The afternoon session was quiet. No history making concessions or confrontations. Dax was glad about that. Benjamin's anxiety level was noticeably high when he retired to the stands shortly before the gavel came down at 1637.
"Everything all right?" Odo asked.
"Everything is fine," Sisko promised. "I'll just be glad when the day is over."
"The first one is the usually the hardest," Dax smiled.
"Hm," Sisko rubbed his tired eyes. "Now I know why someone has to be in a mood to play chess."
"Dukat is difficult," Worf agreed."Slow, Mister Worf," Sisko assured. "He is slow. Cogitative." He settled back, attempting to relax his nerves feeling frazzled. "Laborious. Pedantic in his thinking. What the man could be mulling over for twenty minutes in between each point, escapes me. And here I thought his father was tiring."
The gavel did come down eventually though, signaling the end of the sessions until tomorrow. The visiting delegates retired to their respective quarters under close guard; accompanying security under strict orders as to the expected time of reassembly for dinner. Benjamin's generosity was limited to allowing a ten minute leeway either side of 2100. No one would be granted entry to the cordoned off area of Quark's prior to 2050, and they better have one damn good, incontrovertible reason if they were not there by 2110.
"Death?" Dax cringed to Odo as they stood at attention along with the rest of Sisko's senior staff and their immediate deputized assistants.
"That's about the size of it," Odo grunted.
"That includes Doctor Lange, Major," Sisko quietly reminded Kira, no accusation in his insistence of fair and equal treatment for all. He understood there was some confusion this morning that had Lange thirty minutes late for Bashir's blooding screening, but he was anticipating no further difficulties this evening, or from now on.
"Understood," Kira said.
"What about the blood screenings?" Bashir asked.
"Mornings are sufficient, Doctor. No reason for overkill." Sisko ogled Morn and Leeta. Quark's bid for Rom's assistance was reasonable.
"Bar duty," Quark offered.
Sisko shook his head. "No one has permission to enter the bar or entertainment area except for the purpose of immediate entry or exit. Not to linger, and not to mingle. Chief O'Brien has done an excellent job personalizing the computer banks of each individual's quarters to provide a variety of entertainment programs, if entertainment is desired."
"Uh, huh," Quark said. "One word. Martok."
Sisko put up his hand to stay any further unnecessary elaboration with a nod of permission for Morn and Leeta. "I leave any required distraction of General Martok to your capable hands."
"How is Martok?" Dax smiled.
Sisko returned the grin. "Hog-tied and fighting mad."
"You can spare us the details," Odo grunted.
"Other than to say, order and attention to detail, Constable, is the order of the day. Curfew is sharp at 2300. That includes you, Major, Chief -- as well as you, Mister Garak."
"How flattering," Garak beamed.
"Yes," Bashir grinned, especially since the mandatory curfew apparently did not include him.
"It can," Sisko's eyes crinkled in amusement. His promise was serious though.
"Understood," Bashir added his nod to the roster.
"That's about it then," Sisko dismissed them to their own devices and amusement for the next two hours. "Doctor…" he paused to call in warning after Bashir."Just a joke," Bashir waved back over his head, departing the conference room on a swift trot to glean as much as he could from his temporary reprieve.
"Okay, fine," Quark waved Leeta on. "Go get your nail fixed. But it's coming out of your pay, not my profits…Honestly," he fumed out after them. "I know she's a Dabo Hostess. I realize she's a Dabo Hostess…"
"Some other time perhaps," Dax teased Worf. The only one of them Benjamin did not single out for one reason or another. Good, bad or indifferent.
"You are mistaken," Worf assured. "Captain Sisko honors me as always."
"You've had your fair share of scolding," Dax winked, turning to Odo. "Have a minute?"
"Or two," Odo said. For her and anyone else who might be dallying for a specific reason. "What?" he challenged Garak.
"Merely to ask it there is anything specific you wish for me to do, or if I, too, may take advantage of our momentary freedom to complete Doctor Lange's shopping for her."
"Yes, well," Odo countered, "I can't see why your attendance would be required for dinner, so you probably can take all night."
Garak was injured. "Wounded, Constable," he insisted. "Shocked by your blatant disregard for Captain Sisko's orders. Not only does my presence sufficiently irritate our guests, providing a delightful alternative to Chief O'Brien's entertainment package, I just may not be able to control my subversive tendencies given the opportunity. You really cannot trust me."
"See you at nine," Odo nodded.
"Precisely, Constable," Garak swore. "Precisely."
"You were saying?" Odo prompted Dax. "If it's another death threat, you'll find them categorized under political affiliation, specific, general or unknown. From there by height."
"Height?" Dax said.
Odo shrugged. "I'm told that by noon it was beginning to become boring. To the surprise of no one, while not the tallest, Damar is in the lead. In contrast, Dukat trails in fifth place behind his brother, Shakaar and Captain Sisko."
"Benjamin?" Dax blinked as Worf stiffened.
"He knows," Odo assured. "As has Shakaar been apprised. The main interest seems to be aimed at the 'big three', if you will. We've no control over Bajor, but we do have control over the station -- the Captain's words. I have quarter reassignments for Damar and his group -- they're aware by now. As well as Doctor Lange who isn't aware. Now, is again preferable that she be made aware, but it's not mandatory. It can be after dinner, as long as it is immediately after dinner -- also, the Captain's words. Elsewise, I wouldn't develop a false sense of security if I were Dukat. Sure it's more to do with some lingering confusion over who actually is whom. That'll change. Probably."
"As should the quarter reassignment include the Captain," Worf insisted.
Odo looked at him. Worf sighed. "I will discuss it with him.""You have all week," Odo agreed.
"I take it that goes for Kira and the Chief also," Dax surmised.
Odo looked at her. She nodded. "I have all week as well -- I'll take care of relocating Doctor Lange now."
"It would be appreciated. Back to your turn."
"Pales by comparison," Dax admitted. "Worf came up against some minor resistance from a Bajoran security Captain today at lunch."
"Sounds more like a death wish," Odo grunted. "It's all right. We've also had a few of those. I'll reassign the officer and pull his record for review. Anything else?"
"Julian's opinion of his psychiatric profile? I'll already forewarned him."
"Then he also shouldn't mind now," Odo nodded. "My office. One hour. You'll have both.""You're the best."
The best not exactly the same high regard with which the militant Bajoran Maquis agent Hawk held his deputy's decision to banter with the Klingon Worf. An unforgiving man cloaked in an unremarkable relaxed demeanor, the youngest brother of Bajor's mysterious Anar bore no immediate discernible resemblance to the family Shakaar. The shadow was there though. Lost in a crowd, capable of fading into his surroundings, up close and in person, Hawk's aura lacking the luster of his elder brother, there was a quality of the eerie surrounding him instead. The eyes hollow holes in his skull. Hypnotic and commanding. His misappropriate serenity suddenly sinister and terrifying.
"Nice of you to show up." Hawk congratulated his deputy Assura upon his arrival to assume his vigilant post on the highly sensitive Cardassian corridor. The astonishment of the lone unsuspecting Bajoran security officer present in the small squad immediately checked by a shot from Hawk's hand phaser searing through the back of the officer's neck, silencing any agonizing scream. He was dead before he hit the floor. His face and throat blackened, red ashes.
Assura muttered something under his breath about not seeing or liking the need to kill their own. He was not alone in his annoyance. Hawk did not like having to re-access the station's security banks to change the duty rotation back to his original assignments. The windows in time to complete the various tasks to insure success and smoothness of their operation were small. Made possible by manipulating the data to accommodate for the infiltrators swelling the ranks of Shakaar's Special Forces for moments here, minutes there. It wasn't as if anyone personally knew any of these men. Three hundred faces dressed as one. At all other times their invisible guests -- a staggering fifty in number -- discarded their yellow jumpsuits, blending back into the crowd, six thousand strong. Odo's inadvertent relocation of Hawk's man could have proven to be much more serious than a nuisance. The answer then to both their complaints was clear. "You should have been here."
"If they scan the corridor, readings of residual tachyon will raise more than suspicions," Assura retorted, burying his brethren's body and soul in a vacant cabin for the time being.
"Suspicions," another of the agents laughed. "We certainly can't have that."
"I'm more interested in listening to what Damar might have to say," Hawk silenced the two of them. There were some interesting points to the read-out of the station's communication frequencies.
"He's talking to his ship," Assura replied; for a man who had just arrived he seemed to know a lot.
"Is he." Hawk borrowed a tricorder to take it for a thoughtful stroll, monitoring the subtle changes as he approached the crackling energy of the security force field in effect at the south-end of the corridor.
Assura nodded from behind him. "The interference would also effect security's ability to identify and trace the signal."
"Would it." Hawk glanced up at the field within arm's reach of him. "Are you sure it's Damar?"
"Damar, Dukat," Assura shrugged. The distance separating the two quarters was nominal. "Why?"
"Are you sure it's a communication frequency?" Hawk replied. "Third cabin on the right."
"What?" Assura snatched the tricorder away from him.
"Transporter carrier wave." Another agent reported from down the hall. "Third cabin behind you…on the right.""Dukat's." Hawk eyed the security force field with its dancing pretty lights. He stepped into it, the harmless bolts of deception slipping off his uniform like rain. He nodded. "What do we have here?"
"Damn it all!" Anon's fist struck the computer console with enough force to split a deep crack through the read-out display, Pfrann lingering at his side to criticize.
"How are you going to explain that?"
"I'm not," Anon said. "Don't aggravate me. They moved her, all right? They moved us. They moved Janice. If we are xenophobic, they are paranoid…Tan!" he hollered over his com badge. "I need a security bypass modular now!"
"What?" Pfrann stared at the door and the small army of security officers outside.
"For me, Pfrann," Anon's wrist waved briefly over his head in reminder of the proximity detector implant. "For me. Not for the security field. Me."
"You can't even find her!" Pfrann insisted.
"I found her," Anon turned from the display to snatch up the bypass modular transported by Tan. It was intact. "Excellent!" he squeezed it tightly. "Now me, Tan!"
"What do you mean you?" Pfrann's cheeks were puffing in and out like a fish gasping for water.
He meant him. "I'm used to it. It makes Janice sick."
"Used to it!" Pfrann's boot sent Tan's molten and fused test container crashing across the floor. "The station's shields are engaged. Why do you think you couldn't find her?"
"No," Anon said. "That's why Tan was having difficulty tracking her. Me, I just had to make a few adjustments to the ion particle stream."
"You can't transport!"
"Watch me." Anon's voice tinkled away with his molecules.
"And they're engaged for a reason!" Pfrann shouted after him, into the air. "Anon!"
"Transport complete." Tan's voice answered his wail.Pfrann gripped the sides of the console, his head hung. He took a breath, activating the security matrix. "Restoring security field…twenty-five percent."
"It's a hologram," Assura quickly swept the area. "The security field's not deactivated, it's simply being contained...Or he's trying to contain it," he winced when a sudden burst of live energy jabbed Hawk like a thousand needles causing him to immediately jump clear. "Your brother?" he clarified.
Hawk shook his cold and tingling shoulders and arms. "May the Prophets have mercy on his soul if it is him. Deactivate the security field. Make his life easier for him…And mine for me." he accepted the tricorder back.
The force field came down and Hawk stepped through the holographic projection to monitor the readings from the other side.
"Three hundred meters to the left along the adjoining corridor," a third agent reported. "Field at the far end appears to be intact."
"I wouldn't count on it," Hawk shook his head. Ion was a notorious disturbance factor, commonly rendering most systems functionally unreliable and unstable.
"That includes transport capabilities," Assura reminded.
"Not as difficult as shields," Hawk assured. "It would take more than a blast from a quantum torpedo to pierce a fortress the size of this one…Something," he hinted, "Captain Sisko would probably notice."
Notice. The six of his men looked around. "He wouldn't notice this?"Hawk laughed. "No, he'd notice. Good thing we aren't security. Cardassian arrogance, gentlemen. As impeccable and reliable as their punctuality…and timing," he agreed as Damar and his assistant Paq suddenly intruded upon the scene.
Damar stepped into the corridor with his Assistant Paq and a sullen glare for the group of security gathered at the south end of the corridor. "Is the security field working?"
"To specifications," Hawk promised. "Something you need, Legate? You have another hour until dinner."
"A conference with my representatives."
Hawk watched Damar's meaty hand swish impatiently towards Dukat's door.
"It's allowed!" Damar snapped.
"Disable the field," Hawk instructed Assura.
“What?” Assura startled.
“Disable Dukat’s security field,” Hawk repeated. “Bring it down.”
"Right…" Assura accessed his tricorder. “Disabling…”"Thank you," Hawk said with a nod for Damar. “You have ten minutes."
"I have an hour," Damar breathed his heavy stench in his face.
"Suit yourself," Hawk shrugged, releasing Dukat’s safety into the hands of his own gods.
"Always!" Damar assured, and the door swished shut behind him and Paq."Sometimes it's easier to just agree." Hawk returned to monitoring the interesting readings of his tricorder.
Assura scoffed. "It was the Klingon who overreacted. If you want everything perfect -- "
"I want," Hawk interrupted, "the conference canceled. I don't care who cancels it, or why…So we'll just give Captain Sisko a little nudge." he stopped at the corridor’s security field again. "He's reactivated it."
"Activated?" His men whirled on the cabin door, phaser rifles ready.
"Relax," Hawk suggested. “Dukat's playing with the station's systems for some reason…I'll admit I'm curious as to why." his instinct telling him being Cardassian was enough. Power. Control. Deception. Deceit; he stared at the field. "Why would you have questioned my brother as being the one responsible rather than Dukat for manipulating the fields? Adon's interest is protecting his precious Janice. What does that have to do with Dukat?"
Assura didn't answer him.
"I suggest you do," Hawk advised. "If you love his immortal soul as I do."
"They're friends," Anar's trusted sergeant Dak'jar complied from the back row. "Your brother's interest is in protecting his precious friends. That includes Dukat. Anon, and Pfrann, as well.”
"What is this family coming to," Hawk finally sighed.
"Open…closed. That way you can carry it in your pocket."
Dax tried not to notice Kira pressing a personal phaser into Janice's hand but it was difficult.
"I don't have any pockets…" Janice looked down on Kira's strong fingers closing around her hand.
"Under your pillow then." Kira's answer was a second or two delayed. "You can put it under your pillow."
"My pillow?" Janice glanced in the direction of her sleeping area where all of the boxes from Garak were piled high on the bed.
"All right, we'll go over it again…" Kira moved Janice out of sight of Dax waiting patiently in the sitting room. "The setting is for light stun. Damage index is zero. You won't hurt anyone."
"Oh, I know I won't," Janice assured.
"Not even by accident," Kira smiled. "It's all controlled by the station's computers. You don't have to do anything. Just point and press the trigger…you have a steady hand."
"You're an archaeologist."
Janice stared at the phaser. "Actually, I can be clumsy…"
"I doubt that," Kira shook her head. "Don't worry about it; anything. I just want you to have it. You don't have to carry it. You can keep it here."
"Under my pillow," Janice understood.
"Wherever," Kira agreed. "Time to get dressed. Fix your makeup -- "
"Makeup?" Janice startled.
Kira paused. "You don't wear makeup?"
"No," Janice said. "Why? Do you?"
"A little," Kira admitted. "Well, maybe a little…"
"Your eyes," Janice smiled at Kira's dark, full lashes almost a deep purple in the light. "It looks nice. They're so expressive."
"So are yours," Kira promised. "So are yours -- Forty-five minutes. I'll be back if I can. If not, it'll be security -- you know the routine."
Kira left with Dax strolling along beside her, hands clasped behind her back.
"You didn't see that," Kira finally broke the silence between them aboard the turbolift.
"That's a lot to ask," Dax admitted.
Kira stopped the lift. "It's a lot to ask of her."
Dax thought about that. Comes with the territory came to her mind, but that wasn't really fair. There were experienced delegates whose careers did not find them so close to such an explosive and controversial issue. "The threats have been against Shakaar," Dax tried that approach.
"She's his representative!"
"Well, that's like saying Jake is Benjamin's son."
"No it isn't," Kira insisted. "Jake's not sitting in the auditorium. If he was, then, yes, you could say that. I would listen."
"Kira, Janice hasn't even been mentioned."
"It's the first day!"
"All right," Dax put up her hand, much like Benjamin commonly did. As much like Benjamin, Kira was not immune to first day jitters.
"Thank you," Kira said.
"Oh…" Dax wasn't so sure Kira should thank her rather than she should thank her intuition.
"What intuition?" Kira peered at her.
Dax smiled. "I really don't think Lange will use the phaser?" As a matter of fact she wouldn't be surprised if Lange put the hand phaser it in the replicator the moment the door closed.
"Replicator?" Kira frowned.
"Replicator," Dax nodded.
"It's hazardous," Kira said. "If she's going to put it anywhere, she should put it the hazardous waste disposal."
"I'll leave you to explain that to Benjamin when the replicator system shuts down for an hour to reprocess it," Dax agreed. "Along with explaining the weapons inventory."
"Oh," Kira said. "Oh, well, the inventory is simple. The phaser's mine. As far as the replicator…"
"Yes?" Dax said.
"What's an hour," Kira shrugged. "We're on standby alert. Shields are engaged. No, phasers aren't energized -- "
"But deflector fields are in place throughout the station," Dax nodded. "You're right. It's a wonder we don't experience some sort of temporary, minor overload somewhere."
"All right, I'll tell Benjamin," Kira waved. "I'll tell him.""That's my little terrorist," Dax approved and left Kira to drop by Odo's office and pick up the Bajoran officer's record and Julian's report.
"Julian gave it his attention, I see," Dax scrolled through the analysis.
"Reasonably, yes," Odo grunted.
"Seems pretty detailed to me. I just have one question -- why is it wet?'" she wiped the padd off on the leg of her trousers.
"We were in the shower preparing for our date," Odo admitted. "I tried that."
"The two of you?" Dax laughed.
"Yes, well, not exactly," Odo said. "Make that Bashir was in the shower. I was outside it listening to him talk."
"Worf sings," Dax disclosed and left to find Benjamin."Probably something someone needs to know," Odo agreed.
Dax found Benjamin in his office, absently toying with his baseball as he read through Damar's proposal and a few other padds scattered around on his desk. He looked up immediately when she entered.
"Sorry for the intrusion," she apologized. "But I wanted you to know Worf had some minor difficulty with a Bajoran Special Forces Captain this afternoon at lunch."
"No, please. Thank you," Sisko reached immediately to hail Odo.
"Odo's already reviewed the officer's service record," Dax stopped him. "I've had Julian take a look through his psychiatric profile…his report's right here. …"
"Thank you…" Sisko slowly accepted the padd.
"For the time being I've had Odo reassign the office from the Cardassian corridor to general crowd control along the Promenade."
"Also very thoughtful of you, Commander," Sisko replied quietly. "On the other hand, I think I should have been apprised of the situation before any decisions or changes were made." He stood up.
"Did Worf try talking to you about changing your quarters?" she smiled.
Sisko's stare was bright, wide and incensed.
"Sorry," Dax apologized again. "Benjamin, I wasn't trying to eclipse your authority."
"No," Sisko dropped the padd with a bang down on his desk. "You were doing your duty as Head of the Bajoran Security detail by bringing your concerns to the attention of Odo -- who should have, in turn, brought them to my attention." His weight leaned heavily on his hands as he leaned across his desk. "I don't appreciate presumptions being made on my behalf. Any more than I appreciate being second-guessed, interrupted -- or reading some psychiatric report! Where is Bashir?"
"In the mirror?" Dax grimaced. Her attempt at humor escaped him. She had a feeling it would. "Knowing Julian?" she offered. "He was just in the shower fifteen minutes ago."
"Thank you!" Sisko was out of his office and gone."Worf tried to talk you into changing your quarters," Dax nodded.