TITLE: Interlude

Author: Valerie Shearer (thenightbird@earthlink.net)

Series: DS9

Part: New 1/1

Rating: PG Codes: Alternative history from "Purgatory"

Summary: What if Tain and company had sent their message, and nobody came?

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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Julian Bashir, Tain, Martok, Elim Garak, the Breen and Romulan Woman are property of Paramount Studios. I just gave the Romulan woman a name.

Interlude

by Valerie Shearer

The Ending ...

Julian sat hunched down on the cot, as far from the Jem'Hadar as he could get, watching as Tain's body was removed. Tain had died earlier that day, succumbing to the progressive heart disease Julian had not been allowed to touch. He didn't like the Cardassian, especially knowing what he did now. But he was a doctor, even if he was not permitted to be one here. He'd done the only thing left he could for Tain, and waited with his body until it was taken away.

He remembered that Garak had once told him about Cardassian rites for the dead, and their proscribed nature had surprised him. He guessed there would be none for Tain. For Garak's sake, he was sorry. But he had come to understand Garak much better since his imprisonment with Tain.

Before he died, Tain had asked for Garak. Julian had said Garak wasn't there, that no one had come, but Tain had seen him as the exiled tailor. He replied as he thought Garak might have. He had even managed to call the man "father". If he survived this place and made it home, he'd tell Garak how his father had died. But he would not mention the disappointment Tain had felt about his son, nor the great regret, just before Tain's death, that he should have killed the mother before Garak was born.

Julian felt nothing for the man, not now. He shared more with Garak than either of them had ever known. But he'd learned to forgive his own parents for what they'd done. He could not bring himself to forgive Tain.

They would miss the Cardassian, especially his talent for tinkering. The message had given Bashir and the others a measure of hope, and they waited for someone to come. He didn't know how long the hope could be sustained. But after being manhandled by the Jem'Hadar and put in isolation--especially since rations had been reduced once again--he clung to the little bit of hope that he would not die here.

Martok had been taken out again earlier that day. Eventually, he knew, the Klingon wouldn't come back, and Julian would especially miss him. He shared a secret bond with the others, but he considered Martok a friend. Somehow it surprised him that they had treated the Klingon's injury when the Jem'Hadar had destroyed his eye, since no medical care was available to the prisoners otherwise. But dead, he could not fight, so they had given him medical treatment. But for those without entertainment value there was no future.

And there *were* the secrets in the wall, still a potential danger. Every night he went to sleep wondering if something had betrayed them and they would be dead by morning. The Jem'Hadar had searched the room several times since, and found nothing. But it still haunted his dreams. Now that Tain was dead, nothing more could be done. His death had ended that dream, but not the fear.

Certain that the Jem'Hadar were gone, he went out himself. Their last rations for the day would be handed out soon and he needed to get in line. He found Stilea and pushed his way in, ignoring the glares of the others behind him. "He's gone," he told the Romulan woman. "They took him out just before I left."

She nodded, both watching as the Jem'Hadar wandered around nearby. "Something's up," she said.

He'd noticed, after leaving for rations, that there were more guards than usual and they were paying more attention. He guessed that she shared his own fear that perhaps the signal had been detected, but not its source. He wished they dared open the wall again and make sure it was silent. If anyone was going to hear it and act on it they would have by now.

He could not dismiss the nervous feel of the other prisoners as he retrieved his food, noting it had held at the same insufficient level at least. Following the Romulan woman, they headed for a less crowded place. But the bell dinged and there was an announcement that all prisoners were to assemble immediately.

They waited, nervous over the unusual timing. If the Vorta took his time, it probably meant another surprise inspection of the barracks. But Deyos was impatient this time. He surveyed his prisoners with the usual disdain. Once he had their attention, he gave his first order, "All Cardassian prisoners step forward."

A hesitant line of Cardassians soon stood in front of the others. He addressed them directly. "I am pleased to announce that all hostilities between our peoples have ended. As of today Cardassia has joined the Dominion. Therefore you're all being sent home." They looked at each other, and Julian thought they still didn't entirely believe the Vorta. "Congratulations on your new status as Dominion citizens." The Cardassians wandered forward, still not confident they could go. They walked away, still nervous, following the Jem'Hadar. He watched as they disappeared, and thought to himself that if Tain had managed to live a few more days he might have died a free man. Julian had come to appreciate that idea.

The Cardassians having left, the Vorta stood back, and Ikat'ika came forward. "All remaining prisoners will return to their barracks immediately," he ordered. His rations still in his hand, Julian hurried back to barracks 6 as soon as they were dismissed. A quick check of the room was made, and nothing appeared to have been moved. He checked his box of supplies, all of them worried about the new developments. A few minutes later, two Jem'Hadar verified everyone was there. The door was shut and locked.

No one slept that night, and they were careful not to mention the danger hiding in the wall. But in the morning the door opened and someone was shoved inside. The door shut behind him. The inmates quietly looked him over, suspicious, but if he was a plant he was doing an excellent job of acting. He was young, and most notably, human. He wore a Starfleet uniform of a design Julian hadn't seen before.

He looked around at the others, noticing the empty cot, and sat. There was no blanket. It had been secreted away, lest the Jem'Hadar take it. The new arrival just stared at the amalgam of alien faces. He settled on Julian, worried but a bit less nervous.

The others had all sat up, and unspoken glances ended in Julian's approaching the man. He stood back, not coming close enough to touch. "Do you know where you are?" he asked.

"An internment camp, I don't remember which one. They told us but I wasn't listening to that part." He sounded utterly stunned and scared.

"Where were you when they took you?" Julian continued.

The young man looked at him blankly. "On our ship. Don't you know war has started?"

There was almost an audible feeling of defeat in the room. Julian, keeping himself under control, asked slowly, "How did it start?"

"They tried to blow up our fleets at the wormhole, but it didn't work, and things took off on their own after that." He looked at them, noting Julian's uniform. "You've been here a little while."

Julian was having trouble keeping control of his voice. The emotions in his head were too strong to sound calm anymore. "What happened at DS9?"

His piercing gaze must have unnerved the new prisoner, who was squirming. "We ... heard there was a changeling. Rumor was somebody important."

Julian's voice became very soft, tinged with horror. "What did he do?" he almost whispered.

The young man gulped, intimidated by his audience. "I don't know. But it didn't work. He got found out and they killed him."

Julian had retreated to his bed and collapsed. Martok took over, eyeing the young man with his one-eyed gaze and making him squirm more. "This war," said the Klingon, "how is it going?"

Julian could hear the bitterness in Martok's voice. Another changeling impersonator had tried to start a war. He remembered when he'd told the Klingon about the activity of the Martok- changeling, and understood the helpless feeling. This dead changeling must have been acting in his name. He was relieved the changeling had been foiled, but devastated to learn what he had done. Just as they had assumed Martok dead, his own death would be expected. He doubted even with the message that they would ever look for him now. He shrank down the wall, staring at the closed and still locked door.

Martok was asking questions of the stunned and intimidated young man, but Bashir wasn't really listening. He'd been obsessed by his double's activities at first, but it had faded when faced with daily reality. Now he knew something of what the changeling had tried. It couldn't be denied anymore. He had to know what had happened to the station. He sat up, and Martok nodded. In a quiet, haunted voice Julian asked the young man, "What about the station?"

"We lost it. It was evacuated, but they control the wormhole now."

Silence descended on the room. They all knew the Dominion could supply itself forever if they had the wormhole. Martok sat down, giving Julian a look of understanding. "We should blood screen you, just to be sure," said the Klingon, but his thunder was gone.

Once that was done, the room grew quiet again. The door was still locked. There was no breakfast. The Breen rose and handed the young man the hidden blanket. The new prisoner wrapped it around himself, suddenly shivering. Nobody could think of anything more to say.

That evening, the doors were opened and they were allowed to get a meal. There were no extra rations to replace those they had missed while the doors were locked. It was unclear if rations had been further cut or not. Julian had drifted into the line, lost in his own misery. The Cardassians were gone, but others had replaced them. The Starfleet people were nervous and stunned, captured just at the war's start. Julian watched, distantly, as they took their food and wandered away, remembering his first few days in this place.

Julian no longer cared if anyone at home heard Tain's message. Even if it had reached Garak, he and the others were already lost too far behind enemy lines. If the Federation won the war they might go home some day, but that was too distant a possibility to give him much hope. Nor could he contemplate spending the rest of his life in this place. He forced himself to think about tomorrow instead, hoping there would be more rations than today. Perhaps the new prisoners would have more news of home. He did not dare think too far ahead of now. It was too painful.

He found a quiet place to eat, not wishing any company. When he returned to his barracks, the cots had been pushed together and several more added. There would be others soon. He would talk to Martok about the wall when he returned. While the new prisoner was occupied elsewhere, he would disable the transmitter. The opener would be hidden far away from their barracks, and the message would not be spoken of again.

He lay back on his cot, letting his mind drift. Somewhere starships and their crews might be fighting and dying in space, while the admirals in their well-defended boardrooms were planning strategies of survival. That was their war. But for he and the others that was done and a much harder one had begun.

The Beginning ...