"Oh, look at you!" Convulsed in laughter Janice hung onto the knotted and gnarled arm of an ancient river tree. Anon rose from his unexpected bath to kneel in the brick red mud staring at himself.
"I'm sorry," Pfrann winced.
"Sorry?" Anon echoed. "Look at me!"
She was. Janice. Laughing almost uncontrollably and contagiously as she hung onto the crooked and cruel tree whose exposed heavy roots Pfrann claimed to have tripped over. Not so much in an effort to stay abreast of his brother, but a step ahead of the banked glint in Anon's eyes watching the bouncing mass of hair in front of them.
"What do you mean look at me?" Anon started to laugh, scrapping a handful of the thick dripping mud from his tunic and flinging it at her. "Look at you!"
"Hey!" Janice blinked at the primeval splatter hitting her in the shoulder.
"No, hey," Anon assured. "How do you like it? What about you?" His next handful caught Pfrann in the chest.
"Don't ask," Janice advised Anar halting in pacing the town center, attempting to convince himself he was not concerned over Janice's agreeable accord with Anon's demand to see the grotto where she found her mummy. The first words out of Anon's mouth once back on his feet from his bout with Rigelian fever.
In place of a thank you, Anar imagined. Still, he wasn't concerned. Or at least not as concerned as he would have been two weeks ago if Janice decided to take off on an all day hike with Anon and his brother.
"All day?" Anon's training in field maneuvers apparently had not included the Infantry. "Are you crazy? I'm not walking anywhere all day."
"We're not using the transporter," Janice refused. "I don't care if it works."
"It does work," Anon insisted stubbornly. "Yes, it does. Communications, weapons, everything. I didn't crash, I landed to repair the engines."
"Explains why the ceiling's sitting on our heads," Janice nodded around the engineering compartment with its winking, blinking lights and angry static rolling through three-quarters of the displays.
"No, it isn't," Anon disappeared under a collapsed support beam in search of his transporter console.
"Anon!" Janice followed him. "It's radiation. I don't care what you call it, it's radiation!"
"Radiation," Anon scoffed. "There's no more radiation than you standing here, or sitting on the bridge -- "
"Dolores wasn't sitting on a bridge!" Janice gasped. "She was buried in a primeval swamp for four thousand years! You don't have any idea what all your isotopes, anions, cations -- "
"And I suppose there's no radiation in that sterile field she lives in now?" Anon reappeared behind a ruptured air conduit dangling from the ceiling like a giant, steel snake.
"That's completely different," Janice shoved the swaying conduit out of her way.
"Janice!" Anar reacted too late to do anything other than grab her and dive for cover as the heavy conduit swung freely, disrupting the precarious balance of the mountain of debris stacked like a house of steel cards.
"Anon, you don't know what you're going to do to the area, you really don't!" Janice pleaded when the noise and the dust finally settled and the sparks stopped flying and Anon stared from his ceiling to…
What had once been his transporter console, Anar nodded. Now buried under an avalanche of electronic trash.
"Well, you don't," Janice shrugged when Anon didn't say anything. "I don't."
"No," Anar cleared his throat as Anon looked at him. "Janice admits her limited understanding of quantum physics…"
"Dolores?" Anon interrupted, puzzled, and Anar paused.
"I named her after my aunt," Janice nodded proudly.
"Yes," Anar cleared his throat again when Dukat's quizzical look returned to him. "Out of fondness, I would also assume." Despite the mummy's withered appearance.
"Extreme fondness," Janice gave the console a final boot in the isolinear rods with her foot. "So if you think you're going to jeopardize her grotto because you're too lazy to walk, think again."
"All right, fine, we'll walk," Anon surrendered like he still had a choice, and in his mind he probably did. "We'll walk," he assured his brother standing there silently throughout the debate.
"Good." Janice reflected on the new and different arrangement of their surroundings. "Can we get back out that way?"
"No!" Anon's face loomed in hers, and so he wasn't not his father entirely.
Janice laughed. "All right. Can we get out that way?"They could, and they looked fine when they left. Upon their return however they were a sight to see.
"I'm afraid I might have to ask…" Anar disagreed with Janice's suggestion, staring at the three of them stained and caked with dried river mud.
"It's Pfrann's fault," Anon claimed, taking no responsibility at all.
"Pfrann…" Anar's question held as much disbelief as the look on his face moving to stare at the accused child.
Anon groaned heavily in complaint. "Yes Pfrann. Why does it have to be my fault? If the sun refuses to rise in the morning are you going to come looking for me?"
"Probably," Anar admitted.
"Smart man." Anon laughed, leaving Anar with a souvenir hand print clapped on his arm as he walked away, his brother following him.
"You would?" Janice remained behind to pout.
"Probably," Anar admitted again. But then for all the dissimilarities that separated the young Gul from his father, he was still his father's heart. Simply unaffected and unencumbered by living the last thirty or so years wallowing in greed and every other conceivable physical pleasure and vanity.
"Janice…" Anar hesitated, feeling inclined for the first time to offer a few cautious words of advice. But then that was the first time the thought had occurred to him that Janice might have been so eager and willing to show Anon the grotto because she really wanted to.
A thought probably drawn from nothing more than the simply wretched condition of the child's hair. One to be expected. She was wearing it loose, as she had been wearing it the last week or so since Anon's delusions of Klingons passed away with his fever.
"No, you wouldn't," Janice decided with a laugh and took off on a run to catch up with Anon and his brother, leaving Anar free to continue or end his silent debate.
"She's of age," Anar finally turned to the wisdom of the Prophets. There was no denying the child was of age, as there was no denying the aura -- he stopped short of calling it charisma -- surrounding Anon Dukat.
Impatience surrounded Anon at the moment. Disdain. He woke up from his daydream to sneer at Bashir. "You have a photographic memory?"
"Yes, actually," Bashir smiled. "Among many other heightened senses and capabilities. I'm genetically enhanced."
Anar almost fell down the stairs.
"Genetically enhanced," Dak'jar offered dryly to Anar's neck snapping back around in shock.
"Oh, please," Anar collected himself to groan. What was it about young men and bars and young women… "Call me only if they draw blood; a lot of blood…Enough to make a Klingon squirm," he smiled to his son, Sian moving up to claim his father and get him out of there. "Any luck?"
"No. If we're here, I don't recognize any of us."
"Them," Anar corrected. "They are not us. A choice made when they left the camp to the mercy of the Klingons."
"I have the same mercy for them," Sian swore bitterly. "Hawk struts like a whore across the graves of his own."
"He always did. Had I the foresight of a Prophet I would have strangled him in his crib."
He turned to melt down the stairs; on through that blinding faceless sea of yellow Shakaar had so unconsciously, thoughtfully provided for him. His passing figure, the subject of only a glance or two for his tipped white head, much to his son's relief.
"Your arrogance can be alarming."
"My arrogance is earned." Safely outside on the Promenade Anar reactivated his field unit, determined to locate his wayward brother before Sisko and his station fell victim to some nightmare. "Unlike your uncle's. If the Cardassians had to miss one of us, is there a particular reason why it had to be him?"
"Destiny," Sian shrugged.
"Sheer luck," Anar opted to concentrate on the ore bays. "Destiny is your beginning and your end, nothing more…Unless you walk with the Prophets. Hawk walks with no Prophet you or I have ever met."
His son looked at him.
"Recently," Anar admitted. "Yes, recently. We knew them once ourselves; now we are smarter. As today Hawk is ours, though only to stop. His fate belongs to the Prophets," his hand hit the field unit, encouraging it to work harder, faster. Grateful his son knew his father well enough not to question should fate find Janice a victim of Hawk like the hundreds of them before her? What then?
"Genetically enhanced?" Anon's retort to Bashir's announcement was snide.
"Yes, actually," Bashir was undaunted. "Though, no, it's not something I normally talk about…But since," he smiled at Janice and everyone else, "we are talking about things like proximity detectors and DNA inhibitors, I thought it was best to be honest myself before we all start accusing each other again…"
"Uh, huh, uh, huh," Quark's face bobbed into view. "Blah, blah, blah…Top this," he challenged Anon with a flick of his mighty lobes. "Three levels down, six stations away, there's a brunette about to be made an offer she will find difficult to refuse."
"The check," O'Brien butted in. "Excuse me, but what the hell does any of this have to do with -- "
"DNA inhibitors," Anon picked up his fork to help himself to dinner with a wave at Janice. "He's talking about you. Tell him. You live in the outer colonies and he looks about as friendly as a Klingon. He'd have one too."
"Proximity detectors," O'Brien finished tightly. "Do you mind?"
"No, I don't mind," Anon shrugged. "You want to have one. Have one. You, too," he assured Bashir. "So when someone tries to steal your positronic brain Sisko knows where to find it."
"Genetically enhanced," Bashir corrected. "I'm not an android. And, no, I also beg to disagree. I am not inclined to recommend a proximity detector for anyone, including myself. There is a marked difference between security and martial law. As there is a marked difference between paranoia and precautions. We are at peace -- for the moment anyway. Not at war."
"Odo's recommendation is restricted to the committee staff, Doctor," Sisko advised quietly, moving onto Janice. "Excluding you, Doctor Lange. To suggest a proximity detector implant would be in direct violation of your neutrality. I have already denied Odo's request on your behalf."
"Oh," Chief O'Brien said. "Well, do you care on your own behalf?" he asked in marked emphasis for the benefit of the dueling duo over here trying to out flex each other. One of who should have enough brains to figure out the why and who behind the request for proximity detectors without someone having to draw him a map.
Namely one Gul Anon Dukat. Garak had no difficulty in all appreciating the why and the who behind the request. Of course, it would never occur to Chief O'Brien the reason why he might be sitting on the sidelines scowling and intermittently snorting his opinions into the conversation, beyond that innate mistrust of the name Dukat and anyone associated with it, was because he was sitting on the sidelines where he would remain. By virtue of his age, his marital status, his fatherly status, and, yes, that did appear to annoy the Chief. Garak believed he might notice this.
The same as he noticed this Gul Dukat was not a lecherous middle-aged man leering over some pretty young child who happened to catch his eye. To the contrary, this Gul Dukat was a young man. A few insignificant months younger than Doctor Janice Lange. And he wasn't leering, he was talking. Somewhat clipped. Short. Occasionally impatiently, always emphatically. But did anyone else see that? No. Garak highly doubted if they did. They saw Gul Dukat. A man they all knew. One they were all far too keenly familiar with to see anything or anyone else, at his leering, lecherous best as always. Astounding. Garak was amazed. He was simply amazed to find the color canary yellow was not the only thing blinding to the eye.
"Not in the least," Sisko assured O'Brien he was not opposed to accepting a proximity detector.
"Nor I," Kira asserted.
"Neither am I," O'Brien shrugged again.
"Gul Dukat?" Sisko requested.
"Whatever you think is necessary. My brother agrees," Anon wasn't interested enough to look up from his dinner. A thoroughly wise precaution Garak felt because should the assembled group of enemies stop paying attention to themselves long enough to pay attention to him a valid question or two might be raised rather than the stock and tiring clichés.
DNA inhibitor? Garak maintained his study of Anon because unless his own training was faulty, he really did not recall Cardassian abilities to include psychic ability. The conversations surrounding Doctor Lange and her DNA inhibitor took place perhaps fifteen minutes before Damar arrived with his entourage, not after. Even though, yes, it was also entirely accurate to say Julian had mentioned DNA implants less mentioning any names, and therefore it was reasonable Anon might have just assumed Julian meant Doctor Lange.
Especially since Major Kira had mentioned Doctor Lange specifically in her disclosure and following brief debate with Legate Damar over the value and need for ordering proximity detector implants for everyone but him. And, so perhaps then the answer to the appearing mystery was simply that Anon was paying far closer attention to Damar than he alluded to be paying. He was certainly paying extraordinarily close attention to Doctor Lange in a manner so remarkably civilized and unCardassian that the full significance of it was likely to continue escaping everyone far more simply annoyed that he even dared to speak to her at all.
But why speak, if he wasn't his father? Why speak if he wasn't Cardassian, which he was. A people synonymous with deception. Gul Anon Dukat did have to be up to something, even Garak respected that given. So much so that he believed he might have an idea of what. Why. And, of course, who.
Oh, yes, if wasn't for that innocent gesture of Anon's indicating Doctor Lange's right lower arm, rather than her left, rather than her upper, rather than her brain, to be the location of her DNA inhibitor safely hidden beneath her long sleeved tunic, Garak just might go right on believing in assumptions and presumptions…
And coincidences, my dear. Garak's focus shifted briefly from the glittering red eyes of Anon to the downcast green ones of Doctor Lange. From the Bajoran outer colonies to the Rigelian plague. DNA implants to parsley to kanar and the suggestion of knowing each other's food preferences, to that earliest notice of how they had an occasional tendency to call each other by name. These two people knew each other. And they didn't just know each other, they were involved somehow with each other. Not necessarily as lovers, though Garak wouldn't rule out that possibility entirely. There was a distinct note of protection in Anon's offered explanation behind Lange's implant. A thoroughly unnecessary gesture on his part, potentially unwise.
Unless, of course, there was someone other than him also paying far closer attention than they pretended to be doing. Someone such as Legate Damar. Or that remarkably silent assistant Mister Paq that even Garak had forgotten about until now. Then Anon's gesture of protection could take on a whole new meaning, such as a warning.
"Really," Garak eyed the still figure of Paq sitting attentively as his master's side. Ten years older, ten years wiser than the youthful Legate Damar, he was also ten years more experienced in dealing with any Dukat.
"So much for that part of theory," Odo muttered to Kira while the respective groups collected themselves to begin the parade to the station Infirmary.
"If Dukat attempts to deactivate the detector we'll know," Kira shrugged. "That's all I care about. That, and no one gets hurt."
Dax left O'Brien with an appreciative pat on his shoulder to join Worf collecting Lange's duffels. "It sounded good," she smiled in support of Kira and Odo's belief Dukat would refuse a proximity implant unless trapped into agreeing. "Who knew Julian would be the difficult one -- don't answer that."
"It is tempting," Worf was ready with another sigh. "As I maintain the entire issue of seduction has been distorted by Doctor Bashir and Chief O'Brien. I did not mean to imply an attempted personal seduction of Doctor Lange by anyone. My concerns are with ensuring the integrity of the conference. In any other matter I am confident Doctor Lange can take care of herself. To suggest otherwise is to suggest because she is female she is weak, and that is not correct."
"Explains the duffels," Dax nodded.
Worf thought about that. The two duffels slung over his shoulders.
"I'm in charge of security for the Bajoran side," Dax hinted sweetly with a coy wrinkling of her nose. "You're in charge of security for the Federation. Those are Bajoran."
Worf continued to think about that. The two duffels slung over his shoulders. "If you insist."
"I insist," Dax nodded.
"As you wish," Worf surrendered the responsibility of the duffels to her, slinging them off his shoulders and up onto hers.
"Need a hand?" Bashir grinned as Dax stood there, rooted in place, feeling her spine slowly being crushed under the oppressive weight of the canvas bags.
"No," Dax shook her head. Somehow the Chief interpreted that no to be a yes.
"Genetically enhanced? That's quite a risk to take, isn't it?" Janice rose from her study of the table to look past Anon's scrutiny to Chief O'Brien rather than Bashir. Garak could understand why. The poor child probably didn't know where to look. Reasonably, painfully torn between trying not to pay attention, when what she wanted to do was pay as ardent attention to Anon.
"Don't look at me," O'Brien joshed with a shove of his chair into the table. "I'm just an ordinary mortal the same as you. I leave the Kahns to the Kahns. The automatons to the automatons…And the fellows with the big heads and bigger ears lobes to the fellows with the big heads and bigger ear lobes," he finished his analogy with Quark.
"Uh, huh," Quark sneered. "Sounds like jealousy to me."
"Yeah, right," O'Brien scoffed. "I'm jealous. Of the Kahns. The automatons…"
"Automaton?" Janice repeated uncertainly.
"Machine," O'Brien assured, meaning Anon. But then he was hot. He would probably remain hot for the week until the guy left. "Anyone who can see 300 meters across a room, around corners and through walls is a machine. The only thing that separates him -- you," he pointed at Anon, "from the Borg are the implants. And you know, the same as I know, if we take you apart you've got more than one of them in there. So give her a break about some damn DNA inhibitor that no one cares anything about."
"Wait a minute," Janice shook her head.
"Yes." Sisko walked up quietly behind O'Brien. "That's enough, Chief. No one has accused Doctor Lange of any impropriety."
"Out loud, you mean. In the meantime, he's the one who's been in quote, 'rigorous training' since he was three years old."
"Four, actually," Garak politely corrected. "Even a Cardassian, Chief O'Brien, has a childhood, however briefly."
"Whatever. Photographic memory, my left foot. It's induced."
"Induced?" Garak gasped. "Oh, no, hardly."
"And that's a machine," O'Brien assured, reaching to take one of the duffels from Dax. "From his photographic memory, and not ending with his infra-red magnifiers… Give me that. Give it to me."
"What is he doing?" Kira sputtered to Odo. "What is he doing now?"
"Yes, well…" Odo said.
"Oh, for!" Kira threw up her hands.
"Will you just give it to me?" O'Brien insisted to Dax. "You can't carry both of them. There's no reason for you to even try."
Chief," Kira said at his elbow. "Chief!" she snapped.
"What?" O'Brien snapped back. "The hell with the damn protocol of who's who and who's not who. They know what's in there, everyone does. Data logs," he yanked the duffel off Dax's shoulder, feeling his back jerk under the unexpected weight. "About a half a kilo of them," he straightened up with a grin. "Wow. Like I said. I leave the Kahns to the Kahns and now I know why."
"Yes, well, that's probably punishment enough," Odo headed down the stairs; a subtle hint there might be a few other people who might like to join him?
"Chief?" Dax suggested before he ended up in the Infirmary all right, in traction.
"I've got it," O'Brien assured. "I've got it. Just give me a minute."
"One minute," Sisko gave Dax one his subtle Benjamin nods. The kind that suggested whatever it was, it had all better be resolved within a minute. Quietly, to boot.
"Got it," Dax promised.
"Thank you," Sisko said with a gesture to Damar of how the stairs were there for the taking. "Legate?"
"Yes, yes." Damar collected his data, his assistant, with a short and emphatic word for Anon and his brother as he stalked by. "Dukat."
"I'm pretty sure that means he'd like you to join him," Dax smiled at Pfrann. He ignored her. She wasn't surprised.
"Infra-red…" Doctor Lange was blinking rather innocently at Anon.
"Oh, no reason to be alarmed, my dear," Garak quickly, and quite nicely intercepted that pass thrown by the Chief. But then he was somewhat of a romanticist at heart he did believe. Intrigued, not offended by what could very well be a young and budding romance needing to be nurtured, not torn apart -- out of spite. Yes…Garak's eyes slithered over Janice. It was highly likely some of the Chief's annoyance was drawn from pure spite. But then this elder brother of Ziyal's so unlike his father could turn out to be identical to his father after all.
"Alarmed?" Janice said to Anon. "Well, no, I'm not alarmed…"
"Well, good," Garak cooed, "because, yes, as Chief O'Brien suggests, the Cardassian eye is extraordinarily light sensitive. In turn, the term magnifier does suggest an expansion of the eyes' range of sight and focus, yes, it does. As together those two concepts would prove contradictory to each other in our case. Necessitating a form of shielding, and well as preservation of the expanded capabilities of the eye which would include, yes, the ability to see not only in light, but in the dark…Why, my dear," he wondered, surprised, "what color did you think his eyes were?"
"Red," she said, almost sadly.
"Well, they could be…" Garak mused, narrowing his own expanded focus to scrutinize Anon's pupils. "Yes, they could be. Either that or green. Yellow -- as with his brother. They are rather brilliant, aren’t they? And so, no, the magnifiers aren't necessarily masking the natural color, they could very well be enhancing it."
"They're red," Anon assured Janice, pointed to make a point, not with intentions of being rude toward her. To the contrary, his accompanying motion appeared to be a polite reach for her duffels that he had apparently not noticed Chief O'Brien to be holding out of pure stubbornness rather than super-human strength. He noticed now, ogling the Chief. "They're living about twenty years in the past."
"Eight months." Chief O'Brien bit that same bait of winless banter he accused Julian of foolishly falling trap to. "So excuse me if I don't invite you to dinner."
"Well," Bashir offered with a flash of his grin and a healthy deep breath, "that certainly is a relief to know. Not the part about dinner, his eyes," he clarified for Janice for no reason other than he was determined to remain the focal point of her attention beyond the conference, throughout the week. "Really, I maintain what shouldn't have taken more than an hour or two at most is now liable to go on all night. Though it's probably more of an insult to suggest the sons of Gul Dukat," he threw in with a little accompanying animation, yes, he certainly did, "aren't automatons. I'm sure it's not only expected, but mandatory. Certainly nothing, to take offense over. You're not offended, are you?" he paused suddenly, sensing some sort of discomfort about her.
"Offended?" Janice repeated, even though no, she wasn't offended, or at least she didn't think she was. Confused, yes, Garak perceived she seemed to be extraordinarily confused for some reason.
"What's the matter?" Anon answered her look with a coy suggestion. "You think I bleed like you?"
"Bleed?" she glanced at his chest -- or perhaps his shoulder. Garak was uncertain. Whichever, she focused her attention on his tunic for a moment or two before she smiled, offering one more time that familiar claim of knowledge. "Yes. I know you bleed.""That's true," Anon said simply and turned for the stairs, his brother accompanying him. Kira caught up with Bashir, Garak and Lange at the bottom.
"What do you think you're doing?" Kira’s brusque question was for Garak.
"Why, whatever do you mean?" Garak blinked in surprise. "Going to the Infirmary. The plight of the Bajoran-Cardassian orphans is one thing, Major. A woman's dress size is quite another. Surely you can't expect me to pressure Doctor Lange with such personal questions in the middle of a public bar, can you?"
"I'll get her dress size for you!"
"Yes…" Garak eyed Julian's judicious effort to do the same as he and Doctor Lange walked on, along the path carved through Quark's second level by Captain Sisko's army of yellow statues; all at attention, and of course in place. "I've no doubt you will at least try…However, no offense to either your or Julian's abilities but I'm afraid the answer is no."
"Excuse me?" Kira said, predictably argumentative when no argument was warranted.
"Though you're welcome to bear witness," Garak promised smoothly. "Both you and Commander Dax to insure no impropriety."
"Better idea." Kira turned for Chief O'Brien uncomfortably stalled on the stairs and just about to say something.
"Do you mind?" he asked.
Whether Kira did or didn't mind was not the question, and therefore not the answer. "Give me that!" she yanked the duffel from O'Brien's bowed shoulders. It hit the floor at Garak's feet with a crash. "Pick it up!" she encouraged him. "You can commiserate to your heart's content with Bashir's medical console."
"On the subject of small versus medium versus very, very, heavy and large," Dax nodded to O'Brien.
"I was just trying to be polite," he insisted. "The damn things weigh a ton."
"Half a ton," Dax imagined to be closer between the two of them. One duffel, however, while not a breeze, was manageable. "Ready?" she smiled at Kira.
"Yes, well, that very well may be, Major," Garak still protested. "I've no doubt I can obtain the information I need from Julian's screening to ensure a proper fitting, but that still doesn't tell me what the young woman needs."
"Everything?" Garak repeated. "That's rather a large order to fill this time of evening, isn't it? She's not going to be with us overnight, she's going to be here a week."
"I'll take care of whatever she might need for the night. You worry about tomorrow, and tomorrow you can worry about the rest of the week."
"Well…" Garak reached for the duffel with a sigh.
"I insist!" Kira