"So?" Legate Damar, Gul Dukat's one time Lieutenant, turned Ruler of Cardassia in his former Emperor's unavoidable absence, irritably tossed the notice of Sisko's and Kira's respective appointments back towards the officer who brought it, a heavy scowl creasing his prominent face. "What do I care? Eh?" He rose from his slumped position under the watchful eye of his assistant to clap his hand around the shoulder of young Gul Dukat dutifully studying his Emperor's proposal as they sat in the commissary aboard their battle cruiser en route to Deep Space Nine, Pfrann bristling immediately in apprehension as the hand touched his brother.
"Do you care?" Damar ignored the nervous child to flash a facetious smile over Dukat ignoring him as always.
Anon continued to ignore Damar to Pfrann's mixed feelings of concern and relief, finishing his study of the page he was reading he rose to his feet, Pfrann immediately falling in step next to him.
"Dukat," Damar forestalled the defiant exit.
It was a long moment before Anon consented to turning back around, expressionless and silent in his stance.
"If you could," Damar's thick neck swayed forward in a movement reminiscent of Dukat the father, the voice laden with stark, glib sarcasm, "see to pretend your obedience, you'll find it most appreciated."
"I didn't punch him," Anon remarked finally in the turbolift with his brother.
"Why would you even think to punch him?" Pfrann groaned.
"Because I don't like him," Anon shrugged.
"It is not your position to like or dislike him. Anon!" Pfrann's hand went to his head, exhausted and confused by more than why they were even here.
"What you confuse is blindness with love," Anon reminded. "I don't have to be our father to honor him, or bring him justice. Walk in his footsteps of these constant games and you'll make yourself dizzy. I don't have the time."
"No!" Pfrann refused. "No, you abuse his memory with your arrogance! You mock him!"
"Abuse," Anon scoffed. "I don't abuse anything Dukat didn't abuse himself."
"That is a lie!" Pfrann grabbed at him in fury.
"No, it isn't a lie!" Anon pushed him away with a snap. "The same as it is a fact that regardless of Emperor Dukat's motives, his views, his personal quests, he was right! No one can deny that. The Klingons were destroying the Union. They had to be stopped! The Dominion was a chance. The Romulans. Not the Federation whose boots Damar bends to lick to secure his own position, not Cardassia's! The UFP will do nothing to assist us, as they did nothing throughout the Klingon war. We must infuse power back into ourselves as our father attempted to do.
"But we must do it this time," he shook the data padd at his brother. "Not play games with fifty year old grandfathers no one cares anything about. We must redefine the Union. Prevent a new civilian revolt which will only weaken us further -- again! When we need to grow strong!"
"Anon!" Pfrann grabbed his wrist.
"Not waste our time seeking revenge on a world of monks too arrogant to bow their heads," Anon insisted. "Our father had to be out of his mind to threaten the Federation with the Dominion at his side only five minutes!"
"But this is an Intelligence network," Pfrann snatched the padd from his hand. "If we are to protect ourselves from a renewed Klingon threat, the Federation is our best source of information. They tell the Bajorans everything!"
"Who Dukat should have threatened was Gowron," Anon spit the Klingon Chancellor's name coldly. "Demanded the immediate release of all occupied territories, or the home world attacked would be Qo'noS, not Bajor. What could the Federation have said to him? No? You have to continue to allow the Klingons to annex your space? From the Neutral Worlds, to the Ferengi Alliance, to their own delegates -- to Bajor, they would have turned from staring at Legate Dukat to staring at the UFP."
"Anon!" Pfrann insisted.
"I didn't say it wasn't a good idea," Anon snatched the padd back. "I said the issue of the Bajoran-Cardassian population is self-explanatory by their existence. We don't have to spend a week dancing like fools to justify our petition. They are our people. We want a Consult on their world. Two sentences, Pfrann! Not a data bank!" he flung the padd across the lift. "They can't deny them a voice in their own government. Representatives in the Council. Force them to choose between one world and another. Not the Federation or Bajor. Attempt to and they are in violation of their own articles. Organize them, and the new uprising will be on Bajor, not Cardassia Prime!"
"Is that why you agreed to represent Damar's proposal?" Pfrann stared at him in revelation.
"I agreed," Anon heaved a breath, "because I like to watch Damar make a fool out of himself. I like the looks when I and you walk across the Council floor. We are reminders. We are memories….We are!" he seethed, "Dukat! Damar is nothing but the man who follows behind Dukat's footsteps, in his footsteps, because he has no idea how to make his own! The tool he seeks to use is the tool he needs and it is Dukat. The voice that speaks. The face you see…"
The face he saw was his father's, his brother's. One older, one so much younger. Gaunt. Sharp. Angular. Mocking when it wanted to be. Glib. Sneering. Vicious. Afraid. Whatever it wanted to be. Thought it needed to be. Fearful that it had to be. They were one and the same. Physically and emotionally, and so oblivious to just employing common sense in so many ways.
"Yes, Pfrann," Anon nodded, "if we are to protect ourselves against a renewed Klingon threat we need to reestablish our Intelligence networks now. And the Federation is a reliable source who tells the Bajorans everything. The Cardassian-Bajoran orphans are perfect. They are not all fifty year old grandfathers with children of their own having children. Some of them are six. Some of them are two. Some of them are being born as we speak. Ignorant. Suppressed. Denied. We are there to relieve, not coddle them. We are there to uphold, not support them -- We are there!" he seized Pfrann, "to install an Intelligence cell which we will do! Damn the Federation, Shakaar and this Kira Nerys!"
"Do you even realize who Kira Nerys is?" Pfrann ventured cautiously.
The question provoked silence.
"Anon?" he said as Anon released him to collect his data padd from the floor.
"Yes, of course, I realize who she is," Anon fingered the padd. "I pay attention even if you don't think I do."
"I can never tell with you," Pfrann shook his head.
"The same as I realize I am more interested in Captain Sisko than some concubine of Legate Dukat," Anon straightened up to recast a smile in his brother's direction. "And of the terror that must have reverberated through the Federation Assembly when they found out the Cardassian representatives bore the name Dukat. We are significant enough that they would in moments cast aside Shakaar's insistent of unbiased arbitration that they have staunchly upheld for three months and insist we participate. Damar is nothing. I say it. You say it. And now the Federation is saying it. They are terrified of us. Thinking what we might do. What we could do. They want to know everything that is in our minds today, and what might enter our minds tomorrow. You call it abuse when I accept the power bestowed on us by others in our father's name. You call it denial when I reject his shadow. Make up your mind, you can't have it both ways."
"I bear his curse of indecisiveness," Pfrann acknowledged.
"Only if you want to," Anon promised. "With Sisko there the Federation representative is nothing more than a puppet. The conference is now between us and the Federation. Us, Pfrann. Which is what we want because we are Cardassia. In control, not out of control. Our presentation firm, decisive. Emphatic, not sarcastic. Damar, like an idiot willing cast himself in the background, where he will be lost. Where he will stay lost. Yes, I know who Kira Nerys is. A desperate attempt to re-equalize the footing Shakaar lost when he declined Damar's invitation, sending some stupid Neutral in his place….It's perfect, Pfrann," he exited the lift to stride across the bridge of his battle cruiser and assume command. "I really can't see how much more perfect it could get -- ETA to Terok Nor?"
"Thirty minutes," his helm reported. "Still no sign of any Federation patrol."
"See what I mean?" Anon grinned up at his brother. "Send a transmission we will be requesting permission to dock."
"We are several hours early," Pfrann reminded. "They may deny it."
"Bullshit," Anon scoffed, confident. "Sisko finds his seat in our father's office too comfortable to leave the sons of Legate Dukat hovering around the station in a battle cruiser with nothing but time on their hands. He'd rather have us in his nest as quickly as possible where he can watch us."
"Kira Nerys?" Shakaar's representative was an attractive young woman overflowing with vibrancy, dressed in a simple understated tunic of beige cloth, hearty smile, emerald green eyes -- and the biggest head full of snarled and mottled brown hair Dax had ever seen on a Human in her life.
"What?" Kira's face contorted.
"Sorry," Dax winced in whispered apology as Kira's expression of bewilderment moved from staring at her hand being vigorously pumped up and down to staring up at Dax.
"Yes, I'm Major Kira Nerys," Kira gave up on Dax to focus on…
"Janice Lange," Janice turned her warm and generous smile from Kira to Dax. "You must be Jadzia Dax. Adon told me to expect you."
"Well, Adon is one up on me," Kira muttered under her breath. Not that she meant to be catty, or to infer Doctor Lange's suggestion of familiarity by her use of First Minister Shakaar Adon of Bajor's first name might tug at her heart strings.
Anymore than Dax had meant to be catty about the doctor's eye-catching impersonation of a wide-eyed homeless waif that wasn't eye-catching, except to possibly a man.
Most men. Klingons included. "Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax, yes," Dax smiled in return with an added witty hint. "But you don't really see me. I'm not really here."
"Oh, but you are here," Janice laughed. "I can see you."
"Yes…" Dax's look at Kira was blatant that time. Her unspoken message clear. Doctor Janice Lange either had her own healthy sense of humor to go with her healthy smile or she was a Dabo hostess in disguise. The choice was Kira's.
Kira chose to clear her throat rather briskly, her innate Bajoran reserve around strangers piqued and mildly flustered by the outgoing young woman…
With the biggest head full of hair Kira had ever seen on a Human in her life. Kira stared briefly at the massive, long brown mane heavily streaked with stripes of gold before she just shook her head and refocused on Doctor Janice Lange the person, not the hair, who was not supposed to be there never mind Dax.
Kira frowned. "You're early."
"I am?" Janice said. "Oh, well, that explains it," she smiled at her newly acquired dear friend Tom, better known to Kira and Dax as security officer Lieutenant Jacobs, standing there with a stupefied grin on his face.
"Well, of course it explains it," Kira gestured impatiently back toward the airlock. "Adon -- First Minister Shakaar," she immediately checked her own familiarity to fairly accuse Lange of attempted espionage, "was supposed to provide priority escort. You were supposed to arrive by escort tomorrow morning. Not by -- by --”
"Local passenger shuttle," Dax volunteered, "tonight."
"Oh," Janice smiled.
And that was all she smiled. Or said. Dax had her suspicions if she and Kira chose to stand there for forty-five minutes that was all Doctor Janice Lange would have smiled. Or said as far as arriving twelve hours early by local shuttle.
Kira huffed. "Didn't Shakaar explain -- arrange all of this?"
"No," Janice shook her head. "He just pointed me in the direction of the shuttle port and -- wait a minute," she paused to think about it for a moment. "Maybe I did misunderstand. Because yes, he also mentioned something about a restaurant, but I was just thinking I could always eat when I arrived here…"
"Never mind," Kira settled the matter with a decisive slice of her hand through the air. "It's not important. What is important…" she took a deep breath, "is you're here. Yes, you're here," she broke into her own warm and welcoming smile with a warm and welcoming grasp of Doctor Lange's hand.
That she promptly proceeded to shake. Dax turned away with another wince.
"Yes, I'm Kira Nerys," Kira assured, "and this is Jadzia Dax, and we would both like to officially welcome you to Deep Space Nine."
"I guess so," Janice laughed.
"What?" Kira said through her smile that she knew was glued and fixed.
"We just did all of this," Janice nodded at her hand.
"Oh," Kira glanced down. "Oh, well, we're all just a little excited," she went on to dismiss, casually that time with another wave.
"Oh, yes, it is very exciting," Janice exuded her support of Kira's enthusiasm. "Could one of you do me a really big favor?"
"Anything," Kira swore. "Anything at all."
"Where can I find a toilet?" Janice whispered, slightly embarrassed.
"A what?" Kira's smile slackened.
"There were these two little twins on the shuttle," Janice confided. "The cutest little girls --”
"That way," Kira interrupted to point. "Yes, that way."
"Thank you." Janice gratefully hurried off, leaving Kira and Dax free to mull over a few things.
"A toilet," Kira said. "She asked for a toilet."
"Yes," Dax nodded.
"She's twelve hours early and she asks for a toilet!" Kira gestured in disbelief. "Why didn't she just use the toilet on the shuttle?"
"Probably something to do with the two adorable little twins," Dax nodded.
"What?" Kira said.
"Maybe they were sick?" Dax shrugged.
"Sick," Kira said. "Sick," she looked down at the two enormous canvas duffels Lange had she left behind. "She called him Adon," she admitted finally, studying the luggage with a concentrated frown on her face alongside Dax studying the luggage with her hands clasped behind her back, her expression a blend of relaxation and mildly pensive thought.
"Yes, she did," Dax agreed with Kira's notice.
"Not that I care she called him Adon," Kira assured how she didn't care. Her year long personal relationship with Shakaar had ended amicably well over a year ago.
"No, of course you don't," Dax agreed.
"Of course I don't," Kira descended on the duffels to give one of them a hard yank. It didn't move. "What does she have in here?" She returned to frowning at the luggage that had to weigh several kilos more than she did.
"I wouldn't think clothes," Dax agreed.
"Clothes?" Kira said.
"She seems somewhat natural," Dax referenced Lange's simple beige tunic with its matching cloth hose dangling freely from its short hem line; her feet comfortable in flat, cloth slippers.
"Well, she's young," Kira shrugged.
"Very young," Dax nodded.
"Poised though," Kira extended. "Confident."
"Though I wouldn't necessarily go as far as saying relaxed," Dax considered.
"No, neither would I," Kira assured.
They fell into silence again briefly until Kira gestured in a general reference to her hair. "What's all that…"
"Yellow?" Dax smiled. "I'm not sure. Cosmetic, I would imagine."
"Cosmetic," Kira thought about that as well as the snarled mane that would break a steel comb if it had ever seen a comb.
"Worf will love it," Dax acknowledged wistfully.
"Worf," Kira snorted. "I can just see Bashir."
"And the Chief," Dax nodded.
"Quark," Kira assured.
"Benjamin?" Dax frowned just slightly.
"No," they both decided. Benjamin Sisko was a very solid man. Sober-minded and sensible.
"So's Worf," Kira reminded.
"True," Dax agreed.
"And the Chief is really also," Kira felt.
"Yes," Dax believed so, too.
"Actually," Kira rolled her eyes, "the only one we really have to be concerned about --”
"Is Julian," Dax reached down to swing one of the duffel's over her shoulder. "Rocks, maybe?"
"I was thinking souvenirs."
Dax laughed. "From the Council of Ministers? Or the Bajoran National Treasury?"
"You're security," Kira waved.
"All right, fine," Kira surrendered. "We won't look, we'll ask first, and then we'll look."
"Sounds fair," Dax considered. "After all we can't start out blatantly accusing…" she eyed Kira attacking the second duffel.
"In another life, maybe. I don't have time to be fair." Kira briskly flipped open the duffel to reveal an extensive collection of data. "The Bajoran-Cardassian Peace Accord?"
"Reference material?" Dax surmised.
"Well, I know Bareil was prolific," Kira tentatively admitted. "Wait a minute…" she dug through the duffel Dax was holding, ultimately surrendering in exasperation. "She has a whole Library here! From the Prophets to the First Hebitian Society to Vulcan's first contact with the Federation!" She tossed that one back in with disgust.
"You know what's worst of all?" Dax suggested.
"She seems pleasant enough," Kira sighed.
"Yes. I have a feeling she is. Though I'm not quite sure what that means as far as her capabilities."
"Or if it means anything at all." Kira tried not to think about what might have swayed Shakaar's decision if it wasn't Lange's diplomatic skills.
"We'll find out," Dax smiled in the direction of Janice on a fast pace back to them.
"Oh, for goodness sake," Janice laughed to Dax standing there weighted down by the combined Libraries of three worlds, "you can't lift that."
"Oh, but I did lift it," Dax twinkled back. "As you can see."
"Yes, I guess that's true. You're certainly much stronger than I am…" Janice expression of merriment included Kira standing there with the strap of the second duffel in her hand like she was getting ready to take it for a walk. "I just usually drag them."
"I was just waiting…" Kira explained.
"I don't blame you," Janice grabbed for the strap. "I wouldn't have bothered except I wasn't quite sure of the data facilities available…"
"Extensive," Kira gave her a hand with tugging her duffel along. "Yes, we have an extensive Library of data --”
"Even on worlds outside of the Federation?"
"Well, yes," Kira hesitated, not quite sure if Lange was making a point or just asking a question. "DS9 is a Bajoran station, not Federation. And it does pride itself on being a gateway between Bajoran and Federation space. As well as the Gamma Quadrant, Cardassia --”
"Yes," Janice nodded, "I understand from Adon the station played a very significant role throughout the Dominion-Federation War, as well as the Cardassian-Klingon Conflict."
"Yes, well, unfortunately, the station's strategic --”
"Strategic," Janice stopped with a distant smile. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the station's strategic location mandated it be a gateway between Bajoran and Federation Space? As well as the Gamma Quadrant and Cardassia for the purpose of science and exploration? Commerce and trade?"
"In whose lifetime?" Kira's reply was curt. "No, I'm sorry," she apologized a moment later. "I shouldn't have said it that way."
"You don't believe Legate Damar is sincere in his proposal, do you?" Janice nor her smile were offended.
"No," Kira answered honestly. "But it's not my place to comment on Legate Damar, or his proposal. I'm simply here as an advisor on the Prophets' teachings -- or Bareil's principles," she indicated the luggage. "If you have any questions…"
"Oh, yes, I understand from Adon you knew Vedek Bareil personally. How wonderful for you."
"Yes," Kira nodded. "Yes, it was wonderful."
"But, I didn't know…" Janice frowned.
"That Kira had been appointed as your assistant advisor?" Dax suggested. "Even though Shakaar told you to expect us?"
"Well, no," Janice laughed. "How did you guess?"
"Because the Federation's decision just came through while you were en route."
"No!" Janice gasped in open-mouthed wonder.
"Yes!" Dax assured in equal animation.
"Why?" Kira just said.
"Why?" Janice blinked. "Because you're perfect!"
"Perfect," Janice happily gave her duffel a tug, starting off again. "From your experiences during the occupation…to your work with the Bajoran-Cardassian war orphans…"
"Wait a minute…" Kira stopped her.
"To your personal knowledge of Vedek Bareil," Janice beamed.
"Bareil, I can help you with. Any questions you may have concerning the Prophets. But as far as my experiences in the Resistance?" Kira looked at Lange tenderly because, yes, she decided she liked Doctor Janice Lange. She had a very good feeling about her. Very comfortable. She was very young. Obviously very enthusiastic. Possibly a little bit overwhelmed. Possibly just a little nervous. "Or my experiences at all? I can't discuss them with you. Don't misunderstand me, I would love to. But the Federation and Bajoran Councils agreeing to my appointment as assistant is not a license to direct you in any way. Shakaar was adamant about using a Neutral for the very reason you are neutral. I'm not. I'm Bajoran."
"Oh," Janice said.
"But that's good," Kira promised, a legitimate smile on her face as her hands clasped the young woman's shoulders. "That's wonderful. Because you can see things that I can't. You can…" she said with a trailing glance over that simple beige tunic Janice wore. "Where are your clothes?"
"My clothes?" Janice repeated.
"Your clothes. You're going to be here for a week. The only thing Dax and I found…"
"I've been appointed Chief of Security for the Bajoran side," Dax clarified her role as Janice glanced from the duffel she and Kira were dragging to the one Dax was carrying.
"They're on the shuttle," Janice nodded.
"The shuttle?" Kira blinked.
"I guess I forgot about them," Janice admitted.
"You forgot -- your clothes?" Kira started to laugh. "You remembered all of this…"
"Not too bright, huh?" Janice bit back her own giggle. "Is there anyway we can stop it? Is it still here?"
"The shuttle?" Kira looked at Dax. "No…We can try to get them back for you some time tomorrow…"
"Oh, tomorrow will be fine," Janice assured. "I'll just wear this."
"No, you can't wear that," Kira shook her head.
"I can't?" Janice looked down at her comfortable tunic.
"No!" Kira scoffed. "You wore it on the shuttle, didn't you?'
"Don't worry about it," Kira gave the duffel a tug to get it going. "We have replicators… We have shops…"
"We have Garak," Dax nodded. "Do you have an expense account?"
"An expense…" Janice started to say.
"Garak?" Kira grimaced.
"It'll give him something to do," Dax grinned.
"Point," Kira pointed with a nod for Janice. "And we have Garak. Don't worry about anything."
"Oh," Janice said. "All right," she shrugged, "if you say so."
"I say so. In the meantime we can take care of your medical screening --”
"All members of the conference are required to have a medical screening by Doctor Bashir prior to opening the proceedings," Kira explained. "It's for you own benefit as well as ours. You'd want to know if you were carrying any viruses or illnesses, wouldn't you? The same as we would want to know."
"Oh, well, I have my medical clearance from Bajor…" Janice reached for her duffel.
Kira stopped her. "We also want to make sure you are who you say you are. Captain Sisko's orders."
"Security procedures," Janice got it. "I think."
"Security," Kira nodded. "I wouldn't worry about it. It's pretty painless."
"Pretty painless?" Janice shivered. "I'm not so sure I like the sound of that."
"Julian will be taking a blood and DNA sample for analysis as precaution," Dax said.
"What sort of precaution that can't be determined by a non-evasive screening?" Janice frowned. "I'm quite serious. I really don't think I like the sound of what you're saying."
"That you're not a Changeling," Dax smiled. "We could always hit you with a dose of radiation if you prefer --”
"Or we could force feed you," Kira interjected.
"Force feed me?" Janice repeated.
"I wonder why the UFP never thought of that?" Dax agreed.
"I don't know," Kira shrugged.
"Probably comes under humane statutes," Dax offered Janice. "Changelings don't have digestive systems -- or any type of system common to humanoid races. Any solid form they present is the form they take on at the moment."
"Yes, I know," Janice assured. "Their natural state is a formless jell-like substance. They're extraordinarily advanced telepathically with the common element they call The Great Link which basically unites them as one."
"That's about the size of it," Kira agreed sourly when they entered Quark's and twelve chairs appeared from nowhere. Yanked out from tables, from behind pillars, as that common element called Male rose to their feet in a united wave amid a chorus of, "Oh, here."
And one deep, reverberating, "Glorious," in a monotone Dax knew well.Benjamin, on the other hand, found himself restricted to, "Um, ump, ah!" As he attempted to swallow what he was eating, clear his throat, and leap to his feet at the same time.