"Captain…" Damar turned to Sisko with a melodramatic sigh.
"No, it's quite all right," Bashir petitioned the Captain for mercy. "Because, actually, yes, Dukat does have a point. Oh, yes." he brought the point of Anon's point to Janice's attention. "He's quite right. Who really is neutral? Certainly not I. And certainly not him."
"No," Anon thrust a glass of the brown wine forward; Bashir presumed as an offer. "I said that."
"Yes," Bashir accepted the glass with a smile. "I'm agreeing with you -- except as far as the wine." he passed the glass to Janice along with his smile. "It is root beer. Not wine."
"It's disgusting," Anon maintained to Janice.
"Apparently that means he believes you'll like it, since it's been decided you won't like kanar."
"No, she won't like kanar," Anon insisted. "That she might like, yes. It's sweet."
"Mildly tart, actually by our description," Bashir winked at Janice procrastinating in taking a drink. "I trust you have had root beer at some point in your life?"
"No," she admitted.
"Ha," Anon's knuckles cracked painfully against Bashir's arm. "So much for Human preferences."
"Favorites," Bashir rubbed his arm with a wince. "And it is. At least among Humans I know."
"Bipeds," Anon nodded.
"Yes, well, actually, biped means someone or something with two feet rather than two hands. Not that it matters really, because, yes, Humans are bipeds. The same as Ferengi. Cardassians," he offered Anon looking at him. "Bajorans. Klingons. So see? Just when you thought you had nothing in common, come to find out you do."
"Talk to me about my point," Anon suggested, "the one you agree with. Did I ask you to?"
"No. I simply do that's all. Rather the same as I agree with Janice. You must feel some sort of personal tie to the conference with regard to Ziyal."
"Oh?" Anon sneered. "Why? Because she was my sister?"
"Yes," Janice nodded. "Of course because she -- was your sister?" she frowned.
"Unfortunately Ziyal was killed during the recent Federation-Dominion war," Bashir quietly explained when Anon did not answer her.
"Murdered, those more discriminating might say," Garak added with almost ghoulish delight.
"No, Ziyal wasn't murdered," Anon corrected in aggravation. "Executed, yes, for treason against the Cardassian Union…Which, no," he allowed, "was not entirely accurate because Ziyal's home world was Bajor. Not Cardassia."
"Another vicious lie, my dear," Garak promised Janice. "Ziyal was ardently loyal to Cardassia despite her mixed heritage. She simply disagreed with her father's actions as many others did. Myself included."
"Who cares about you!" Anon's angry swipe of his hand sent something flying; it turned out to be a bottle of kanar.
"Did you ever have one of those days?" Quark sighed to Sisko far too busy snapping his fingers at Odo to care.
"Yes," Odo supposed he should intervene before all hell did more than threaten to break loose again.
"An idea, Constable," Sisko nodded sharply with a caustic reminder to Damar of the rules of no-interference. "Don't even think about it; don't even think about it!"
"No, it's all right," Janice reassured Pfrann; Odo she didn't even notice. "I have him."
Which she did have Dukat. By the shoulders as a matter of fact as he jumped up and she jumped up. The same as Julian, Pfrann, and, yes, Damar's assistant Mister Paq, Garak believed was also there.
"Anon, listen to me," Janice coaxed him back down into his chair, not that she really could be expected to control him unless he allowed her to; and she couldn't control him. Not to the point of getting him to sit down. "I'm sorry. It's all my fault. I had no idea about Ziyal, none at all. And, yes, perhaps Shakaar should have told me --”
"That's not the point," he said. "He cries for a woman who would be alive if she listened to my father instead of choosing him!"
"Also very true, my dear," Garak assured Janice smoothly. "I did have the distinct pleasure of knowing Ziyal for far too short a period of time."
"I said who cares about you!" Anon barked.
"Well, obviously your sister must have," Janice said.
"What?" his eyes flickered suspiciously over her.
She smiled, risking aggravating him further with the truth. "If she chose listening to Garak over listening to your father? Who was apparently her father too?"
"True," Garak purred. "As well as quite alive, quite unlike Ziyal, though currently serving a life sentence in a Federation institution for the criminally insane; not that miracles can't happen, because, of course, they can."
"My father is not insane," Anon assured Janice. "They might like him to be, but he isn't."
"Well, it's probably a matter of opinion if he's a criminal also." Doctor Lange held her smile, Garak noted, though it softened slightly, almost sadly.
"On the contrary, Doctor," Sisko stiffened at the outrageousness of her idea.
"On the contrary, Captain," Garak beamed; not meaning to suggest he agreed with Doctor Lange's rather flagrant and misguided generosity. "It is an opinion. Right, or wrong, it is. One of those notoriously accepted --”
"Rules of protocol," Quark offered.
"Precisely," Garak nodded. "And the opinion of the winning side does have a tendency to prevail over those who lost -- at least in their opinion," he smiled at Janice, impressed by her courage regardless of how controversial, or inaccurate, her comment might be. Which it was. Controversial as well as inaccurate. Just ask Major Kira.
"Is that what you think?" Janice was asking Anon.
"Actually…" Anar sighed to his sergeant Dak'jar safely in the background of the little group gathered in the Ferengi's gilded brothel to break bread and ground. "It's far more likely Anon is thinking of how to erase her name from the death warrant Janice just signed for herself by publicly upholding his father as some victim of unfortunate circumstances."
The same as Sisko was thinking; the Bajoran woman who had to be Adon's Major Kira; the Changeling posing as some Constable Odo. All of them, including Mister Damar, confident Anon was confident to have won the first round even before the conference started. Janice's claim of ignorance concerning his father either a lie, or she was just somebody's fool. She was neither. Blessed, perhaps. Gifted with uncommon wisdom and foresight. Giving, caring, kind and gentle, if she were nothing else.
"I owe you one," Anar cursed his nephew Shakaar for involving the child in any of this. "Oh, do I."
"Anon?" Janice said.
"I have already explained my position to you," Anon reiterated tightly, removing her hands from his tunic. "I am a dreamed political coup by Damar to glean sympathy for his ideas in Legate Dukat's absence."
"That'll be the day," Kira sneer retorted behind him.
"You think not?" Anon turned on her. "Even you and my father were united in one cause in your lives; Ziyal. You, a Bajoran militant. Him, the former Cardassian Prefect."
"Ziyal was your daughter?" Janice blinked at Kira.
A fair and reasonable presumption under the circumstances, Garak felt. No doubt causing Major Kira a fair and reasonable amount of momentary nausea at the very idea.
"No, Ziyal wasn't my daughter. My charge, yes. Charge," she retorted, her anger hardly directed at Doctor Lange. Directed naturally instead at Anon and his idea that anyone could glean Bajoran sympathies under a banner scarred with the name Dukat. "Are you out of your mind? Tell her the truth! Your father was personally responsible for millions of Bajoran lives!"
"Meaning deaths," Bashir nodded to Janice.
"I don't care how many children he fathered! Or how many women he loved!"
"You counted them apparently?" Anon agreed coolly.
"Counted them?" Kira choked. "I didn't have to count them!" she grabbed him by his tunic with no intentions of ever letting go. "I stepped over them in the streets! Around them as he paraded them along the Promenade!"
"Odo!" Sisko insisted.
"Back to that united in one cause only," Odo suggested to Anon as he pried Kira loose with a nod for Doctor Lange and the return of her pensive expression. "As apparently you still seem to be confused by something. Or am I wrong?"
"No, you're not wrong," Janice said."And neither is she attempting to seduce you!" Kira managed to give Anon one last slap before Odo remanded her for safekeeping to Dax and O'Brien.
"Give me a break!" Kira stood there spitting fury, unnecessarily straightening her uniform and smoothing back her hair. "Did you see the expression on his face? Did you?"
"I did," O'Brien assured.
"Yes, well," Dax just said.
"He thinks he's going to blame her! He does! You can see he does!"
"For?" Dax asked.
"For?" Kira sputtered.
"For," Dax nodded.
"For looking to beat him at his own damn game," O'Brien assured.
"Exactly!" Kira's hand caught him sharply in the diaphragm but he didn't care.
"She's good," he promised. "Mark my words. The kid can hold her own. I don't care what Worf, or anyone else says."
"Did you say Lange couldn't hold her own?" Dax smiled up at Worf.
He sighed. "Jadzia, the entire issue of seduction has become distorted."
"If not gotten a bit out of hand," she agreed. "The evening," she clarified.
"Yes," Worf said.
They were silent for a few moments waiting out the last of the roars slowly dying back down to a tolerable buzz.
"Hungry?" Dax wondered, gazing longingly at the extensive platter of food."Yes," Worf assured.
"Doctor?" Sisko attempted to keep patience in his question and a few choice words to himself as far as the blatant generosity she extended Dukat, barely shy of accusing the Federation of wrongful imprisonment of a man's whose record spoke for itself in any language.
"No, it's just…" Lange continued shaking her head at him, Damar, Odo, all of them, "I'm not sure why we're even discussing any of this. It has nothing to do with why any of us are here."
"Come again?" O'Brien leaned into the conversation, not intentionally usurping Sisko's similar question.
Janice sighed. "We're not here to discuss anyone's roll in anything. We're not here to discuss the Federation-Dominion war, or the Klingon-Cardassian conflict, or the Cardassian wars…Or the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor," she apologized to Kira. "We're here to discuss the installation of a Cardassian Consulate on Bajor Prime to assist in ensuring equal rights and fundamental freedoms for the Bajoran-Cardassian people living on Bajor Prime and throughout her colonies. Regardless of how a population came into being, it exists. By approximation, represents almost thirteen percent of your combined worlds."
"And what about our combined worlds?" Kira charged. "The Cardassian Union has ignored their responsibility in every way. Now they're going to start telling us what to do? It's taken fifty years for them to acknowledge their existence! Never mind accept or provide anything!"
"A debate possibly for another day, Major," Sisko raised his hand. "Doctor Lange is correct. The issue we are here to discuss is the installation of a Cardassian Consulate. Nothing more. Nothing less."
"Yes," Janice's plea returned to Anon. "Yes. So, no, I can't see how my knowledge of…?"
"Tora Ziyal," he turned away with a disgusted wave. "Yes. Tora Ziyal. Her face wasn't enough. He had to give her a Cardassian name, too."
"Prejudices my position in any way," Janice smiled after him. "What her story does is underscore a need. A need we are all already aware exists, or we wouldn't be here, would we?"
"How profoundly naïve of you, my dear," Garak was the only one who dared to touch that one. "Delightful, even. Charming."
"Oh, please," Damar sat down heavily, snatching up Sisko's security itinerary he had been attempting to review before all this nonsense about food, neutrality, Dukat… "Young woman," he slammed the padd down, "when we need you to fight our battles for us, we will employ you to do so. Until that time your duty and responsibility is to Shakaar. An adversary of the Cardassian Union, not an ally."
"No, you're wrong," Janice shook her head. "First Minister Shakaar wants this conference to succeed as much as you do."
"Does he?" Damar snorted. "Well, we shall see, won't we?"
"Yes, we will," Janice promised with her smile, looking to move onto a new and different subject herself with an attempted tuck of her mangled mane of hair behind her ear. "Well, now what else should we all talk about?"
"The audacity of innocence, perhaps, my dear?" Garak proposed when even Julian appeared to be at a momentary loss of something to say.
"Naïveté," Janice laughed delightfully. "And, I don't know. Was it that same naïve quality in you that had you believing you could succeed as a tailor on a Bajoran station under command of the Federation?"
"Arrogance, of course, my dear," Garak sat down, inviting her to do the same. "You'll find the Cardassian race to be extraordinarily arrogant, if you find us to be nothing else…"
"Does that satisfy you, Legate?" Sisko turned to Damar.
"Me?" Damar sneered. "You're the one threatening your staff with court martial. My interest is not to have my proposal jeopardized by some --”
"Toad?" Odo drawled. "Yes, well, I believe you'll recall in retrospect the one responsible for letting the proverbial cat out of the bag was your Gul Dukat, not Garak."
"Not that that should come as some great shock to anyone," Odo mentioned aside to Kira when he retired from the crowded spotlight to join her at a convenient side rail where they could watch the whole of the arena to their heart's content. "What was that you said earlier about just getting rid of Dukat?"
"Only to end up with two of him," Kira muttered.
"Yes, well, I'm not so sure about two," Odo gave a nod towards Anon's rather silent partner, otherwise known as his younger brother, "but we definitely have one."
"He looks like him," Kira agreed.
"Who?" Odo said.
"Pfrann." Kira sipped her raktajino finally.
"Yes, well," Odo grunted, "I believe Humans have a saying…"
"Appearances can be deceiving," Kira nodded. "So they can be." Because the one who looked like his father, put aside the one who did not?
"He's nervous about something," Odo observed.
"Who?" Kira said.
"Pfrann," Odo assured. "The other one's just angry."
"Damar maybe?" Kira watched Pfrann indecisive in approaching his brother so obviously decisive about avoiding him.
"Probably," Odo surmised as whatever was driving the younger one won out over his apprehension and he took the necessary steps to secure Anon's somewhat divided attention divided between…Odo wasn't quite sure. Reasonable to say though Anon's attention was divided between not wanting to pay attention to his brother he was paying attention to in spite of himself and whatever it was he was thinking.
"Are you sure Dukat's the one who's angry?" Kira frowned, finding Pfrann's subdued mannerisms the ones remarkably similar to his father's flamboyant gesticulations when he was feeling particularly annoyed about something; impatient or frustrated.
"What would you say?" Odo grunted.
"Defensive?" Kira mused. "Defiant?"
"Defiant, maybe," Odo allowed. "Not defensive. Watch him when he walks."
"It's a sight to see," Odo guaranteed.
"All right," Kira shrugged, "I'll watch him when he walks."
They were silent for a few minutes.
"Sort of saunter, I suppose," Odo considered.
"His father saunters," Kira nodded.
"You saunter," Odo assured. "That one struts." Fast and determined.
"Meaning?" Kira said.
"I wouldn't hold my breath, or waste it for that matter, hoping to persuade him from whatever it is he does have on his mind."
"So much for compromise," Kira proposed.
"At the very least," Odo agreed.
"What about the younger one?" Kira eyed Pfrann.
Odo thought about that. "I didn't notice." Only that he was young. Markedly concerned or worried about something. Probably Damar. Likely in regard to his elder brother who he was in love with. "He'll be a target," he promised, "Dukat. Guaranteed. Probably the first one. In whatever direction it comes from."
"I was just thinking that," Kira agreed.
"Before or after you were thinking about Lange?"
"After," Kira admitted.
"I'm sure you were," Odo nodded. "Part of Damar's plan, or not part of it, one thing is for certain, not too many people appreciate a rebel."
"You really think she's a rebel?" Kira frowned.
"What do you think?" Odo grunted.
"Well, maybe not a rebel exactly. If you listen to the Chief --”
"She's a heroine," so Odo overheard.
"Right. Where if you listen to Dax --”
"Who's hungry," Odo noticed. "Explains why she's back in the thick of things."
"Lange didn't accuse of the Federation of anything," Kira assured. "Benjamin's just a little sensitive when it comes to certain subjects, and Dax is just a little sensitive when it comes to him."
"And you're not," Odo supposed.
"No, I'm sensitive. That's how I know she didn't accuse the Federation --”
"Of wrongful imprisonment of an innocent man," Odo nodded.
It was like someone scrapping their fingernails across a pane of glass but Kira toughened it out. "She made a point," she maintained, firmly even. "A valid point. In Cardassia's opinion -- many of them, Dukat is not a criminal. In the Federation's, he is."
"What about Bajor's?" Odo asked.
"Could we change the subject? I mean," she scoffed with a supporting wave, "if we want to stand here and talk about rebellious --”
"Dukat," Odo assured.
"Watch the way he walks," Kira reminded. "He's everything his father ever dreamed he was."
"Frightening thought," Odo had to admit.
"So it is," Kira agreed.
"I'm not so sure it's worth the risk." Odo studied the Legate who hadn't balked at killing one of them, and so it wasn't likely he would balk at killing two more.
"Also true," Kira believed.
"To Lange or Dukat?" Odo asked. "Or is it likewise unfair to your Doctor Lange to suggest that if Mister Damar and his entourage expected anything they probably didn't expect her? Meaning the woman just might be a little too intelligent and…" he cleared his throat. "Too much of a free thinker for her own good. If she's not afraid to speak her mind about Dukat, she's not likely to be afraid to speak her mind about anything."
"I'll talk to Benjamin and get approval for Bashir to implant a proximity detector," Kira decided. "Rather than just the standard security bracelet."
"Which Dukat will either refuse or figure out a way to deactivate," Odo nodded.
"Then we'll just implant another one," Kira shrugged. "It's for his own protection."
"Which I doubt if he thinks he needs."
Kira looked at him, which was fine because he just looked at her.
"Watch the way he walks," Kira nodded.
"That's about the size of it," Odo grunted.
"Legate?" Sisko waited for Damar's decision to call, play or declare it a draw.
"Yes, it satisfies me, Captain," Damar sighed heavily one more time to ensure his resignation was heard. "If the woman wants to insist she is neutral, she is right in her claim she is at least as neutral as any of the rest of us; Dukat has a point."
"Of course." The ever malleable characteristic of Cardassian diplomacy seldom succeeded in amazing Sisko anymore. "Nevertheless, Legate," Sisko advised as he sat, "I would like that point to be included in the official minutes of the conference."
"Include it anywhere you like. You should know Dukat by now. He will agree, disagree, deny or acclaim, do either or all on a whim. If you think that one is any different, think again."
"His value, no doubt," Sisko was equally capable of deadpan sarcasm if he so chose to be.
"Value," Damar scoffed. "Dukat's value is exactly as he has defined it. The name. The identity associated with it. Again," the smile playing Damar's lips was thin, "no different than his father. A prostitute is a prostitute, and that is a prostitute I have hired to do a task for me, regardless of how he views himself. You and I both know exactly who, and what he is."
Sisko studied the vulgar, angry face of the Cardassian Emperor. "Honesty becomes most people, Legate, I would have to agree."
"I had an idea you would appreciate it," Damar pushed aside the security log to secure his fair portion of the food that hardly appeared to be worth all the fuss or the wait. "Where's the kanar?" he demanded of Quark relaxing in a chair himself for some reason.
"Where have you been?" Quark cracked. "Revolving through a different universe than everyone else? His regal Eminence threw it across the floor twenty minutes ago."
"That's the only bottle you have?" Damar retorted.
"No, it's not the only bottle I have," Quark mimicked, "these are the only two feet I have. Those stairs are a killer. You go up and down them twenty-six times with gagh, without gagh…Which, just for the record," his finger jammed down on the table in front of Sisko. "It'll be a cold day on Cardassia when you get me in one of those monkey suits. You listening? I don't care how many security checks, searches, checkpoints, stairs, I have to go through, up or down, to turn a decent profit for the next week I am not wearing one of those suits. Trust me. If they don't know by now who I am, masquerading as a florescent sunflower isn't going to help them out…
"Which, speaking of stairs," he returned to Damar, "if you wouldn't mind including in your official minutes of record, I like my stairs. I love them. I love every step. Every platform on all three levels. Every cup, knife, fork, plate, and spoon in the place…" he picked up the parsley from off the platter. "Every twig of parsley -- which, by the way, is there for decoration. You're eating the decorations. But, hey. When on Mars, do as the Martians do. In the meantime, are you listening? I love my bar exactly the way it is, the way you see it right now. And I expect to find my bar, have my bar, looking exactly the way it is, the way you see it right now, on the day you warp out of here. Is that clear? Or is there something you need me to repeat?"
"Kanar," Damar's serpentine neck coiled forward.
"It's also a breath mint," Quark handed him the parsley. "Knock yourself out. I'll be right back with the kanar…
"Or in a reasonable facsimile thereof," Quark halted on the stairs with sigh, stopped by a Bajoran security officer much larger than any Bajoran or security officer really needed to be, and definitely not a yellow person.
"You know, I've been up and down here thirty odd times," Quark mentioned as he was scanned and scanned and re-scanned, "and I've just one question to ask you. Do you really think you could find a Cardassian, Klingon, Changeling, or even too many Bajorans short enough to surgically alter to appear as Ferengi? Even if you could, do you really think they would leap at the chance?"
"Oh, I don't know," the Bajoran drawled, "do you really think there aren't any Ferengi in the Maquis?"
"Do I know you from somewhere?" Quark frowned. "Because if I do, I'll remember it. I never forget a face."
"That's good to know," Anar answered from behind his sergeant Dak'jar. Personally, also not one particularly fond of yellow however there was credence to that old adage when on Mars, do as the Martians do. If he wished to gain admission to the ranks of the elite Bajoran troops, and he did wish, the distinctive yellow jumpsuit, specific to the occasion, was the ticket in.
"Let him pass," Anar granted Quark passage, "he has been up and down enough for us to know by this point who he is."
"Smart man," Quark nodded to the big guy, "you should pay attention to your elders."
"Figure of speech," Anar stopped Dak'jar before he overreacted and all hell really did break loose. "He lives by his wits, it shows in his tongue -- is Janice's inhibitor working?"
"Good," Anar was relived. "Keep a sharp eye on her, anyway; the three of them. Janice, Anon, Pfrann. The others can take care of themselves. Never mind the Klingons or the Maquis, I trust Damar and that assistant of his about as far as I can throw them."
"About as far as Hawk," Dak'jar agreed.
"If he's here, I'll find him," Anar assured. "Brothers are extremely difficult to hide from. Trust me on that one," he winked with a confidence he didn't necessarily feel, pausing briefly in his retreat to eye the Federation officers and Cardassian civilian talking with Janice. "Who are those four sitting with Janice? Assistants?"
"Federation representative Chief Engineer O'Brien." Dak'jar identified the older of the two Humans who looked as if he was as strong and solid in his convictions as he was in his frame. Years of experience supporting the suspicious scowl on his face. "The one with the Trill Dax is Doctor Bashir."
"Explains the mood," Anar smiled at Anon's sullen expression. "Bashir is a handsome man. Even by Bajoran standards."
"He's Human," Dak'jar shrugged. "His interest in Janice is to be expected."
"So's Anon; humane, at least. Probably in more ways than he would care to admit. Who did you say the Trill was? Dax? Curzon Dax? Shakaar must be screaming contamination as we speak."
"Jadzia Dax," Dak'jar agreed. "Appointed Head of Security for the Bajoran Representatives. The Klingon is assigned to preside over the Federation."
"Make that Damar steaming," Anar whistled in the direction of Sisko. "Clever, Captain Sisko. Extremely clever." Independent, even. The Klingons were there regardless of anyone else. "Well, we're just going to have to keep an eye on Sisko as well, aren't we?""The Cardassian is Garak," Dak'jar was continuing to nod.
"Garak?" That was a name Anar knew. Obsidian Order. Luckless son to its butchering master Enabran Tain. Oh, what a tangled web of intrigue sat woven around that table, Janice unwittingly in its heart. If Anar was angry with his nephew, he was also somewhat agog with trying to understand Shakaar's thinking; by the Federation, half facetious, and half strongly impressed. "This Captain Sisko really isn't one for taking any chances, is he?"
"Old habits die hard," Dak'jar reminded.
"So they do. As do old soldiers seldom die…As it is better the devil you know, then the one you don't…." Anar shook his head. "I've been with the Federation too long. It was time to come back to the Prophets."
"Most of it's common sense," Dak'jar agreed.
"So it is. Our list is getting longer. Keep a close watch over our Mister Garak also. I doubt if he'll give Anon any particular trouble, but neither can we have him waylaying Damar in an ore bay…" he peered at Garak. "As much as we might like to…What's that he's eating?"
"Parsley. The Humans use it for a breath mint -- if you believe the Ferengi."
Anar chuckled. "He should give it to the Klingon. I'll be --”
"Around?" Dak'jar suggested.
"Lying in wait for General Martok," Anar promised that time with complete confidence. "Date, time and place are not a secrets you can keep for very long even when your name isn't Legate Damar!" His eyebrows raised in facetious exaggeration. "They've been here an hour, I give Martok another two."
He was close.