Chapter 07: Questions
The atmosphere in the holding cell did not improve. Odo continued to match witty jabs with Quark, who had now given Xakais a wide berth. The Romulan sat in detached silence, feigning sleep with the hope that he would overhear something useful. Unfortunately the only knowledge he assimilated in that time was a colorful menagerie of Ferengi curses.
The second day passed without incident. There was a three-shift guard rotation at 0600, 1400 and 2200 hours. Meals were provided at 0800, 1300 and 1800 and were basic nutritional supplements somewhat lacking in aroma, though to be fair he had been in worse prisons. He was even furnished with a pad of Romulan literature to read: Vehe'rr lhlan the "Non-Apology". Perhaps Odo thought it was ironic, or else it was a form of cruel and unusual punishment to read the tr'Ehhelih's drivel.
"All of Romulus's problems are our own fault," Xakais thought, scanning through the slanderous tome. "Or, in other words 'we are blameless, you did this to yourself'."
Then again Thokeem had always been an admirer of tr'Ehhelih's work. He considered it the work of the Tal Shiar to correct the problems that the Star Empire held from within. The old gray-hair had seen much in his time. He had even told Xakais stories about his encounters with the USS Enterprise when he was just a legionary. It was true that nothing Thokeem had told him about his engagements with the famous Captain Kirk were anything that could not be studied in public Romulan records, but if they were fabrications, they were well-researched ones. Thokeem was pushing two-hundred ten. Xakais felt a brief grip of panic at the thought that sometime within the next score years his last surviving kin would be gone and all he would have left would be the Tal Shiar.
And Somee, perhaps.
Still, Thokeem's time was over. It was up to him to secure a future for his generation. He believed in the work of the Tal Shiar, but he would not be taken in by the propaganda. The Romulan Star Empire was strong. Its strength came from its people and heritage and it did not need to make any petty deals, be they Dominion or Starfleet.
The non-aggression pact with the Dominion was wise. It made it perfectly clear to the entire Quadrant that they would not be pulled into the fray of a Federation war just because of some perceived idyllic sense of Quadrant loyalty. The Romulans were not a failing civilization; certainly nothing like the Klingons. Not when they abandoned their savage desire for conquest because of one minor setback at Khitomer.
Xakais frowned as he remembered this majestic blunder. There could be no mistake, the Romulan attack at Khitomer had crippled the Klingons. It forced them to turn to a hated enemy for succor. Their spirit had been broken, yes. But the alliance with the Federation had also made them stronger as a whole. The unification of the two had taken something fundamental from the weaker of the pair. Even now Kronos was rife with petty in-fighting.
In that way, the Federation were not so different form the Borg. At least the Borg were direct with their intent to assimilate a culture. Their biological and technological distinctiveness added to the collective, and the irrelevant bits written off. How convenient that Sisko should be worshiped as a God by the Bajorans. Never before had Starfleet been given so ample an opportunity to exploit a people.
His mind wandered in this way for the first few days, but on the sixth he began to consider his contingencies. Clearly Somee had not been able to secure his release, though the Romulan ship may not have even made it to the station yet. There was a brief moment of hope when Sisko himself returned around midday to speak with Odo. However this was only to make arrangements for the security of Kai Winn who would be coming to the station. Apparently there was some pressing matter regarding an ancient Bajoran artifact. The Captain was in such a fervor that he did not even take notice of Xakais.
Time was moving on without him. The only relief he got was when Odo came in on the seventh day to release Quark with the promise of his "good behavior". Quark delivered a parting shot to Xakais by way of another quotation.
"Rule of Acquisition number 208," Quark recited. "Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer."
Maybe this was his answer. He had laid his cards on the table prematurely, and was now stuck waiting in a holding cell. His fate was completely in the hands of others. It was an uncomfortable place to be at the best of times. Paranoia was slowly setting in; an emotion never far from the mind of any living Romulan. What if Somee had been unsuccessful? What if she had been neutralized by covert Starfleet operatives?
What if he had been betrayed?
All the possibilities, each equally likely until evidence to the contrary was obtained – quite impossible in his current predicament – spelled doom for him. Of all the places he could be right now, he had chosen to let the hill he die on be that on a crackpot theory for which nobody would remember him. Or worse yet, that would be all they would remember him for.
Yes, that was it. He would go down as "that former Tal Shiar agent who went behind the backs of the organization and died alone in Federation space. For nothing."
It was 0400 on the eighth day. Still and quiet, with the bulkhead lighting dimmed to make sleep easier, the brig was uncommonly peaceful. The realization was sinking in that the only two people in this room now were the night watchman and Xakais.
The watchman was a peculiar fellow. He was a bit old to only hold the rank of Crewman, a crew cut slice of greying hair framing his rigid features. Age had scarred his features only slightly, giving his forehead lines that would impress a Klingon. Every night for the past three this man had been here and he had been intently watching Xakais, even as he pretended to sleep. And now the two were alone.
He sat hungrily waiting for something. This was no man, he was a predator. There was something in his eyes that brought primordial terror to Xakais' heart. Perhaps the solitude and monotony were getting to him.
With a slight huff of exertion, the watchman stood up and tapped a few commands on the console, lowering the force field to the cell.
"Am I being released?" Xakais asked, attempting to sound bored.
"In a manner of speaking," the watchman replied calmly.
With a quick flurry the guard drew his phaser and fired at Xakais who had ducked out of the way by the thinnest of margins. Another shot went out from the Phaser, this time hitting the back wall. In a panic Xakais had lunged forward and tackled the watchman, attempting the pry the phaser from his hand.
The vermilion beam of a second Federation phaser narrowly missed Xakais as it hit the imposter square in the chest. He slumped over, unconscious but still breathing. The Romulan whirled around ready to handle a second assailant to see Odo, flanked by two members of Bajoran security.
"Well, well," Odo said, pacing casually over to the would-be assassin. "Seems you're quite popular these days."