The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part One

Chapter Five

Time: 2375 Eight months post Federation-Cardassian war

Place: Bajoran Outpost Station Deep Space Nine

Star date: Unknown

"Ah, here's two more of us," Chief Medical Officer for Deep Space Nine, Doctor Julian Bashir bit into his flavorful jumja stick, a boyish grin crinkling his handsome face for the station's resident newlyweds Commanders Jadzia Dax and Worf working their way through the crowded second level of Quark's Ferengi bar and entertainment palace, to join him waiting with their resident Cardassian tailor Garak, and their one and only Chief Engineer.

"Eh, heh."

For some reason Chief O'Brien didn't seem quite as amused by this whole affair as Julian. Garak feigned shocked to realize this, while Dax availed herself of the opportunity to criticize their good doctor's eating habits.

"What was your first clue?" O'Brien rolled his eyes. "When I groaned, or when I moaned?"

"Appetizer of choice?" Dax smiled in greeting, sitting down.

"Oh, quite," Bashir assured. "Had to do something while waiting. Eating seemed like a good idea."

"'Eating seemed like a good idea,'" O'Brien mimicked with a snort. "Go ahead. Fine. Rub it in."

"Julian threatened the Chief with an annual physical," Garak disclosed for Dax, "if you're wondering how he managed to convince him to join us. It's my understanding over the last six months he's gained ten pounds --”

"Do you mind?" O'Brien interrupted.

"Well, personally no," Dax said. "You look your usual vibrant and healthy self to me."

"Another comedian," O'Brien nodded. "But laugh, go ahead laugh. So I may have gained a little weight. What of it?"

"Well, what of it," Bashir cautioned, "is ten pounds every six months times six years begins to add up."

"Yes," Worf frowned at the Chief, a strong man with a strong frame as Jadzia had proposed. "You have gained one hundred and twenty pounds since the Enterprise? That does not seem possible."

"Two hundred," O'Brien assured, "at least. No, I haven't gained 120 pounds. Julian has. In his head."

"It was meant in a hypothetical sense," Bashir explained. "Whose point is, there's no time like the present to begin eating sensibly."

"I like my food to have a little taste to it," O'Brien reminded. "I can always eat what you call sensibly when Keiko returns."

"Oooooh," Bashir hooted around the table. "Now that was a low blow. The poor woman's not even here to defend herself."

"That's not what I meant," O'Brien groaned. "Look, just change the subject. Now. Change it."

"Yes, please," Garak petitioned. "Really, Julian, you are very close to being insensitive."

"By promoting good health?" Bashir blinked innocently. "That's an interesting theory. But, fine," he surrendered, "you want to change the subject, we'll change it -- is the verdict in yet as far as who the Chief can expect to be his assistant pencil-pusher?"

"Not yet." Worf was noticeably concerned by the continuing delay himself. The Captain's assessment of an overwhelming burden facing the security task force was reasonable and accurate even if Sisko was not likely to find himself sequestered for a week. It was a burden made worse when Worf, though Chief of Strategic Operations, by virtue of being Klingon, was excluded from being involved with the small assembly of diplomats, as had Jadzia been excluded as his wife. Even though Jadzia, a joined Trill, hosted the symbiont Dax formerly hosted by Curzon one of the most widely respected Federation mediators of the times.

"But the Federation and the Bajoran Council of Ministers have reassured the Captain he will have their answer by tomorrow," Worf concluded stiffly.

"That's cutting it just a little close, isn't it?" Bashir looked to Dax. "After all, the Chief's conference is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 0900 sharp -- That's less than fourteen hours from now," he reminded O'Brien, lest he had forgotten.

"I'd like to," O'Brien assured.

"Hadn't noticed," Bashir grinned. "But that's what you get."

"For what?" O'Brien snorted. "How?"

"For being the last one available for the Captain to choose -- which reminds me," Bashir withdrew a message cylinder from his pocket to wave at Dax. "I've brought something for you to read…"

"Now, Julian," Dax shook her long, dark, and lovely hair in pity, "have you been writing letters to yourself again?"

"Ha, ha," Bashir pressed the cylinder into her hand. "The answer, of course, is no. I do know Doctor Lange as I have stated to you. Quite well and quite personally. Which is why I was precluded by the Bajoran Council from the screening, as quite obviously they were already aware. That is a copy of a recent communication from Janice."

"A love letter?" Garak brightened. "Really."

"No, it's not a love letter," Bashir denied. "Calling Jadzia's bluff shouldn't require I disclose intimate details of our relationship."

"Oh?" Quark's nasal voice interjected from above their heads. "Why not? I've got to get something for my time -- And space," he leaned over, barbed wit and calculator ready. "If anyone is following my drift? I don't usually charge by the hour, but I think I'm going to be making an exception in this case."

"We will be ordering," Bashir crossed his heart, "as soon as the Captain and Kira are here."

"Uh, huh," Quark was not so easily swayed by charm or boyish good looks. "And you are anticipating soon to be?"

"Around the time the Bajoran Council of Ministers makes its decision regarding Chief O'Brien's assistant," Garak offered.

"I think I came in on that part," Quark sneered, far more interested than they believed he looked.

"No," Garak cooed in correction, "you came in on the part about Julian's love affair with the Bajoran representative Doctor Lange."

"That was it," Quark snapped his fingers. "Love affair, huh? Should I be shocked? Or just pretend to be?"

"Whichever suits you," Garak borrowed Julian's message cylinder from Dax. "It's all right here."

"A holo-program?" Quark peered at in disgust. "Big deal. If he wants to call her Janice, let him. He's an adult."

"No, it's not a holo-program," Bashir snatched his cylinder away. "Any more than it's a love letter to myself. Janice is quite Human, the same as I am, and we had a relationship, yes. Twelve years ago when we were both still in medical school."

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "And someone is having trouble with this?"

"Trouble?" Bashir replied. "Well, no. The only trouble anyone's having is for some reason no one believes me. They all seem to think it's some sort of pathetic attempt on my part to explain away why I was overlooked by the Bajoran Council of Ministers in lieu of the Chief."

"Reason being?" Quark looked around the table.

"Well," Bashir supposed, "reason being to my understanding is they all claim I've never mentioned Janice before now, which is simply not true. Granted, I may never have had a heart to heart talk with anyone about Janice, but I'm quite sure I have mentioned her. It doesn't make any sense that I wouldn't have. We have kept in touch. Hello on each other's birthday. That sort of thing."

"Uh, huh," Quark was following him. "Is she attractive?"

"Janice?" Bashir frowned. "Well, yes, she was certainly quite attractive at the time I knew her. I really can't attest to now. But then we haven't seen each other in -- oh, seven or eight years? People do change."

"That they do. I believe it."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I believe it. If anyone has any doubts, I believe it." He waddled away.

"Oh," Bashir said. "Oh, well, there you have it," he smiled, "Quark believes me."

"That's quite a witness," Dax agreed.

"It's also quite a letter," Bashir set the message aside with a wink. "From quite a woman."

Worf huffed. "If this Doctor Lange is a friend, is there a reason why you are now mocking her?"

"Because he's a cad," O'Brien assured with a whistle and a wave for Quark. "Excuse me, but I have to eat -- some of us do have some work to do."

"Actually, yes, we do," Dax admitted. "Worf and I really should order now also. Benjamin and Kira must have been delayed with Odo."

"Be still my heart," Quark thrust a menu down in front of her. "Twenty-five percent gratuity is the acceptable standard, and there's a per person minimum after seven o'clock for parties larger than six so don't even bother looking at the specials."

"Where's it say that?" O'Brien borrowed the menu.

"Read the fine print."

"It's in Ferengi."

"That's your problem."

"Or yours," Bashir quipped. "There's only five of us."

"Better men then you have tried better lines than that one," Quark promised with an eye on Odo moving up to join the group. "Eight months after the occupation I've still got three months’ worth of IOUs to make up for -- and here I thought the Klingons were cheap."

"Klingons are not cheap," Worf huffed, "your prices reek of extortion."

"Give it a week," Quark ogled Odo. "No freeloaders. You don't eat, you don't sit unless you pay anyway."

"Yes, well, I don't eat," Odo drawled.

"But if I were you I'd reconsider that part about not sitting," Dax hinted.

"Not that that's meant as any form of extortion," Sisko appeared with Kira to take the menu from O'Brien with a twinkle. "Ah. I've been looking forward to this --”

"Barbecued spare ribs," Quark took the menu back.

"Hot. Spicy…" Sisko rubbed his hands together in animated glee.

"Until your senses are flaming," Quark knew the drill.

"Or at least your sinuses," Kira took the menu.

"Look who's talking Bajoran and cuisine in the same sentence," Quark took the menu back. "I've seen less tears at a funeral and smelled better breath on a -- " he eyed Worf. ”Targ."

"Yes, well…" Bashir raised his hand as Quark turned away to collect the libations.

"I've got it covered," Quark assured. "He wants ribs. She wants heartburn. He wants lamb. These two want to gagh together. He wants anything that smells like fish. And this other one over here wants air."

"Yes, and?" Bashir said.

"And Julian will have anything that makes an impression," Dax nodded.

"What she said," Quark concurred.

"Right?" O'Brien joked. "And probably ten percent higher in cost then the rest of us peasants."

"At least," Dax smiled at Bashir.

"Yes, well, actually, I'm not quite sure what would make an impression put alongside indigestion, worms and air," he admitted.

"Oh, I don't know about that…" Dax picked up his discarded message cylinder. "A love affair with the Bajoran representative just might -- May I?"

"A what?" Kira paused in refusing a glass of wine from Quark. "No, I want a cup of raktajino."

Quark sighed. "Is there ever a day you're not difficult? It's wine. Not poison. Wine. Civilized people drink wine with their meals -- Okay, I'll get the coffee."

"I don't know about difficult…" Garak ogled Kira interested. "Just a little late in the day, perhaps?"

"Trust me, I need it."

"Really?" Garak's brow arched intrigued. "Meaning? You've either not yet heard from the Federation or the Bajoran Council, or you have?"

"Oh, no, we have," Sisko's grin blossomed. "And, yes, Major Kira has been approved to assist the Bajoran representative."

"Really," Garak beamed. "I know that must be a great relief off of your mind."

"To an extent, yes." Sisko was smiling distinctly amused and interested at Bashir. "However, I must admit I'm a little curious myself -- did Dax just say something about a love affair with the Bajoran representative?"

"Doctor Lange," Garak dismissed, "yes. Apparently the UFP considered Julian's personal life far more significant than Chief O'Brien's past experiences in the Federation-Cardassian wars -- please, Captain, don't keep us in suspense. I know the Chief is quite anxious to know."

"Oh, yes," O'Brien supported, "he's just dying."

"A slight exaggeration," Garak assured.

"Don't be too sure," O'Brien warned Sisko. "Common sense hasn't exactly prevailed. So, yes, let's have it. What pinhead's been assigned to assist me?"

"Me," Sisko's grin flashed broadly.

"Oh," O'Brien said as half of the group broke out in titters.

"Open mouth, insert this," Quark handed O'Brien a glass of Bajoran ale.

"Not a bad idea," O'Brien toasted Sisko. "No offense."

"None taken," Sisko promised.

"But only because common sense hasn't exactly prevailed," Dax patted Sisko's hand. "What changed their minds? It couldn't have been a subtle reminder from you just whose station this is?"

"How did you guess?" Sisko's grin turned on her.

"Because I know you. And you have the patience of a Saint -- up to a point."

"Well, I don't know about that," Bashir lifted his wine in preparation of a real toast. "Fourteen hours before the conference is scheduled to begin seems pretty patient to me."

"Yes," Worf upheld. "Ideally though, the Federation representative should have been Jadzia."

"No offense," Bashir winked O'Brien.

"None taken," O'Brien assured Dax as their glasses clinked. "But only because I happen to agree."

"Well," Dax offered, "personally I think between you, Benjamin and Kira, the Cardassian government doesn't stand a chance with -- whatever it is they're actually up to," she shrugged to Kira.

"No, they don't." Kira's eye was on Quark. "Raktajino?"

"Speaking of patience," he countered.

"As well as no offense," Garak preempted Bashir. "None taken I can assure you."

"But only because he knows you're right," O'Brien chuckled.

"So I do," Garak purred easily, hardly blind to his own race. "I highly doubt Emperor Damar's sudden interest in the Bajoran-Cardassian orphan situation is wrought from guilt."

"No," Sisko agreed somberly. "I'm glad you're here, Mister Garak --”

"Why?" Garak's smug glint fixed itself on the Captain. "Surely you're not going to suggest Damar has had a change of heart and is going to be joining us after all?"

"I was explaining how some of this came about," O'Brien offered to Sisko's glance. "Didn't think it was in violation of any rule."

"As of 0900 tomorrow, Chief," Sisko verified. "Under no circumstances can any of the proceedings be discussed with anyone other than your designated assistant."

"Got it. Not that there's going to be that much to discuss."

"That will depend, of course," Sisko settled back on Garak, "on what Legate Damar intends to present."

"I see," Garak said tightly. "Not exactly the answer I preferred to hear."

"By way of his representatives," Sisko inclined his head. "Though, yes, Damar will be here throughout the conference."

"And you naturally want a guarantee of no trouble," Garak picked up his wine with a smile. "Well, trouble, Captain, unfortunately, could very well be largely a matter of opinion. From my point of view, I could be doing Cardassia a great service by executing our Emperor."

"As well as a great disservice to yourself," Sisko suggested.

"Again," Garak's smile remained, "largely a matter of opinion."

"I'll make it an order, if I have."

"Except you can't," Garak drained his wine. "I am a private citizen. The only recourse available to you is to arrest me -- after the fact. And only if someone complains."

"Garak…" Kira inclined forward in a surprising and extraordinary touching expression of sympathy.

"Extraordinary and equally ineffective," Garak advised her. "Not to be cold, Major, but I must say I find it interesting that you are so unaffected by Mister Damar's visit."

"I'm not unaffected. I'd give anything to have Damar never make it through that airlock alive. But I can't," she apologized. "I'm sorry, but I can't. Because I also have a duty and responsibility to Benjamin. To Shakaar --”

"And what about your duty to Ziyal?" Garak injected. "Sworn duty, I seem to recall. The entire point of having Ziyal live here on the station was for her own protection. To ensure her the opportunity to have a life. Instead, the delightful child was brutally murdered by Damar -- for sheer political greed, I am convinced. The same as I am convinced Damar never would have dared if Ziyal wasn't half Bajoran, which, of course, she was. Thanks to that delightful character of a father."

"And Ziyal," Kira agreed. "Especially Ziyal. So do you. Killing Damar isn't going to bring Ziyal back to life."

"Odd," Garak's thin smile returned, "but if I didn't know you better, Major, I'd say you sound as if you almost believe Damar's claims of improving the standard of life among those hundreds of thousands unfortunate enough to find themselves in Ziyal's position."

"I believe we can beat Damar at his own game. I believe, yes, the same as Benjamin, perhaps some good can come out of this."

"Good?" Garak's challenge was a short laugh. "What sort of good are you referring to? To the more liberal of my constituents who likewise believe in these sorts of fairy tales, Shakaar's refusal to attend the conference is a slap in the face. Not one to be remembered with fondness, only one to be overlooked for the moment. But then Damar's game for the time being, Major," he promised, "is an effort to obtain a license to spy. His proposed Consulate will be nothing more than a legalized Intelligence operation -- to be used against Bajor. Certainly not for her. You can't possibly be that naïve."

"Do you know that for a fact?" Julian questioned him, ever the liberal, no matter how foolishly.

"Of course I know it for a fact," Garak accepted a refill from Quark. "So does Captain Sisko…As does Captain Sisko," he toasted Sisko, "know he can't begin to insure Damar's safety aboard a station the size of this one. Any more than he can insure the safety of anyone associated with the conference. Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes, as well as races."

"So they do," Sisko said. "I want your word, Garak."

"That I will not be among their staggering numbers? That the bomb you hear exploding in Damar's quarters was not planted by me? Fine. You have it. No bomb, Captain. No phaser. No weapon of any sort. Just wishful thinking and hopeful prayer that Damar gets exactly what he deserves."

"I'll certainly support that," Bashir agreed. "At least the part about wishful thinking and hopeful prayer. What are you planning to do as far as personal security? Fair to say however unaware everyone might be as of today, by 0900 tomorrow morning that will have changed dramatically."

"So it will have," Sisko turned to Dax. "I've ordered you assigned to head up the security for the Bajoran representative and Kira."

"Me?" Dax was understandably surprised.

"I'll also support that," Bashir likewise contributed with a startled blink. "I would have thought nothing short of divorce would make Jadzia acceptable, and it would be a question even then -- On the basis of past associations," he grinned at her. "Highly regarded or not, Curzon was the Ambassador to the Klingon Empire."

"I don't give a damn what anyone considers acceptable," Sisko corrected.

"More of 'this is my station'," Dax's smile was understanding.

"So it is," Sisko turned to Worf. "You're assigned to head the security for Chief O'Brien and myself."

"As far as Emperor Damar and his team," Odo put in, "we've agreed to one personal assistant beyond the two conference representatives. The rest of the security staff will be Bajoran."

"Bajoran?" Bashir choked.

"Bajoran," Sisko said. "Therefore, if any of you see a Federation security uniform within fifty feet of you -- I suggest you duck."

"He's joking," Bashir promised Dax.

"I'm not so sure," Dax studied Sisko.

"Well," Bashir supposed then, "as long as no one borrows a Bajoran security uniform, we should be all set."

"Security is being provided jointly by Starfleet and Bajoran Special Forces on loan from the Bajoran military, in all seriousness, Doctor," Sisko smiled. "The uniform is Bajoran, and distinct to the occasion."

"Meaning you can't miss it," Kira offered. "It's bright yellow."

"Bright yellow?" Dax winced, thinking of the vibrant, sweeping line of violet Trill markings adorning her hairline and neck.

"Why?" Kira said. "You'll look fine."

"I'll hold you to that tomorrow," Dax nodded back.

"Yes," Worf was pensive. "Yellow would not be my first choice either."

"I don't know why not," Bashir grinned. "Jadzia's concern for her complexion is one thing. A seven foot Klingon canary is something else entirely."

"A little too something else," O'Brien was laughing to the point of coughing.

"You'll also be required to wear one, Doctor," Sisko enlightened Bashir.

"To blend in?" O'Brien gasped. "Or to assist in blinding the Maquis?"

"Oh, I would extend my concerns far beyond a resurgence of the Maquis," Garak cautioned. "The Bajoran-Cardassian issue lies very close to the hearts of the Bajoran world as a whole. It would be a lie to say otherwise."

"So it would be," Sisko was back to eyeing Bashir. "A love affair?"


"Doctor Janice Lange," Sisko prompted. "I had no idea."

"Oh," Bashir said. "Well, you won't be opening any old wounds, if that's a concern. Janice and I are quite good friends -- Or at least we parted friends," he smiled. "Who knows. She may decide otherwise and not even bother to speak to me."

"I can't imagine why," Sisko admitted.

"Neither can I," Bashir confided, borrowing his message cylinder back from Dax. "I wouldn't go as far as saying we ever discussed marriage…."

"Really," Sisko shook his head. "I truly had no idea."

"Neither did the rest of the Federation, the Cardassians or the Bajorans," O'Brien assured. "Face it, Julian, the better man was chosen for the job."

"Better man?" Sisko requested.

Worf sighed. "Doctor Bashir has decided his love affair precluded him from being an acceptable candidate for the position of Federation Consular representative."

"I see." Sisko believed he understood. "And, yes, it would have."

"If anyone was aware," O'Brien pointed out.

"Which, yes, someone may have been," Sisko agreed. "I simply meant it was not something that was brought to my attention."

"By the Federation, Cardassians, or the Bajorans," O'Brien nodded.

"No," Sisko smiled at Bashir for no reason other than he just smiled.

"Oh, well, it was quite a while ago, Captain," Garak hurried to offer in unnecessary defense of Julian. "Oh, yes, long before Julian came to us. The same as it is entirely possible Doctor Lange brought the point to the attention of the Bajoran Council of Ministers herself in her own initial screening. Very likely just as a matter of a routine listing of Federation associations, past or current."

"Long before?" Sisko's head was turning from Bashir to Kira frowning.

"Yes," Bashir said. "Twelve years as a matter of fact since our relationship. Why? Should it have made a difference to the Bajoran Counsel's decision?"

"Yes, well, notwithstanding Shakaar's potential interest in his representative's past and present Federation affiliations," Odo grunted, "why just might be Doctor Lange is twenty-four years old. Twelve years ago she would have been twelve years old -- if I have your Federation calendar right."

"Twelve --” The color drained from Bashir's face.

"Excuse me?" O'Brien's glass paused halfway to his lips.

"So much for those after school baby-sitting jobs." Kira picked up her coffee, satisfied the morals of her home world's representative weren't the only ones in question.

"No kidding," O'Brien said. "Excuse me? Twelve years old? Twelve Federation years old?"

"Oh, but -- " Bashir stammered.

"I should say," Garak was blinking at him. "Certainly, Julian, few cultures would find that to be acceptable, that's very true."

"It's disgusting," Quark snorted. "If not in poor taste."

"If not possibly still within the Federation's statute requirements for prosecution," Odo assured.

"Prosecution…" Bashir echoed.

"We'll have to check them, Constable," Sisko nodded.

"Check?" Bashir swallowed. "Oh, but that's absurd. I mean obviously --”

"Obviously Julian must have confused Shakaar's Doctor Lange with a different Doctor Lange," Dax generously extended Benjamin Bashir's message cylinder.

"Her grandmother," O'Brien chuckled.

"Yes, quite obviously I have," Bashir stared at the cylinder. "I'm not so sure about her grandmother…I mean, you can't be serious…Truthfully," he stared at Sisko, "you can't possibly think --”

"I don't know what to think," Sisko admitted. "We'll have to see."

"See?" Bashir repeated. "See what?"

"If she recognizes you, of course, Julian," Garak said.

"As in identifies you," the Chief chortled.

"Or if she ignores you," Worf huffed. "I am confused. Are you now saying you have no idea who this woman is?"

"Yes, I am saying that," Bashir nodded. "I am definitely saying that. The Janice Lange I know -- Or knew -- " he shook his head.

"Twenty-four years old?" O'Brien suddenly peered at Sisko. "Wait a minute. Are you telling me I'm going to be sitting across the table from some snot-nosed kid?"

"Three kids," Sisko's eyes twinkled. "Doctor Lange, Gul Dukat and his younger brother."

"Give me a beer," O'Brien thrust his glass at Quark. "Make it a real one. None of this watered down Bajoran synthale."

"Chief?" Sisko reminded how an open mind likewise would require a clear mind less than fourteen hours from then and counting.

"I've got twenty-four years of service under my belt -- more than twenty-four years," O'Brien pointed. "The last thing I need is to be under the gun of a bunch of kids who know everything and don't know anything…" he trailed off.

"Gul Dukat?" Garak filled in the blank quite nicely.

"I'm with you," Quark downed O'Brien's ale.

"Anon Dukat," Sisko informed his captivated audience. "Dukat's eldest son who yes, also happens to be approximately twenty-four years old -- if anyone's thinking of claiming to have had a love affair with him," his smile settled back on Bashir.

Bashir groaned. "I never claimed to have an affair with anyone."

"Words to the wise, Doctor," Sisko submitted, choosing to remain neutral himself, both as far as the subject matter, and Bashir's potential motives. Ones he suspected had more to do with Dax than feeling slighted by the Federation or the Bajoran Council of Ministers. But then Bashir not only had a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve, he also had a tendency to wear his ego. And Dax's marriage to Worf had been a distinct bruise to his ego, whether or not it truly affected his heart. "There's an old Earth saying I'm sure you have heard. 'Loose lips sink ships.' Mind what you say, in other words. Lest you find yourself speaking out of turn to someone's detriment, including your own."

The Captain was right, of course, in what he was saying and/or thinking. Bashir looked back at Sisko. Including that part about him being madly in love with Dax, if he was capable of being madly in love with anyone. Who knew; certainly not him. Frustrated and actually angry over her relationship with Worf one moment, he was equally disinterested and carefree about it the next. Teasing her about the potential for rekindling some long-lost relationship of his seemed like a good idea at the time he thought of it. A fair way of getting even for the occasional turmoil she persisted in invoking in him; it still seemed like a good and fair idea.

"Understood," Bashir picked up his wine in smiling agreement with Sisko. "On the other hand, however in error I obviously was in assuming a reunion with a former classmate of mine, I trust there's no objection to my making the acquaintance of this Doctor Janice Lange? Particularly since at age twenty-four, she's now of legal age?"

The Chief's last supper, as he had jokingly dubbed the gathering, was interrupted at that point. Sisko's response preempted by a call over his com badge from a security officer at one of the main docking bays.

"Captain?" the Lieutenant's voice rang clearly. "I have a Doctor Janice Lange who's just arrived by the local Bajoran shuttle. She's looking for -- " the officer's hesitation and confusion was equally clear. "The Cardassian conference?"

"Lange…" Kira startled. "What's he talking about? She's not supposed to be here…"

Sisko's uplifted hand stopped her to address the waiting security officer. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Major Kira and Commander Dax will be right there. Sisko out."

"Well," Dax stood up as Sisko signed off, "I hope no one minds that I'm in blue."

"It'll have to do," Sisko's nose wrinkled in reassurance. "Oh, and, Major?" he stopped Kira with a silent, pointed look of how diplomacy went a long, long way.

"I know," she got the message behind the look. "I would have been more surprised if it started out smoothly."

"Yes," Sisko nodded. "Yes."

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