An Alternate History of the Dominion War
Year 1 - Innocence
Part 4- Interesting Times
Willman was reminded of Bashir, trying to explain why he'd taken the device, when he sat across from Sisko. He should have destroyed the devices long before. Sisko's policy was simple. Contraband was to be eliminated when found. It could not be taken by someone else that way, and those who hid it remained unknown.
And Sisko was right. He didn't want to know who'd hidden the things, not anymore. He couldn't betray them when the time came to be tortured. He only hoped that Bashir hadn't doomed himself already.
Lonnie was a well trained medic, part of the way to being a doctor, but she didn't know enough yet. Over the remaining winter there wouldn't be time to train her, and come spring, the planting would again fill the hospital with a variety of infections.
Either he or Bashir had to survive. Given the rumors and Bashir's continuing restrictions, he was very afraid for his other doctor. The paperwork would back up the official reason, but he knew that Sisko wouldn't believe it.
If he didn't, Bashir might be the first to disappear.
Sisko was tired, and his look of resignation was all too obvious. Willman hated to make him feel worse.
"I've heard rumors," said Ben. Or could he be Ben today? Willman didn't much feel like being his friend Willy.
"Yes. It's true. Yesterday, I found two illegal medical devices hidden in the hospital. In the afternoon, the rest in the cave were destroyed."
Sisko wasn't in the mood to be Ben either. "I thought they had *already* been destroyed. I had your word on that. You claimed you'd destroy them quickly."
Willman understood how Bashir had felt, sitting on the floor with him standing over him, threatening doom. Sisko's policy was that mistakes of this sort were the responsibility of the department head.
"I did intend to," he said, thinking to himself that Bashir had said almost the same thing. It hadn't worked for him, either. "With the epidemic, and the aftereffects, and both of my staff doctors sick, there just wasn't time."
It was the truth. There hadn't been a moment to spare to go to the hills, and it would have been much too noticeable then.
"You understand that the failure to destroy the things, and the resulting loss of control is your responsibility."
"Yes. There is more. When I destroyed them, there were at least twelve devices missing."
Sisko stared at him with a flash of deep disappointment. Then he sighed. "And you have no idea where these things are."
"Since all of them were medical devices that only my staff would know about, I assume the missing things are with them, perhaps hidden in their quarters or the hospital."
Sisko's face became absolutely impassive. "I have the authority to institute a search of my own. All of your people would be required to leave both the hospital and their quarters without prior warning. All quarters would be throughly searched, including checking for hiding places in walls. In addition, each of your staff would be required to submit to an extensive personal search. The hospital itself would be sealed and everyone inside that wasn't part of your staff would face the same requirements."
Sisko paused, slumped, and pulled the baseball out of a drawer. "And anyone caught with contraband would be turned over to the Jem'Hadar. In our past experience with the Dominion, their captives were totally denied medical care. I would not be surprised if any and all supplies you receive would stop. Those on hand might be confiscated." He rolled the baseball around and stared at the wall. "It is what I *need* to do. It's probably the only thing He would accept. But if I do, we'll lose people we can't afford to. I have the same situation with Ag, though Blanchard is too sick to come. I've officially promoted Tarlan to his temporary replacement so someone can represent the department."
"Then do what you must," said Willman, wondering how many of his staff he would lose. He only hoped Bashir would not be taken as well. He didn't know if it would matter if they were denied the medicine and supplies they were allowed.
"It's not that simple," Sisko said quietly. "I'd have to order a colony wide search. We can't risk having medical care denied. And I don't know that it would keep them away anyway."
"Ben, " he said, now sure his friend had returned, "you have to do whatever will save the most. I've fought so many battles with Them this winter. Each patient I saved was a victory. But these things, they'll come if you don't get rid of them now. I've been there. You can't save all of them. Maybe the ones who took these things *deserve* to pay for it themselves."
Then Sisko put down the baseball. He straightened, looking Willman in the eyes. "I take it that includes a certain doctor."
Willman could play the same game. He didn't react. "I don't know who you mean. Bashir's on restrictions for taking drugs without permission."
Sisko studied him. "I know. You said you found *two* devices today. Are you sure you didn't find one of them a few weeks before?"
Willman wondered if he was being given a way out of the trap. "Actually I did. I marked it and put it back, hoping the guilty party would retrieve it. But nobody went near it and it was destroyed along with the rest. This rumor is just a rumor."
He knew Sisko was referring to the one about Bashir. Neither would put it into words. He watched as Sisko picked up the baseball and twirled it in his fingers. He watched Willman very carefully, as if deciding if he should officially believe him. Unofficially, both knew it was a lie.
Then he stopped playing with the ball, just holding it. "I'm relieved to hear that. Dr. Bashir can be difficult sometimes. I do hope he's learned his lesson."
Willman almost let down some of his guard. But he kept the relief to himself. "I certainly hope so. He's been very busy. I had to restrict him to one shift so he wouldn't work himself into another stay in bed."
"He does that." Ben appeared for a moment. "I hear he had a good walk yesterday."
Willy shrugged. "We got all the casaba leaves we could. I just happened to have the time to go and get them. He's pretty sore today, but doing better."
Sisko collapsed in his chair. Willy picked up the baseball as it rolled along the desk. "I can't force a search. I can't cross that line. But you have to find these things. Maybe somebody can help."
He meant Bashir. Sisko must have gathered that he helped with the devices. At least the one he'd stolen was gone now and he might be able to redeem himself. He could tell both of them were relieved about that one.
"I'll be holding a disciplinary meeting soon. It's going to heavily effect both yours and Tarlan's departments. But keep this to yourself."
Willy rolled the baseball back to Sisko, who stopped it with his hand. "I will. Maybe we could have dinner in a few days."
"That sounds good," said Sisko. He'd have an update, if there was anything new to say, and they'd discuss it there.
"I have work to do," said Willman, "and it looks like you do too."
"I'll see you at dinner," said Sisko.
But Willman saw the fear that all of this was too late and his only real option was to betray his own soul. He was very afraid that that was what it would take to keep them away.
Tarlan struggled with the coat. It was Justin's but if he had to go to see Sisko he'd have to be dressed properly. He reluctantly wore the pin. Sisko had forced him into the position he'd have refused when that was an option.
But Justin was dying. He might improve a little, but not much. It wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. His mind was so badly effected that he'd never really be able to fill his role.
Jaro pushed away the grief. It was so hard to see his friend fade into oblivion. Justin hadn't really had any friends before he'd met Jaro, and somehow Jaro couldn't remember ever having one so close.
When he died, the pin would pass permanently to Jaro. But he'd have to take it. Once he'd entered into to the secret tests, he'd given up any options of refusing.
He got the jacket on well enough. He should probably ask for one a size larger for himself. Unfortunately, he'd need it.
Justin was asleep. The nurse who checked on him nodded at Jaro. "He'll be fine. Go do your job," she said in reassurance.
"Thank you, Kay," he answered. She had been very sick, and to give her more rest she'd been assigned to watch Justin. He felt a little better with a nurse in attendance.
He took his first walk to Sisko's office. It wasn't far. Since the illness, he'd moved into Justin's quarters.
One of Sisko's aides opened the door at his tap. He walked inside, growing very nervous as the moment approached. Waiting while the young man informed his superior, he looked about the room.
Everywhere were piles of reports. The month-end cycle was near and he'd had to sign most of Ag's this time. At least in winter mode, there wasn't much to do. Come spring, he'd be far too busy.
He coughed rather violently. Justin had been effected the worse, but he knew he hadn't escaped the poison from the fumes. When Justin died, he hoped he would follow suit before he could not stand his life.
"Thanks, Randy," said Sisko, coming to the door. "Go get lunch."
Randy disappeared outside while Tarlan stiffly sat opposite Sisko.
"Welcome to your new position," Sisko began. Looking at the jacket, he noted, "Perhaps you need a new jacket."
"Yes," he said hesitantly, not knowing if he should call Sisko Sir. "This is Justin's and I cannot quite fit in it."
"I'll see you get one. Let Morris know the size when we're done."
Then Sisko was quiet. He picked up a white ball sitting on his desk and rolled it around in his hands. "I know this is difficult for you. But you're close to Blanchard and someone has to be responsible for the department. If you need any help on the reports, I'll send one of my people to answer any questions."
"I shall be fine," said Tarlan, wondering when the formalities would be over and he'd get to the real reason for the session.
"Good. Now, Mr. Tarlan, do you understand the meaning of being *responsible* for the department?"
Tarlan was wary, but kept most of it to himself. "I believe so. The reports must be completed. The staff must be assigned their tasks. I must attend all required meetings and present the needed reports." He paused. "I participated in the Provisional Government of my home world for a time in an official position. Fulfilling my duties was not the reason I resigned."
Sisko nodded, holding the ball in his hand as if he was drawing strength from it. "Yes. I know you understand those. Do you understand *fully* what you are responsible for?"
His voice was calm. He didn't shout. But Tarlan wished he'd traded places with Justin in the cave that moment. Jaro did understand. He just didn't want to be in that place.
"I know I will be held responsible for the violations found in my department."
Now the real reason for the talk was out. "Actually, Mr. Blanchard is responsible for those, but he is too ill to answer. So you have a new chance to right the situation."
Tarlan looked at the impassive face, worried he would say the wrong thing. "How may I do that, Sir?" he asked.
Sisko's tone softened a little. "That is what I want to discuss. How well do you know your new aides?"
Tarlan hardly knew them at all. "Not well. I wasn't involved very much in day to day things."
"Be careful around them. You are aware of the recent discoveries. It's almost certain that members of your staff were responsible for hiding these things. You must make sure *all* have been found and can be verified as destroyed or *you* will be held responsible for any others."
Tarlan wished he could resign and walk away that moment. Sisko knew about the test as well. He probably believed that both had known about the machines hidden away.
If Sisko could prove it, he'd turn both of them over to the Jem'Hadar. Behind the impassive mask, there was ice.
Tarlan had no idea how to look. "If you have any suggestions, I would welcome them."
"Do you know Dax? She's head of Supply. She has come up with some good ideas before. Talk to her. I'll let her know you'll be over today."
Tarlan could feel the pit underneath him growing deeper. "Thank you, Sir."
"Now, let me make very clear what I do if you don't find these things. I'm empowered to do a colony wide search. Since most of the aides in Ag live in the general Residential section it would have to be colony wide. This will happen without warning. My people will look in every nook and cranny, and each person will be required to undergo an extensive search of their person, including department heads. If contraband is found in a home, the occupants go the Jem'Hadar. If it's found in an office, those who work there go to the Jem'Hadar. If it's found on a person, that person goes to the Jem'Hadar. Do you understand me?"
Tarlan couldn't remember much but the frequent mention of Jem'Hadar. He knew things must be hidden. Given the alternative he was certain Sisko would pursue, he wanted to find them. But how?
"I do." He hesitated. "May I see your friend this afternoon? I have no idea how to do this."
Sisko looked at the time. "Certainly. Actually, she'll be here soon. We usually share lunch. Why don't you join us today?"
Tarlan knew the invitation wasn't a friendly one. He wanted to find a way to keep Sisko from staging the search as well. And he also saw the symbolism. There was a careful hierarchy there, and he'd just been bumped up a notch.
"I would be pleased," he said in his most polite voice.
"Good, then, come with me."
He followed Sisko into the outside office. Morris had returned, and was sorting reports at his desk. "Randy, he needs a new jacket. Get him the form to take to supply."
Morris pulled a form from a shelf and handed it to Tarlan, not looking up. "I've almost got this stack ready for you, Sir."
"Good. Oh, three for lunch today."
Morris nodded, and Sisko indicated a smaller office to the side. Hesitant, Tarlan followed him inside.
Sisko had the ball. He sat it on a stand on his desk in the room, relaxing in his chair. "My own office, and where we have more private discussions."
Tarlan was tugging at the jacket, which pulled at his shoulders. "I am sorry, Sir, but this is uncomfortable."
"Go ahead and take it off, " Sisko said. "Here's a pen. Might as well get your wardrobe request filled out. Add a few shirts and the rest too. I believe with Mr. Blanchard so ill you'll need them."
Tarlan tried to ignore the implication while filling out the form. He tried to pretend it was just about clothes. But Sisko was in a talkative mood.
"What part of Bajor are you from?"
"I lived in Rakantha Province. My home was near the Bestri wood before we were forced to move."
"Were you resettled?"
He had no idea why Sisko was asking such personal questions, but saw no harm in answering. "Yes. We were sent to the Singha resettlement center. We didn't remain there long. The occupation ended."
Sisko appeared in a reflective mood. "That's near Gallitep."
"Mr. Tarlan, please understand. Whatever acts are necessary here, I will not make this place into another Gallitep."
Tarlan shivered. He'd seen the pitiful remains of the victims. Even for the Cardassians, it was terrible. For a moment, he understood Sisko's point of view. "No, we must not do that," he said.
But had they already? Had the tests doomed these people to die as badly as those in that place? Would it take a few sacrifices to save them?
Would he be one of them? Justin wouldn't live long enough for it to matter.
There was a tap at the door. A tall woman with spots on her face stood waiting with Morris, carrying one of the bowls of soup. "Come in," said Sisko.
"I thought you might be having a private conversation," she said.
"We're done with that one."
She settled in the other chair, sitting a bowl in front of Tarlan.
"Thank you," he said.
Sisko introduced him. "This is Mr. Tarlan. He has a problem you might be able to help him with."
"Alright, please explain."
Tarlan realized he had to do that himself. Sisko was expecting him to take the responsibility.
He envied Justin, busy forgetting his life. But he did as he must. The lunch was good. He even enjoyed having company with his soup. That afternoon, his staff would meet an entirely new Tarlan Jaro.
He picked up his new Jacket from Supply before going back to work. He also got three shirts, three pairs of trousers, and a new pair of shoes. Laden with clothes, he went home to change first.
Kay was with Justin and he didn't disturb them. She was feeding him. Justin could no longer eat on his own.
Slowly, he dressed in all his new clothes. They were slippery and stiff, not softened like most of what he had. He put the pin on his collar where it would be very visible. The new jacket fit perfectly.
Studying himself in the mirror, he combed his hair very carefully and slicked it in place with some sticky goo from one of the plants.
He was ready.
Kay was finished feeding Justin when he came out. She looked him over. "Very fancy," she said.
"Yes," was all he could say.
He could tell she didn't much like them.
He marched into his office with head held high. Most of his staff was there. He pulled the nearest one into his office.
"I'm calling a meeting in fifteen minutes. I want all staff, off duty or not, from top to bottom, in this office by then."
He tried to be as cold as Willman and Sisko. From the look on the young man's face, he assumed he had succeeded.
"I'll get them, Sir," said the staffer. Tarlan wasn't entirely sure of his name.
He went to the small room they'd used to store materials for the garden. Finding the right tub with a suitable cover, he sliced open a slit big enough for anything hidden to fit. Then he taped the sides closed.
He entered his office, putting the bin on the floor.
Closing the door, he stood ready to make his speech.
He kept remembering how firm Sisko had been and how terrifying the implications were.
"I'm leaving the office after this is over. My door will be left open. Everyone here knows about the recent findings of illegal devices from this department. If any of you have one, or know where one is, put it in the box. No questions will be asked. The things will be destroyed."
He watched them, astonished at his determination. He wondered what Justin would have said. "Now, you have until the end of tomorrow to do this. I will check the box in the morning and empty it. Then I will check again the next morning and we will be done. That is all the time you have."
They looked nervous. He was certain a few were much too worried to be innocent, and privately noted it.
"After that, if any illegal items are found in this department I will inform Director Sisko. If he has further reason to do so, he'll order a search of the entire colony, one as extensive as the Jem'Hadar would conduct. You'll all be required to submit to a search of your own bodies as well. And if anything is found, those who are near will be turned over to the Dominion. If you want to risk this you may, but I doubt any of you would like the results." He watched them, eyes cold and firm, noting they were all nervous now.
He opened his door. "Before the box becomes available, my office will be searched and verified to be free of contraband. Afterwards it will be searched again, and if any is found every single person in this department will be under lock restrictions unless there is some reason for you to be working. This will last until spring operations begin. That is several months away. There will be *no* soup privileges issued either. So do not try to plant anything. If you do it will go in the box and be destroyed, and you'll all be spending most of the next two months inside a locked building."
He looked at them calmly, astonished at himself. "Is this absolutely clear?"
They were shocked. He could tell they had expected to walk all over his authority and yet now believed every word.
He meant them, too. Most of them lived in the small, cramped quarters erected after the takeover and there was very little to do. They could be trapped inside for weeks at a time. He knew they would think about that when they went home that night and were forced inside by curfew.
"Yes," said each of them.
"Sit at your desks while the search of my office commences."
He watched while four security people turned over his office completely. Sensitive papers were boxed and hauled away so the room could be left unlocked. Nothing was found.
He and Justin had had no reason to hide little things. Underneath the calm, firm mask he wondered if the hidden things in the cave shouldn't be given up too. He'd even consider informing Sisko about them anonymously himself if it would keep some of these people alive. He'd been at Gallitep, not long after the liberation. He could still remember the stench.
He opened the door and looked at them, the reeking odor filling his memories. "I expect to find something in that box tomorrow."
Then he left. He paused near Sisko's office, but went home instead.
Kay was working with Justin. He slipped into his room, and changed. Dressed in comfortable clothes, he took the pin from his shirt and put it on his own, well worn coat. He closed the door behind him.
Standing at the door to Justin's room, he told Kay he would be taking a walk.
Having been in the front of the line, Megan and her friends had taken the desirable part of the cage, at the back, when they'd been loaded on the transport. It was larger than most, divided into individual cells, and a locked off area in back. They had established their space so easily since while the 'room' across from them was at capacity, their side was only half full.
As it locked up and the lights dimmed, the series of transports now loaded, it hadn't been real that she was leaving home, that she'd never see it again. It wasn't home anymore, not really, but she was used to the color of the sky and the weather and the seasons and even the buildings, even if now they held only sadness. The others were very quiet as well, rolling themselves in their blankets and falling asleep in the dimmed 'night' light. She couldn't sleep, and lay listening to the sounds. There were more than a few tears. She wished she could grieve, but she'd have to feel to do that. Maybe what ever place they arrived would be a way to start a new life, however much it lacked. Everything that had gone before was fading as the transport drew them further and further from home.
She was dozing, not quite asleep a day or so later when the lights blinked, indicating they were detaching. They pulled themselves into position as the transport jerked itself free, then started to glide. The engines caught and they took a very short ride to another docking ring.
It was odd. They vaguely understood how the transportation system worked. The transports themselves were short range. They linked up with larger ships which pulled them, presumably some with warp drive. Usually when they stopped for more cargo, they landed on the surface.
This was clearly different. The hallway lit first, then their room. They'd started calling it that since at least it looked like one. The rest went dark.
A blacksuit came first, surveying the space, and they moved back a little more. At least they'd still claim the best. Then two more with rolling carts, and one with a rifle.
"Remain back and do not move until the transport is detached," they were ordered.
But they opened the door, the third blacksuit followed by two worker bees in a pale green. She noticed their hand mark was different but couldn't see it closely. Twelve bundles were lined up along the front, then hooked into the floor so they'd stay. The workers, nervous and hurried, scurried quickly out after they'd maneuvered their baggage into place.
Nobody moved, stunned by the display of absolute subservience. Those that had stopped and watched the unfortunates outside their first compound might have looked, but Megan thought it likely they'd been like her and tried not to.
Now it was impossible not to see. Pressing herself against the wall, as far as she could to back away, she just stared as their new companions were loaded.
They wore the green colored clothes. Their hands had a distinct marking with small symbols. And they were connected by their right foot with a cuffed cord.
Seated at one end, where they could reach the facilities the bundled cords were locked into place, and the door shut. Each carried a blanket. Almost immediately the lights blinked and the doors sealed and they detached.
The transport was shaking, the vibration unnerving, as it seemed to go faster. The situation unknown, Megan's group didn't try to move.
"Just catching up, the ship will wait," said a woman among their new passengers.
Not a word was said until the docking clamps were timely in place and the lights had gone to normal. The normal tow was smooth and silent. It was still night but nobody was sleeping.
Finally one of their own moved a little closer. "Could I see your hand?' she asked.
The woman held it out. "It's a slash. You never heard of slashies?"
Robbie had, and looked away. Megan knew about sarki, and they did have a slash, but what was this?
"Why the cords?" asked the same woman.
"So we don't try to get away and mix with you. If we did they'd just pull al of you as a freebie. But we decided. This dirt farm is successful. They've been cleared. We'll just work, but if we don't go there we go to Bajor. Like you are."
Nerves were on edge now. Megan tried very hard to not think of the yard where they'd had the slaves they never looked at. "What does the slash mean?" she asked.
"That we're paid for. Any dirt farm even a marginal one is better than that place. Maybe you'll be lucky and they'll need more."
Megan laid down, as the rest did, no more conversation needed. Throwing the blanket over her face, she stared into the greyness. No home. No destination. No idea what they even were. It wasn't just the memories that were slipping away, but all of it.
Sometime later she felt Robbie's hand on hers. "That's what they'll do to us, you know. That's why it's slashed. Lower caste sarki, same thing on Bajor. They can tell we're CA. They don't want us either."
Megan fell asleep some time after that. A while later they detached again and their temporary visitors were removed. Or went home? How could a place that bought you ever be home, she wondered. And yet nobody would ever forget they'd been there.
Tarlan didn't sleep well. He understood Sisko's fears, especially after the mention of Gallitep. That's what had happened to the Federation colony that hadn't cooperated. And he'd heard of other atrocities by the Dominion that made him believe the story.
How could they have risked everyone's lives for a test of something that nobody could even use?
He hadn't hidden the things in the cave, at least. But he was afraid when those were found it would doom them all.
How could he tell them where the cave was without it leading directly to himself?
He looked at the pile of documents on the table. He knew how to direct them, but didn't want it in his own writing.
One pile of documents had been in error and been reprinted. He could cut these apart. They'd be burned anyway.
He started looking for words. On a plain sheet of paper he started assembling them. It wasn't hard to get there. After that he wrote in clipped words, "There is a replicator and many other things here."
Justin was dying and would never know of the betrayal. He was certain that Vance knew, but he hadn't been seen for months.
Others knew, he was sure, but now they could not hold it against him that he did.
His chest hurt. The walk had made him cold and he kept coughing. Perhaps the test would extract its own penalty soon enough.
He glued the words in place with the same glue available to everyone. When it dried he folded the paper and slid it in his good jacket.
Tomorrow, he'd slip it in the bin. Then he'd take it to Sisko. It would be his problem then.
Tarlan went to bed after that. Justin had slept all day and the night nurse was always different. Some days he woke and others he didn't.
Jaro couldn't face him that night even if he'd been awake.
For once, he slept in peace. It might help or hurt, but it was as good as done.
Sisko looked at the paper in his hand. Tarlan had found ten banned tools in his box that morning, and issued a new warning that if any sign of the tape being touched was there, all of them were under lock restrictions until spring. Looking at the Bajoran, it was almost like seeing a new man.
He knew where the paper had come from. Tarlan must have spent a long time assembling it. He'd have to ask the group to dinner tonight. Perhaps Willman could suggest a way to destroy it. Tarlan should be able to help, but he wouldn't ask. His hint about Gallitep had been more successful than he'd hoped. Or perhaps he was feeling guilty at last.
He looked different. Everything he wore was crisp and clean. The pin was worn where everyone would see it. It was ashamed it was probably too late.
"I expect more to show up tomorrow." Tarlan even sounded different, as if a large rain cloud had blown away and the sun come out.
"Your sure this came from a staffer."
"It had to be. The only ones who could get to the box were staff. I believe this is the source of the things used for that test."
"It has to be. We don't plan to catch anyone. We have to destroy these things, though. Would you be willing to help?"
Tarlan hesitated. He didn't cover his guilt quite good enough but Sisko thought he deserved a chance to make it up. "We have chemicals left over from the small field in the warehouse. They are useful for fertilizer and soil amendments, but in the right combination would burn. I'll put them together if you wish. But I don't think it would be wise for me to participate."
"Good enough. Please do that. Make sure there's enough."
Sisko knew he'd been there. But he didn't care anymore. He'd done all he could to make up for it.
"I'll prepare them, but need to know when you need them. It would be dangerous to have them sit."
"I'll let you know tomorrow."
Willman stared at the paper. "He actually told you. Maybe we should have pressed him before."
"It wouldn't have worked then. He wasn't done. And Blanchard wasn't dying. But this has to be destroyed." Sisko sipped his dinner, watching the others.
Miles hadn't said much. "Tarlan needs to get us there. The plants go to seed in the winter. I think we could legitimately allow an expedition to gather some, especially now that he has time. We do the burn out while he and some of his people gather away."
"Not his people. He doesn't trust them. By tomorrow they might all be on lock restriction." Sisko didn't want any of his people near there, worried they'd try to take more to replace what had gone.
Willman was thinking about it. "Tell him to *put* them on LR. Not for the duration but, say, for a week. Then we'll pick some people we can trust and he can have his little expedition. We'll follow along and do the cave."
"He wasn't happy with them yesterday. Somebody tried to open the box." Sisko wished he'd asked Tarlan to come. It would be much simpler then.
Jadzia looked up. "You can use my people. I trust them and the gathered seed is under Supply anyway."
This was coming together much better than he'd hoped. But these meetings couldn't last too long.
"What about the chemicals they had? I wonder if they replicated them?" asked Miles.
"We'll have to deal with that. For now, we plan, when?"
Jadzia answered. "Two days from now. I'll get the paperwork ready. He'll have to do his too, since he'll be working with us."
"Good. Who does it?" asked Sisko.
"I will, " said Miles.
"I'd like to but I'm too busy," said Willman.
"Pick two people you trust," instructed Sisko. "Only two. The fewer that know, the better."
Everyone nodded. Miles and Jadzia took their leave. But Willman didn't.
"Speaking of lock restrictions, I'm not getting anywhere. I wish I could pull Tarlan's threat, but it wouldn't matter so much to my people. They work so long that most of the time all they have is a quick meal and bed anyway."
"You want to try a box at least?"
"I might. But I doubt it would help much. The Ag people don't have much use for what they took. Most of it needs more they don't have to work anyway. Now, my people, misguided or not, think they'll be saving a life some day with their hoard. They'll just find better hiding places."
"What do we do then?"
"I'd like to order a search of all quarters, but I can't. But you can." Willman stared at the wall.
"I don't want to do that."
"Someone has to." Willman started winding his fingers together. "I'll set up a box. I'll give them an hour to drop the things in the box with the certainty it will be found otherwise. I can't have you tearing apart the hospital. But if they have to put their rooms together again it might remind them that this has to be done."
Sisko considered it. "If you think it will work."
"I has to." Willman stared at Sisko. "When shall I announce it?"
"Tomorrow. We'll make a point with Ag, too. I'll get the security people ready."
"What time?" he asked
"That's up to you."
Willman considered. "Afternoon shift change. I'll send the staff home. Bring them in and give everyone ten minutes to get to the hospital. Tell them they'll be searched once past the box. We'll put the box in a place they can donate in private. They *must* submit to a search. Then you can rip apart their quarters if you want. Just don't break things. Let them all go home to a mess to remind them how serious this is."
"And if we catch someone?" asked Sisko.
"You catch someone."
"You're sure about this."
"Absolutely." Then he hesitated. "Just one thing. I'm looking for one instrument. It will be destroyed afterwards but it could make someone's life less a living hell."
Sisko didn't like the idea. Glebaroun would know about the show. He'd rather nothing be used. But he suspected there was something that could help Bashir, and if he didn't need to steal he wouldn't be in so much trouble.
"If anything that scans is there, we'll have the hospital checked to see what else is hidden. That should cover the EM signature. Do it quick."
"It shouldn't be complicated." Willman looked better. He hoped they found the instrument and Bashir wouldn't be so miserable.
"Until tomorrow," said Willman.
Willman closed the door, and Sisko took out the ball. This was going to cost him. The medical staff would return to their quarters and see a mess and remember the Jem'Hadar. But if it saved their lives, he'd pay it. Willman and Bashir were doctors. They kept people alive in different ways. Each survivor was victory. If he could keep the Jem'Hadar at bay this would be his.
Willman entered the main hospital building at precisely shift change the next day. He used the public announcement system to call them together.
"All staff to the lobby immediately." He didn't leave any room for doubt in his tone.
Outside, the security people were knocking on doors, sending the people in their quarters to the hospital "lobby". It wasn't actually a part of the hospital, originally an outside garden, and all of them were being watched lest they try to stash something. If this happened it would be retrieved later. But it wouldn't be possible to hide it in the hospital.
The lobby was filling with people. It would be searched as well, but there were few places to hide anything. It was cold, too, and the staff were huddled together to try to stay warm.
Bashir came out with Lonnie. He was limping badly. Both of them looked confused, but had put on their heavy coats.
The security people were visible to everyone. A few were staring at them as if they were Jem'Hadar.
It didn't take long to assemble them. He didn't want the patients left alone any longer than necessary.
"First, you'll return to your quarters. If you have any contraband remove it since these people will be conducting a very detailed search of all quarters, including mine. I'm assured nothing will be broken, but you will have to clean up when you return. If anything is hidden it will be found and you'll be taken into custody to be turned over to Them. You have no more than ten minutes to be in line at the hospital's side entrance."
He watched them. They were surprised, but he supposed they might have expected something like this from him.
"From there, you'll enter the corridor one at a time and close the door. There is a box. If you have anything to drop inside, do it. At the end of the corridor you'll open the door and go to a private room. Each of you is required to submit to a search. It will be very personal. Once you are done there, you'll return here. A few staffers will be sent back inside, but most will wait until everything is done. If you're off duty, you may go back to your quarters and start cleaning. If not, you'll go back to duty. Otherwise, all personal are under curfew until tomorrow night. If there is something you hid elsewhere, the box will be in a private place after curfew ends for a limited time."
They had moved closer, staring at him and the security people. None of them thought he'd go this far. But in case Tarlan had to do the same, his people would no longer doubt and take it very seriously.
"You may go to your quarters."
He watched them. Some were in more of a hurry than others. Bashir didn't appear to be worried. He didn't even bother to go to his quarters at all. Lonnie rushed there, but he knew she had some very important personal things she'd want to put in an open place.
The line started forming. The first person entered. Bashir was in the front of the line. He hoped that somehow the right instrument would turn up and he would no longer have to worry about his other doctor disappearing.
Bashir opened the door, passing the box. He looked it over, hoping to see inside but it was too dark. He had nothing to contribute. His device was hidden in a safe place. Willman wouldn't find it. In a way, he wished he'd been able to get it. Once this was done, all bets were off. He hoped Willman found the instrument. He'd make sure to retrieve his own that way. Willman would know but he'd not be able to change his mind. Later, he knew, if he was caught, he was dead. He was sure there would be a later.
Even if Willman didn't find the instrument, he might put his in the box tomorrow if he could get to it. But he hadn't used it yet that day and his leg was hurting worse with the cold. If he kept it hidden, even if They discovered it, it wouldn't connect with him. And he was sure Willman would never find everything. He was just pushing them into better hiding places.
The next door led to a hallway with two private rooms on either side. One was for men, the other women. He tentatively pushed open the one marked men.
A security person was waiting. Another was sitting by a table. "Get undressed," said the one at the table. "Put everything on the table."
They watched. The Jem'Hadar hadn't needed to do this. They could scan their victims. It was humiliating. Maybe he'd just keep the device hidden whatever happened.
While his clothes were checked, a very personal search was performed. If Willman thought this was going to make them feel more secure, he doubted it. They watched when he dressed, too. He wondered if they enjoyed their job.
Outside that door, he was funneled back to the lobby. Willman had gone inside, but Sisko's security people were still there. His leg hurt. They'd make him take off the brace and checked it too. He wasn't sure it was on right. He wished he was off duty so he could go back to his quarters afterwards and rest. But he had a long afternoon ahead of him.
Slowly, the line crept ahead. Most of those who escaped from the search room looked deeply embarrassed and wouldn't look at anyone. But at least all of them had their heavy winter coats.
Willman had left a chair and he took it. Eventually, Lonnie came through, looking rather pale and disturbed. She found a private corner to wait.
A few were sent back inside, but neither he nor Lonnie. It was getting cold. She came to sit by him, shivering. "That was different," she said bitterly, under her breath.
"Hmmph," he replied. But he didn't want to make things worse with talking and getting them on lock restrictions.
Eventually the doors opened. Willman emerged, motioning he and Lonnie to come. For the moment she wasn't thinking about the search. All she wanted was to get inside where it was warm. She hurried back to work and heat.
He followed Willman to the small corridor. He opened the box.
There were more than twelve things inside, but none of them were the instrument that both of them wanted to find.
"I was hoping. I was going to do the treatment immediately and then destroy it but it must be elsewhere. We can't really, properly, search the hospital."
He realized Willman was genuinely sorry. "I'd stay out of everybody's way for now, if I were you," he told Willman. "Your goons in there were pretty through."
"It couldn't be helped. We got this much."
Bashir guessed that Willman hadn't been searched. He wouldn't dismiss it so quickly if he had been. At least his quarters had been wreaked.
Willman closed the box. He picked up a bottle of an acid used to clean Ag equipment and poured it over the things, closing the top. "I already surveyed it. We used the tricorder to scan the hospital but it didn't find anything. That doesn't mean there isn't anything. It just means we missed it."
"Are you going to search the hospital too?" ask Bashir, hoping somehow they'd find the bulky instrument and he could forget about his own.
Willman gave him an odd look. "Room by room. It won't be complete, but they will do the best they can. I have a feeling Mr. Tarlan will be getting very good cooperation when he does his sweep."
Bashir realized he couldn't drop his bit of danger into the box. Willman believed it was destroyed. He was trying to help with the reduced hours and his intention to violate the rules should they find the instrument. He wouldn't dare if he found out his doctor had been lying to him. If Tarlan was going to repeat the process, time was running very short for all of them. Or it was already too late and Willman would help him anyway, then put him on restrictions again, using some falsified record, and when they came he'd already be a prisoner. Nobody would know why, but then they'd guessed before. He doubted he'd be quite so lucky the second time around.
His leg was hurting so bad he needed to rest. "I have to fix the brace. I think its on wrong."
"Go home. You'll have some work to do, thought you don't have too much. Come in for night shift instead."
Bashir wished he could leave the instrument hidden, even if eventually They found it along with that which Willman missed. He did not want to live with the fear of discovery and the consequences, but he knew that Willman's potions were not good enough, and he needed it to work. His only hope was that somehow the missing instrument would turn up in time.
When he left, closing the door behind him, Willman was still staring at the box.
Lonnie could still feel their filthy fingers inside her. The two women had been as cold as you could get. They'd looked her over as if she was a piece of meat and she'd not forget it for a long time. Willman had sent her back to work afterwards, and she'd been delayed by an emergency, so she didn't return to the ruin of her quarters until late.
She stared at it when she closed the door. All her carefully arraigned shelves were dismantled. They'd piled clothes in a stack on the floor, but at least there was a sheet under them so they'd be clean. She didn't have time to wash them all over. Her personal things, left carefully sitting out on the table, were left alone. She ignored the mess, sorting out her sheets and blankets and taking off her work clothes. The bed was usable. She wrapped herself in two extra blankets and went to bed.
Tomorrow she'd have half the day off and get to her rooms. Tonight she would try to forget the fingers, and the humiliation and remind herself that Willman must have had a good reason to do this.
Tarlan spent the day in the warehouse. He changed into his old clothes and did a survey of available chemicals. He was disappointed. There wasn't enough to destroy all of it.
They'd have to use the replicator. He wanted to talk to Sisko but decided to wait until tomorrow. He'd heard of Willman's raid, along with everyone else. He assumed it would help loosen some of the Ag people's fingers from their treasures, too.
The nurse was one of the night people he didn't know. She was busy and he took a shower and went to bed.
In the morning, she was impatiently waiting to go home. Kay was late. She looked at his crisp clothes with distaste.
Justin was still asleep. "How is Justin doing?" he asked.
"Not so well," she said, "but he is improving. He's breathing a lot better now than yesterday."
"Take good care of him."
"I'll pass that on to Kay if she ever gets here," said the nurse without enthusiasm. "I still have a mess to clean up."
He went to his office, the place deserted. The box had been a very big success. He sat down and cataloged it, then dumped it in another box, one with a glean of acid still at the bottom. O'Brien would drop by in a few minutes to finish it off.
O'Brien was late. He didn't have anything to do so he doodled on a few odd pieces of paper left on his desk.
But when he arrived, O'Brien had a form in his hand. "You need to fill this out. And somebody tried to pry open the box today."
He looked at the form. "A seed gathering trip?" he asked.
"Your doing one tomorrow. Also, your putting all of them on lock restriction for a week. We need them out of the way. And we need your help with the project."
He didn't want to hear about the project. It made him remember the cave.
"I have some things to discuss with Sisko," he said.
"He has some things to talk about with you, too."
"I recorded the things. You may proceed."
"Get going. He's waiting for you."
He left O'Brien to destroy the things, taking the coded list and the form.
Sisko was waiting for him in the little room. The staff was out and the door was open.
He hadn't gotten seated before Sisko looked up from some papers. "Did you get a lot?"
"Yes. They were very cooperative. But I'm told I must put them on restriction."
"We have a plan. We can't trust your people, so they have to be out of the way. You'll be working with Dax's people gathering seeds. Mostly you direct them to the ones you want the most."
He took a deep breath. "This cave has a replicator. I assume it is powered. We will need to use it. I can't mix enough to destroy the entire thing without that."
Sisko diplomatically didn't ask how he knew the size of the cave "How long will this take?"
"Not long. I can do that while Dax organizes her people, or just slip away for a few moments. And the chemical can be created without mixing. We do need those chemicals for next season."
"It sounds a lot safer too," noted Sisko.
"Very. It's very flammable. We'll make something to spread it too. Place a line and light it and it will catch immediately." Tarlan shrugged. "I did spend some time in resettlement. I learned a few things."
"You'll need to get the LR set up," said Sisko. "And the form. Get it to Dax as soon as it's done."
"Certainly." He paused. "They will know," he said. "It's going to be so hot they can't miss it."
"They already know, I'm sure. But what matters is we try. That's the difference between Singha and Gallitep."
Tarlan nodded. "I'll get the seed inventory lists prepared today. I suppose I'll have my office to myself. Should I bring back my records?"
"Give it a few days. Maybe you can rescind it after tomorrow and let them have a few more chances. It's much better this way then the alternative."
It was odd when he went home to change. Kay was there, but she didn't stare at him. She was nervous.
"How bad were your quarters?" he asked.
"A mess, " she replied. But she didn't seem all that upset. He was curious but had seed and plant samples to assemble.
He'd forgotten about it by the time he got back that night, but it nagged at him that she was still a little too worried when she arrived the next day.
Dax stood in the warehouse, Tarlan handing out sheets of paper on clipboards. Her crew were assembled and each took a clipboard and a sample of a plant. There was a drawing of each plant and a backpack to put the seeds in once they were collected.
"Is that all you want?" she asked.
"There are others, but they don't spread their seeds this time of year. These are the prime choices. If we have limited time, these are the best species to collect."
"Any questions?" she asked the crew.
There were none, and he led the way into the forbidden zone.
He led them far enough away that the fire wouldn't be obvious. This area was washed with mud in the spring. More of the chosen species grew here than anywhere else. He got each of the crew assigned to a tree or plant to start collecting, and explained he wanted to survey the other areas.
He went straight to the cave. O'Brien was waiting outside.
"With your idea I didn't think we'd need help."
Tarlan didn't bother pretending he didn't know how to get in. O'Brien didn't make any fuss over it either. He only glanced at the abandoned chemical mixers. Tarlan went directly to the lights and lit all of them so he could see it all.
He was curious what O'Brien would do. He paused, shaking his head. "Too bad we have to do this," he muttered to himself.
Tarlan had already started on the replicator. He first made two breathing masks. His cough had gotten better and he knew they'd need them. He tossed one to O'Brien. Next he set it to create the sprayer. It was powered by a small motor. All it needed was to be turned on and pointed.
Then he made several work outfits. He took his and started to change in a private corner. O'Brien followed suit. "Put these in the front where we can change out of these before you ignite. Burn this too."
Then he created the cord. It was just the right length. O'Brien had brought something to light it with already.
They put on the masks. The next container was the fuel that would burn.
It was moved with gingerly care. There was a suction hose that should keep it from spilling. He hooked it up and the pump was started. It filled quickly.
The replicator was powered down.
Tarlan moved the scattered things in the outer cave to the inside with O'Brien's help. Now they wouldn't need to ignite the first small cave. The fire shouldn't flame out of the cave that way.
He positioned the sprayer. "It sprays in a circle ahead of itself. Just get every surface covered. And place the cord first, of course."
"Yeah," said O'Brien from inside the mask.
"Shall I help?"
O'Brien shook his head and pulled off his mask. "No. You'll smell that way. Put my things and your mask in the little cave in front. I'll change there before the burn. Get going before they miss you."
Tarlan nodded, remembering the wonder this place had represented the first time. Now he only wanted to be rid of it.
He wanted to get back to the plants. He was finished changing when O'Brien came into the little cave. "There's enough in there for the whole thing?"
"Yes. More than enough. Use it all, then leave the sprayer inside."
"Go," said O'Brien.
"Wait perhaps an hour before you burn. I want the seed gatherers out of the area."
"I'll wait two."
Tarlan fled. He knew where the other area he planned to collect was. It was further away. Some of the best species grew there, especially one with small fruits which had a delightfully sweet taste.
Something good must come of this. But when he returned Dax's teams were still busy.
He worked with them, and in perhaps an hour it was done and they were away.
The next stop was going to take much longer. But he got them started and took a pack himself. He'd grow some of the fruits in the lab this winter. They could have an occasional treat that way. He thought about that rather than the cave and the dream that had come to be a nightmare.
Dax, Tarlan, and her crew had returned late, just past curfew, but Sisko had excused them. All were heavily laden with seeds. They met in the warehouse to unload their treasure and then proceeded to the serving area for dinner and seconds. Sisko had issued all of them passes to get home.
Dax and Tarlan returned to the warehouse afterwards. O'Brien, showered and showing no signs of his earlier work, was waiting for them.
"I didn't think you'd ever get here," he said.
"The grove was huge. The trees had so much fruit dried on it we wanted to get all we could. The fruits are sweet when you harvest them. Tarlan promised a sample as soon as one of the plants produces."
Miles had already reported to Sisko. He was hoping to get done and go home, but had to wait for them. He assumed they'd take their time un-packing the seeds. But he just had to make his report.
"It went up in a flash. You know your stuff."
"I never used any of what I learned on Bajor. Did it stay in the cave?"
"Yes. The bush didn't even burn. I'll bet it's melted inside."
Dax said nothing, but she looked relieved. "We should get these seeds packed. Want to help?"
He was tired but decide to stay. It was better than going home.
It took too long, but he felt a lot better. The machines and the fire had been about fear. The seeds represented hope. Maybe they'd done enough that Tarlan would have a chance to plant his garden. He would look forward to that during the long cold nights.
Jadzia sat on her bed, looking at the ring. The last act was over now. All they had to do was wait.
But it was different now. She would still die, and Dax as well. The world these people knew would change beyond recognition. But they'd taken a different path that day.
The Dominion would have wiped them out if they hadn't acted. Now, they'd be punished but enough would survive to go on.
But she thought more about the seeds. She'd probably never taste the light, sweet drink Tarlan wanted to make. But somehow she knew he'd survive. He'd turned a corner that day and the rest of his life had changed.
Hers could not. She knew. But when she died, she'd be at peace now. Kira had once said that without hope, there was nothing. Now, in the sealed vials sitting in the warehouse, lay a hope that none had anticipated.
Sisko stared out his window. Tarlan's decision to reveal the location of the cave had been a stroke of great luck, but it wouldn't change everything. When the Jem'Hadar arrived, they'd still take him away. They'd take Sisko, too, he knew, but he didn't really care right then.
Willman's raid was still a shock, but he'd already felt the hostility. His aides were being avoided by most of the others. Willman had stood up in front of his staff, but Sisko controlled the security people. It wouldn't have happened without his agreement.
But there still had to be more. Now, even if they'd been destroyed, too much contraband had appeared and he had to issue the proper discipline for it. He was working on that. Both departments would be put on lock restrictions, but that was only the start. Curfew would be extended. Nobody was going to like it but he would do what had to be done.
The raid had driven him across the line in the sand. Even if it was done to save them, it made him another enemy. His only compensation was that no one had been caught.
Tomorrow he'd finish his notes. He'd let things settle a little before he called them in.
But the blast in the cave was done. There would be no more experiments. He was as alone as a man could be, but if it worked, his own misery didn't matter anymore.
end, Legacy, Year 1, part 1-4, Chapter 22
And very soon to come,
Legacy Year 2 - Metamorphosis