assured. "A she or a one. That wasn't too smart of Sisko, Commander -- almost disappointing."

Dax was tempted to claim she had no idea what he meant. She opted for honesty. "Our main concern for the moment is getting the child safely away from you."

"You're in luck," Anar risked exposure to take full possession of the phaser rifle. "Hurting the innocent is also the farthest thing from my mind -- ."

"No, don't hurt the bird!" Hatrem gasped, screaming and twisting under his arm when he aimed to fire on the pillar. "Don't hurt the bird!"

"Shush, child," Anar tried quieting her. "I'm not going to hurt the bird -- it's not a bird."

"Well, what is it?" she demanded.

Dax knew the accusing, confused look in the child's eyes trying to listen to the man whispering in her ear, having been both a mother and a father during her lifetimes.

"A Changeling," Anar promised. "I'm not going to hurt him either. I just want him to land."

She had no idea what he meant. He could have told her it was a duck with three heads. "You can't ask him?"

"Tell him to get down here," Anar instructed Dax, cold, harsh, angrily. She eyed the rifle. They were six feet from the security office. "Don't make me do this to her."

"You don't have to do anything to her," Dax replied calmly.

Anar debated a moment with a leading glance down the Promenade toward the transporter pad. "Have a better tomorrow," he bequeathed the Prophets' blessing on the little child.

Dax abruptly had Hatrem in her arms. The Bajoran was through the security doors closing as Odo came in for dive landing, transmuting from bird to gel in an effort to slip his way through before they locked; they locked. With Odo on this side and the Bajoran on the other, already through the inner doors into Odo's office to immediately engage the added benefit of force field between him and the outer lobby by the time Sisko and the others came pounding up.

"Not my day," Odo completed his transformation back to humanoid form for the entertainment of the little girl gasping behind him.

"Do that again!"

"Perhaps later," Odo grunted with a nod for security to get a bipolar torch before the Captain rammed the doors open with his fist.

"Dax!" Benjamin detoured long enough from attempting such a feat to check on the perky little package in Dax's arms.

"She's all right," Dax reassured, smiling at the child all eyes for Odo. "You are, aren't you?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"Excellent job, Commander," Sisko gave Dax a hasty congratulatory pat on the back for a job she didn't feel she had too much say in getting done.

"I was thinking of the transporter pad."

"No," Sisko knew it was the security office and the obvious reasons why. Ability to access the stations systems and Red Alert. The Bajoran was transporting nowhere. Not off the station unless he could get those shields down. "Get her to Bashir."

"Who's that?" Hatrem wondered as Benjamin whirled away from them.

"Constable Odo?" Dax asked. "Or Captain Sisko?"

"The Emissary?" the child said.

"Yes, that's him," Dax expected the wide-eyed blink but not the excited call.

"Emissary!"

Sisko groaned, hovering over the Chief at the control panels trying a little counter magic to sabotage the saboteur.

"That's okay, I've got it," O'Brien breathed heavily.

"Yes, child?" Sisko mustered his patience to answer Hatrem.

"Have a better tomorrow," she kissed his cheek with a blessing smile.

Sisko looked at Dax; Odo turned around from watching the Chief.

"Did the man tell you to say that?" Dax asked.

"Yes."

Dax felt the excited twitch of the child's foot against her hip; her continued fascination with Odo tinged with relief.

"You're not a bird."

"Yes, well, no," Odo agreed. "Why?"

"A Changeling?"

"That's one word. God's another," he grunted, hearing and observing Commander Dax's sigh. "What?"

"Confirmation of trust?" Dax offered. "He told her you were a Changeling, not a bird."

"Yes, well," Odo eyed the babe in the woods as he believed they were occasionally referred to as. "We'll let it slide, due to the age."

"Easier said than done, Constable," Sisko replied, annoyed by the rapture on the child's face inspired by the salesmanship abilities of some cutthroat terrorist.

"They seem to go hand in hand," Dax agreed.

"So they do. Bashir, Commander."

"And mommy," Dax promised Hatrem. "Let's go find mommy."


"Come on…" Anar played Odo's display like a keyboard instrument, hunting his way around Hawk's handiwork and the Red Alert close out to secure a communication link with Martok's Bird-of-Prey.

He had one. "Identify." the universal translator requested.

"Negative to that, gentlemen," Anar moved to work on the shields. "The station is at Red Alert. I am having difficulty maintaining a link, can you assist me?"

"You must identify."

"Repeat," Anar requested.

He could hear the Klingon growl behind the translator's sedate drone. "We are aware of the station's status. You must identify."

"Martok," Anar shrugged. "Chancellor of the East, the Alpha, the Gamma. The Empire is in peril. I have fallen to the blade of Dukat."

The Klingon had to think about that. "Standby."


"That's her," Hatrem pointed out the easily identifiable terror-stricken woman torn between fighting security to her death to get to her daughter and not wanting to further endanger her.

"Ranit!" her mother clutched her, thanking the Prophets, security, Dax for her child's life. "Whatever possessed you? Whatever possessed you!"

"He's a Prophet," Hatrem nodded.

"What? Who's a Prophet? That man -- " the mother looked wildly around for the maniac who had threatened to rob her of her blood.

"She's a little confused," Dax extended.

"Of course she's confused," the woman turned on her. "We know what's going on here, don't think we don't. We wouldn't even have been here except her father wanted us home now. Away from you people -- don't touch her!" she shoved Dax's hand away. "Don't any of you touch her! What do you know about the Prophets?"

"He gave me a better tomorrow," Hatrem explained.

"Yes, of course he did," her mother kissed her. "Of course he did. Don't listen to them. Don't listen to any of them."

"Hatrem still has to see Doctor Bashir," Dax bit her tongue.

"Why?" the woman insisted. "Anyone can see the child is fine."

"Just shut up and take her!" Kira intervened with a rough grab of the woman's arm to turn her over to security. "Get her out of here. Honestly!" she sputtered to Dax. "We're just starting to get things under control, the last thing we need is someone spouting off about the Prophets -- Is that the hostage?"

"Was," Dax smiled. "The daughter."

"Wrong one," Kira assured. "What's the status? Do we have them?"

"Him. And, well -- "

Benjamin answered them. Loud, and emphatically clear.


"Chief?" Sisko insisted impatiently.

"The intruder knows the systems," Worf agreed with O'Brien's frustration.

"My left foot," O'Brien yanked the lower panel open to keep on yanking out a few isolinear rods if he had to. "He's got about fourteen different shunts in place…That's more than a few hours work, that's a few days. I'm talking team effort…"

"He's got a communication channel open," Odo nodded above his head, studying the circuit panels.

That was it. Sisko didn't ask where. Intra-Station or subspace. His hand slammed the panel closed, answering O'Brien's heated "Damn it!" with a barking, "Move! Move! Move!" for all of them as he turned his phaser rifle on the doors, proving what a setting higher than ten could do to heavy alloys in less than half a minute. What didn't explode to vaporize, contented itself with simply exploding. The potential for geological side effects was restricted to a minor shaking of the floor. The rebound struck the control panels, taking out half of the isolinear rods and a decent portion of the lighting in the immediate area. It was an attack sufficient in inspiring the computer to reset her Red Alert status to standard protocol and engage her weapons systems in preparation for defense and counter measures. The responsibility of setting the computer straight as far as who was responsible Sisko left to Worf together with checking the environmental systems along the affected Promenade. The Chief was with him through what was left of the outer doors and lobby of the security office, working to disengage the inner doors and her force field that held through it all; Odo was secretly glad to know that.

"So did the communication channel," he noticed over Worf's shoulder.

"Priority subspace," Worf agreed.

"I don't suppose you can tell to whom," Odo grunted.

"From your station, yes," Worf assured.

"Yes, well," unless Odo was mistaken the Bajoran was still in command of his station. He eyed Kira pounding up with Dax.

"What happened?" that was Kira.

"We knocked, but he refused to answer -- " Odo nodded to the bipolar torch making its timely entry, possibly just in time. "Better late than never."

"I've got it," Kira relieved Worf at the control panel. "Help the Captain."

"There's still that force field…" Odo reminded, not saying the security fields were indestructible. They weren't. A disruptor could penetrate most. That's why they still had doors.

"Taking care of that now," Kira reset a circuit, generating a few complaining sparks. "Dax?"

"Field's down," Dax called back, excitement building in her voice; probably something to do with the Captain and the disruptor in his hands as she worked feverishly trying to help the Chief.

"Yes," Odo noticed how the field was disabled along with noticing the Captain taking the honors of cutting the door open away from Mister Worf. "I don't suppose any of these shunts are standard Bajoran sabotage?"

"Some of them," Kira agreed.

"I'll make a note of that."

She already had. "When's the last time this panel was checked?"

"Within the hour before the conference. Why? It's my understanding all of this is timed for control from some remote location."

"It is. Pull the duty roster. You're looking at the control location."

"Really," Odo eyed the circuits. "The Chief didn't mention that."

Kira was sure O'Brien would.

"What about Red Alert? Shields specifically," Odo asked. "At the moment, the entire station's a security holding cell."

"Not affected." Kira shook her head.

"What does that mean?"

"They’re not interested in leaving?"

All but one of them. Odo wasn't sure if that was good news or bad concerning the others.


"You run the risk, Captain, of a cascading system failure," Anar forewarned Sisko over the com system, listening to the station's translator clean the Klingon expletives from the introduction of the bridge Commander.

"This is Commander Kor'Vek…what is this nonsense about General Martok? Who is this? Hello? Answer and identify yourself accordingly."

"Repeat," Anar requested.

The resulting spiel was largely Klingonese. The translator's ability to extract a clear answer, limited. "Identify, or this link will be severed!"

"The Prophets know the liar that you are," Anar engaged the transporter with a smile. "Request emergency assistance. Can you read me? I have information vital to the Empire."

"Chief?" Sisko grabbed the torch from Worf, firing his way to cut through the doors.

"Yeah, right," O'Brien scoffed at Anar's warning of imminent disaster, "like you care -- no, there's no risk of cascading failure -- with the disruptor, yes. The torch, no…Give me that thing," he instructed Dax to collect the phaser rifle. "Before the thrusters engage, and we find ourselves shifting orbit."

"Just a slight exaggeration," Dax smiled, reaching to secure Benjamin's momentarily discarded rifle just in case he did decide the torch was too slow.

"Yeah, right, slight," O'Brien wiped the beads of perspiration out from his eyes. "Slight -- what the heck is that?"

"Major?" Odo seconded the question as the notorious sound of some major system engaging filled the air.

"The transporter!" Kira gasped. "Chief!"

"Damn it!" O'Brien jumped up, grabbing the phaser rifle and tossing it to Dax as Worf bolted for the transporter pad. "All right, fine. Tell him to go ahead. Just go ahead!"

"The transporter," Dax nodded to Sisko cutting the power to the torch.

Sisko stared at her. "Chief?"

"Shields are intact," Kira shouted back.

"Famous last words -- " O'Brien moved her aside. "Let me see here -- "

"Was that you?" Odo nodded to Kira.

"No, it wasn't me -- of course it wasn't me!"

"Just asking."

"What do you want to do?" Dax's eyes bore into Sisko's burning back at her.

"Give me that," Sisko tossed her the torch.

"Right," Dax closed her eyes, handing him the rifle.

"Get out of here," Sisko instructed. "That includes you, General. Status, Chief?"

"He's going nowhere," O'Brien promised. "Just keep him covered -- "

"In case he tries to," Dax nodded to Martok's growl.

"Come on…" O'Brien hammered his com badge. "Worf!"

"System is operational but non-functioning -- there is no lock."

"He must be having trouble with the shields…" Odo surmised.

"I know he's having trouble with the damn shields," O'Brien assured. "Worf! Override the autosequencers to manual at the buffer. We'll hold him there, if we have to."

"Understood."

"Chief!" Sisko insisted.

"I'm on it…I'm on it…"

"Apparently," Odo agreed as three or four circuits suddenly lit up in sequence. "What's that?"

"Transporter -- " Dax hit her com badge. "Worf!"

"System remains at standby -- "

"What do you mean standby?" O'Brien snapped. "I'm looking at -- oh, Jeez!" his fist hit the panel.

"It's a site to site transport," Dax sighed. "Benjamin!"

"I take it that likewise means what shields," Odo nodded to Kira.

"That's about the size of it," Kira just slumped down to the floor with her head in her hands.

"Yes, well, it stands to reason if we have backup systems, so do they," Odo grunted as the Captain blew the inner doors with the same ferocity as he had blown the outer with similar rebounding effects. Whether or not it constituted a cascading system wide failure to the security network remained to be determined. It took the better part of a minute for the rebound to disburse. By that time their auxiliary systems were operating in the area -- or at least they alluded they were. They were all still breathing, as they were all still alive. That included the Captain getting to his feet to sweep the debris off the console. The Bajoran was nowhere to be seen.

"I don't suppose that means…" Odo dared to hope the worse.

"No, I didn't get him, Constable," Sisko assured.

"Well, you tried."

"Trying doesn't cut it!" Sisko's fist shattered what remained of the readout display. "Mister Worf," he took a breath, activating his com badge, "by any chance -- "

"I was not successful in shunting the matter stream -- sensors however, have determined coordinates of the target to be that of General Martok's Bird-of-Prey…"

Sisko's head snapped up.

"What?" Martok snarled. "That's impossible!"

There was a coldness evident in Worf's reply. "You are welcome to see for yourself."

"On the contrary!" Sisko was through the doors and gone. Martok, Kira, and Dax with him.

"Next," Odo nodded to the Chief lingering to toss a piece of something back onto the console in resignation.

"Tried. I'll say he tried," O'Brien answered with disgust. "The guy's got someone on his side, let's put it that way. I don't know if it's a Prophet, Martok, or who it is. But he definitely has someone on his side."


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