The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part One

Chapter Twenty-Three

"If you're looking for something remarkable in the man's profile," Bashir critiqued his wet hair in the mirror, finally just opting to comb it back. "I'd have to say the most remarkable aspect of our aggressive Bajoran is that his profile is so unremarkable -- in fact, I believe I did say that in my report." he turned around to Sisko with a smile.

"I…" Sisko put forth an effort to explain, not exactly having expected to find his Chief Medical Officer attired in his underwear.

"You don't have the report," Bashir nodded. "I can see that."

"Yes," Sisko agreed.

"Quite all right. I have a copy, naturally." Bashir shuffled around his night stand looking for the correct padd. "I've been organizing my old journal files…one of those things everyone is always meaning to do…yes, here it is. Generally unremarkable, is what I actually said. I go on from there to explain in rather ponderous detail what I mean -- Mind?" he extended his report.

"Mind?" Sisko accepted the padd.

"If I dress while you read," Bashir indicated his person.

"Oh, no," Sisko assured. "No, feel free."

"Thank you," Bashir pulled on his trousers. "I wouldn't go as far as calling it an innate sense of personal shyness most Humans share when confronted by a naked man -- or woman, as the case may be. Not that I'm naked, or even obscenely unclothed -- unless one considers one's undergarments to be obscene," he pulled on his T-shirt. "If so, please pardon the T-shirt. It's not meant to offend. Any questions?"

"Perhaps regarding the report," Sisko said.

"Yes," Bashir did anticipate the possibility of that. "The long-winded technical jargon is for the UFP, Bajor, Cardassia, and whoever might be interested. Just so it sounds like both you and I know what we're talking about. I believe that was Jadzia's concern. Second to insuring we did not have a militant extremist in our midst -- we don't. Not in my professional opinion. That's my bottom line. The choice to dismiss the man, naturally is your option. Executive privilege. I really don't see how anyone could argue with that. If you insist upon hearing my actual opinion…"

"I do," Sisko nodded.

"A choice of several options. He may not like Klingons. He may not trust Klingons not to overreact themselves. He may also have interpreted Worf's response to be an overreaction. We were all at the same table. I was there. In fairness to the officer, we all reacted. Myself included."

"He's a highly trained professional, Doctor."

"And he had at least three highly trained professionals along with a fourth, Garak, immediately leaping to their feet in response to some off-color remark Dukat made to either Janice or Leeta -- I thought it was Leeta. Garak seems to think it was Janice. Regardless. The situation had already been stopped cold by Kira before we even got to our feet."

"Mister Worf is well within his authority to respond, investigate, or take control of any situation above and beyond any of the Bajoran or Federation Special Forces."

"With all due respect to you and Mister Worf, who Mister Worf is, is a Klingon. As awful as that sounds, I'm afraid in this instance you will find it to be the basis behind the officer's attitude. If you want to dismiss him under the grounds that he is bigoted, please, by all means do so. Don't misunderstand me, I agree with you utterly. We don't need such a person in our midst. No one does. I said as much to Jadzia when she asked me to review his profile. I'm simply saying after my review, coupled with my own participation and witness to others' participation, it would be unfair to everyone, the Klingon Empire especially, to blacken someone's career record by labeling him a suspected militant when what he is, is a suspected racist. Suspected, because there's also a possibility all the Chief's blustering about I'll show him could have been a contributing factor. The Bajoran Security Captain had one, in other words, he didn't need two of us arguing our points against his."

"I wasn't aware of the Chief's involvement to that extent," Sisko was concerned now that he was aware.

"You were aware to the extent you granted him leave of the table to investigate for himself if Janice or Leeta were harmed in any way," Bashir smiled. "Again, I thought it was Leeta. The Chief, quite emphatically, as well as Garak, as I mentioned, believed it was Janice. It's still all right, in any event. We all have a tendency to overlook traits in our friends that we are quick to condemn in people we don't know. For the simple reason we don't know them. Not the basis of their reaction or belief, nor how far they will go. Any other questions?"

"No, I believe that about covers it," Sisko handed him back his report.

"Damn," Bashir snapped his fingers. "Here I was hoping to share with you my views on vulgar, presumptuous Cardassians -- not in advocacy of specie stereotyping. I'm sure there are thousands of Cardassian males as upright, decent and polite as you or I…or at least the Chief when it comes to conducting ourselves around beautiful women…" he returned to the mirror to check on his hair. "I do have a question of you before you go."

"Fire away," Sisko granted.

"How do I look?" Bashir grinned back at him in the mirror.

"Look?" Sisko hesitated.

"The jacket," Bashir pointed toward the bed. "You're right, of course. What am I thinking…" he scooped up his dress uniform Sisko hadn't even noticed laying on the bed. "I prefer the trousers to the skirt," he explained his trousered legs under the knee-length coat. "I don't know about you, but my legs aren't exactly my best feature."

"A personal preference myself, Doctor," Sisko acknowledged. "No reason to explain."

"Well?" Bashir said.

"Yes, well," Sisko agreed. "And, well…" he nodded. "Heavy date?"

"I'd like it to be. Not this week, of course. Next. This is just…well, a preview is probably fair to say. To dinner. Dancing. Helping me to organize my old journal files…If you're wondering who. Janice Lange. Since she isn't twelve years old, I can't see why there wouldn't be any reason for me not to pursue her -- within reason, of course. I'll like to think I'm not the Chief. What do you think?"

"I…" Sisko said and frowned. "The Chief?"

"Mid-life crisis," Bashir promised. "Nothing to be alarmed over even though he's hardly mid-life. Still, it's a common affliction that affects most men somewhere between their forties and seventies. You could be in the throes of the phenomenon yourself and not even realize it."

"I'll try to keep that in mind," Sisko nodded.

"Is that a yes?"

"Yes?" Sisko's blink was almost innocent.

"To asking Janice for a date. I'm not sure I need your permission, but it probably doesn't hurt to ask. After all, while the conference might be overcome the end of this week, I doubt very much if the repercussions will be. If there are any repercussions -- I'm certain there will be one or two."

"Yes…" Sisko said. "No, Doctor, you do not need my permission. More the young woman's I would imagine…I'm sorry," he shook his head. "Perhaps it's me. But I just can't seem to take any of this as lightly apparently as the rest of you."

"Well, barring saying I hardly doubt if anyone is taking anything lightly," Bashir smiled, "I would have thought along with that Captain's pip came immunity to such primal fears."

"Primal fears, Doctor," Sisko assured, "are fears of such things as the dark. The woods at night."

"Quite," Bashir said. "Because in the dark that chair looks like a monster, as in the woods monsters lurk. Just because we know our monsters from our furniture and trees by our age doesn't mean we're any less afraid of them."

"I wouldn't say I was afraid, actually." Sisko's head cocked in consideration of the idea.

"No," Bashir's smile returned. "Not personally. Simply afraid of our monsters for us."

"Interesting," Sisko concluded. "Very interesting. Now, if you will excuse me, I just may owe two friends -- two very good friends," a smile played his lips, "an apology."

"Not at all…Oh, and…" Bashir called down the corridor after him, "if you're interested in my opinion regarding changing your quarters…I agree with Worf and Dax. Better safe than sorry."

"Don't push it, Doctor," Sisko suggested.

"Probably shouldn't at that," Bashir withdrew his head back inside his quarters. "With the Chief thinking he's someone somewhere between Captain Kirk and Hercules, is a bit of a risk factor you are…Otherwise known as Captain Benjamin Sisko…" he gave himself a thorough, honest review in the mirror, picking up his comb. "Where I am Doctor Julian Bashir. Charming. Handsome. Brilliant and debonair. The woman would have to be out her mind to say no, which of course she isn't. She's charming. Attractive…"

Janice tossed the phaser on the bed and set to work opening Garak's boxes. "Oh, now, this might have potential," she lifted out a long, pale pink dress, simply cut and reasonably modest with a dozen or so equally long pink cords designed to create some sort of pattern across her back.

"Wear that one!" Anon appeared behind her in the mirror to pull the gown out of her hands as she held it up to herself.

"All right," she shrugged.

"Good," Anon wrapped her up in his arms. "It's pretty. Soft…Did you get my message?"

"What message is that?" she laughed.

"This one," he kissed her. "And this one," he kissed her again, pressing her back towards the bed.

"Oh, but what about…" Janice groped for his arm, trying to keep her balance.

"Security bypass modular," Anon explained the contraption fastened around his wrist. "Like you, to them, I'm just another tree."

"Phase emitter," Janice slipped down onto the floor in hysterics when his knee came down on the trigger mechanism of Kira's phaser. The sensation of heat from the discard, suffocated and largely absorbed by the bed, sent him leaping three feet in the air. "I think you just killed my new shoes…But that's all right," she waved the gown. "The dress survived."

"Phaser," Anon sat back down on the bed, the personal phaser in hand. "This is the emitter…see? The window? Emitter. This is a phaser."

"If you say so."

"I say so," he assured, opening it and snapping it shut to its compact size. "Nice one. Federation type II. What's this?" he stuffed the phaser back under her nose.

"Readout display."

"Power level indicator," Anon smiled. "And this?"

"One of them is for beam width and the other is for the settings."

"How many settings?"

"A lot," Janice nodded. "Damage index varying depending on if you're a living thing, or a pair of shoes…Did you kill my shoes?"

"No, I didn't kill your shoes," Anon took the box away from her. "Who gave you this? Kira? What is she trying to do? Kill you?"

"No, of course she isn't trying to kill me," Janice pulled the phaser out of his hand to fling it over her shoulder. "She said it's all controlled by station's computers…which is more than I can say about you." she pushed him down on the bed.

Anon laughed. "That's a lie. You want it to kill, that's what it will do."

"I don't want it to do anything," Janice shook her head.

"Good," Anon kissed her. "I'll take care of it for you."

"Good," she kissed him. "Because, funny, but you know, when someone starts talking about disruption and my central nervous system…" she stopped.

"What?" Anon said.

"I just remembered Kira's coming back?"

"No she isn't."

"Maybe," Janice nodded. "That's what she said. Along with all those security guards outside -- my task leader is Vulcan, she pointed him out to me. So when you see a Vulcan, you'll know I'm not too far behind. Who's yours?"

"Bajoran, of course. Bajoran. I hate that woman!" the back of his head banged back down into the bed in frustration.

"No, you don't hate her," Janice laughed. "Stop that. You don't hate anyone."

He looked at her.

"You don't," she firmly tugged on his arm trying to get him to sit up. "It's simply not allowed…Come on. You have to go. Never mind Kira, you'll be stuck looking at this beige tunic again instead of my pretty pink dress -- this is assuming I can figure out where all the strings go. If not? Oh, well. If you overlook the Vulcan, I'm sure you'll notice the woman wrapped up like a strangled plant. That'll be me."

"Field reactivation is failing at twenty-five percent," Tan notified Pfrann pacing the floor when he wasn't sitting slumped in a chair. "Corridor is unprotected at south end."

"Damn it!" Pfrann flung himself up out of his seat. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure if it's a security test there's enough ion to confuse their readings, not them." Tan countered. "Holographic field is intact."

"Yes, I see that," Pfrann snorted. "Wonderful. I'll meet Anon in the security holding area. You can transport the two of us from there…Severing communication and restoring field 100 percent. If you don't hear from me in ten minutes attempt transport once before returning Anon to the ship -- " he severed the communication abruptly, jumping back away from the console when he heard the prophetic sound of the door hissing open; it was Mister Damar. The Bajoran security team never even put their heads into the room. Pfrann loved their overt self-confidence as much as they professed to love his.

"Why, what do we have here…" Damar's scowl brightened with a sweeping glance over the computer console.

"Prove it," Pfrann's taunting laugh answered and Damar's head snapped up. Pfrann turned his back on him to reestablishing his communication's link with his ship. "Don't worry about it, Tan. It's only Mister Damar -- "

"Better idea!" Damar's heavy hand interrupted, knocking Pfrann back twenty feet; the seventeen year old a fly to him; as irritating as one. "How Dukat of you," he gloated over the display that showed everything from Sisko's security fields to his station's deflector shields. "Engaged," he chuckled. "Fifty percent. How predictable of you, Captain. Whatever group of terrorists aren't here yet, may just attempt to transport aboard from some…seemingly innocent ship." He ogled the security field apparently down for some reason; he couldn't imagine why. "Where is Dukat by the way…Or do I really have to ask…No, of course I don't." His finger left its imprint on the display, re-engaging the corridor's force field. "Now let's see what else interesting we might have here…why, what's this? Paq, do you see this? What could Dukat possibly be looking for in Sisko's security archives?"

Paq looked over the data logs with a nod. "A file's been deleted."

"Not aboard my ship, I trust," Damar smirked, hailing his engineer. "Tan, I'm looking for the record of my transport lost in the Bajoran outer colonies eight months ago…You remember. You were there."

The record Tan transmitted wasn't tainted, it was blatantly false. Placing the transport three systems away from Lange's home world on the Cardassian border, below the fever line. Damar stared at it as if unable to believe the audacity of his Chief Engineer to side with Dukat against him. Pfrann's haunting laugh taunted him again; the child swaying across the floor.

"How predictable of you, Mister Damar. How delightfully Cardassian of you to plant such 'official' documentation linking two coincidences and manipulating them into one fact. In all my years of service to our esteemed Supreme Assembly, I have never seen such an obvious, flagrant attempt to discredit any one delegate as the appalling aspersions now being cast upon the Representative of First Minister Shakaar. Clearly something in your own scheme must have gone awry. Suspect from the beginning, we now have unequivocal proof!" Pfrann caught sight of Anon attempting to transport on his pivot back to Damar. His head jutted forward into Damar's face, a glistening leer wetting his lips. "I can hear the UFP now, can't you? Not a hint of rumor. Not a whisper of any indiscretion between the Bajoran and Cardassian representatives until after Dukat's proclamation of recognition of the Bajoran-Cardassian population."

Anon dropped down to one knee with a bang behind Damar as the transport completed, his molecules shaken from their dizzying dance through Sisko's security field. Pfrann shrank back from his diversionary effort with an exhausted sigh of relief just to see Anon. He snapped back to attention quickly with Damar's enraged lunge for his brother.

"Anon!" Pfrann warned, his feet already coming up off the floor to catch Damar's assistant Paq dead in the small of his back. The Cardassian staggered forward to meet Pfrann's arm slicing through the air like a Klingon's bat'telh. Anon pitched forward into a roll to avoid Damar. Janice's phaser out, he fired, toppling the Emperor looming over him in fury. His second shot dropped Paq reeling backward from a sharp strike to the chin by the heel of Pfrann's hand.

Pfrann whirled shocked on Anon with the introduction of phaser fire into the fight. Anon got to his feet with a nod for the Federation toy in his hand. "Nerys. She gave it to Janice for protection. Why? You want it? Here." He tossed the phaser to Pfrann, turning away to reopen the communications frequency to hail Tan. "I have another two test articles for you. Mister Damar and Mister…what's his name?"

"Paq," Pfrann replied, looking over the phaser.

"And Mister Paq," Anon signed off from Tan with a grin for his brother. "All right. You're right. Sometimes he comes in handy. I couldn't do that. I couldn't begin to do that. All this with the head. This with the hands on the hips like I'm keeping my pants in place or something…Dukat," he laughed to Pfrann's uncertain scrutiny of his exaggerated imitation. "Legate Dukat. You were perfect. It gave me just enough time." To collect his molecules and realize his legs were attached to his torso and his head was attached to his neck. It only felt like they were reversed for a moment or two.

"Oh," Pfrann shrugged. "I thought you were talking about Gowron."

"Gowron?" Anon was mystified.

"The bat'telh," Pfrann's dismissed his choreographed attack of Mister Paq, Kira's phaser more on his mind.

"Bat'telh? What bat'telh?" Anon saw a broken lamp and one or two chairs.

"That's my point!" Pfrann thrust the phaser at him. "Sometimes you don't have one, any more than you have one of these."

"That was Klingon?" Anon ignored the obvious for the vague. "That…this, and this?"

"Yes!" Pfrann correctly interpreted the waving arms as another demonstration of his talents. "When's the last time you tried engaging someone's brain with your mind? You’re not Vulcan, you're Cardassian. Crush his skull between your hands. I guarantee you'll get his attention."

"Klingons are voles upright in clothing!" Anon snatched his phaser back. "What talons they don't have they adorn on their gloves and the tips of their boots."

"What?" Pfrann said.

"All right," Anon returned the phaser. "You can teach me. That, I liked. That, I can do…And, that, you can keep; the phaser. Don't worry about it. Carry it. Sleep with it. Whatever you want to do…except kill." he reminded Pfrann of the rule separating terrorist from Sentinel. "That's not a criticism, I kill. For reasons. Understand? Reasons. I don't want to hear Anon, he looked at me like this, what did you expect me to do? Because you can't," he grinned at Pfrann's contorted expression of disgust. "Don't waste your time. It's all controlled by the computers. Settings 1 through 3, that's it. Light to heavy stun."

"Who gave Janice this?" Pfrann verified the supposed programmed level of allowable use.

"Nerys," Anon agreed. "Yes, Nerys. Don't be clever or I'll take it back, and I can't. Janice isn't going to hug you, she hugs me. I don't want her to feel it."

"Shoot me," Pfrann clipped the phaser in place behind his back, under his tunic, "if I'm ever that much in love."

Anon laughed.

"I wouldn't," Pfrann recommended. "Security reports you at the top of the list of the Threat force, ahead of Mister Damar and Sisko…take a look. Apparently Shakaar and his Bajorans aren't as eager to accept your embrace of Ziyal as they are to complain about Cardassian slough. Security has been conducting tests…on the force fields…" he stared horrified at the door.

"What?" Anon said impatiently. "I see the report. I'm reading."

"No!" Pfrann snapped. "Damn the report. The field, Anon! The holographic field. It was intact during the time the deflectors were down."

"So?" Anon said.

"So?" Pfrann hissed. "So security has to know it's a hologram."

"Sisko," Anon got the message. "The field is Sisko's, not mine. The ion is Sisko's, not mine. Non-combative security maneuvers. Understand? Diversion. So security can test, yes. To conserve energy. Whatever you want to think of. No one running down the corridor is going to chance impaling himself on the security field -- unless they're Klingon, yes," he waved away Pfrann's ready challenge. "A Klingon will impale himself with his arms outstretched for the glory of the Empire. The warrior is dead, but the Empire lives on. We get enough of them to do it, we won't have to worry about them. They'll take care of the threat themselves -- why do you think I've been having difficulty?" his hand slapped the display with annoyance.

"I don't know why," Pfrann swished away angrily to pace up and down in front of the door guarding it like the sentinel he was. "You're the engineer, not me."

"Yes, I am the engineer. And Sisko's ion is driving the engineer crazy, which it is supposed to do if I were the Threat force."

"Shouldn't they know that?" Pfrann insisted. "Security?"

"I would think they do," Anon agreed. "I would assume they do -- otherwise, Pfrann, I think they would have been in here, and then, yes. I would be concerned as to why they asking me about their own device measures that I am using not creating. Understand? I am using them to my advantage…or trying to." he glowered at the console. "I have to get this to work…stay working. That transport would have killed Janice."

"Oh, better idea!" Pfrann howled on his right about face.

"No, I am not canceling the conference," Anon refused. "I didn't embrace Ziyal, I had to say something. We'll think of another way to strengthen the Intelligence force -- my way. I told you before I don't like this way, anyway. I'm not going to use Janice to do it."

Pfrann's muffled laugh penetrated Hawk's diligent analysis of his scans of the corridor's security system arrangement.

"Pfrann," Dak'jar identified the laugh along with the loudest of the low voices audible behind the cabin's closed door. "He's mastered his father's intonations to perfection."

"As has Sisko mastered his Prefect's security network," Hawk ran his tricorder along the ceiling at the junction with the wall. "Dukat isn't doing any of this -- utilizing it, yes, perhaps. The same as Sisko. The power grid has been in place for some time. The introduction of the holographic projector -- a year? Probably as a placebo to relieve the fears of some overly concerned Ambassador." He focused on his deputy. "Now, aren't you glad you didn't jump to conclusions?"

"Fools rush in," Dak'jar nodded. "A Human euphemism -- we have another transport carrier wave."

One immediately followed by a scuffle loud enough not to require any technological investigation. Hawk sighed. "My nerves can't take this, gentlemen. I don't suppose it's possible they're just having a loud party?"

"If they are, it's about to get louder," Dak'jar advised. "Another carrier wave."

Hawk halted his deputy in his tracks. "Lateral, as the others?"

"Perfectly lateral," Dak'jar turned around to look down the corridor towards Damar's quarters. "I believe a couple of the guests were just sent home. I concur. It's a good thing we aren't security. The Hawk would love this. He would love it…" he glanced at Hawk. "Pardon me. Your brother would love it. Anar."

"That's better," Hawk agreed.

"You're right," Dak'jar shrugged. "Hawk is a soul of principle and honor. I don't know what's happened to Anar. I can't explain it."

"We'll leave it to the Prophets," Hawk gave Assura a light shove towards the force field and a snap of his fingers for the four of his other crew. "You, remove the corridor control panel -- and you," he instructed Dak'jar, "take a look at this power conduit with me."

"Whatever you say."

Damar was up off the floor of his quarters charging for the door like a crazed Klingon targ.

"What do you think you are doing?" his assistant grabbed for him.

"Killing the bastard," Damar shoved Paq aside. "Putting him and his brother out of my misery. From there, the rest of Dukat's tribe."

He was through the door and into the corridor, the six of his assigned security task force playing with their force fields, power conduits, "And control panels!" Damar's hand slammed the panel closed when the sound of his delicate footsteps thundering along the insulated floor had them turning around from their toys to him.

"Something else you need, Legate?" Hawk inquired with a mildly perplexed frown as to how the Legate managed to be standing there when last he saw him, not fifteen minutes ago, he was over there.

"If you weren't so busy with your tests!" Damar slammed the control panel door closed again. "As opposed to your attention to duty! You just might be able to answer that question for yourself!"

"Anar," Hawk smiled understandingly and calmly for the flustered Emperor. "Captain Anar, Legate. Please be reassured all of our efforts now, through to the end of your conference, are in the best interest of everyone, uppermost in our minds."

"For some reason, Captain," Damar breathed heavily, "your confidence fails to instill any confidence in me whatsoever."

"As do we all have our own opinions and beliefs, Legate," Hawk agreed. "Yours no less valid than mine. In the striving for universality, infinite in its diversity, I know there are Prophets who uphold the principle behind your work."

"And if you wouldn't mind sparing me the rhetorical ideology of your Prophets," Damar requested. "I'd rather listen to Martok drunk on blood wine."

"Was that really necessary?" Dak'jar questioned when the Legate opted to return to his quarters.

"They're not my Prophets nor yours," Hawk shrugged. "They're false. As false as ever a Prophet could be -- or did you mean Anar?" his smile didn't make it quite reach his eyes. "Let my brother find a new name for himself to dishonor."

"His name is Shakaar, as is yours," Dak'jar reminded. "You give Damar your brother, you may as well as hand him First Minister."

"First Minister," Hawk reactivated his tricorder. "You mean my nephew -- "

"I mean!" Dak'jar halted him, "First Minister. Don't flatter yourself, child. My loyalty isn't to you, it is to Shakaar. I will not have him jeopardized by you, no more than by some idiotic ideology of Anar's."

"My nephew," Hawk removed Dak'jar's hand coolly, "is growing as old and comfortably fat on his successes as my brother. My nephew's representative is Doctor Janice Lange. Conclusion. My nephew could use a nudge as much as Captain Sisko. Recommended course of action -- why, isn't this interesting," he nodded at his tricorder. "After careful analysis the only reasonable course of action is to kill Doctor Janice Lange. I believe we can manage that relatively easily? After all, it's not as if you could lose her in a crowd?"

"With that assessment, I agree," Dak'jar assured.

"I had a feeling you would." Hawk made a mental note to kill him along with Assura after their duty was done should Captain Sisko's security force fail to take care of any dangling loose ends for him.

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