The Klingon Commander Kor'Vek hovered over his men at the helm console. The forward viewer screen was operational and showing a clear picture of graphic distortion and white noise. There were five of them that Anar could see as he transported. Why they were poised at the helm, he didn't know. They weren't going anywhere. They were docked. Minutes later they were dead, and he was leaning freshly exhausted over their communications system; his arm gashed from a kut'luch, contacting Tan likely having his own troubles attempting to bypass the Alert lockout and raise the station.
Tan was. Since before the time of Pfrann's aborted hail. Anon's aging giant of a Chief Engineer along with his bridge crew knew the station was responding to an internal Red Alert with deflector shields fully engaged and weapons not powered. That changed several minutes later when the principle array powered on in response to an explosion Tan was able to pinpoint to the Promenade. He couldn't tell where exactly though. Frustrated, he issued a demand hail to the station. It was ignored or it didn't get through the communication lockout. Five minutes later the weapons array powered down to return to full armament with a second explosion also occurring on the Promenade. Tan was this close to engaging rear thrusters in an attempt to rip away from the docking ring when he received a hail from Martok's Bird-of -Prey.
"What does he want?" Tan cursed knowing it was the same as him. Answers. "I don't have time for them. Shut it down -- shut it down!" he clouted the hesitant helmsman.
"I love Cardassians," Anar facetiously agreed when his Klingon distress signal was abruptly silenced. You could always count on them not to answer a cry for help.
"Tan," he tried the more conventional standard priority hailing frequency complete with breathless voice imprint, "it's Anar. I need you to transport me before I or Captain Sisko end up in the Infirmary from collapse. If you need a security code, use one of Prefect Dukat's. ADL40 springs to my mind for some reason. An old but a good one."
Seconds later he was on the bridge of Anon's battle cruiser reaching for a seat to catch his breath; the powerful Tan expectantly Cardassian in his greeting.
"Get him something to drink," Tan shoved a startled unfamiliar sentry awake with a demand of Anar. "What makes you think we keep a data record of archaic security codes?"
"For the same reason Klingons seem to have this insatiable fascination with hand-to-hand combat," Anar's sweating chest quieting to one final deep breath. "I'm getting too old for this."
"Hm," Tan noticed. The phaser rifle as well as the bleeding arm. "Kut'luch?"
"Kut'luch," Anar admitted, checking the gash. "As Anon would say, they look much worse than me…" The bridge suddenly rocked slightly like a boat crossing a wake. Anar sighed, satisfied and reasonably confident Sisko didn't make it aboard Martok's Bird-of-prey in time to take an unexpected trip to his Heaven.
"What was that?" Tan released his grip on Anar's chair with an insistent snap for his helm.
"A Klingon Disruptor set for overload," Anar accepted a glass from the sentry. "I needed a scapegoat. General Martok seemed to be begging for the role -- water? Or fish juice?" he nodded, catching the smell. "Never mind, I'll take it. Thank you."
Tan eyed him. The question was for his helmsman. "Is that true?"
"I have an explosion, yes, aboard the Bird-of-Prey."
"Don't worry about the arm," Tan's head flicked generously back to Anar in repayment for the glorious deed whatever the reasons. "We have medical field supplies."
"Progressive," Anar agreed with a glance around the small bridge crew of seven. Two more than Martok, two of whom he didn't recognize even though they recognized him; the sentry and the Cardassian at the helm.
"You can trust them." Tan thought he could read minds. "They would have been dead before you entered this ship. They know it, now you do."
"I, my friend, couldn't care less," Anar promised. "Definitely about Shakaar. Anon's in the Infirmary with someone's dinner knife in his stomach."
"What?!" Tan hissed like a cobra ready to strike.
"He lives," Anar reassured. "I'm sure he's in surgery by now. My deep concern is Pfrann. I wasn't able to locate -- "
"Pfrann is fine," Tan dismissed, either knowing or guessing. "We had a hail from him. Thirty minutes after the first alert. He aborted it, I don't know why. "
"Transport perhaps?" Anar frowned. "He may have located Anon. It was approximately thirty minutes when I left. Bashir was on his way."
"I don't know anything about that," Tan claimed. "We have been attempting to reestablish contact with him -- anyone. The systems are going crazy over there."
"Not all without good reason," Anar advised sourly. "They opened fire on Quark's a few minutes after nine -- "
Tan interrupted. "Who are they? Martok?"
"Maquis," Anar passed on finishing the fish juice to have a look over the com system and see what had changed. Very little. What little appeared to be of Dominion influence. The Cardassians always made friends where they should never make friends, and always cut corner where they should never cut corners. "We can probably trace their sponsorship back to either Gowron or Winn. I know the leader; my brother Hawk. It's a splinter group of my own troops. Sisko has his work cut out for him. They went in as Shakaar's Special Forces…May I?"
"Yes, go ahead," Tan snapped his fingers at his Ops officer. "Anything he needs, help him. All of you. Issue the order."
"Thank you." Anar sat down at the console. "Our best chance for information until we can reestablish a link with Pfrann are the communications between the station and the UFP…Bajor. Qo'noS…I know the coding sequences. We'll work it out."
"We will. How big is this group? There's 350 Special Forces officers aboard Terok Nor."
"Two hundred and fifty-two Bajorans, 142 assorted Federation," Anar agreed. "Add to that forty or fifty Maquis. It was difficult to tell after the first few seconds who was whom. Hawk never does anything alone and he always does it big. Quick. Random, usually. Which it appeared to be. I know Paq's dead. I'm also not sure what's going on with Damar -- "
"What about Janice?" Tan insisted.
Anar smiled. "That's very considerate of you."
"She's his wife," Tan shrugged. "You give me information, I give it to you. You want to see the transmission for petition of marriage? Check the data banks, it's in there. 2400 yesterday. Anon doesn't care about this stupid conference of Damar's anymore than I, you, or Shakaar. Janice, yes. Klingons, yes. Number One…And that bitch Winn kissing the hem of Gowron behind your back," his hand caught Anar in the shoulder, "not mine. Guaranteed protection from us the Federation cannot afford her come the new war. The woman is a fool. The hand the Union bites is the hand Gowron eats. Wait, you'll see."
"No, it's not necessary," Anar declined the offer to verify Anon's request to the Cardassian legal counsel. "I know Anon -- which son of Dukat would taste the blood of Martok?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"A knife. That's what I got from it."
"It would depend. There was an issue yesterday with Martok and his kut'luch. Anon. Something to do with Pfrann and Janice. But no drawn blood. If Martok says there's blood, he's lying. Why? You think Martok has something to do with this dinner knife?"
"No. Not directly. The two men who attacked Anon were Bajoran and are dead. I killed one, my son killed the other -- Dak'jar. You remember him. So, yes, make that three more Maquis aboard Terok Nor, of which there are now only two. Betrayal has its benefits and its rewards."
"You brought only two men with you?" Tan repeated.
Anar looked at him.
"Discounting us," Tan's hand sliced the air. "Discounting us."
"I wasn't discounting you."
"Neither were we," Tan sighed. "But we can't do anything. One man. That is what the Federation and Shakaar would agree to, that's it. Paq. An idiot. Puppet. Like Damar. This would never have happened on Cardassia. Martok or Winn, neither would have dared."
"Wrong," Anar believed. "Where there's a will, there's a way."
"Klingon?" Tan frowned trying to place the proverb.
"Federation. How many men do you have?"
"Thirty-five. Only three you don't know. These two and my engineer. This is Dukat's -- Anon's. We are Anon's. He refused otherwise. He didn't even want this conference. Too many concessions. I agree."
"For the interest of Central Command or the Civilian Council?"
Tan laughed. "Depends on who you talk to."
"Both," Anar assured. "On behalf of the one with the most fans, who carries the most weight, it doesn't matter. Stress their own interests and belabor the four of them. Anon is injured, Paq is dead. Damar or Pfrann, either one could be next. One Sentinel is out of the question, start with thirty-five. They need protection that Sisko is clearly unable to afford them. A demand. Not a request."
"Signal Cardassia," Tan ordered his helmsman. "Attempted assassination of Emperor Damar and Gul Dukat by unknown Bajoran extremists supported by the Klingon Empire -- what?"
"Unknown?" his helmsman replied. "He said they are Maquis. His own brother and troop."
"Theoretically," Tan rejected the resurrection of an old pest. "A splinter faction of his former group. They want to call themselves Maquis, let them. They are not Maquis. We have destroyed the Maquis -- true or false?'
"Close enough," Anar admitted.
Tan chuckled with an indication of Anar's arm. "Yes. Personally reformed, like Pfrann. Reformed True Way -- the blood of Martok? Both sons of Emperor Dukat. Same reasons. Cardassia. Self. Family. Different structure. One with order. Central Command, like me. One without. Maquis, like you."
"A case of mistaken identity," Anar maintained Sisko's belief in his guilt was wrong. "I came here to protect, not kill."
"Only Klingons," Tan nodded. "For scapegoats."
"Maybe a little more," Anar granted. "Revenge. They took my replicators and half of my men."
"Again?" Tan groaned.
"No," Anar surrendered. "Last year. I've counted the days for the chance, you're right."
Tan laughed again; his helmsman notifying he had a response to his hail to Cardassia. "No, that's all right I will answer," he stopped Anar. "I am as capable as demanding as you -- you, need something for that arm. The console, I am not concerned about. It's solid. Cardassian. It's seen worse."
Unfortunately Anar knew how it would likely continue to see more. He could see the vision of the young woman from the ore bay; her Bajoran-Cardassian face clearly reflected in the readout display. Aware it wasn't particularly attractive, it still had a sense of grace. "What was Anon's sister's name? The half-Bajoran one killed by Mister Damar?" He thanked the sentry for the medical pack. "And a glass of wine, please. I don't care whose."
"Ziyal," Tan replied, busily coding his message to the Union. "Why?"
"Curiosity," Anar claimed. "A notice how Sisko was no less a determined man than I. Right reasons. Wrong man. A reasonable error. He was chasing a Bajoran in a yellow suit attempting to escape. I wouldn't have stopped to ask questions, any more than I stopped to explain."
"Who would?" Tan snorted.
"Not too many." Anar set to work on locating those priority channels sure to be alive with activity with a sigh for Ziyal. "Unfortunately not too many. Not in this lifetime."
"Five," she endeavored to communicate. "Remember the number five."
"My child," Anar promised her. "Of all the numbers I know, I know the number five by heart."
"Seven," Tan answered, misunderstanding and blind to the visiting soul of the child Ziyal. "Legate Dukat has seven children."
Wrong. He had at least nine. By their mates, eighteen. By their children, fifty-seven. By their mates and offspring, 198 and so on down the line. The shadow of Prefect Dukat was large and extremely fertile. With the Prophets blessing and guidance his wife would figure out a way to tape his mouth and tie his hands and it would be the only lasting accomplishment of the butchering pig.
"Rest easy in your confusion and suspicion," Anar addressed the helmsman attempting to cloak his interest in their surprising ally. "The man is Bajoran. His face Shakaar Adon, the Elder. The offer of assistance bold, true and unfamiliar to your ears. Its reasons as tangible as your own. Bajor. Self. Family. Janice is a daughter of my village. If I choose to extend the distinction friend to your Gul and his Lieutenant and Sentinels, be assured they have earned it. Their race and loyalties uncompromised and irrelevant as my own."
The Cardassian scoffed, not to be outdone. His words as forceful and surprisingly direct as Anon's or Pfrann's. "Rest easy in your own mistrust, Bajoran. I follow one leader. Dukat. Your reassurance is of no interest to me. His distinction of friend in you is my assurance you have earned it."
"Impossible," Anar laughed. "I would give my immortal soul to honor your fair request. But I've lived too long under the cloak of deception myself to easily recognize the other Cardassian loyal to his leader and unyielding in his power and force, not drunk on self-indulgence and grinning like some clown. Requirements of faith and trust in men I do not know I leave to Anon, far less bigoted than me."
The explosion aboard Martok's Bird-of-Prey occurred while Sisko was still in the chamber of the airlock. The force of the blast, largely absorbed by the structure, was significantly louder than its shock wave creating a rumbling sensation in the floor under their feet as the Bird-of-Prey groaned against the outside pressure lock.
"That was powerful," Dax remarked as the O'Brien checked the status of the docking clamps.
"Pressure's registering normal," O’Brien advised. “We should be fine.”
"All right, go ahead," Sisko instructed, his fingers mentally crossed the readout was accurate. It was. The system released the lock and they were facing the sealed door of the ship. That was a little touchy. Either having been intentionally set into place or automatically engaged to even out pressure on the other side.
"See if you can get a reading on the cabin." Sisko joined O'Brien at the console while Martok rammed the butt of his rifle against the door in anger.
"It is not worth the risk," Worf stopped the General from carrying it any further in a repeat performance of Sisko's assault on the security office.
"To you, perhaps!" Martok snarled. "The intruder is aboard my ship now."
"A ship of Klingons," Worf assured.
"I don't suppose it's possible he miscalculated his mark?" Dax wondered, hardly joking and thinking again of the Bajoran's decision not to fire on Martok. Something remained wrong with the terrorist's sudden willingness to offer himself up in sacrifice, unless that had been his goal all along. To assassinate Damar and lay the incriminating blame at the feet of the Klingon Empire.
"Readings are coming through normal," O'Brien reported again. "Want to try the torch -- or disruptor?" he hadn't forgotten about the power clutched in Sisko's hand or the fury that had fueled the use of it.
"You could attempt both!" Martok promised neither would work.
"Yeah, right," O'Brien scoffed. "Well, what say you start clawing, and I'll be right back with the torch…"
"Gentlemen, please!" Sisko insisted. "Major, get that ship in a tractor beam, in case anyone's planning on leaving."
"Understood…Do you want to reset docking clamps? Pressures continue to read normal."
"No, that's not necessary," Sisko took aim; gentler in his approach than earlier. Relying on absorption to overload the door's trigger mechanism as he steadily fed the resistive alloy with a lower energy output to contain any rebound. They were looking at several minutes and probably a drained phaser rifle before the door surrendered; it hissed open it just over thirty seconds.
"So much for Klingon hardware," Odo was set to grunt.
Commander Dax was more accurate in her assessment. "I think they heard you knocking."
So apparently they had. The uniform of the Klingon who released the lock was blackened from his fire-fighting efforts. The kut'luch in his hand was bloody. Sisko won the foot race to be the first one through the door. Odo did his part for the forensic team sure to follow, winning the reach for the extended dagger identified as belonging to a Commander Kor'Vek.
"Thank you," Odo nodded, undisturbed by Martok's growl or glare. Though the blood appeared to be Klingon, unless Martok was prepared to claim his Commander Kor'Vek got it into his head to slash one of his men -- entirely possible -- it wouldn't hurt for Bashir to have a look at what lay under that smear. A quick count around of the limbs and assorted other body parts put about five Klingons on the bridge that was in shambles and still burning in a few areas. Odo noted how a second door leading into the interior of ship was opened. The Klingons who responded to the situation aboard their bridge had apparently gained access from two different directions. Three of them were still there, shoving the burning debris aside to check their equipment.
"Disruptor set for overload." Were the first words out of O'Brien's mouth. The destruction of the confined area seemed to support the theory of a bomb, makeshift or otherwise. "Try about three of them. It took more than one to do this."
"Yes," Sisko supported. "Worf, Dax, check the systems…Chief, help them."
"Specifically the transporter," Odo added unnecessarily, noticing there didn't appear to be anything remotely Bajoran-looking among the rubble.
"Where was the kut'luch?" Sisko seized their Klingon doorman. "I said, where!"
"In his hand!" he snarled.
"It's possible Kor'Vek fell on it." Dax knew before she attempted accessing the logs it was going to take hours to sort through the destruction to extract any data.
"Fell!" Martok apparently preferred the idea of a super-empowered Bajoran to a clumsy Klingon. "What?" he glowered at Odo.
"Well…" Dax wouldn't go as far as super-empowered. "If the terrorist transported, taking two or so by surprise with his disruptor…"
"That only leaves three." Personally, Odo had seen enough.
"Yeah, huh?" O'Brien was thinking what Odo was thinking. "That's a disruptor," he pointed out the telltale evidence of the com system to Sisko. "The explosion didn't do this. He blew the console first."
"It's the same with the transporter," Dax agreed.
"Transporter?" the Klingon sneered.
"You check the ship?" O'Brien countered.
"A Bajoran," Odo offered for the Klingon's perplexity. "Not that it wouldn't have been difficult to transport after the console was destroyed."
"Just a little," Dax dusted her hands off, trying not to think how some of this did look just a little over done.
"What are you saying?" Martok studied Sisko. "My men did this?"
"Not unheard of," Odo replied. "Beyond the glory of dying for Empire. I repeat. A Bajoran. One Bajoran. Five dead Klingons. It could just be a matter of saving face…" he ogled Worf approaching from his examination of the discernible body parts.
"I find two torsos consistent with disruptor effects…"
"Alluding they were probably sitting," Odo grunted.
"Yes. I would say that is consistent with the element of surprise," Worf assured Sisko. "That man's throat has clearly been cut -- but the others…"
"We'll have to leave it to Bashir," Odo looked over the kut'luch.
"Commander?" Sisko asked Dax.
She hesitated, remembering again the power behind the fist striking her face and the tight muscles in the Bajoran's forearms. "I would have to agree that it would be unlikely for one Bajoran -- "
"To overpower five Worfs," Odo completed.
"But not impossible." Captain Sisko was apparently feeling particularly generous.
"Yeah, well, impossible," O'Brien scoffed. "There's impossible, and then there's impossible. Keeping your cool behind a door being blown out in front of you is one thing. But this," he assured Kira, "is impossible. No offense."
"I'm not offended," Kira put up her hands. "Believe me, we did enough."
"Yes," Sisko said. "As did our intruder do far more than keep his cool, Chief."
"So he did," Odo studied the dagger. "From stamina to speed to surviving a jump without so much the evidence of a scratch -- there's another possibility. He wasn't Bajoran. Who could do this is me; a Changeling. Without need of subsequent transport capabilities."
"We'll know in five minutes," Sisko took the dagger.
"Blood group," Odo understood. "It'll take a couple of hours to set up to flood every compartment with radiation -- I'll sit out that part. Guard the door -- that is, if you want to me to stay."
"Absolutely, Constable," Sisko assured. "Full forensic squad, Chief. I want a reading and measurement of everything. I'll send up a medical team."
"Quark's, Mister Worf, until it's cleared," Sisko directed. "Dax, you're with me -- no, wait a minute," he stopped at Kira, eyeing her injured ankle constricted by her boot with her leg swollen almost her knee.
"No, that's all right," Kira shook her head. "Take Dax with you. I don't know anything about DNA sequencing -- I can't even feel my ankle. I want to go to Quark's. I have to -- they're my people, Benjamin. My people did this. I can't possibly allow them to get away with it. I can't."
"Understood." Sisko stopped one last time in front of General Martok. "With the risk, General, of driving an irreparable wedge between us…"
"The wedge is there!" Martok seethed. "Do you truly believe I would do this? Murder my own men to silence the mouths of Dukat? No! I would kill them, as they attempted to kill me -- twice! Chancellor Gowron is en route to the UFP as we speak due to my report to him of last evening. What do you think he is going to say about this? Five dead men, and a second attack upon my person. War, Sisko! War!"
"I know, General!" Sisko's quieting temper exploded with new rage, "that until I know what happened here, in Quark's, on the Promenade and everywhere else, you are on the list along with everyone else. With that threat putting you damn close to the top!"
"That's far enough!" Kira halted Martok stepping to follow Sisko.
He glared at her; her hand on his arm, the top of her head grazing his chest. "Attempting to prove the abilities of your Bajoran comrade?"
"I am not Bajoran," Worf stepped in, "with few abilities to prove to you. It is far enough, General. As it is inaccurate to accuse either Dukat of attempting to kill you."
"Not exactly," Odo corrected. "There is no telling how far Dukat would have gone -- he killed an unarmed man, Major," his matter-of-fact and droning tone met Kira's appalled expression.
"To be remanded to security."
"That's enough!" Kira cut him off with a bark down the corridor for the Security Task Leader. "Remand General Martok to a security isolation cell until notified. If he resists -- drop him in his tracks!"
"What did Dukat do?" O'Brien asked when the rebels left along with the rebellious to go their own ways.
"Sentinel Dukat," Odo clarified. "Ripped a Bajoran's heart out with a broken table leg playacting Klingon."
"Oh, great!" O'Brien said, not in support of Kira's position of self-defense.
"Or Worf's," Odo nodded, not to set Kira apart.
"Worf?" O'Brien echoed.
"Believes he's responsible for not taking control of the situation. "
"That's crap!""It is," Odo agreed, and Sentinel Dukat would be spending the rest of the night in a security isolation cell once the business with his brother's surgery was over. That settled that.