The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part One

Chapter Seventeen

"Worf!" Dax woke up with the first blaring strains of Aktuh and Melota one of her favorite Klingon operas, just not at five-thirty in the morning after two hours sleep. Worf huffed, turning the volume down twenty or thirty decibels and retreated back into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later he was out and hammering on the replicator in a signal the shower was free for her use.

"You don't even like my green nightgown," Dax snitched his coffee with a smile and light kiss for his cheek. He ignored her. She shrugged and headed for the shower for a short-lived few minutes of the water's relaxing massage before Worf was turning the volume back up louder than before. "Worf!"

"That is not the point," Worf's growl answered Dax's shout.

"Well, what is the point?" Dax leaned her head against the wall of the shower with a sigh.

"Oh," she reemerged into the bedroom to find Worf tightly zippered into his own canary wet suit, three sizes too tight and dozen or so inches too short.

"Well, look at it this way," she offered while he stood there stiffly at attention, truly unable to stand any other way even if he wanted to, "right now someone else is just as puzzled as you are."

Worf groaned, the jumpsuit splitting from his neck to his knees from the strain.

"I know," Dax laughed as Worf stared at the tatters of his uniform, "that's not the point."

"No," Worf insisted. "As you are incorrect. It is your blue nightgown I do not like."

"My blue one?" Dax frowned.

"Yes," Worf assured.

"Oh," Dax shrugged. "All right. I'll take back my green one and give Lange my blue one. That's all you had to say."

No, it wasn't. "Then what is the point of involving Garak if he is not going to follow through with his responsibilities?" Worf demanded.

"He is," Dax promised. From his distinction as official clothier to his appointment as Julian's assistant.

"Donut?" Bashir offered Garak an hour or so early for the opening festivities.

"No thank you," Garak grimaced, already finding Dukat's suit a little too snug across the middle for his preference. "How you can manage to be so alive as this hour of the morning will never cease to amaze me."

"Oh?" Bashir's nefarious grin flashed. "That's not what I heard."

"Really," Garak looked at him. "Yes, well, Julian, I can assure you as I have attempted to assure both Major Kira and Constable Odo, my intent was to supply Doctor Lange with her basic needs as requested. Hardly malevolent."

"Quite," Bashir cracked. "Rather have the same idea myself."

"A point that substantiates Captain Sisko's support of these ridiculous outfits," Garak agreed. "Flagrantly noticeable -- that is until one takes it off."

"Which one can, and one will at 1900 sharp," Bashir assured. "In the meantime I suppose it could be worse."

"Yes." Garak had noticed the motley looking trio busy at the replicator as well as the rose tucked behind the ear of the fourth.

"Kira and the Chief." Julian quite likely correctly identified Leeta and Rom's suppliers. He wasn't as positive when it came to Quark or Morn, though suspected Morn had to be wearing Captain Sisko's discarded nightmare.

"Wrong," Quark walked up to snatch the donut from Bashir hands with a gentle reminder. "Nothing in life is free. You want to eat, I want to see your signature signed on the dotted line."

"Oh, yes." Garak was just about to agree with that, too. Not with Quark's suggestion that Captain Sisko very well might demand supporting evidence to Quark's sure-to-be padded bill of expenses, because of course the Captain would.

"But, I believe Quark might be right, Julian," he extended. "As well as telling the truth about Morn's uniform." A disconcerting thought, he realized. However, it did stand to reason, based solely on size alone, Morn couldn't possibly be wearing Captain Sisko's uniform, any more than Quark could be wearing the one he was wearing, which he was wearing.

"It's called a replicator," Quark assured. "I've got to tell you the rules of the game?"

"Not in the least," Garak was well aware of how for every point there was a counterpoint.

How for every new and improved cloaked ship out there, there was a new and improved graviton net capable of exposing them.

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "And so forth and so on. It's called ingenuity."

"So it is," Garak smiled. "What you might have to explain however…" he ogled the rose waiting behind Quark's lobe, though seriously doubting if young Gul Dukat even knew or comprehended the meaning of the gesture. Really, Legate Dukat's eldest son did in some ways appear to be a remarkably uninformed young man when it came to all things social and light, quite unlike his father. Another one of those interesting observations Garak had made last evening; there had been so many of them. "To Commander Worf, of course," Garak nodded out loud, "is the whereabouts of his uniform."

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "Spoken by a man caught red-handed by you know who you know where."

"On the contrary," Garak maintained, "I repeat, Major Kira not only overreacts, she exaggerates."

"This is news?" Quark sneered.

"No," Garak's smile greeted Odo joining them. "Neither is it interesting. What would be interesting is if Major Kira's protective nature extended to Gul Dukat's progeny, which quite obviously it does not. Ziyal was apparently unique."

"Yes," Odo drawled. "I can't imagine why."

"What about how?" Garak suggested, not to give himself an unfair advantage over Quark's romantic efforts, commendable that they were, by causing his immediate competition to be expelled to a security holding cell for succeeding in the impossible where he should have failed in replicating those irreplicable uniforms.

"Yes, well, chances are how," Odo promised Quark, "will find you explaining more than to simply Commander Worf the whereabouts of his uniform."

"Impossible is not a word in my vocabulary," Quark reminded. "Most people would be grateful for the information, but, hey. You want to arrest me? Be my guest."

"A tempting offer," Garak said.

"Which?" Bashir grinned. "To arrest him, or the secret behind replicating our uniforms?"

"Either or," Odo was open.

"It shrank in the dry cleaning," Quark assured.

"I beg your pardon?" Bashir blinked.

Quark shrugged. "Read the cleaning instructions. Irreplicable isn't necessarily irreducible. So unless there's a terrorist group of Ferengi out there waiting their chance, I think we're probably still all safe."

It took the three of them, Odo, Bashir and Garak, a moment to digest that.

"The reference is to height," Quark gave them a hand. "I'm short."

"Oh, yes." Garak not only understood, he could see that.

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "Yeah, well, from where I stand, I wouldn't say the three of you are exactly Klingons among men."

"Oh, no," Garak smiled. "However Mister Worf is."

"Chief," Sisko looked up from his intensive review of Damar's latest revision when O'Brien entered the conference room. "I'm glad you're here."

"Eh, heh," O'Brien missed the joke. "Like I would be anywhere else -- Like I wouldn't be, if I could be," he assured. "What's that?" he indicated the padd in Sisko's hand.

"Damar's made a few changes," Sisko agreed.

"What?" O'Brien sat down with a wearied thunk of his coffee cup on the table. "Oh, come on. How many times can you change a comma? That's all he has left."

"That may be." But Sisko was still counting on him. Shakaar's highly questionable choice of Lange as representative had not escaped him, any more than the potential danger her naïve outlook presented for herself and others, including the issue at large. And the issue at large…

"I know," O'Brien stopped him. The issue at large was the success of the preliminary talks as from their success just might come others.

"Precisely," Sisko nodded.

"In the meantime if that's not the best example of Cardassian fiction," O'Brien violently stirred his coffee, "my name isn't Miles Edward O'Brien."

"Maybe not the best," Sisko smiled.

"You can say that again. All right, let me see it." O'Brien took the padd, making an effort to wade through the ponderous script one more time before the curtain went up and all eyes turned to the trio seated at the round table rather than on Worf standing in the doorway with Dax.

"I think we may have found your uniform," Dax agreed with Worf eyeing Morn with reasonable suspicion.

"That is my uniform," Worf insisted to Morn busy taste-testing the breakfast buffet.

"What of it?" Quark countered. "If Captain Sisko's didn't fit you, do you really think it was going to fit him?"

"That also probably isn't the point," Dax nodded as Worf turned on his heel to apprise Benjamin of the whys behind his unanticipated costume change.

"In your opinion," Quark cracked Morn sharply on the wrist. "Trust me, if it's been poisoned, we'll know soon enough. And as far as you…" he alerted the canary with the salivating jaws otherwise known as Leeta entertaining her frustrations by spitting on everything that might remotely appeal to those of a Cardassian persuasion. "Stop spitting on everything. I said you didn't have to wait on him, didn't I?"

"Spitting?" Bashir regurgitated, not one for the dramatics, now was he? Even though chances were jelly donuts were a safe bet not to be on Damar's list of ten top favorites.

"Disgusting," Quark picked up the carafe of hot fish juice, but not before Leeta hacked out a particularly good one into that very same carafe. "What did I just tell you?" he sighed as Garak stared and Bashir swooned, groping blindly for a chair.

"I'm not waiting on Damar!" she insisted.

"Okay, so you're not waiting on him," Quark had that part memorized. "Anyone mind if I do? I didn't think so," he nodded down on Bashir stuffing a napkin in his mouth, and made his way forward toward Damar and his assistant appearing with that arguably perfect Cardassian timing. "Coffee, tea, or hot fish juice?"

"What do you think he wants?" Kira reared up from behind Damar. Not an easy thing to do considering the top of her head just about cleared his shoulders, but she managed.

"Anyway I could interest you?" Quark wondered in the spirit of spreading Leeta's good will.

"What do you think?" Kira snapped again and he shrugged.

"Some of us dream, others of us do."

"Yes, we do!" Leeta hacked out another one over his shoulder to the surprise of no one except for maybe the lady in red and the two guys dressed in black as the spittle hit the carafe dead center with a splash.

"You spit in the fish juice," Kira stared from the steaming steel container of foul smelling nectar in Quark's hands to Leeta.

"Apparently you don't have the same je ne sais quoi as your predecessor," Quark advised Damar. "But I wouldn't take it personally. Loosely translated, whatever it is, Dukat's got it, and I'm not so sure you want what he's got. Am I right or wrong?" he solicited Kira's input.

"She spit in the fish juice!" Kira sputtered, not meaning to suggest she was annoyed not to have thought of it first.

"Okay, so she spit in the fish juice. It's not the first time. So, what'll it be?" he returned to Damar and his silent partner.

"What are you? A eunuch?" Leeta snapped.

"Oh, dear God," Bashir's head hit the table with a bang.

"Um…" Rom defended his wife even if he couldn't necessarily control her. "Well, she's right. He doesn't talk much."

"I haven't heard him talk at all," Bashir agreed. "But that wouldn't be a eunuch. That would be a man without a tongue. A eunuch is a man who has been castrated."

"Oh," Rom blushed.

"Quite all right," Bashir said. "Both are archaic and time-honored practices; ancient Earth no exception."

"And here you thought Cardassians were cruel," Garak put in with a smile.

"Raktajino," Damar assured Quark, drawing the line at loyalty to the Cardassian Union and drinking someone's bodily functions.

"I had a feeling you were going to say that," Quark nodded. "It's all right. There's still two of you who aren't here yet; it won't go to waste."

"Oh!" Kira snatched for the carafe in fury. "Give me that!"

"It's only Dukat, Major," Damar laughed in reminder.

"Well, if that's the case," Kira gripped the carafe, her knuckles white, and Damar glanced.

"Do it!" Leeta encouraged. "Do it! Kira!" she stamped her foot.

Kira couldn't. She wanted to but the pressures of her position won out over her emotions.

"Well, I can," Leeta reached for the carafe, the pressures of her position at the Dabo wheel occasionally requiring she knock a fellow or two into his next lifetime.

"Leeta!" Rom grabbed her from behind, dragging her away.

"What are you looking at?" Kira slammed the contaminated carafe into the replicator with a snarl for a bemused Garak.

"You, Major," he assured. "I must say I am impressed you even considered it for a moment."

"It was more than a moment," Kira sat down with a reach for the raktajino. She hesitated. "Is it safe?"

"What?" Bashir startled. "Oh, yes. Yes."

"We believe so, anyway," Dax nodded.

"Quite," Bashir grinned. "For the moment. No guarantee though once Leeta finds out Martok is also here."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that, Julian," Garak disagreed. "No, I would be far more inclined to believe Leeta would gladly offer her assistance to General Martok in anyway. Something I confess I'm tempted to do myself. I'm sure you understand."

"Don't push it," Kira suggested. "I said I thought about it."

"For longer than a moment," Garak recalled. "Yes. But still you didn't succumb. As neither would I dream of pushing it, Major. I gave Captain Sisko my word, and I stand by my word."

"Especially when neither stops you from applauding someone else's effort," Dax cleverly implied.

"Yes." Garak quite happily accepted the dig. "How very astute of you, Commander. A point dear Leeta made herself. Some of us dream, other us do. You and I, Major," he apologized to Kira, "apparently dream."

He was wrong, of course. Kira spent her life doing. If she lived to be a hundred and forty, of all the sights, she would never forget the sight of the packed dirt marking her father's grave. Nor the sight of the Vedek hanging from the upper level of the Promenade in protest of Dukat's latest attempt to rule the worlds. The monk's harsh words accusing Kira of becoming complacent, worse yet immune somewhere between there and here.

"Immune?" Kira said to Garak. Maybe to their scorn, but never to them, and that included Damar. Another sight she would never forget was Ziyal. Her twenty-one year old life charred by Damar's phaser set to kill, which it did. But then that was the trouble with either dreaming or doing. The fortunate moved onto to their next life with the Prophets. Those less fortunate often found themselves condemned to stand by helpless and watching.

"Immune?" Garak repeated perplexed as to what Kira might be talking about.

"Never mind," Kira shook her head. "Where is he anyway?"

"He?" Garak frowned, also not quite sure which he she meant.

"Who do you think?" Kira snapped.

"Those odds are probably more in Dukat's favor than General Martok's," Dax suggested.

"Oh, yes…" Garak looked around the conference room where young Gul Dukat was not yet in attendance that was very true. "Yes, I would think so…As I would agree, Major, one would think Gul Dukat would be here, wouldn't one?"

"Even though he still has thirty-five minutes until he's officially late," Dax teased no one in particular, even though she was looking at Kira.

"There's that word again," Bashir refilled his cup of coffee and Kira's with a smile. "Officially. Official. Relax. Dax is right. Dukat isn't required to be here until 0700, none of us are."

"It isn't a question of relaxing," Kira insisted. "Nor a mother thing," she assured Dax.

"A mother thing?" Bashir paused. A pause which Garak supported though Commander Dax was claiming Kira's mothering instincts were relative to Doctor Lange rather than young Gul Dukat.

"Something about last night's conversation you missed?" Dax smiled at Bashir.

"Probably. In all honesty. More than likely much of it intentionally, I confess." The same as he had been paying very little attention to the conversation going on behind him right now with Worf going on about why he was not attired in the 'official uniform' of the conference to Captain Sisko who had other things on his mind. Bigger things.

"Captain," Worf stood stiffly at attention.

"Yes, Mister Worf?" he looked up from his conversation with the Chief. Pausing when he looked up because Worf was not attired in official yellow but instead regulation red.

"There is, of course, an explanation," Worf assured.

"I trust that there is," Sisko agreed. His glance as he waited to hear it brought him beyond Worf to Leeta, Rom and Morn. "It's quite all right, Mister Worf," he nodded. "I believe I may understand."

"Understanding does not void the purpose of the mandated dress code," Worf insisted.

"I am well aware of the purpose of the dress code, Mister Worf." Much like Major Kira could feel her frustrations rise, Sisko could feel his temper. As much like Major Kira it did not take much. Not today. Not likely for the remainder of the week until the week was over. History. Past. An entry in his Captain's log as well as his personal that with a little luck at its very worst it would be a week of wasted time, forgotten. With a great deal of luck, at its very best? A channel of communication opened.

"My point precisely." Worf was firmly attempting to keep a channel of communication open right now.

"On the other hand," O'Brien's chuckle spoke for Sisko, "his point is the bottom line spells Quark so you're off the hook."

"The Ferengi has stolen Federation property." Worf reprimanded the Chief's disinterest. "He is guilty of theft, as he has clearly managed to successfully replicate the uniform which could pose a danger to us all."

"As can the man, gentlemen!" Sisko interrupted, "speak for himself!"

"What?" O'Brien said. Worf just frowned. But at least Sisko had their attention

"And that man would be me, Chief," he assured.

"Oh. Sorry," O'Brien apologized.

"No," Sisko shook his head. "Not this time. Today is not last evening, and neither will it be."

"Not a party in other words," O'Brien nodded.

"Chief!" Sisko's fist hit the table hard. If anyone else heard it was probably Dax sitting with Bashir and Garak, none of who felt inclined to suggest they did hear. The rest of them, Kira, Quark, Damar were occupied with the squalling, squabbling Leeta.

"Sorry," O'Brien apologized again.

"A four letter word, as of right now," Sisko said. "Do not confuse undue camaraderie with the simple fact I have no intentions of watching you, my back, whoever stands on either side on me, commingled with a station of six thousand civilians. When I say smile, gentlemen, you will smile. Is that understood?"

"Yes," O'Brien said.

"It is," Worf agreed.

"Good!" Sisko's fist struck the table again, that time satisfied.

"As it is the point of the mandated dress code," Worf reminded.

"Damn the mandated dress code, Mister Worf," Sisko clenched his teeth, "we will make do."

"Also understood," Worf agreed.

"Thank you," Sisko said. "Now would either of you mind telling me just what it is that woman thinks she is doing?"

"Leeta?" O'Brien turned around.

"She appears to be spitting in the fish juice," Worf reported, at a better vantage point than the Chief.

"Spitting in the fish juice," Sisko closed his eyes.

"Girl after my own heart," O'Brien chuckled. Sisko's eyes snapped open. "Sorry!" he said a little too quick, a little awkward trying to back out. "I mean…you know what I mean. Nothing to get worked up about, you're right. Spend twenty minutes talking about. Even though you have to admit…" the Chief attempted to stifle his chuckle, succeeding to an extent. "It's funny. Damn funny. Which reminds me," he pointed out to Worf. "Quark didn't replicate the uniform, he reduced it. You know, shrank it. His. Leeta's…" O'Brien's gaze strayed to Leeta scuffling at the buffet table with Rom. "I'm not too sure about Leeta's…well, actually I am. It's Kira's…" he glanced up at Damar smirking down on them. "What?"

"Practice, Sisko?" Damar's chuckle taunted Sisko's fist resting on the table. "Good. It should be an interesting week."

He walked away with his assistant. There was silence for a moment until Sisko spoke, quietly, the fist pounding over. "That brand of sarcasm, gentlemen, is expected of him. There will not be any further tolerance of it from any of you."

"Got it," O'Brien swore.

"Mister Worf?" Sisko picked up the padd.

"Your point is well made and understood."

"We'll see," Sisko said not to be pessimistic, more realistic. It was a boiling pot, there was no denying that.

"Independent souls." Was Odo's assessment ten minutes later when Sisko refilled his coffee. The Captain looked at him.

"We're independent souls," Odo clarified. It wasn't an assessment. Not his, personally. Merely a report of Bashir's philosophy of the morning. Dress them all in yellow or pink tutus it didn't negate the fact they were out in the middle of deep space, a long way from home, whose bottom line of survival and make-do required men and women of strong wills and strong minds, i.e., independent souls.

"What?" Sisko shook his head.

"In other words," Odo offered, "taking everything into consideration, it really hasn't been too bad so far."

"Just get me through the week, Odo," Sisko requested, "and I'll agree with you."

"Consider it done," Odo ogled Worf. "I also doubt if anyone will mistake our Mister Worf for anyone other than who he is."

"So they will not." Sisko took his coffee and returned to the Chief at the table. A sudden sense of foreboding as he moved past the nameless, faceless wall of yellow guarding the conference room both inside and out.

"Something wrong?" O'Brien asked.

"No," Sisko denied. "Merely a flip of a coin which one of us is the Red Coat."

"Red Coat?" O'Brien said uncertainly.

"Red Coat." Sisko stared into the whites of the eyes of the Bajoran directly across from them that in the heat of a moment he would be hard put to tell from the Bajoran standing next to him and so on down the line of those nameless, faceless Special Forces officers thirty strong. The coin turning up HEADS would find them under the protection of those blinding yellow suits. In the event someone could replicate those irreplicable jumpsuits, TAILS could very well find them quite unknowingly under siege from an army of look-a-likes. "That would be the Battle of Bunker Hill, Mister Worf."

"As in Earth's American Revolution," O'Brien chuckled to Worf's concentration.

"I believe I remember the account from the Academy."

"So do I," O'Brien assured Sisko. "The Red Coats lost. I know what you're thinking. I've thought it myself. And like you just said, it's a good idea, or it's a bad one."

"It's a bad one," Odo supported what he said all along. A belief which the Captain had apparently decided he shared even if it meant casting another one of Shakaar's protocols under an unfavorable and questionable light.

"Do you have a better idea?" Sisko asked.

"Apart from Damar's suggestion that on Cardassia this charade would be unnecessary? And General Martok's suggestion that on the Klingon Home World, it would equally unnecessary? No," Odo acknowledged. "Why? Do you?"

"A thought," Sisko nodded slowly. Ten minutes later Odo and Dax weren't the only stripping off those jumpsuits down to their regulation everyday wear.

"Make up your mind," Quark sighed.

"I believe the Captain just did," Odo clapped a phaser rifle into Garak's surprised hand and pinned a communicator on his chest. "Officially, of course, your orders are to shoot first and ask questions later."

"Really…" Garak stared at the rifle in his hand. "And unofficially?"

"No one would be too upset if you took the order to heart," Dax nodded.

"Or made an understandable mistake," Garak agreed, his eyes glistening in Damar's direction, the Emperor of Cardassia up on his feet and bellowing in complaint.

"No, chances are they wouldn't be." Odo slapped a rifle into Paq's flailing arms flailing in support of his Majesty's roar with a nod to Damar. "If I were you, I'd keep that in mind."

"What?" Damar aborted his howl to stare at his armed Second in Command.

"Heavily armed, I might add," Garak smiled, not to add fears of mutiny to Damar's long list of concerns.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Odo grunted with a nod for Rom hovering at his elbow. "What?"

"Leeta," Rom reminded with an unnecessary indication of her particular jumpsuit stretched as tight as a second layer of skin under which would probably only be found skin rather than a change of clothing.

"Yes, well, chances are it is a little too early at that." Odo supposed spitting was a far better choice of breakfast entertainment than an impromptu striptease even though the Ferengi preferred their females naked. The woman wasn't Ferengi, any more than her partner in crime. "Definitely too early." Odo included Morn's equally snug and plunging neckline in that determination.

"I'll second that." Kira held out her hand in anticipation of? "What do you think?" she said. "Give me the rifle."

"Yes, well," what Odo thought and what Captain Sisko ordered would probably find him arming Garak and Damar before handing her a phaser rifle. No slight intended toward those dreamers as opposed to doers.

"You armed Garak and Damar," Kira stared at him.

"Or at least Damar's assistant," Odo granted since Mister Damar had already proven himself more a doer, rather than a dreamer, at least to an extent.

"What are you saying?" Kira insisted. "You don't trust me?"

"No," Odo wasn't saying that at all. Apart from the station's weapons array had been restored to perfect working order since she destroyed it, the only two choices Kira had during Dukat's most recent occupation was to defy the ordered Bajoran agreement of No Resistance and sabotage the array, or to complacently stand by and accept Dukat's latest occupation.

"That was a year ago," Kira argued, still annoyed with herself that she had even attempted to complacently stand by before deciding once in the Resistance, always in the Resistance.

"Seems like only yesterday," Odo agreed with the woman who had spent almost as much time in his office and/or Dukat's as Quark had over the last ten years.

"Sisko's office," Kira corrected coldly. "Captain Sisko's office."

"If you believe in fairy tales," Odo grunted. "And imposed life sentences."

"What are you saying?" Kira demanded again.

Nothing that hadn't been said before. But for a quirk of genetics Dukat was Cardassian, not Vulcan. Average life expectancy barring wars, occupations, assassination attempts and general annoyance, was approximately half that of a Vulcan's four hundred years. Against those staggering odds the nefarious Gul had managed to make it past the first fifty or so, suggesting the universe would far more likely not be free of him until his shield was planted down next to his own packed mound of dirt, and probably not even then. Something to do with what Dukat lacked in personal immortality, he made up for in siring his own baseball team.

"Actually, I believe a baseball team has nine players," Bashir offered like he was the expert rather than Captain Sisko.

"Close enough," Odo assured, confident there was a probably another Dukat or two out there as of yet unacknowledged or accounted for, and even if there wasn't the point stood. Damar could kill one. He could kill the two of them there. There were still five more behind them.

"Something else to keep in mind," Odo mentioned to Damar should he decide he was comfortable with sitting, standing and sleeping with his back to his loyal servant, otherwise known as his now heavily armed assistant Mister Paq as Dukat had obviously been comfortable with trusting his Mister Damar.

"Oh, please," Damar rolled his eyes, at least as outwardly confident as his former master, however foolishly they would have to see. "My point to you and Sisko stands. Protection is one thing, Constable. Nonsense is quite another. And all of this nonsense, none of it, would be necessary on Cardassia Prime."

"Nor on the Klingon Home World," Odo nodded, having just reiterated those two points of view to Captain Sisko.

"What!" Damar hissed, "does the plight of the Cardassian-Bajoran population have to do Gowron?"

"Who knows," Odo shrugged, if you asked him. If one asked General Martok?

"Who knows," Odo shrugged. Martok's answer wasn't nearly as clear and concise as his statement.

"I am asking you," Damar barked. "And, yes, Sisko!"

"And I'm answering you," Odo assured. "As has Captain Sisko. Who knows. I suspect you have to be a Klingon to understand."

"We do not trust you," Worf volunteered when Damar turned on him. "Where you are, we want to be."

"Sounds pretty clear and concise to me," Dax nodded to Kira sitting down with a huff and a jealous eye for Dax's rifle. "You're a member of the conference, remember? Not the security staff?"

"Sounds more like the pot calling the kettle black to me," Kira snapped back at her. "Yes, I know I'm a member of the conference."

"And therefore you probably stand a better chance of learning the Vulcan death pinch by 0900 than you do with talking Captain Sisko into giving you a rifle," Bashir joked, sitting back down with his smile and a touch of curiosity. "What do you mean the pot calling the kettle black?"

"Yes, Major," Garak would also like to know; his intrigue peaked as well. "Whatever do you mean? Surely not if one were to follow the last thirty months back, it would be the Klingons who were at fault, after all? Gul Dukat's ultimate response, not only understandable, but justifiable?"

"Justifiable?" Kira scoffed. "Justifiable? To whom? Himself? What else is new!"

"Eliminating the Bajoran factor of his desires, of course," Garak calmly bowed his head. "There I'm sure you'll find he simply cannot help himself. Never has. And likely never will. But, yes, as far as the Klingons, Major. Justifiable. In all honesty, self-defense."

"We're not in negotiations with the Klingons!"

"No," Garak smiled. "We are as always, as usual, far more preoccupied with your world. I wonder why that is?"

"You're asking me?" Kira snatched up her coffee. "Ask Dukat!"

Garak's smile broadened. "For that matter Mister Damar, Major. Or for that matter myself, yes. An answer, much like Mister Worf's…I'm certain you would have to be Cardassian to understand."

"Power," Dax shrugged. "Greed. What's so difficult to understand?"

"Very little as far as Gowron and his Empire. You're right, Commander," Garak agreed. "As far as we Cardassians? The artistic temperament apparently. To which the answer no will always be a personal rejection."

"In other words," Quark tossed in along with tossing his yellow suit down on the table, "what the Klingons want, Dukat needs. Kind of like a Ferengi and latinum."

"In other words," Bashir corrected, "he's as spoiled as you are who's as spoiled as Martok and Gowron."

"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black," Quark sneered. "There but for genetic enhancement you could be Morn and he could be you."

"Hardly generous or self-effacing, you're right," Bashir laughed, raising his raktajino in toast and good cheer. "To the spoiled, and the spoils of the spoiled. Quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Would you? Or you?" he asked Garak. "Or for that matter," he turned to Kira, "would you?"

"Maybe I can learn the Vulcan death pinch by 0900," Kira eyed her coffee cup.

"Maybe you can," Bashir supported with a check on the time.

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